Piscatorial Quagswagging

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

Thursday 31 December 2020

Warwickshire Avon - 新年快乐博客读者 and 再见2220

Well a bit of a damp squib to end my fishing for 2020. Still once the mist lifted and the sun came out it was very pleasant indeed. 

I fished two swims, one with smelt on, the other with lobworm and nothing in the first swim, the odd knock from small fish in the second. The water temperature had taken a big drop to less than 5 degrees on the thermometer so maybe they were just having an off day.

Still when the Warwickshire Avon looks as magnificent as this, it's not all about catching fish now is it, or is it ?  Anyway to the blog readers a wishing you and yours some well-deserved downtime and a very Happy New Year to come. Let's hope 2021 is much better than the rubbish year we've all just been through.

So cheers (Bovril if you wondering ) Not port and brandy mix just yet it needs to get properly cold for that. 

Wednesday 30 December 2020

The Tiny River Alne - Brook Bashers and Beard Splitters

A proper hard frost overnight greeted me when I open the gate at this diminutive waterway. I love it down here because, well I hardly see a soul and you know me, solitude is something I need to seek to keep me headed in the right direction and this place provides that in spades. 

A fox even seemed confident enough to walk over the field towards me till he discovered I was there and bolted off upstream. It sees little footfall and anglers, well, I'm one of them, I'm not sure where the others are.

The problem is with tributaries like this they can rise and fall very quickly indeed and you need to be watching the river levels like a hawk and catch it right. 

Roving a river seems to be a lost art these days, I'm not sure why either because with nearly 10,000 steps covered in the heart of the countryside, and some fish banked, what's not to like, for me the wellbeing boost is up there with a good slug of rum, or the warmth of the sun. 

Well ok the fish are not massive, but then why would they be in a water like this, my best chub maybe 3lb 8ounces, my best trout, a scraper 2. 

I can walk here if I wanted to, the turn of the ignition key is switched clockwise 5 mins later. I'm am very lucky indeed that I have a water like this so close especially when seemingly I have it all to myself.  

My TFG River and Stream rod is perfect for the job because in some swims the longer length is needed to get over the thick brambles, roving is the key here because bites come quick if there is fish in the swim.

I'd not fished bait here for a while preferring to fish a small crankbait when the water is clear but the water was coloured after falling not far off 2 metres in as many days. 

I started off on maggot with a cage feeder full of liquidised bread with a smattering of groundbait and initially starting catching small dace after small dace and whilst I don't mind catching them, the ones that I've been catching on the Avon have been such a good stamp there are difficult to overlook.

After the capture of a few minnows the hooklink was changed and I switched to a size 10 B993 and would fit breadflake. 

The change was dramatic, with a chub caught within seconds of the hookbait settling on the deck. The water maybe only had a few inches of visibility but with watercraft and the fact I know this stretch very well indeed.

Thats the thing, you need to walk this type of river in the summer, the amount of debris in some swims is there to see and certainly swims are earmarked to avoid.
Within a couple of hours I managed 6 or 7 chub with the biggest being maybe 2.5 pound. 

Really nice to see as these are chub what have to watch their back because the resident otter(s) and not only that but when the floods hit the turmoil they have to deal with can only be respected. 

I didn't want to leave as I was enjoying it so much but still, I'm getting out more and more these days so I'm not complaining.

The sun melted the frost an hour or so in to the session and a bitterly cold day turned in to one that was very pleasant indeed. 

It was 2 degrees when I left but it's amazing isn't it how therapeutic it can be. 

The roach didn't show today for some reason it was a Chevin day and they couldn't get enough of the bread.  

The colour of the river was just perfect for the Warburtons Blue and we as anglers often know what a session will be like just looking at the colour of the water, this was one of those mornings I'll remember, can we have more of these days please. 

The Avon is dropping nicely so my allegiances will move there, brook basher (George Burton) yeap, too right George, I love it, it defines me as an angler me thinks, I cannot get enough of small rivers like this, I need to keep it a secret I think, shhhhhhhhhsssshhhhhhh !!!!

Tuesday 29 December 2020

Warwickshire Avon - Deserters and Dipsomania

I love this time of year especially when the rivers are up because those stretches that have regular matches are very quiet indeed. One stretch has 300 members apparently, and yet I'm the only one trudging through the mud clearing ones head from the rum fog the evening before. 

