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Archive for October, 2011


As the evenings draw mercilessly in and the frosts creep over the land, it’s time to hang up the barbel rods for a while and head to one of the countries great chalk streams, the Hampshire Avon.  It’s a river shrouded in history and endless tales of mythical giants are regaled in the local hostelries.

It is a magical river and one that I’m proud to say I fish on a regular basis.  I still feel I don’t fish it enough and I’m sure the day will eventually come, when I end up joining Christchurch Angling Club but only when I can do it justice and that time is not now.

Britford Dawn

Still, today Geoff and I headed down through the Wallops to Britford.  The river here lies in the shadows of Salisbury Cathedral, which gives it an almost hallowed feel and rightly so.  For those that know of the Avon in this region, they will be aware of the treasures that it contains.  Visit the river in the height of the summer, when the waters are gin clear and you’ll soon see why this river is so famous.  With a little patience, discretion and some Polaroids you’ll soon be spotting huge roach and dace.  The old river also contains a healthy stock of grayling up to specimen sizes and with the odd decent chub, a few barbel and plenty of trout thrown in for good measure, it makes this quite a mixing pot.

The Cathedral

As we arrived at the river, the late autumn mists hung in the fields.  The sky was clearing after a night of rain and there was still a dampness in the air.  Still, the sun was beginning to break through, so the day held some hope of decent weather.  We took a wander down to the river, expecting it to be up a little and with a touch of colour.  We were surprised to find the old river still gin clear and very low.  There was still thick, flowing ranunculus evident throughout the river system, which would make for some tricky float fishing conditions.

So on went the waders and I headed off in search of a few grayling and dace.  I found numerous deep runs in between the weed.  I had set-up my trusty Drennan float rod and coupled that with my Young’s pin.  The line was a little on the heavy side for this sort of fishing, but I had not brought another reel with lighter line on.  Ideally I would like to have used around a 2lb 6oz mainline.  So I had to make do.  I spent the morning wading along the river and fishing all the likely runs.  The fishing was tricky due to the density and abundance of weed but nevertheless I started catching from the word go.

Two red maggots seemed to do the trick, on a very light float set-up.  First up were a couple of nice grayling and shortly followed by some reasonable dace.  Nothing big mind you.  Grayling to about 10oz and dace to 5 or 6oz.  By now they were coming thick and fast.  Each new spot produced a few bites, before the inevitable presence of the minnows became known. Once they come every cast, I will move.

It is wonderful wading out into the river.  You find all the deep runs and gullies.  Even slight depressions are easily found and a mental note made for future reference.  It amazes me how close you can catch fish to where you are wading.  The fish rarely take any notice.  After a while and several moves, I had taken about half a dozen grayling, and couple of dozen dace to about 8oz, 2 enormous gudgeon and countless minnows.  I decided after lunch to fish for another hour and then have the last 2 or 3 hours on the main river, above the sluices.

Grayling

Geoff was sticking it out for the roach but as they often do, they were not playing ball.  Surprise, surprise!  I wandered upstream and found a nice swim, with a reasonable depth and not too much weed.  The swim produced plenty of dace over the next hour or so, including the best of the day, a fish of about 9oz.  As the light was beginning to fade, I decided to head downstream and try for some roach.  Again wading out into a likely spot by some alders, the first trot through produced a bite.  This time something much bigger was banging away on the end.  I guessed it was either a British record roach or possibly a chub.  After a nice scrap the fish turned out to indeed be a very nice chub of 4lb+.  I always think if they look like a ‘5’ they are probably a ‘4’ and this is invariably the case.

As the sun started to sink below the horizon, I was getting a fish a cast.  Another grayling and lots of nice dace.  Still, eventually it was time to call it a day.  I guess I ended up with around 30-40 dace, 7 grayling and that nice chub.  Oh and fifty hundred minnows…..well that’s how it came out anyway.

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Geoff, Kevin and I decided to take a break from blanking er I mean barbel fishing and spend a day trotting for whatever came along.  We were hoping for some decent grayling but would be happy with a few decent dace or chub.  So it was that we headed to Barton Court on the upper Kennet near Hungerford.

This is a day ticket venue and was once renowned for the quality of its fishing.  It regularly produced very big dace, roach and grayling.  Today it’s a mere shadow of its former self.  The big roach seem to have vanished and the big dace are less in numbers.  Grayling still show and it’s rumoured there are still a few big fish in there.  Quite where, is another matter.

Barton Court

It a stunning venue though.  A mixture of the old river and numerous off-shoots and carriers.  There is a lot of water to fish.  Some areas are fast runs, others deeper and slower.  Numerous small weirs and pools offer enticing opportunities for a stick float fished with maggots.  There was little weed to speak of, which is handy when trotting.  Sadly though the river is desperately low.  In fact one of the locals said they had lived in the area for nearly 20 years and this was the lowest she had ever seen it. Quite worrying. It did at least have a touch of colour, although that doesn’t suit grayling generally.

