Piscatorial Quagswagging

...the diary of a specialist angler in around the Warwickshire Avon and its tributaries.

Saturday 28 July 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Gribbles and Growleries

As someone who has a Sunday roast without fail this hot spell has sadly put them on the back burner for a while, so the next one cannot come soon enough as I’m having withdrawal symptoms. We might as well make use of this ridiculous long period of hot weather we are having, but be honest I’m looking forward to a little normality in the temperature again, a temperature where the kids can sleep without a fan in their bedrooms and I feel like I need to cool off and wind down by sitting in the garden, chilling with some music, and sipping a large G&T every evening.

The Webber Kettle has wondered what’s happened recently, as it’s been used, like it’s never been used before, from slow roasted whisky smoked beef brisket to pulled pork and lamb shoulder, to chicken with a beer can shoved up its backside, whole mackerel, sardines, tiger prawns and lots of different kebabs and we’ve been enjoying the alfresco dining like I’m sure many of you have.

Despite what some may believe about fish becoming lethargic in extreme heat and feeding only at dead of night, this is the time when, with a little knowledge, you can make some of your best catches of the season. What often happens is that on the heels of a reported big catch you make your way to the water only to find that every fish has apparently gone.

The problem is probably not just the temperature of the water, but the actual variation in temperature. Ask any pet shop owner and he will tell you that taking a goldfish from a room-temperature tank of water and putting it in to cold water straight from the tap will probably kill it.

That wide variation doesn’t occur on our lakes or in our rivers or canals, but it shows that fish are badly affected by the tractions in temperature.I did it myself once when refilling a drained fishtank and put too cold water in, they fish quickly reacted to change in temperature in not a good way.

The most obvious example is the River Severn when cold water is let out from Welsh reservoirs at the head of the river. The fish stop feeding and catches plummet.

But given a few days to adjust, the fish start feeding again….

Unfortunately, variations in summer are much greater than they are in winter. The hottest days with no cloud, are often followed by cool nights because there’s no cover to trap the heat. The key to fishing in the heat is to watch the previous night’s weather forecast. Two or three days when the night temperature doesn’t drop too much and when the wind is warm is the pointer to success on stillwaters.

Carp over the years have become more and more popular with fishery owners and anglers alike. Hard-fighting, they are not as difficult to catch as many other species. This is partly because the active fish needs to feed continually to replace lost energy. They also seem able to adjust more quickly to temperature changes than say, bream, a much more sedate fish. And it’s just as well that the carp has this ability because his British home is in shallow water.

The reason is that carp need a higher temperature in which to spawn than most other fish (20 degrees C for 48 hours), and here only shallow waters normally reach this temperature.

How can you work out the effect of a cold snap on a water?

On shallow waters only two or three feet deep a few minutes cold blow will cool the surface layer and mix it in with the bottom layers. The stronger the wind, the faster the temperature will drop. Sudden rainstorms can have the same effect.

The water temperature is quickly lowered and the fish stop feeding. The change may be quite small perhaps only a single degree or less, but the fish respond. Luckily, things work the other way as well, and there are times when a slight upping of the water temperature will bring fish like carp or chub on the feed.

Other species, particularly bream and barbel, need longer to adjust, but once in their preferred temperature range, will go on feeding, perhaps for days.

On deeper waters, the temperature variation is most marked in the upper layers, with little change at the bottom. And there are many occasions when the fish will feed in the layer which is holding steady,perhaps moving up and down in the water as the temperature changes slightly. Bream will often feed in mid-water, and even towards the surface, while carp and rudd in particular will take food from the surface. So in hot weather it’s worth fishing off the bottom to find where the fish are feeding.

Wind is another important factor governing feeding habits. In blistering heat, the trout fisherman will always make for the ripple, and generally the same rule applies to the coarse angler. So, while fish may show themselves by blimping on the surface, or even crashing about in flat calm water, they’ll normally feed better where the wind ripples the surface.

Now the hard fighting Barbel never seems to give up during a flight and with reduced oxygen levels in low and in periods of drought once caught they can take a lot of time to recover so to be on the safe side they are best not fished for specifically in these conditions. Accidental captures are inevitable so after allowing them to rest for a good while only release them once their strength is back and you’re confident they’ll happily swim off without going belly up which is a sight no angler wants to see.

