There is something very special about big roach. The desire to catch them seems to consume me sometimes. However finding them and spending enough time actually fishing for them, is difficult. It must be a throwback to my childhood days, catching those lovely red finned, silver bars from my local lake and the river Medway that has never really left me. As much as I love catching barbel, chub and grayling, roach still gets the adrenaline pumping and the sort of excitement levels that a kid normally only experiences on Christmas morning when Santa has been! I just can’t seem to shake it off.

For me a big roach is over a pound. At that weight they become rather special, no longer something that just gets pulled in on a couple of maggots every cast. No, the bigger specimens are harder to come by, particularly from flowing water. Of course there are a few venues that I could visit like Lochnaw Castle, Sway Lakes or Linch Hill and one day I may just do that. These days I much prefer to trot a float for them and if absolutely necessary lob out a small blockend feeder. For me it’s the venue and the method that gives me the most reward.

It's quality roach like this that keeps me coming back for more!

It’s quality roach like this that keeps me coming back for more!

There are plenty of rivers that can and do throw up some really big specimens. The Frome produces fish to over 3lbs, the Kennet still produces the odd big fish, the Hampshire Avon produces plenty of fish to over 2lbs and of course further afield the Trent and Wye both produce big fish. It’s not so much finding the rivers to target, its more of a case of finding the right stretches and then spending plenty of time trying to catch them. I seem to spread myself a bit too thin sometimes by fishing for everything, all over the country rather than concentrating on just one species at possibly one venue. Mind you that’s how I and my mates like to fish, so I’m certainly not complaining.

The Lower Itchen Fishery

The Lower Itchen Fishery

My latest effort was a venue that produced some nice roach for me last season. It was close to the end of the season last year when I heard the tragic news of Keith Speer’s passing. On that particular day it produced a magnificent 2lb 3oz fish for me. I will always remember that day because of that fish and the sad circumstances that transpired during the morning.

So I was due a return visit to the Lower Itchen Fishery, again in search of a special roach. I had a swim in mind and on arrival at the river Geoff and I were met with promising conditions. The river was a bit higher than normal and perhaps pushing through a bit harder, but with a touch of colour and very mild conditions, it looked good for a roach or two. Geoff decided to tackle the straight below the weir, whilst I headed upstream to a known holding spot.  With planes taking off from Southampton Airport at regular intervals and the M27 traffic thundering past, it was hardly tranquility personified!  However I’m used to it and actually enjoy watching the planes taking off and I hardly seem to notice the motorway traffic either.  There is a distinct lack of wildlife at the lower extremities of this fishery, however wander upstream a mile or so and that changes quite dramatically.  I’ve seen quite a few deer, owls, buzzards and an assortment of other feathered wildlife to keep even the most ardent of twitchers occupied.

A big Itchen Grayling from a few years ago

A big Itchen Grayling from a few years ago

My plan of attack was quite simple; feed in an occasional ball of groundbait laced with maggots and a good glug of Ocean Pride flavouring whilst keeping a steady trickle of loose feed going in all day. My hope was that it would eventually bring on the roach. Tackle was a 15ft float rod, centrepin reel loaded with 3lb line and a size 16 hook-to-nylon fished with either a single caster or maggot. I also had some size 18s if the fishing was proving a bit slow, however with the colour and pace I felt fishing that light unnecessary. After a cup of coffee and a toast to absent friends, I tackled up and started to trot through the swim. It was around 6ft deep and started to shallow as the swim reached the bridge around 20 yards or so downstream.

Groundbait laced with maggots, a tub of casters and a good quality bait pouch.

Groundbait laced with maggots, a tub of casters and a good quality bait pouch.

Almost immediately the float dipped and something writhed on the other end. It felt like a grayling and indeed it was. The float continued to dip most of the day and I ended up taking around 25-30 grayling to just over a pound. On around 12 occasions I hooked something much bigger, which pretty much towed me all over the river, once or twice heading towards the Solent!  They turned out to be trout of course, either brownies or sea trout up to nearly 4lbs. They were good fun to play in the flow but I don’t think they helped with the roach. Sadly, despite my best efforts, I only managed to tempt one small roach. Perhaps the flow was too much and the roach had moved, or maybe I should have fished lighter? Who knows?