Now I had intended to fish another stretch of the Avon but the river was unfishable, I thought it might have been ok at first as a quick glance from the car showed the water was still within its bank, but when I got bankside it was 'just in'

The problem was I know the stretch intimately and there is only two swims you can fish when the river is bombing through, but both were underwater, so completely out of bounds.

So back in the car to another local stretch my short session was already shortened. There are a few slacks that can be fished though so, so twenty minutes or so in each swim and move on.

I'm after a 6lb Warwickshire Avon chub and here there are some crackers to be caught. They are not stupid though and despite seeing them, I've never actually caught one.

With the river like it is though, I was hoping to sort the men from the boys and try and tempt a big'un. I've found it hot and miss for Chub when the river is well up and coloured but drop a bait on a Chevins head it will generally take it.

A smelly bait is required and my homemade cheesepaste is ridiculous really. The stench is so strong even a tiny bit on your fingers or clothes hangs around for ages even after a throughout wash. Some proper chemicals are required when the session is finished to remove it completely.

I'm not sure how this batch is some much stronger than the rest, but it is. I should have written the recipe down as it's by far the best I've concocted.  

Four swims fished, one of those you didn't even need a weight to hold bottom but not even a rattle or a nibble. One of those swims I'd prebaited with a couple of freebies and left for 40 mins too. 

As I left the snow started coming down and let's be realistic here, anything caught would be a bonus in these conditions as the water levels have been all over the shop and the temperatures too.

It's starting to drop nicely though so should be perfect heading in to the New Year. Still I'm in two minds what to fish for so might have to hedge my bets.

Whilst I wonder where to go what to do the next session will be at the Alne because that has dropped like a stone after being in the fields and in the road. I've not fished an actual bait here for ages because I've enjoyed using small crankbaits. 

Sunday 27 December 2020

Warwickshire Avon - Dermatoglyphics and Deontology

There is something about a stretch of turbulent water that attracts spectators, but though many will stand and stare, not so many will think of fishing where the water is really rushing along. Perhaps they think it unfishable, perhaps they think it would not be worth fishing anyway, very often they would be wrong on both counts.

Except for artificial sluices and the like, it is rare to find a water so uniformly fast that there are no fish in it, there are always irregularities, large or small, on the bed or in the bank of the river, which deflect the main force of the current and create sheltered lies. 

Sometimes, of course, there are very obvious likely spots where an obstruction of some size, and the division of the current above and below it, are visible at the surface, sometimes one can deduce the presence of irregularities in the shape of the bed by noting the pattern of the surface flow. 

The less turbulent areas can hold a surprising number of fish, and there are almost always lots of lies which hold a fish or two, behind boulders, bits of weed, sunken branches, and so on. 

If the shelter was not there, there would be no fish. They are not given to roaming about such water in search of their food, continually battling against current. They prefer to wait for something to come to them. They may sometimes move up-current to intercept something, but they will not move far across the current. 

his is not the type of water for any who seek restful contemplation, it means hard and continuous fishing. A stationary ledger, unless it brings an immediate response, is not very likely to bring a bite at all, for a matter of 6 ins. one way or the other can mean that the bait is anchored in water which never holds fish.

On the other hand, a ledger rig which is accurately weighted to suit the current will roll in the under-water eddies, very often to rest of its own accord where the pressure of current is reduced  the very places where fish will most likely be. 

In some conditions there can be a heavy but varying drag on the line, this causes excessive bowing, makes bite detection very difficult and drags the bait about the water too quickly. I find it best to fish, as nearly as possible, upstream, holding the rod high to reduce the amount of line in the water. This means that fast water can be fished without using a forbiddingly heavy lead.

Occasionally, even in very turbulent water, little lead is needed. Though the water at the surface may be swirling wildly below a fall for instance underneath it may be quite steady, often with a nice, easy back current. 

Such places can, in fact, sometimes be fished perfectly well with no lead at all. One simply has to find out by trial and error what is really necessary, bearing in mind that to vary the length or direction of the cast by a couple or three feet or so so may call for a drastic adjustment to the weighting of the tackle. 