Us anglers are the eyes and ears of the rivers and waterways so if you have any concerns about fish stocks or water quality ring the Environment Agencies Hotline on 0800 807060.

Hmmm, so what am I doing for this session then, yeap fishing for Chub again, they don’t seem to mind these conditions at all, feeding heavily, fighting fit and recover very quickly indeed. Last time in to dusk I felt the Chub were up for feeding as they did in the early morning session where they fed in almost reckless fashion which is not like Chub at all.

The bread going over their heads meant their shyness quickly went out the window, they were bold as brass.

This session I’d have the surface lure with me as well as one of the swims was better suited to a bit of weight to hit the right area of flow rather than hit and miss if you’d hit the target or the bread would fly off. I lost a decent fish here last week which looked another big Chub, size of which I’d not seen before, you see I wanted to try for one again before they potentially could vacate the area for pastures new.

So the session, hmmm well it was a tough one, I'm sure the Chub are wising up to my tactics because they were much harder to catch today. They were proper cagey today as well and tight to cover. Even the ones that I could see ignored the bait going over their heads. As soon as the soon came up that put the kibosh on it though as they were just not interested at all. I still managed to catch some fish though, maybe 4 or 5.

Not the biggest stamp though with the biggest going 4lb on the noggin and one with some overly large scales from a past war wound most likely. Easily the shallowest I've seen it down here mind you but at least the small fish were enjoying themselves on gravel and I enjoyed watching them.

There was a bit of rain this session as well, hence me borrowing the Wife's waterproof jacket and that seemed to put the fish off as well. With a little more rain on the way, maybe they will be reinvigorated, me, well might try for them at dusk again, this time with a proper bottom bait set-up.

Any recommendations on a lightweight waterproof jacket, please let me know !!!!

Sam well he wanted to sit this one out, 'too much walking" "You can go on your own if you want, if you promise to play football and go on the trampoline with us".

"Suits Me !!!"

That was kind of him, although after getting back after the session we had to come back inside after an hour, the heavens opened and it's still raining as I type this. Hopefully we can get out soon as we've a session planned Monday evening, I'm praying for the levels to increase at the River Alne a little, as I do love that place.

Barbel, well despite the low and clear conditions, none were spotted !!!!

Wednesday 25 July 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Crepusculars and Crapehangers

A proper Psy / Goa from DJ Vassias from Greece had ones noggin nodding such the speed of the repetitive beats, the headphone drivers properly given a work out the huge and cocooning ear pads shielding the low frequencies and pace of the music I'm listening to from my associates. Weird isn't it, CAD machine fired-up, headphones donned, the work gets done despite the distraction of the loud booming music being played, and yet I need to seek solitude angling can offer whenever possible.

A very confusing state of affairs I must admit, considering the amount of electronic music I listen to, the two pastimes couldn't be more different.

But solitude is a must for me as a busy family man, I don't ask for much....

Now solitude gives us time to explore and know ourselves. It is the necessary counterpoint to intimacy and allows us to polish the self to make it worthy of sharing. Solitude gives us a chance to regain our perspective. It allows us to get back into the position of driving our own lives, rather than having them run by schedules and demands that are out of our control.

Talking of solitude, I'm back after Chub and I'm on to the next session without the influence of the diary fillers !!!!

Daylight chub can be wary creatures, but just wait until the dusk begins. Small river chub fishing, according to some, is supposed to be like a small-scale SAS operation. You know what I mean dedicated hunters of specimen chub are expected to crawl around on hands and knees (suitably camouflaged, of course) in order to creep up and ambush the 'enemy'.

But it doesn't have to be that way. On most small rivers you'll catch a darn sight more decent chub just by fishing sensibly at the times your target fish are ready to move out from cover and feed.

On some rivers that will be very early in the morning, but on most the witching hour is from sunset and on into the first hour of darkness. At that time of evening the angler in the right swim can expect to double what his creepy-crawly counterpart has managed to amass through the middle of the day.

The current long-term drought has helped cause this state of affairs, of course. And the water authorities have made the situation worse. There was a time in this once-green, once-pleasant land when the rain had a habit of falling quite a lot. That precipitation unerringly found its way into our streams and rivers, swelling and refreshing them and providing the very element that chub and our other favourite species require in order to thrive.