I managed to hire a model for the day....yes young Danny is still going strong.

I managed to hire a model for the day….yes young Danny is still going strong.

As the light faded I had a call from Geoff who was now barbel fishing below the weir. There was a palpable air of excitement in his voice and he informed me he was playing a big barbel but was struggling to get it into the net. I reeled in and with a few bits of gear tucked under my arms, I headed downstream to Geoff. I dumped the tackle at the car and rushed round to Geoff’s aid. It was already over and a big barbel lay recovering in the net. It was thick across the back and looked comfortably a double. We both thought it looked 12-13lbs however the scales recorded 11lb 5oz. It was a lovely, well conditioned fish and without a doubt the highlight of the day. It was also Geoff’s first Itchen barbel and a day he won’t forget in a hurry. It seemed a fitting time to end our proceedings for the day and head back home. We’ve had some great sport at the Lower Itchen Fishery over the years and although our visits here are few and far between these days, we still enjoy our time here and it can still throw up something a bit special occasionally.

Geoff's magnificent 11lb 5oz barbel.

Geoff’s magnificent 11lb 5oz barbel.

Itchen Valley Grayling

The Itchen Valley offers the chalk stream angler some of the best grayling and trout fishing in the country.  The run of salmon may not be what it once used to be but they do still show in reasonable numbers.  The Itchen starts it’s life in Mid Hampshire near the village of Cheriton before heading north and then south through the historic city of Winchester.  Winchester dates back to certainly the 1st century BC.  It became a Roman settlement and later fortifications were added and Winchester’s importance was set in stone, if you’ll pardon the pun!  The cathedral grew in significance and the city later became the home of one of England’s most famous kings; Alfred the Great.

Winchester Cathedral - Courtesy of Wikipedia

Winchester Cathedral – Courtesy of Wikipedia

After Winchester the river flows south to join the Southampton Water below the Itchen Bridge in Southampton.  Between Woodmill and the upper reaches the fresh water provides some exciting opportunities for the coarse angler.  Pretty much all species can and are caught from these crystal clear waters; barbel, chub, pike, perch, roach and of course grayling.  The roach grow to exceptional sizes and I’ve seen chub to over 6lbs caught and barbel well into double figures.  All in all its a great place to while away a few hours trotting a float.

An Itchen Roach

A 2lb+ Itchen Roach

Geoff and I have been fishing the middle Itchen on and off over the last few weeks.  Sadly due to the exceptionally wet and windy conditions these trips have been few and far between.  Luckily the Itchen copes quite well with heavy rain and both the levels and colour improve very quickly, although it does have to stop raining at some point for it to do so.

These recent trips have provided plenty of action as always.  It would be almost impossible to blank here I think.  Often we end up with a really good bag of grayling and trout.  Our latest 2 trips couldn’t have been more different though.  The first saw us tackle our usual stretch from around 10.30am.  We always start with a cooked breakfast in a very nice local cafe that has a roaring wood burner to keep you toasty on those cold frosty mornings.  The river was up and quite coloured and we know that will be more challenging.  Still we explored the mile or so section of river from one end to the other.

The water was pushing through quite hard and so a big bolo style float seemed appropriate.  I ended up using a 3g one straight through to a 16 hook.  Bait was the faithful maggot or sweetcorn, lightly nicked on.  Both of these have been tremendously successful here in coloured and clear conditions.  It’s remarkable that in one swim you’ll only catch on maggot and yet in another only on sweetcorn.  Also as the day passes, again a change from one bait to the other seems to make a marked difference.

