Tuesday 17 January 2023

Floodwater Fishing.

 

 Given the recent wet winters that we are all enduring fishing can often be very rewarding at these times. Risks are obviously greater and when fishing in these conditions the level of preparedness needs to be greater. No fish is worth risking a life but if you do fish in these conditions or plan to fish in these conditions whether a seasoned angler or new to the river fishing side of the discipline here are a few handy pointers that I use during my fishing, some are more common sense, others some anglers may not use/do.

 Planning stage: 

 The great thing with the internet is that it is a hive of information, you can access social media on certain groups where you can ask other like minded people what current conditions look like or if you have an idea as to exactly where you are going you can download apps on your smartphone ( like the RiversApp for example) or log on to either www.riverlevels.uk or www.check-for-flooding.service.gov.uk these are accurate and updated fairly regularly. This sort of information should give you a good idea on what you could be faced with.

 Weather patterns: 

 Knowing the season and how quickly things can change get weather forecasts for the time leading up to your visit from about 3 different outlets that are independent of each other, especially if you are making a long journey (as I do quite often), the shorter the time between searching and embarking the better as conditions are usually very changeable given our geographical location, a slight change in wind direction can bring a whole host of changes which could impact the river levels/conditions.

 What to take:

 Preparation at this stage is very important, now this may sound a bit over the top but floodwater conditions can take lives when the correct approaches aren't taken and mother nature can play her cruel hand. 

 Spare changes of warm clothing, phone charger/battery back-up, hot drinks in flasks should you feel the need, dog spike and decent sized rope if entering steep pegs where access is suspect at best (I would steer clear of these anyway in dicey conditions) and as said above, this may sound over the top, but tell someone where and when you are going, the mrs, a friend you speak to often, or kids if yours are old enough to have that conversation with.

 Incase of emergencies:

 Again this may seem over the top but just a bit of further preparation, download "what3words" available on all platforms, should you need it, it will direct emergency services to your precise location should you be impaired in any way, either you've fallen in and suffering from the cold, tripped and broken something or been caught out by fast rising waters and now found yourself in serious trouble.

 For example the "what3words" for the bridge at the entrance of the Royalty Fishery on the Hants Avon is: "hopes.family.cases" this quoted to the emergency services will get them to your location, it can be an important tool should you feel the need to fish in such conditions.

App store / Android / Google Play store or online.

 Once on the banks: 

 I would never recommend attempting to fish if you are not familiar with the river in A: normal conditions and B: flood conditions, knowing the river is important to fishing it safely. Look for vegetation along banks, typically trees will also line the margins on both sides so that would be a good indication as to where the true watercourse begins. 

 Always use a staff (I use either a storm pole fully extended to around 7ft or my landing net handle extended to feel around in front of you, this is just in case there are non-visible obstructs under the usually murky floodwater, tripping over a stone or log etc can spell the end of your visit before you've cast out a bait. 

 Always plan your escape route: 

 If fishing in high water that isn't dropping or rains are predicted during your visit or the affects of recent rains yet to take affect do two things. First of all make a point of reference ( a big distinctive tree or an electricity pylon or building ) well above ground as to where you have come from ie: car park, lay-by etc so if levels were to rise you could still find your vehicle exit point. Secondly take a long bank-stick with you and have electrical tape markers every couple of inches or tip-ex, this is to go into the ground and take note of what marker its on, then keep an eye on this to see if there is a rapid rise, rise, no change or a falling river level. If levels are rising it would be wise if it is already touch and go to bail out and pick another day, it isn't worth it. In relation to this also if you have good internet signal pop on to the above listed websites to check the recently updated information to back up your findings. 

 Enjoy the experience:

 Some would read this and think, just don't go! If you are experienced enough and take all the precautions you can and don't take it for granted catching the river as its falling can often be a very productive time to target fish, especially Barbel. Warm rains from the SW, falling river levels with mild air temps are arguably the best time to fish for the species. Now navigating yourself to the river may be the hardest part sometimes but always make sure when fishing individual spots you put that marker at a point that you can read (river level markers) but also positioned in such a way that it is your further point forward in that peg and you don't go past that, but also in a position you can retrieve it when it isn't required anymore.

 If this helps one person then this will have had its desired affect, I think three anglers lost their lives last winter and three families totally destroyed by something they could have avoided. Enjoy your fishing but respect mother nature, she can be cruel and if in any doubt, don't go, no fish is worth a life. 

5am on a flooded R.Loddon.

Monday 16 January 2023

Recap of 2022.

 

 2022 was an odd year for me fishing wise, a few short sessions after Barbel - a few day trips for Grayling with a couple of Pike trips, trying to find ways to get the gear together and get out was challenging with such a busy work schedule and a young family and busy work schedule. Fishing wise for me this was the theme across the year. I still managed to catch some wonderful R.Itchen Roach to just under 2lbs which was awesome in what were pretty tough conditions, later in the month I headed to the magnificent R.Wylye in search of Grayling where I was successful in tempting 37 of them with seven over 2lbs with the best tipping the scales at 2lb 9ozs. A couple of average sized Barbel also put in an appearance during January but no doubles to add to my tally.



 *40 River Challenge: Trips 0 / Blanks 0/ Hours 0 / Barbel 0 / Doubles 0.

 February: There was very little to write about as I had lots of work on and when I did get out they were mainly blanks.

Decent bag on the 'small river'.