In turbulent water the bites are liable to vary from a tiny pluck to a rod-bending heave, and there'll be slack-line bites too. The only safe course is to strike at anything which resembles a bite. This way you will inevitably strike at the knocks of weed and debris but you will also strike the real bites, as well. 

To attempt to differentiate between the two is to miss a lot of bites, unless you are much better at it than I am. In general the larger baits are to be preferred, even if on other parts of the water small baits are generally used. Perhaps the speed of the water and the short time the bait is in view has something to do with this. 

 There is very little water which is altogether too fast for fish, and if there are fish present there is a way of getting them out. It is rarely easy fishing, it may demand a drastic revision of tackle and methods, but it is undoubtedly fascinating, always challenging, and sometimes very rewarding. And who can ask for more than that? 

A Barbel would be nice wouldn't it !!!!

I caught the river just right, it had been in the fields for a good 48 hours but then it had dropped like a stone and after the rain yesterday, was going to in flood again. Here despite the turbulence of the water you can fish a small lead just off the crease a few rod lengths out with a satisfying donk in a rather large slack that seemingly changes every time you look at is. 

I had the stretch to myself as expected because this was about the only fishable swim. To the left there is a good load of overhead cover however with the water temperature barely above 6 degrees (2.5 degrees lower than the last time I fished this swim 4 days earlier,)  were any fish up for a feed ?. I positioned a stick where the river lapped up over the bank and when I left 3 hours later it had risen 6 inches. 

Anyway 40 minutes in without a bite on meat, a couple of lobworms dug up provided the changed that was required and after ten minutes the stationary rod top springs in to life a fish is on. I thought it was a decent Chub at first especially as it tried to get under some cover, but then after kicking up a gear it was a welcome Barbel. One fish, one bite and that was my lot. 

Still nice to be out though and if I left it a few hours later to go bankside the river would have looked entirely different again. Just goes to show the small margins of success in these conditions, especially when the fish feed in small windows too.

Thursday 24 December 2020

(Not Quite) The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.171 - Tangoreceptors and Teratology

The great thing about having a bait fridge is not only are the maggots in a comfortable environment to prolong their short life but the Wife goes nowhere near it for fear of untold contamination.

 Over the years I've hidden all manner of things such as presents for her, wine I want to consume all myself and the odd chocolate bar. 

This week however was a packet of crispy crackled pork bites from RayGray Snacks.

Based in Rugeley in the heart of Staffordshire they have been producing great tasting pork snacks since 1995. They are now one of the largest producers of traditional pork snacks in the UK and in addition to producing our own brand of snacks we also produce private/own label pork snacks for many well known household brands.

Now as a bit of a pork scratching connoisseur these pork bites are right up there with some of the best I've tried, heck even the packet feels good. These are double cooked for a lighter, crispier texture with a unique blend of the aforementioned tasty pork seasoning.

See for yourself here

So after given some instructions to "can you stop off on your way back and get some tonic" that errand was ticked off quite quickly when entering the local shop,

Then in this COVID world the 2 metre distance from the next couple of shoppers, ones eyes were looking what goodies had arrived this week.

It didn't take long for ones eyes to stop on the quite recognisable light brown packet. 

It helped that this newly delivered job-lot covered half the shelf and almost blocked out the inferior other offering, you know the one in a clear packet. 

These RayGray beer accompaniments don't need to be shown off, those that have partaken in the meaty treats before know exactly what the score is. 

Now Sam and Sarah both like pork scratchings but the packet wasn't to be shared.

I'm greedy at this time of year, anyway, it's not a problem, they would be none the wiser.  Oddly they seemed to taste better being cold, method in ones madness me thinks. 

I've not posted a picture of the contents as I would like you to try them for yourself, preferably with a bottle or two of Abbot Reserve. 

Now ever since the fly outbreak (yes still an issue ) because of the maggot escapees the garage seems more or less a forgotten about place now anyway, but the washing machine is still in there, so hidden behind another door that I knew wouldn't be open was ideal. 

So the bag of crispy pork fat took its rightful place next to a Disney Pandora Charm the kids wanted to get their mummy for Christmas. 

Heck, I think I'm on to something here...an uncrackable fridge for the males masses, a pint or two of maggots thrown in for every purchase. 

Anyway to this short morning session, with the rivers up and over the banks I still wanted to get out for Christmas Eve so back to the canal it was. 