In those days of plenty there was such a thing as a surfeit of water. Too much of it even resulted in the flooding of the odd meadow from time to time. Our farming forefathers rubbed their hands with glee at such times. They knew that the nutrient-rich silt left behind would give them abundant crops in the subsequent year. But that wasn't good enough for the post-war water engineers. Oh no! What use was a river unless it was contained within the limits they set down?

The occasional flood was damned inconvenient to men who moved mountains of dredged silt in order to harness some would say castrate our natural rivers. There was too much water by far for their liking. The modern farmer, of course, didn't need Mother Nature's natural nutrients anyway. Chemical fertilisers were far better at helping to build a surplus range of grain mountains and were subsidised, to boot. But what the farmer did need was lots of water to irrigate the land that he was rapidly turning into a dustbowl through his actions.

And guess what the water authorities were only too pleased to oblige, by granting abstraction licences willy-nilly. All that water proving so inconvenient in our rivers was pumped out to plump up the cereal crops that nobody wanted. The trouble is, the villains of the piece have been rumbled. Those seemingly bouts of drought that happen time to time have caught out the conspirators who meddled with nature.

Rivers in many parts of the country are now running lower in Winter than they used to do in Summer. Too late it has been discovered that the natural order of things was right all the time, and the water authorities are now delighting headline writers in The Sun by coming up with wacky ways of replacing the water they've literally poured down the drain.

But while the water boffins turn their attentions to towing icebergs down from the North Pole and setting up desalination plants around our coastline, the small river chub angler is left to make the best of a poor job. And that means coping with waters that are, in the main, clear and shallow throughout the season; conditions that see the chub holed up throughout the middle of the day in the cover he so desperately likes. The chub's preference for cover, or rather safe sanctuary, is what sees anglers stalking around and presenting baits under weed rafts, through overhanging branches and below undercut banks. Those are the places where most chub will be when the river is clear and low.

You can catch them there too, right in the middle of the day. But one, or at most two, chub from a raft swim that probably holds a dozen or more is not exactly productive fishing. Yet those same chub are a very different proposition once the sun goes down. That's when they move out from their sanctuary and forage for food. And that's when the angler should be in the right place, ready to reap a rich harvest. As every chub enthusiast knows, his favourite species is a sucker for bread.

A well-presented crust or flake bait is always my number one choice especially when the shoal has been primed up first with free offerings in the shape of bread.

A white loaf soaked in water and mashed into a pulp really will pay dividends, or a few freebies floating on the surface downstream if there is good cloud cover is a brilliant tempter to get the fish interested particularly in the dusk feeding period.

Liberal handfuls of the bait washing downstream will draw the chub out from under their cover to investigate.

So position yourself in a suitable glide or run about 20 yards upstream of a chub sanctuary area and you should be in business as the light starts to fade.

Rather than taking on the chub on their own doorstep, you are enticing them out to play. Your swim does not have to be a snaggy, feature-packed one. Darkness is cover enough for the chub, who will feed freely in open water at such times. Once it’s difficult to see the floating bread drift downstream as the floating method is still how I like to try for them first.

A lump of crust on a size six hook, tied directly to 6 lb line for snaggy swims. The buoyancy of the crust counteracts the ballast of the SSG's to provide a delicately-balanced set-up that will work nine times out of ten. I prefer to have the shot fixed within a couple of inches of the hook, so the crust is presented just off the bottom, but I’ve used crust popped up 6”’s or so.

One day no doubt the rains will return. Perhaps new thinking on the part of the powers-that-be will even allow our rivers to revert back to how nature intended and there will be enough water and colour to again catch chub throughout the day. But, in the meantime, join the night owls and enjoy some fantastic chub action.

Now this was a much tougher session, one of the banker swims that gets the Chub coming out of their cover like homing missiles had a swan in resident and the bloody thing wouldn't shift. Eventually I managed to winkle one out around 3lb by more or less dropping a piece of floating bread where they wee hiding, a quick smash and grab set-up. But the big bird kinda put a kibosh on the evening events.