On this particular day the fish were hard to come by.  I think that was mainly down to the heavy, tea like colouration.   Grayling are sight feeders and therefore harder to come by in these conditions.  Still we persevered.  By constant bait changing and a mobile approach, we ended up with quite a few between us although mainly on the smaller side.  I think the biggest was perhaps a pound.  We had to cover a lot of ground to keep catching and all in all managed to see most of the mile plus stretch of river.  I can’t remember the actual numbers of fish caught but it was well down on what we would normally expect.  I seem to recall around 10-15 grayling between us but it could easily be more.  The old grey matter is not what it once was I’m afraid!

The second trip this week saw improved conditions.  The river was still higher than normal but a lot of the colour had dropped out.  Earlier in the day (after breakfast of course!) we took the opportunity to check out another stretch, which sadly proved to be not so good.  We finally arrived at the river around noon.  The flow had lessened and the river was looking damn good.  I opted for a slightly smaller float; an Avon with 5bb shot and a 16 hook.  I started off in a favourite spot with double bronze maggot.  The results came after about 5 minutes of trickling bait in.  A really hard fighting and heavy fish used the flow to its full advantage.  They turn sideways into the flow and feel incredibly heavy in the conditions.  Initially I wasn’t sure what the fish was but soon that magnificent sail like dorsal cut through the surface film and gave its presence away.  This looked a good fish and after a heart in the mouth fight we netted a really decent fish.  It looked every bit 2lbs but looks can be deceptive.  It weighed 1lb 12oz and is certainly up there with the biggest specimens we have caught from here.  I followed that up with another similar sized fish but probably a few ounces smaller.

1lb 12oz Itchen Grayling

1lb 12oz Itchen Grayling

The afternoon proved to be most enjoyable.  The sun was out and it was a typical cold, frosty winter’s day.  The sort we are more used to at this time of the year.  There was a slight wind but not enough to make it unpleasant in the winter sunshine.  The water was cold though and wading almost waist deep at times had a certain time-span.  After around 20 minutes the cold got into my bones and I would have to get out and try and warm up.  I love days like these.  To me it’s what winter fishing is all about.

Geoff and I covered around half of the beat during the afternoon and some really good quality grayling came our way.  I ended up with 19 nice fish and probably a similar number of trout.  Not bad for around 4 1/2 hours fishing.  At one point I hooked a proper zoo creature.  I couldn’t budge it off the bottom and it just headed wherever it wanted.  It powered upstream until it got bored and then decided to head off towards Southampton with me in tow, chasing it down the bank until I could go no further.  Something had to give and it turned out to be the line at the hook knot.  I never saw the fish but suspect it was a decent sized salmon.  A little later on Geoff hooked something similar and the fish came out of the water like an Exocet missile,  It was indeed a salmon of around 10lbs, so my leviathan was likely to be the same.

The Itchen Valley

The Itchen Valley

This was one of those rare occasions when I managed to catch more grayling than Geoff.  That’s two consecutive sessions I’ve managed to outdo him.  It’s so rare for the maestro to be bested, I thought it worthy of inclusion here!


2015 in review

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Dorset is one of those counties that offers peace, tranquility and beautiful countryside.  The numerous rivers of Dorset wind their way, twisting and turning, down towards the sea.  Iconic names spring to mind like Throop, Longham, Wareham and Christchurch Bridge Pool to name but a few.  There are a couple of very famous literary giants that resided in Dorset; William Barnes and of course Thomas Hardy.  Between them they wrote a number of very famous poems and in Hardy’s case numerous classic literary novels.  However they pale into insignificance when compared to perhaps one of the greatest poems that sums up fishing in Dorset, particularly in the region of  Bovington.

Obviously Baldrick’s experiences in the Trenches of WWI were comparable to the fishing in the Dorchester region!  There are days when the unrelenting boom, boom, boom from the tanks at Bovington can be deafening.  Recently they seem even more active than normal, perhaps an indication of the current crisis in places like Syria.  Interspersed between these ear throbbing booms are the incessant thrum of pulsating machine gun fire.  Perhaps in some small way it creates a sense of what WWII must have been like in Europe, with constant battles raging.  Of course that’s a far cry from life in modern Britain and one can’t really imagine what the horrors of a war torn Europe must have been like.  Fortunately you do become somewhat accustomed to the noise after a while and it certainly doesn’t seem to affect the fishing.