This time though, a bit of a change of venue, but not only that, if I was struggling for a bite I'd venture to an area I've actively avoided. The establishment isn't open at the minute though as we are in tier 3. 

Again only a short roving session this but hopefully something would be up for a bite, I'd only fished this section once to be fair and caught a few small schoolies but I did see a picture of an apparent 10lber that was caught here (looked 6 or 7) so it has some form. 

The problem for me is that it sees more foot traffic than I would like hence why I was here today. The overnight rain meant the footpaths were even more lethal, but also it would be rather cold too. I'd also be off by 11ish around the time when the rest of the world starts to move. A quick smash and grab, just how I like it.

Now the scarf was donned initially because it was very cold indeed, the sun was strong though and it was very pleasant indeed. 

Especially when the walk from cover to cover highlighted some nice small streams to be added to ones radar. Easy access and not only that despite all the rain we have had over the last couple of days not as high as I thought they will be.

Not far off fishable either, in-fact hopefully get to try one bit I found before I go back to work on the 4th of January. Now 3 swims down I was biteless but I doubt the fish will be moving as the water was cold so I needed to drop on them.

After a few more swims there was nothing doing whatsoever....

There is a considerable walk between likely looking fish holding areas and that is some of the problem here. Not only that but it's another stretch where the cover, near and far has been hacked down to an inch of its life. Maybe I'll pop back in March when the banks may look entirely different. 

Like much of my canal Zander fishing I just wasn't feeling it....

So with scarf removed I hotfooted it to area Plan B, this was a change that brought a bite within 5 minutes. The right hand float which was tight to a boat sprang in to life and carted to the left.

I've not had a bite from a canal Zander for a good while though so I was rather premature in the strike and pulled the bait out the fish. Usually though it's a small'un though and sure enough the bait put back out in the same place another bite came within minutes. Yeayyyyyyyyyy a tiny schoolie, a Zed for sure, but not exactly the size I'm used to.

This quest of mine is getting harder and harder though, like I'm being conspired against. I can just feel it after ever session but cannot quite put my finger on it. Now no more bites from the holding bay I went up to some cover where I have caught Zander before, the best a 5lber if I recall.

As my floats were positioned in the first spot to my right just up from me I spotted the telltale bubbles of an otter which was heading towards me. I stood my ground and then followed it down the towpath. It eventually surfaced and it saw me, within a split second it popped back under the water and went back to where it came from. This is the first time I've seen an Otter as this location, then again I've not fished it for a while.

As expected in this predicament no more, bites....Merry Christmas to the blog readers !!!

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Warwickshire Avon - Maltesers and Malfeasance

19p for a packet of sprouts isn't going to break the bank now is it, but when the sprouts are the size of those spheroid malted milk centre surrounded by milk chocolate, chocolates, yeah ok, maltesers, they won't be going anywhere near my Christmas dinner. What was Tesco thinking, I'd sack those in charge of the quality control. 

Now talking about sacking, Nicola Sturgeon flouted her own diktat , but then like many of her cronies do as I say not as I do. Resignation surely Shirley, well like many paid for by the public purse, they wouldn't know what to do when the gravy train has come to a halt, get in the real world, my dear. 

Anyway criss avoided, you see a few last bits and pieces from The Farm the plan B worked out well and now I've sprouts 4 or 5 times the size. Now Consuming Brussels sprouts in excess may not be suitable for people taking anticoagulants, such as warfarin, since they contain vitamin K, a blood-clotting factor. In one incident, eating too many Brussels sprouts led to hospitalisation for an individual on blood-thinning therapy

So why then out of the Newey family and my Father-in-Law and Nanny Brenda who will be at the Xmas dinner it's only me that likes them ? they are not on warfarin so haven't that excuse. Even Ben turns his nose up at them and his food intake is as varied as mine.

So as I hate food waste a sprout soup was concocted and the peelings added to the wormery, and I must admit it was very nice indeed. I do like my homemade soups this time of the year and this will be added to my growing list. It was easy to make too, like most soups are generally. So soften some garlic and onion in butter, add the peeled maltesers sprouts and some chicken stock and boil for 10 to 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, liquidise and jobs a good'un.