The other swim where the larger fish seem to reside also was difficult, I hooked a fish quite early on and it was hanging quite low in the swim till I saw it and it saw me and it went off on a last gasp run. I had to put on as much side-strain as I could muster as it wanted to get in to the snags to my right, and yes, the hooked pulled. I'm certain the hook hold wasn't brilliant because once fully home unless the line breaks they ain't coming out with the tough mouths Chub have.

The problem was in this swim some freebies were picked up by fish as I could hear them, but it was out of sight at the tail end of the swim. I left it rest for a while and tried another couple of swims without success. With the noise and disturbance the minnows and bleak make usually it brings them out to investigate, but zilch.

So back to the last swim before heading back and this time eventually I hooked a fish when a piece of bread got caught in the branches of an overhanging tree and after a minute or so a small disturbance on the water a fish was on. A cracking scrap ensued but it was eventually netted, now this fish was a nats nadger under 4lb so the other fish I lost could have been potentially another 5lber or certainly a high 4, as it was a scale above.

Swapping to a bottom bait headed in to dusk, a few plucks and a missed bite from definitely a chub pull I headed home. I need to strike whilst the iron is hot so to speak, because these fish may not hang around much longer, I'm hoping they will because fifty percent of the fish caught here especially the larger ones have hollow bellies that need filling, when they've got their head down feeding there will be some right lunkers here.

Weirdly the fish seem to be more active at dawn / early morning, so I've another session planned over the weekend. 

Monday 23 July 2018

The Tiny River Alne – Dough and Distributary

The roach is the eternal quest of the coarse-fish angler, the species that fills his net on warm, summer evenings, and these are average small roach and this is average roach fishing. There are big roach, of course, the thought of which fires an angler with the ambition that takes him far afield on bleak November or January days to search for the winter fish.

Every coarse-fish angler has caught roach, and it is a strange angler indeed who does not want to catch bigger roach, but these are the elusive ones, the golden grail of the specialist.

Roach live and thrive in all manner of waters, from small clay ponds to crystalline chalk-streams, bringing greatness to vast meres, popularity to muddy rivers and even urban watery grimes. It is the basic fish of coarse angling, the mainstay of the pastime one would say, and distributed in such vast numbers throughout the waterways that, dare I say it, it is the common fish.

Roach do not know the environmental limitations of such species as carp and barbel, and you cannot describe the type of water that suits them best. 

Your giant roach may come from an accepted big-roach water, be it a shallow stream or vast reservoir. It may just as well, although improbably, come from a tiny, neglected pond on the verge of farmland. Of one thing only may you be certain, that the method which works well on one water will need considerable adaptation before it succeeds on another.

The great thing is that there is no cut-and-dried roach fishing. You do not settle to wait, as you would for carp, fairly assured within certain limitation of the type of tackle and the probable outcome. You can take roach fishing at the level you want it, the relatively easy fishing of most waters that result in several small fish, or the discerning approach to a particular water with big fish in mind.

I fancied the latter, you see the bit of the Alne I’m fishing I’m sure holds some big fish from within its small waters. With plenty to explore and with the odd snippet of information I found of its inhabitants I’m sure they are worth trying for. Success is often based on the strength of your application and enthusiasm. There is always, of course, a fair measure of luck, but the big roach trail is not an easy one.

Success is a matter of personal interpretation, but in my book, it is a matter of talking whatever you have available and using it to its utmost potential. In an unpredictable pastime like angling, the most improbable waters can have tremendous potential and does no need a veteran anglers to exploit them.

So this session it was out with the bread, a roach favourite if there ever was one. If I hadn’t had turned 80 lobs worms to mush a few weeks ago, they would have been used instead, but bread is the next best thing. 

I had some deeper swims to explore you see, so the plan was to use my standard link ledger set-up with a piece of bread on the hook, and then a little liquidised bread as feed.

Roach were the target, but I was also looking forward to what else might turn up in these waters new. Maggot would have been the easy option, but the problem is, there seems to be a ridiculous amount of minnows here, which, ok, is nice to get a few bites, but they can become frustrating after a while. I managed some nice big fat dace from the small tiny brook I fish , and I’m sure there are some good’uns to be had here as well, and like the roach, they like bread as well, particularly the bigger fish, and it’s the bigger fish I’m after.

