Sunday 22 January 2023

The River Leam - Zoomers and Zoomorphisms

The passing of the seasons brings changes to the river. As autumn merges into winter, the reeds begin to wither and die. The bottom of the river becomes covered with decaying vegetation, which can foul and obscure a bait carelessly fished on the bottom. The water often becomes murky and inhospitable looking. 

The temperature drops. Cold days and colder nights lie ahead, the frosts and snow of winter carpet the banks and silver the water with ice. Fish become harder to catch. Faint hearts begin to desert the river banks. Only the true stalwarts fish on. The experienced angler can still catch fish. There will be many mild days during the winter and spring months to look forward to.

Meanwhile, the angler will use his knowledge of the river and its fish to achieve some measure of success, even though the conditions may seem to be against him. No longer will he fish as keenly for roach, or rudd, or bream. 

Instead, he will concentrate on those fish which experience has taught him must offer the best chances of sport: chub, pike, perch and, above all, roach. Now that the reeds have died away, the water will be much clearer if the river isn't in spate or running off. This is where will be more opportunity to use a spinner or dead-bait. He can keep warm and interested by searching for his fish instead of waiting for them to come to him.

He will also know that roach will now be found mainly in the deeper water and that the later hours of the day will be better than the early hours, which he used to such telling effect during the summer when the predation is often an issue. The water may be clearer, devoid of cover; but by way of compensation, the fishes' natural larder is not now as abundantly supplied as it once was. 

There will be days when roach will be looking for food and will bite freely. The angler may even find that he can break the ice and still catch roach. Low temperatures are not as detrimental to the angler's chances as many seem to think. Indeed, the angler who has learned to understand his river and had made a study of it and its fish will not be unduly apprehensive about the winter. He will already know where to fish, at what times and on which species he ought to concentrate.

There are many fish and many ways of catching them. The river angler must be every bit as versatile as the river angler, his repertoire of methods and baits are just as extensive. 

No river angler should neglect bread though. It is cheap, easy to obtain and clean, and most species of fish will accept it. Some anglers use little else and have brought the fishing of bread- flake 'on the drop' to a fine art. In my opinion, bread in all its forms is one of the most useful baits available. I use it often- particularly during the winter months, when it is especially deadly for chub and my quest for this mornings session then roach.

No preparation is necessary. A new sliced loaf is all that is needed. Flake is torn roughly from the crust and squeezed gently around the shank of the hook. The size of the flake depends largely upon the type of fish being sought. 

Very small fragments, fished on size 14 or 16 hooks, might be called for when small to medium roach are the quarry, but for the larger fish, both the size of the hook and the bait can be increased proportionately. I often use thumbnail-sized pieces on hooks of up to size 6 for big roach, and even larger than this when chub are the quarry. For this session it was small bits of punch. 

Anyway this exploration trip to the Leam I wanted to familiarise myself with the swims during the day before giving it a go with some sessions in to dusk. There could well be some PB beating roach here which I want in on and being part of the WBAS waters I will only ever bump in to the likeminded. Successes and failures are shared amongst the group and that can often be a much needed leg up the red-finned ladder. 

Success if often because of hard work and dedication to the cause, not by contacting a handful of people via email, phone, Instagram or Facebook where one may divulge their hard earned swims. These type of sort small syndicates are different though usually because the foot fall is much lower and those you share the information with, you are likely to meet on the bank. 

George you see kindly knowing that I was going to fishing the Leam in the morning messaged me the evening before to see if he could share the bank with me, albeit he'd hunker himself in the deep pool swim and allow me to rove at my hearts content.

"No problem George" the good thing about George being there was that he has spent more time than anybody on the syndicate here and had managed some lovely fish because of it.

"The deeper swims are where you want to be fishing for the roach" and downstream from the pool there are some proper deep swims for a smaller river. The first plop of the feeder, a finger in the cold air (-6 when we get there) when it finally hit the bottom it must have been 8-10ft.

Decent depth for a small river, with the pool George was fishing was around 15 foot . With liquidised bread in the small feeder flavoured with aniseed and a few nuggets of hemp it didn't talk long to get the first bite.

I missed one first, being premature on the strike (story of my life) but within 30 seconds of the punched bread going out again, another bite with this time after the strike I had a fish on the end.

I thought it was a big roach at first, but no it was a chub that was determined to get underneath my feet. After a calamitous netting (it nearly did me over) it was a lovely Leam chub going 3lb on the scales. A thumbs up from George within a few minutes he had a chub on the bank too !!!,  considering we had disturbed a couple of cormorants when we got there, even more so in my book. 

Lets hope they move to bigger waters and leave the roach here well along, only time will tell I suppose. 😬

Considering the conditions with both avoiding a blank within the first 30 minutes or so, that was a win win for me. I moved in and around the deep area with the same set-up but with no further bites forthcoming I decided to get the float out and do some trotting.

A perfect colour to fish bread on the hook and liquidised bread as feed but after half an hour my hands were that cold I sacked that idea off as didn't want to do a 'Harry'. George luckily is only 5 minutes away by car and when he decided to leave when the sun came up and bites dried off, I stuck it out for another hour and half back on the feeder but to no avail.

And that was my lot. An enjoyable morning in good company and with the weather improving going forward I may well have another go here soon, maybe on the way home from work maybe and in to dusk.

I'm sure as George has proved fishing in to dusk and beyond has its merits and lets be honest, that is the time the big roach could show themselves. I was already running late when I left but with the tunes cranked it, it only took 25 minutes or so to get back. 


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