Oddly the flatulence remained at normal levels which was a surprise as considering I consumed not far off the whole packet. Talking about normal levels sadly the same couldn't be the same as the Warwickshire Avon. By the end of the day you see it will be properly in flood again, so I had to get out for a Barbel, before I'd struggle to get bankside. 

I would prefer to use meat in these conditions but I cobbled together some pungent shrimp and krill groundbait that was laced with various goodies to go in the feeder, and I'd fish a hot fish boilie wrapped in my homemade paste for added attraction. Now I chose a convenient swim where even when the river is bombing through there is a nice slack that can be fished. 

I haven't fished it that many times thinking about it, but I know from fellow Blogger Sean  it can provide a bite when you're on limited time. The river is very wide here indeed and you could walk a mile and not find another fishable swim. There is cover above and below where I'm sure Barbel are tucked up out of the way. 

The problem here was quite evident after a few casts and no bites, I don't know it enough, you see within the slack over a small'ish area was soft ground, hard ground and reeds. I wasn't confident that I had the presentation of the bait right and when you're only fishing short sessions like I do, confidence is key.

Eventually after switching the feeder for a lead I felt my way around the swim and finally found a decent amount of clear gravel which was a little further out than I had been fishing at the start of the session. Within minutes after getting the set-up out again I started to get indications there were fish in the swim. 

I've made a mental note to return in the summer when it's low and clear and map the swim out because it can well be a goto swim when the river is over the bank in places. With an hour left without a proper bite I searched out some red maggots from the groundbait bucket, removed the paste from the boilie and threaded 4 or 5 grubs on the size 10 hook. 

Within ten minutes or so the rod top sprang in to life and something had taken the bait. I had thought a Barbel bite might develop but no, it looked like a small roach had hooked itself and was trying to break free. So I lifted the rod and instantly knew what it was, a dreaded bootlace eel.

It was luckily lip hooked and returned before it could a mess of ones landing net. The problem was I caught another one within minutes of the bait going out again. 

The rain had picked up big time after being relatively light when I got there and it was a session I could see wasn't going to improve. Luckily I had a self imposed pack up time and that was only half an hour away.

Sadly the 3ft twitch never arrived.... at least the scavenged chair provided some comfort !!!!

Tuesday 22 December 2020

(Not Quite) The Close Season Zander Quest Pt.170 - Knee-Tremblers and Knissomancy

With the weather getting colder this week and the rain abating hopefully river conditions will be a little improved because I fancy trying for not only Pike but also some Chub. I finished work last week you see so intend to stack the sessions up.

Now with the Wife getting her nails done and some last minute shopping, that left me to look after the two tearaways. I was eager to go fishing but I'd have plenty of time in the coming days, so a fancy breakfast rustled up for me, a couple of buttered pikelets for Ben, a bacon sarnie on THICK bread for Sam.

Hog's pudding is a traditional sausage-like meat product from Devon and Cornwall. A spicy kick and contains flavourings such as basil, garlic, cumin, and black pepper. The sausage is typically prepared with pork meat or offal, pork fat, bread, suet, and either pearl barley or oatmeal. 

So on topic with all this recent doom and gloom and scaremongering over the 'mutant' strain, Dover now a carpark, the French shutting their boarders to UK travellers and incoming freight, countless other countries following suit. A political own goal for BoJo after scaring his wage payers and the world witless, seems that way doesn't it. Luckily as I type this Freight will start moving again and the FTSE starting to recover again from the big hit it had when initially the markets opened. 

Project Fear most certainly, just look at my elderly Mum and Dad, who after being comfortable again walking up the road to get the local paper, are back peering from behind the curtains and now won't be visiting my Sister for their Christmas dinner. Ben's routine out of sync and now he has been asking "Can we go home now !!! " after a short while outside which is not like him, even he know something not right with the world.

All this because of the 'The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group' (NERVTAG), those that advise the government on the threat posed by new and emerging respiratory viruses. 

By the way one on the panel paid for by the public purse is Professor Neil Ferguson, yeap that bloke who resigned from the Government after heeding his own advice in the lockdown and visited his mistress for a knee trembler, how is that even possible with his track record ?

Still this is a diary, as well as a blog, got to say what I think haven't I....