Sam was with me for this session and cus he moans a little about walking to far we drive to the bottom of the stretch. Now I'd not really explored much of this area but with the river so low and clear as it is it was a good time to do it. I'm sure some winter time when the stingers and such like are dead that is the time to fish it. Not only would the levels be up one would hope, but lots of the potential swims are not really accessible.

Sam had his float and a load of maggots and we fished maybe 4 swims. The first one was ridiculously deep close in but after half an hour without a bite on bread but loads of minnows on Sam's rod we moved to the next. It was clear the fishing would be tough but eventually after wading through the minnows he had his first chublet. To be honest we should have stuck to that swim but he had a couple of small trout and some gudgeon as well. There was some nice flow underneath a overhang and that's where the fish were hiding, but feeding some maggots they ventured out from their sanctuary.

The biggest of the morning !!!!
The bread rod apart from being attacked by the minnows only really received one proper bite which I subsequently missed. So a pretty naff session for me, a little better for Sam who caught a 'proper' minnow and insisted we weighed it. Not all lost though, one swim in-particular looked very roachy indeed so once we've had some rain (pretty please) I'll be back to see if my hunch can be put in to practice.

Back for lunchtime, and feet up with a class of Pimms to cool down, it was very humid indeed !!!

Saturday 21 July 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Pugnastics and Punxsutawney

This summer's heatwave has had a dramatic impact on the UK's landscape, turning previously lush parks and playing fields yellow. The green swathe of land has turned brown and barren-looking after weeks of dry heat. Apparently it’s the longest Britain has experienced in 42 years, I want a change in the weather, as I think many do. I’m a bit tired of it all now to be honest. Although I like a nice spell of hot weather, this 6 weeks or so we've already had is enough for me.

What I’m not bored with though, is the variety in my fishing, which to be honest, I’m trying to mix it up more than ever these days, the small water fishing in-particular, it’s what I like doing, despite the mediocrity of the fish to be caught.

The next session back to the Tiny River Alne I think, I'm sure there are some nice Roach to be had in the deeper swims I'm yet to fish.

For this session though, it was Groundhog Day…

A return to the area where I caught the big Chub couldn’t have come soon enough, you see the swim where I caught it from had fish which were clearly visible and there were bigger fish to be had.

Now they backed off once the 5lber was caught and disappeared as quickly as they appeared. They were in a proper tussle and scrimmage to beat the other fish to the floating bread, it was a survival of the fittest.

The props were not as quick as the hookers and I’m sure I had one of the wingers. There were bigger fish there at the time for sure.

Were they back again…?

Well only one way to find out, make hay and all that….

Now a summer caught Chub at 5lb will be much bigger come wintertime when they get their duffel costs on and that is certainly encouraging. The deep frame and length of the fish I caught might even push 6lb or beyond after Jack Frost has left the area, such its statue.

The freebies made the cagey Chub let their guard down and I was waiting for the opportunity for their corner to put the towel in. I nearly ran out of bread last time though, so for this session I was back with a couple of sliced loaves despite the session being the same length.

There’s not a British freshwater fish that offers so many challenges or can be tempted in so many ways, or on such a wide variety of baits as the chub. Old rubber lips cannot possibly resist something flapping away in trouble on the surface so I had the lure rod with me as well. In predatory terms, even from a very young age, and we’re talking a fish of four inches or so, the chub had few equals.

The rainbow trout shares a similar kind of aggression level when near the surface and looking for food, but then they are programmed to accepts floating pellet from birth, they are difficult to quantify. Either way, I cannot think of another coarse species so willing to have a go like a chub and that feeding mentality is there to be exploited for the angler.

Arriving early the fish were willing to feed however they were far more cagey this time. Once a fish was hooked the swim went dead to you had no choice but to move on to the next swim. Not a bad thing because that's how I like to fish. The smallest fish went 2lb or so and the biggest caught a nice big framed fish of 4lb 9oz's. Two three pounders, one an ounce off 4lb which was caught on the lure. So another decent session however the fish switched off after the initial feeding spell so it was time to head back home.

Usually the bigger fish start milling around come sundown so I think a session in the week is on the cards to try and tempt an even bigger Chevin.

The river well, I've never seen it so clear....

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Warwickshire Avon – Lollygags and Loggerheads (PB Chub !!!)