Still we set about trying to catch a few fish.  I set-up my Drennan Matchpro, 3.2lb mainline, 2.6lb hooklink and 16 hook.  The float was a small 5bb stick float.  It was just right for the conditions: windy and with a pacey flow.  I could easily swap hook sizes depending on bait choice.  To start with I opted for the old favourite, a couple of red maggots.  I had wandered down to a particularly well-known spot by the arched bridge.  There was a nice deep run on the right hand side, which then swept towards and under the beautiful stone bridge.  Almost immediately I hooked into a decent fish.  Sadly it came adrift.  A few more trots through and the float buried.  A nice dace of about 7oz.  This was followed by several small dace and a grayling of around 7-8oz.  Then the minnows appeared.  After about half an hour of catching them, I decided it was time to move.

Upper Kennet

I wandered along the bank admiring the sights and sounds of the countryside.  I watched a couple of Red Kites for a few minutes and then a buzzard, before finding a nice deep run on a bend.  First trot through gave me a decent grayling of about a pound.  Then several nice perch and a few dace, shortly followed by another grayling.  Then, yet again, the minnows moved in.  By now it was almost lunchtime.  At this point I heard a wonderful choo, choo sound coming from the direction of the rail line.  I then heard the chuff-chuff of a steam engine.  Suddenly, a magnificent steam engine burst into sight, with white puffs of smoke billowing out of the funnel.  It was the Orient Express, with numerous luxurious Pullman Coaches behind.  What a grand sight, so terribly nostalgic (said of course, with my best Noel Coward voice!)

By now it was lunchtime.  Some hot soup and sandwiches filled a hole and a coffee to finish.  By God, this fishing lark ain’t too bad really.  Geoff and Kev had done reasonably well and it wasn’t long before we were off again.  This time I decided to head off below the stone bridge.  The river widens a little here.  It’s a bit weedier and generally fairly shallow.  We managed to find a couple of nice spots and I managed a few roach.  Kevin found a lovely pool right at the end of the fishery boundary.  Each cast produced a bite.  Pretty much all dace, with one or two half decent ones. Kevin also had the fish of the day.  A big dace going 12oz+, but we all caught a few decent dace throughout the day.

We kept moving and trying different spots.  The pools provided us with a few decent brownies up to about 3.8lbs.  The grayling were a little scarce.  I think we ended up with about a dozen between us.  Overall we caught a lot of fish.  I think Kevin said all in all he had about 70.  Not a bad days fishing.  As the sun started to sink down below the horizon, we heard that evocative choo, choo again.  A few seconds later the steam engine puffed into view and flew past at an incredible speed. Pretty much made the day for me.

We finished the day with loads of nice fish.  A really mixed bag of dace, roach, grayling, perch and gudgeon.  A wonderful day in beautiful surroundings where the wildlife is abundant and very distracting and that’s how it should be.

Ah, so that's how you do it.

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Yes Churchill had it right when he said those immortal lines “A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.  Of course what you didn’t know was that this wasn’t referring to Russia at all but to Fishers Green on the Lea.  Just like the Ouse, Fishers Green screams barbel at every twist and turn and yet you almost can’t buy a bite.  I used to fish here a few years a go and did reasonably well.  However, things have changed.  I have fished here twice this season, in some mouth watering swims and haven’t even mustered a single bite.  Of course my lack of angling skill has nothing to do with it!  Its a tough section and always was.  However, it seems to have got just that little bit harder.

Still one thing hasn’t changed: it’s still a beautiful looking river.  It’s a delight to fish.  The bankside vegetation seems to have been cut back a little and this opens up a few more swims.  Overall it still has a wonderful natural wild feel to it, which I like.  It’s still very clear and there is plenty of weed and water cabbages.  Sadly though, it was desperately low.  I’m sure this had something to do with the lack of action.  It’s a problem faced by many of the southern rivers at the moment.  A real lack of water is causing all sorts of problems.  So my lack of bites is small fry compared to the real issues faced by these rivers.

I certainly wouldn’t condemn a venue to the trash can after only a couple of visits either.  It takes patience and perseverance to tackle tough venues like this.  It still produces some cracking barbel and chub, so there is no question that The Green can still produce the goods.  All I need to do is visit it more often and re-learn the venue. Therein lies the real crux of the matter.  You can’t expect instant results.  You have to work for your fish here and that takes time.  This is not a Wye or a Trent.  The fish here are much harder to come by and I’ve been spoiled of late.

So, it’s back to the drawing board and on with the barbel and chub head (most people prefer that to my normal head).  It will be a while before I venture back for the barbel, but I certainly intend to return this winter for a session or two after those massive Lea chub.

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