Anyway I've had enough of it all to be honest, so where to go fishing to get away from it all where 3G is, well if you're lucky. So it was back to where my Zander challenge really took off big-time. You see after a 9lber turned up out of the blue, and then not long after a 8lb and 10oz lump this 2 mile stretch really showed some form. 

The problem was that after plundering it for a good while, nothing of note turned up again and it largely had fallen off ones radar. Before I join another club on the commencement of the quest again, I fancied one last look again to see if it was worth another look. 

Bites used to be regular, blanks rare but then it went off big time, so much so, I wrote off the whole canal network and moved ones overdepth float rods lock-stock to an entirely different one. This change paid off especially when I discovered the 'deep bit' where before the cover was hacked back to nothing after the CRT's clippers were set to number one. 

Again back to catching half decent Zander, a few 5lbers and the best over 7lb if I recall. Now anything over 5lb is a good'un on the canal, the humdrum schoolie being the norm. 

There are no secrets to this canal Zander lark, you need to do the miles, put the work in. When the canals are muddy like there were for this session, the banks are quieter too. 

It was the lifting of some of the restrictions after the first lockdown where some of those family walks and bike rides in the good weather, highlighted just how many baitfish were still here. 

Shoals and shoals of small snack sized roach and also perch of similar number and statue. Zander need to feed and there was plenty here because I could see them. It's those transient big'uns that may well be lurking here it's a stretch that will always hold dear. 

I've made some adjustments to ones set-ups of late, mainly reducing the gear down to the bare minimum, 2 short'ish rods and compact reels, a small bag with only the essentials and this time on its first outing a rucksack to remove. 

A few tweaks here and there really can make or break an enjoyable session, and when you ankle deep in mud, a bag that can be easily cleaned is a Godsend for example. The mud seemed to get worse and worse the saving grace I didn't see a soul, well tell a lie, a dog walker as I was walking back to the car at the end of the session.

So anyway lets get the smelt out, a proven Zed attractor if there ever was one !!!!

I got there at dawn and when the light lifted the gloom one look of the colour of the water I thought I'd be in for a good morning. After 4 usually productive swims the floats were motionless and me scratching my chin what was wrong.

Ok it can be a waiting game this canal Zander lark with deadbaits but if you do drop on the fish you tend to get a bite quite quick. I think I spotted 2 topping fish throughout the 4.5 hour session when I covered 12k steps. Even the banker swim didn't produce and one that I dropped in some bait and set it to rest.

It was one of those days I think, the water seemed a decent colour but it did change from 6inches of visibility to next to nothing. With heavy wellies traipsing through the thick mud it wasn't exactly an easy session either because moving from cover to cover can mean a good ten minute walk to the next spot. 

Still it was nice to be about despite the loads of dumped cider cans and also the randomly placed dog poo. I'm going to enjoy the quest in March especially when there will be new water to cover and maybe a pub open to enjoy a hand pulled pint in. 

Sunday 20 December 2020

Warwickshire Avon - Grappling Irons and Great Conjunctions

3 Covid waves, 2 mutant strains and a partridge in a pear tree, January cannot come soon enough, apart from the end of 2020 which many of us want to see the back of December for me is usually eating and drinking in higher quantities than what I usually do. 

It's not only the quantities it's the rich gout inducing stilton cheese, the heavy ports, the red meats, chocolate, the chocolate. At the end of it I just end up feeling a bit blurrrrrrrrggghhhh so January is not only abstinence from the booze but also back to eating properly again. 

I mean just look at my take on Mac and Cheese, 3 different cheeses, bacon pieces and belly filling macaroni. It just wouldn't feature in our day to day food, but still it's good for the wellbeing and in moderation it's not an issue. 

My version uses a few Indian spices with a topping of chopped red onion and coriander. Obviously we needed something else to accompany it and that was, yes you guessed it, some slow cooked BBQ pulled pork shoulder. 

Now I don't usually fish for Barbel in the morning but with a window of opportunity it was rude not to. A big swim this so two rods were justified, one a boilie wrapped in my newly made homemade paste and the downstream rod a chunk of luncheon meat, a proven barbel bait of there ever was one. 

The plan was to play it by ear and maybe move swims if it was justified and with a chair to chill, this would gave my rotund belly some recovery time. Another change for this session was that I'd swap the lead for a feeder packed with a smelly groundbait laced with small pellets and some slithers of meat.