No fisherman today learns all that he knows about his art as a result of his own experience. Much must be gleaned from others, through their writings or their conversation and I should be the first to acknowledge a debt to those many long-suffering friends who from time to time have taken me under their wing, have shown me the folly of some of my theories and have taught me from their own store of practical experience.

Sam was with me when he saw the powerful bite a Chub can give when a free lined peace of flake was hooved up by the grey shadow of our rivers and nearly ripped the rod out of my hands. That solid lump of fish which appeared so lethargically close to the surface but which, once hooked, is worthy of all your craft. That fish down at the ‘Brook’ properly did me over and despite a 5lb hook link and all the power I could muster to prevent it from getting under some thick overhanging branches, the hook pulled and the fish was gone.

“Sam, now ‘THAT’ was a ‘BIG CHUB’ !!!”

He often refers to that day, the day that the “That Chub nearly ripped the rod out of daddy’s hands”

A two-pound Chub is pleasant enough to catch, a three pounder gives you something to be pleased about and a fish of four pounds is good on any river, while a five-pounder is in my opinion, large enough to be called a specimen fish.

Now as someone with a mediocre PB of 4lb 13oz’s that elusive 5lb Chub has eluded me so far, but it’s one of those targets that I know will turn up eventually. Half the problem is I like convenience and many of the stretches of river I fish are less than 10 minutes from door to door.

Yeap, a 5lb Chevin is easily the biggest Monkey on my back !!!

I’ve seen them though and that’s what makes me returning to the well-trodden as I know one will eventually slip up. This particular venue I’ve caught countless 4lbers, in-fact one winters days I had 5 or 6 if I recall over 4lb when fishing lumps of cheesepaste. You know when the colour of the water is just ‘right’, the air and water temperature perfect, it was just one of those mornings I’ll never forget.

They are spooky in the summer though particularly with water this clear. A chub’s shyness or sensibility is another factor which must be considered by the angler. One cannot expect to catch them unless the approach to fish is unseen or unsensed by them, a thoughtless movement, a sudden heavy footstep, a shadow upon the water can deprive you of the sport you’re hoping for. A broken cast and a lost fish can put a whole shoal into a state of greater awareness and caution. 

I usually use a floating lure for summer chub but for this session it was out with the bread, a few freebies to try and spot where they are hopefully and then freeline a piece downsteam to try and get one to intercept the floating bait. 

A dunk in the water gets it sinking nicely though so I’d also drop in to a few swims to try and tempt one to feed instinctively. Tackle to a minimum, a roving approach; this is how I like to fish.

There are few nice swims to go at as well, one in particular, the tail end of the swim is under a willow tree, but not only that, there is some thick streamer weed here as well and Chub are often milling around popping in and out to feed on what’s coming their way.

As I said before though, they are cute these fish, if they get wind of an angler in the vicinity or something isn’t right, they bugger off quicker than my mate Hilly when it’s his turn to get a round in.

Anyway back to the fishing !!!!

Wow what a session, as soon as I got to the first swim the fish were up for feeding, still very spooky mind you even after loose feeding a good ten or fifteen minutes with freebies.

The first fish went 3lb 8oz's and I managed another 4 Chub from all different swims. As soon as one was caught they backed off and were not interested.

The last swim there were countless fish in the swim and I could see them in the clear water quite clearly. A couple were even feeding quite close in. A big chunk of bread on the hook and the bread is on it's way, half way down the swim a massive swirl in the water and a fish is on.

It felt a decent fish and tried to get under some snags to my left, with as much side strain as I dared the it's out in the open water. After a powerful fight it's in the net and looks massive.

Scales out, first it indicated 5lb 1oz but then settled at 5lb on the nose....!!!!

Yeap that big monkey that's been clinging on for dear life for years, is finally off my back.

I caught another fish in the last swim and it was home before dusk and had a nice rum to celebrate.

Oh Yes !!!!

Got to love surprises in fishing and this was one of those days.

The water was gin clear but this is a great method to try and bank a fish or two, it's an exciting as well and the tackle couldn't be any simpler, a size 6 B983 Kamasan hook and a couple of loaves of bread. Certainly the last swim seemed to have the bigger fish in it, so yeap I'll be back. Encouraging signs for this bit of river though as it's had it's predation problems in the past, I'm just hoping all will be well for winter.

A 5lb Warwickshire Avon Chub

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