During the last few weeks we have been visiting this region to target the grayling.  We have mixed it up slightly with fishing Hampshire’s river Itchen, when conditions haven’t made the journey as far as Dorset worthwhile.   The fast flowing waters of the Itchen remain pretty clear, even after heavy rain, whereas the Frome will colour up a lot more, particularly in the lower reaches.  The area in Dorset we fish is also quite open, as the river winds it way through mainly open countryside.  It lacks hills and trees which offer some protection from the winds that whip in from the coast.  Further inland the wind tends to ease and bankside trees create a much needed windbreak.  So the weather plays a decisive factor in choosing the venue.

The Itchen has provided us with a couple of really good days fishing recently.  The area we target has a very healthy population of grayling.  Most are on the small side with an average of maybe 4-12oz but we do get quite a few fish over a pound with the occasional fish over 1lb 8oz.  So far we have not managed to break the 2lb barrier but I’m sure they are here to that size.  I think the biggest fish to date has been 1lb 12oz.  Wading is possible in places and the river is fairly straight, so lots of long trotting is possible.  With the addition of plenty of bankside cover, gravel runs, streamer weed and a good mixture of depths, finding swims is an easy task.  Most areas produce fish, with some producing a slightly better than average size.

The Itchen

The Itchen

On two recent trips here Geoff and I had well over 100 grayling to 1lb 10oz.  The lion’s share went to Geoff, who on one day had 45, the greedy bugger!!  Simple trotting tactics pay dividends and corn can be a very effective bait when they are not on the maggots.  As always keeping it simple seems to work and with probably a mile and a half of river to go at, traveling light allows you to explore the whole stretch.

Back to Dorset and a couple of trips again provided plenty of fish, although the larger specimens appeared conspicuous by their absence!  This area often produces big fish to well over 2lbs, however this season so far we’ve caught lots of small grayling of just a few ounces, with just the one fish over the magical 2lb barrier.  That’s certainly good news for the future but I do like to battle with the big ‘uns occasionally. Certainly fish in the 1lb-1lb 8oz are a regular feature and you’d be unlucky not to catch one or two around 1lb 12oz.  This river is known for it’s really big grayling and so 2lb+ fish are plentiful, although somewhat elusive at the moment.

1lb 13oz

1lb 13oz

The wind has been a nightmare in Dorset recently and this makes presentation of light tackle a real problem.  Even using a heavy float doesn’t solve the issue and the number of big grayling taken on the float decreases.  I guess they just don’t like the poor bait presentation because of the wind strength and direction.  Small grayling still seem to throw themselves at the hookbait, thankfully.  A few big trout always put in an appearance and we’ve had a few stonking great brownies and sea trout recently, close to 6lbs.  I had the fight of a lifetime with one the other day which I thought I would never land.  It used the flow and deep pool to its advantage and it took me nigh on 10 minutes to land.  For a while I was convinced it was probably a salmon because it took me so long to get the fish off the bottom and close enough for me to see it clearly.  Eventually I landed this behemoth and in fact it weighed in at 4lb 9oz.  It looked twice the size and felt three times bigger during the fight.

4lb 9oz Brownie

4lb 9oz Brownie

All fish are welcome of course and playing any big fish in a fast flowing river can be quite exhilarating.  We are hoping that once the temperatures plummet the weather will become a bit more benign, with the wind abating and the rain lessening.  Hopefully the river conditions will improve and the chances of a few ‘2s’ will be on the cards.  It’s tricky when you have limited time and a 300 mile round trip to target these rivers.  Sometimes you have to take your chances and give it a try, even in less than favorable conditions.  If we waited for the perfect day we’d never make it bankside! However when the wind speed exceeds 30mph, unfortunately Dorset will play second fiddle to something a little closer to home.