This is an area where I have caught some of my largest Barbel including the repeat capture of a 12lber but usually there are smaller fish hanging around too, in-fact the last Barbel I caught was from this area. With cold weather on the way I might try and squeeze in another session after this one too, however that would be further downstream and in to dusk hopefully. 

My PB Barbel of 12lb 14 ounces was caught in February on a huge piece of garlic spam and despite it being cold they are up for a feed but you just need to be bankside when they do, I've found it can happen anytime and it's usually short.

I'm wondering if I could dedicate a whole season to trying to beat my PB, but I'm not sure I could. 

Although there are much bigger Barbel to be caught on the Warwickshire Avon I like mixing up my fishing more than ever these days so a more single minded approach I'd struggle with I think. I blank more often than not for Barbel and I can count on one hand multiple fish captures, usually it's one bite one fish then you're done. 

I do enjoy the short in to dusk sessions though because especially when the rivers are clear that's the best time for a bite I've found, almost like a switch almost, so I suppose in some ways it does suit my fishing

Now as someone who has been spending many a biteless hour watching the stars over the years because of the by-product of fishing in to dusk and beyond, this month, look to the skies for an extraordinary sight one that hasn’t been seen for nearly 800 years. Hopefully I'll be bankside if I can because it could well be quite a spectacle. 

You see since October the two brightest and largest planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, have been moving ever closer together in the night's sky. And on December 21st, coincidentally the Winter Solstice, they will be within 0.1º of each other. That's about the thickness of a Dime chocolate bar at arms length.

Some people believe such a ‘Great Conjunction’ was responsible for the star of Bethlehem followed by the Three Wise Men in the Bible story, hence its nickname, the Christmas Star. 

Copious amounts of fruits of the vine spring to mind, still who am I to argue. 

Now in astronomical terms, a conjunction is the apparent meeting of two celestial bodies. It is caused by our line of sight to the objects, making them appear close together in the sky. 

The last time these planets appeared this close together was back in 1623 but they were too close to the Sun to see from the UK or other middle latitudes at that point. The last time they could actually be observed so close together was in 1226.

At the next Great Conjunction, on October 31, 2040, the planets will be separated by a greater distance 1.1 degrees. That means this year’s event is truly a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical occasion, not to be missed. But it won’t happen for long, and it would be easy to miss.

They will appear low in the sky, to the south-west. You can practice finding them now as the planets are already appearing close together. 

You should be able to just about pick them out by twilight and by 6.00pm, full darkness will have descended meaning the planets will be at their brightest, but you will need a clear view to the horizon, as by now they will be only two degrees above it.

Binoculars will be a great way to observe them, and will enable both in your field of view at once. 

A small telescope however will also be brilliant way to observe the spectacle and, depending on your scope, offer greater detail, enabling Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s pattern and moons to be picked out. Fingers crossed for some settled weather and clear skies. 

Anyway, enough of that, lets get back to the fishing....

As seems to be the norm these days the banks were deserted. I arrived at dawn and the sun lifted the gloom and illuminated the river. The water was 8.8 degrees, the colour dropping out but there was still some pace to it.

The baits went out, the feeder packed down a little firmer than I usually do to create a pungent scent trail. There were small fish in the swim as soon as the meat hit the deepish swim as I was getting small taps and knocks within seconds. Half an hour in, not much doing but then out of the blue the meat rods springs in to life and a fish is on.

I thought it was a chub at first but then when it surfaced I realised it was a splasher of a Barbel. It jumped in to life then and gave a decent account of itself but ii was landed quickly enough. Not a big fish so I didn't bother to weigh it so I took a quick snap and returned it to where it came.

It was a lovely mint fish though and some really vibrant colours, I thought I was on to something, but no despite plugging away and then in the end moving swims for the last 45 minutes that was it.

The chub were suspicious in their absence too, still it was a cold day and the wind making it feel rather bitter. The target quarry was landed though and I couldn't argue with that. I've struggled in the past here recently but it's nice to know they are still there to be caught.

I fancy a decent one now though so might well visit the syndicate stretch and have a try for one where the targets are relatively unknown and thus far the fish caught have all been doubles. Got to be quick though as the weather gets much colder from Wednesday next week and I'm dusting off ones Pike gear.
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