The Frome

The Frome



Here comes the rain again
Falling on my head like a memory
Falling on my head like a new emotion

The brilliant Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart came up with those words and that’s all I could think of over the last couple of days!  As I arose on Wednesday morning, all I could hear was the rain thundering on the roof and window panes.  It was torrential and  I was heading off to the West Country with Geoff for our first grayling session of the winter season.  We desperately hoped that the further west we headed, the less the precipitation!

It was raining pretty much all the way to our destination but it lacked the ferocity of the rain storms back home, thank goodness.  Eventually we arrived at the car park and there were just a couple of other vehicles there.  The fields looked pretty boggy, so there had obviously been some heavy overnight or early morning rain.  We were a little nervous about the river condition; would it be high and coloured?  If it was, it could spell disaster.  Grayling can be tricky at the best of times but with a high and coloured river you’re chances are greatly reduced, in fact almost to zilch.

We were rather fortunate it seemed; the river was a good level and although fairly coloured, it looked good enough to catch a few fish.  Sadly the skies were dark and foreboding, with rain clouds piling up and looking fit to burst.  Apparently the forecast was for things to improve as the morning wore on, so we kept our fingers crossed and carried on regardless.  It rained on and off for a couple of hours but not quite enough to dampen our spirits, although it came close. :-)

A more traditional winter scene

A more traditional winter scene

This is a beautiful, small and intimate river.  It twists and turns through the beautiful countryside and offers the winter angler a chance of some really big grayling.  It’s easy to fish too, with the levels being just a foot down from the bank and so fishing is comfortable and challenge free.  It has a lovely pace and there are loads of bends, gravel runs, pools and shallows to target.  There seems to be an abundance of smooth glides to fish and where the water shallows up at the end of the run, a plentiful supply of fish.  Sometimes those fish are not grayling though.  There are plenty of trout and an occasional salmon  present just to test your angling skills and the quality of your tackle!

My set-up for this sort of fishing is fairly simple; 14 or 15ft trotting rod, centrepin reel (or a closed face, depending on river and swim choice), 4lb mainline and floats and hooks to suit bait and presentation.  I like big stick floats, Avon’s or Bolo’s.  The size simply depends on river conditions.  You need to control the float, not the other way round, so use a float you think is big enough to get the job done.  I would say that from October through to December or even early January, you almost can’t use a float too big.  However as the grayling start to shoal up and get ready to spawn through January to the end of February, they can be very finicky and delicate and you will need to scale down to get the best results.

A big Bolo float will hold it's course in the most turbulent of water

A big Bolo float will hold it’s course in the most turbulent of water

Bait to day was going to be red maggot, sweetcorn or red worms.  As the water was a bit coloured, sweetcorn could prove to be the winning bait but time would tell.  I like to target smooth glides in the main.  Slacks can be good and at times fast shallows produce well.  I would never discount ant type of swim but do find myself fishing the glides a lot, especially if they happen to run along reeds and shallow up at the end of the run.  They can often produce multiple catches of grayling.

A few essentials

A few essentials

On this first day I opted to start at the lower end of the beat and then to steadily work my way up.  The river was not overly high or fast and a 10 x No 4 stick float looked about right.  I worked the bait along the nearside margin and then further out in the middle of the river.  The only thing at home seemed to be the trout and after landing a few I opted to move upstream.  I found a lovely smooth and even paced glide.  I guided the float down the crease with a nice bright piece of sweetcorn attached.  The float vanished with a sharp dart under the water and the strike hit something pretty solid.  This fish hugged the bottom of the river and thumped away on the end of the line.  The 14ft Ultralight was bent furiously as the fight progressed.  I always leave my landing net about halfway down the intended trot, so if I do hook a big fish I’m not putting it under any undue pressure by trying to haul it upstream.  It does help.  Soon the fish was on the surface but I already knew what it was, having seen the dark edging to the tail.  It was a big grayling and the fight is always a heart stopping one.  They can come off so easily and it is devastating when you loose what is obviously a big fish.

Luckily the fish was soon scooped up in the net and laying there was a lovely big, dark grayling.  It’s sail like dorsal fin looked stunning, with hues of red and purple.  A quick weigh confirmed a weight of 2lb 6oz and a couple of self takes and the fish was rested carefully before releasing.  I have to say that grayling are really magnificent when they get big and I love fishing for them.  By now I’d had about 7 trout as well, so decided it was time to move.  Geoff had already caught a number of nice grayling to 1lb 14oz and was beginning to get plenty of action.

2lb 6oz

2lb 6oz

Despite trying a number of very good looking swims, I couldn’t muster a bite.  I stopped at Geoff’s swim for a chat and whilst he was having a cup of tea I managed to poach a small grayling from his swim.  I then headed off again.  By the end of the day I’d had another nice grayling that was just under the 2lb mark and a couple more trout.  However I was put to shame by Geoff who had 10 grayling and 8 or 9 trout but had lost almost as many grayling as he’d caught.  Sadly he didn’t manage to tempt any of the bigger specimens that reside here but nevertheless had a very successful day in less than favorable conditions.

The grayling's beautiful and distinctive sail like dorsal

The grayling’s beautiful and distinctive sail like dorsal

We were due to fish the following day but the forecast was pretty horrific, with heavy rain and winds sweeping right across the region from mid morning.  After breakfast we headed off to the river to at least take a look and the rain had already started.  We both agreed that fishing is supposed to be enjoyable and these conditions were dire and so we steered the car towards Kent and headed home.

Notts Bound

My second trip to the river was going to be on the mighty Trent, on a section controlled by Worksop.  It’s a really nice spot and the deep water is on the near side bank, which makes a nice change.  No need to throw a 5oz feeder 3/4 of the way across the river.  Even just a rod length out in places, the depth drops to a murky 12 feet or so.  One things for sure; the fish seem to fight even harder in these depths and with a good flow a decent bend in the rod is guaranteed.

A Worksop stretch of the Trent

A Worksop stretch of the Trent

On this trip Geoff and I were joined by Kev.  He’s not in the best of health at the moment, so on those odd trips when he can join us, we are delighted to see him.  We were just having a two day trip here.  First off a visit to the local tackle shop, where I stocked up on feeders and bout 6 pints of red maggots.  With very little rain to speak of the river was still fairly clear and I thought a particle approach may pay dividends.  The best thing of all is the price of maggots here; just £2.20 per pint and if you get a gallon they go down to an incredible £1.75!

So armed and dangerous (well almost) we headed off to our stretch.  Only one car was parked and that could easily be a dog walker, so we had the whole stretch almost to ourselves.  A good recce and we each plumped for our chosen swims.  I was going for a two rod attack.  Fishing on the Trent is about the only time I fish two rods.  I prefer to concentrate on one and believe I fish much better that way.  However the Trent is a big river and I rarely find two rods a problem.  The upstream rod was going to be a big blockend feeder packed with maggots, 4 ft flurocarbon hooklink and a size 12 hook with a big bunch of red maggots.  On the downstream rod a similar set-up but with a cage feeder and coated braid hooklink and Cheese Mania 14mm double dumbbells as hook bait.  The feeder was packed with LA groundbait and 6 and 8mm caviar pellets.

The fishing over the two days proved to be fairly slow.  The first day was a mix of heavy showers and the odd spot of sunshine but very windy.  The second day the wind dropped and the skies cleared during the morning, with some cloud cover in the afternoon.  I kept changing baits but more or less stuck to the same line of attack in terms of casting.  With around 12ft of water out in front of me I opted to lob the baits out around 1-2 rod lengths out.  Any closer seemed to get snagged up more often than not.

Geoff seemed to make a good start with a bream and chub and a couple of barbel.  Just as a very heavy, squally shower started one of my rod hooped over and a very fit barbel was eventually subdued.  It looked around 8.5-9.5 but it was lashing it down and I wasn’t that desperate to confirm a weight or take a photo.  I was hoping this was the first a several more fish to come but I was sorely mistaken!  So thinking further opportunities for a photo would present itself the barbel was returned as quickly as possible and I dived back under the brolly.  That was the only barbel of the day for me, despite the conditions improving and by early evening looking really good for a fish or two.  I think Geoff lost a couple of fish and we decided to call it a day around 7.00pm.

The next morning was a little chilly at first but soon warmed up in the late autumn sunshine.  We opted for some different swims but still the fishing was a little slow.  I think Geoff once again seemed to get some action early on but suffered with fish loss as on the previous day.  Sadly Kevin also suffered a similar fate, loosing a couple of good fish to unseen snags.  I ended up swapping the maggots for a single banded 12mm caviar pellet and that seemed to help a bit.  I managed to tempt 2 barbel and a chub.  The maggots only producing a few perch and a nice looking roach.

A rather unusual blunt nose didn't stop this Trent barbel from feeding.

A rather unusual blunt nose didn’t stop this Trent barbel from feeding.

I think the final tally was three barbel and a chub for me and possibly 5 barbel and a chub for Geoff.  I’m sure he will correct me if I’m wrong.  So a little tough going but enjoyable nonetheless.  I’m certain that in the right conditions this stretch could throw up a very big barbel or two.  Time will tell.



Autumnal Splendor

After a very long enforced break from fishing, I was excited at the prospect to getting back on the banks again.  A shoulder operation had prevented me from fishing for around 10 weeks, so I missed the whole of August and September, which I can tell you was very frustrating.  Every time I looked on Facebook I saw lots nice barbel and chub being banked from all over the country.  I found myself drooling more and more as each day passed.

Still at long last I felt fit enough to make my return and I was fortunate enough to be heading to the Wye above Hereford.  I love this part of the Wye.  I find the fishing is normally very prolific and also the river here cuts through some beautiful countryside.  The beats between Hereford and Hay weave their way through farmland and cows tend to be the only thing to keep you company, such is the feeling of remoteness and tranquility here.

Autumn on the Wye

Autumn on the Wye

I was due to meet Ray Pulford, fellow Team Lone Angler member, for two days fishing and I was accompanied by Geoff.  We arrived around midday and immediately headed down to the river.  It looked splendid, bathed in it’s autumnal colours.  The trees were an array of colours and hues and the leaves almost sparkled in the sunshine of late autumn.  There was still some warmth from the sun and it almost felt like summer at times.

We met Ray and after catching up we headed off to a lower part of the beat.  We ended up fishing on a beach, which is very much a common feature of the Wye.  The water gradually deepened as it reached the far bank and a noticeably deep channel ran down to the shallows a few dozen yards downstream of us.  I donned the waders and intended to spend a few hours bouncing lob worms and paste around the gully.  Geoff opted for a more standard approach, feeder fishing the far bank.  As I waded out I felt those wonderful cooling waters of the Wye flowing around me.  In the heat of the sun it was really pleasant to be in the water again, rod in hand and full of expectation.  Ooh er missus!

I was using my LA barbel rod, which despite being 1.75lb tc, is actually very sensitive and soft enough to enable you to fish with light set-ups.  It is also very enjoyable to play small barbel and chub on, which is a testament to the quality of these blanks and Trefor’s design requirements.  I was fishing 2 lob worms on a size 4 hook tied to 8lb fluorocarbon and a 10lb mainline.  There are lots of rocks and sharp edges in the Wye and you have to be sensible when it comes to lines.  My set-up also incorporated a running link leger made with the 3xssg sized shot.  These are perfect for getting the exact amount of weight required to bounce the bait around and they have the added bonus of rarely getting snagged.

I started by casting upstream and allowing the bait to almost trundle downstream.  A slight flick on the rod top often sends the bait gently moving again if it gets stuck in amongst the stones and gravel.  It didn’t take long for something to home in on those tantalizing worms.  The tip banged sharply and then started to pull round.  A swift strike met with fierce resistance as a good Wye chub headed off to the tree roots.  Steady pressure won the day and a magnificent bronzed chub was unhooked and returned safely to fight another day.  Two more soon followed and they were all of a similar size, around the 31/2-4lb mark.  Certainly not monsters but more than welcome, particularly after such a long absence from fishing.

A beautiful Wye chub

A beautiful Wye chub

A few change baits were then used, including some cheese mania paste and maggots.  Both produced results and sadly I lost what felt like a reasonable barbel.  Unfortunately that seemed to kill the swim.  I decided to walk up to see how Ray was getting on.  I found him in a rather excited mood and I’m not surprised.  He’d just caught a couple of stunning fish and was rather jubilant.  A few quick photos and a chat and I was heading back down to Geoff.  He’d had a barbel whilst I was away and then lost one.  He decided it was time for a move and so I stayed put and decided to feeder fish for the last couple of hours.   I managed to tempt a nice barbel but sadly lost a couple of others.  The day ended all too quickly but the food and beer at the local pub later that evening certainly made up for that.

Day two saw a murky almost dreary start to the day.  Geoff and I headed down to the river about 10am, Ray was already there.  Geoff wanted to try the beach again but I opted for an area that Ray had fished the day before with some success.  Meanwhile Ray was upstream on a big u-shaped bend fishing the deep water on the far bank.  The flooded waters of the Wye have gouged out a deep gully on the far bank and this has resulted in a nice glide of up to 8ft deep, which always holds a few decent fish.

Geoff in action

Geoff in action

I baited up my swim with some 10mm and 14mm Cheese Mania dumbbells and 6mm Caviar pellets.  I then left the swim to rest for an hour.  At this point in time it was overcast and so fish spotting was a bit awkward, however I could see the occasional flash of a barbel feeding in the swim.   The water was deep close in and then became quite shallow on the far bank.  It created an area of smooth, pacey water with quite a bit of weed for added cover.  The average depth was around 3ft.  Below me were quite a few large overhanging trees, offering plenty of cover.  As the sun broke through the gloom the water remained in shadow from the towering trees.

I opted for a 3ft hooklink and two 10mm cheese mania dumbbells and a blockend feeder full of 6mm pellets.   The rod hadn’t been out long when a sharp knock on the tip signaled interest.  Suddenly the tip whacked round and a really hard fighting barbel fought in the fast flow. A stunning bronzed flank was soon on the unhooking mat and was quickly returned to the cool waters of the river.  I kept the bait trickling out all day and often rested the swim for 30-60 minutes when things went quiet.   I kept swapping bait size from two 10mm to 14mm dumbbells and even a couple of caviar pellets if things went really dead.  I had steady action all day.  It was not as prolific as it can be but I did end up with 6 barbel and 7 chub, bringing my tally to 7 barbel and 12 chub over the two days.  I did manage a couple of good chub towards the end of the day.  I weighed one at exactly 5lbs and the other looked around the same size.  I couldn’t find my scales or my camera.  Luckily Ray weighed the chub for me and took some photos.  Eventually I found the camera buried in the car and later the scales, which had fallen out of a jacket pocket.

A typical dark, bronzed Wye barbel

A typical dark, bronzed Wye barbel

Just after lunchtime I had a 3 foot twitch which resulted in a very powerful barbel being hooked.  It took some time to subdue and as soon as I had the fish in the net I could see and feel it was a decent size.  I guessed it was very close to double figures but with no scales, camera or mobile phone signal, I had no means of weighing the fish.  I was a bit gutted but fish welfare comes first.  I had no real means of safely securing the fish in the net to go and get help and so back she went, none the worse for her ordeal.  Of course I’ll always wonder what she would have weighed but c’est la vie as they say.

One of the locals.

One of the locals.

So finished my long awaited return to fishing and what a glorious couple of days it had been.  Lots of fish, good company and a few laughs along the way.  It all makes for a memorable experience.  I’m looking forward to the next trip already.



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