*40 Rivers Challenge: Trips 2 / Blanks 2 / Hours 11.5 / Barbel 0 / Doubles 0. 

 March: With the end of the season on the horizon a bumper session was in order where I looked to press home the advantage of mild weather and an upturn in catches present across social media platforms signalled that it was probably a good time to get out. First of all I targeted the Dorset Stour where the Chub were feeding but not a Barbel sight, then I joined George Burton on the Warks Avon for a jolly up and ended up walking away with a 12.6 Barbel and a solid 6lb+ Chub, a proper result that was, then headed down to the R.Wey for another social with Mike Denny and we ended struggling all day, on dark I lost a monster Barbel, only to follow it up five minutes later with a 10.4 Barbel which rounded off the 2021/22 season with a bang!

WA 6.3

WA 12.6

WEY 10.4

*40 Rivers Challenge: Trips 4 / Blanks 2 / Hours 75.5 / Barbel 2 / Doubles 2.

 April: I didn't fish at all owing to extensive amount of work going on.

 May: I set about targeting Eels by design and on my first attempt managed two off the canal and then time to go back just didn't present itself, a whistlestop trip to the Stow turned out to be an inspired one as I smashed my Bream PB by just over 2lbs with my previous best of 12lb 5oz coming off a river! Then a trip after Catfish that didn't go as smoothly as we (Brian, Richard and I) had envisaged.

Canal best @2.5

Stonking slab @14.6, new PB


Decent slug.

 June: A month of mainly searching for Butterflies and things creepy crawly, however I did manage some fishing, finally a successful trip to the R.Severn where I managed seven Barbel to just over 8lbs, I opened the season on the Kentish Stour after Barbel but was unsuccessful.

*40 Rivers Challenge: Trips 5 / Blanks 3 / Hours 44.5 / Barbel 8 / Doubles 0.

Best off the Severn - 8.1

 July: Yet another lean month with only a couple of trips made. A trip to the KS produced a decent Chub of 5.8 but again, no Barbel.

Kentish Stour - 5.8

*40 Rivers Challenge: Trips 3 / blanks 3 / Hours 37.0 / Barbel 0 / Doubles 0.

 August: A day out on the boat was just the tonic after very little time on the bank, a few decent Rudd were had between Brian and I as we set sail on SS Rudd, the beautiful weather made it a joy to be out. However it was an August bank holiday away "few days"and it was a blazing success with a wonderful R.Mersey double, a good solid start on the R.Tame and a fact finding mission on the R.Dearne which lay across the Peninnes.

Upper 1 Fenland bar of gold.

...And another.

R.Mersey - 10.10

R.Tame - 8.11

*40 Rivers Challenge: Trips 1 / Blank 0 / Hours 47.0 / Barbel 10 / Doubles 1.

 September: Now I only managed 1 fishing trip across arguably the best month of the fishing season, as mental as that sounds. It just so happened to be the best trip in recent memory, I chalked off the R.Dearne in the early afternoon of the first day having lost a good double early in the day, to only then fish the R.Don and chalk that off too with a brace of doubles, one of which setting a new record for the river! Oh how I love the north, but that wasn't all, the hattrick was firmly on and last knockings of my northern tour I landed I thought would have been that very fish I needed to complete the hattrick, alas it just missed out.

 What a month September was!!

R.Dearne - 10.9

R.Don - 10.5

R.Don Record - 15.4

R.Wharfe - 9.5

*40 Rivers Challenge: Trips 1 / Blanks 0 / Hours 39.0 / Barbel 5 / Doubles 3.
 
 October: Not much again in terms of time on the bank, once again with the little time I had I managed to successfully tackle the R.Taff near Cardiff, the sun had only just started to cast the first throws of light when I had a mega Welsh Barbel resting in the net! 

R.Taff - 11.10
 
*40 Rivers Challenge: Trips 3 / Blanks 2 / Hours 57.0 / Barbel 1 / Doubles 1.

 November: With falling temps I did start to target other species, I had a decent Pike on my first trip of the winter, a great haul of Grayling with one equalling my PB and another an ounce shy of my PB, only a matter of time before I get a new PB or better still a 3lb+specimen which I crave so much!

R.Wylye - 2.11

R.Lea - 17.8

 *40 Rivers Challenge: Trips 4 / Blanks 4 / Hours 25 / Barbel 0 / Doubles 0.

 December: Around the Christmas period I got out after Barbel a couple times but the rod-tips remained motionless, the Loddon kicking my backside as per. The only fish I caught were some modest Roach whilst in search of some of their bigger cousins.

 *40 Rivers Challenge: Trips 2 / Blanks 2 / Hours 14 / Barbel 0 / Doubles 0.

 Total hours spent after Barbel in 2022 was 350.5, with 26 Barbel caught in the process whilst chalking off 6 rivers in the calender year.

Sunday 8 January 2023

River Kennet Double, That's A Wrap!!

 

 First of all I'd to wish everyone in blogland a Happy New Year and hope it's a prosperous and joyful year for you all.

 Now to the fishing, as you can tell from the title I have kicked off 2023 in incredible style, but before I get to that I'll rewind a couple of days to New Years Day evening where I opted to get back on to the grueller that is the R.Loddon in search of a rare Barbel, a fish that I have worked very hard for so far with nothing to show for my efforts. 

 At home I checked the river levels and could see the gauges rising and knew both the R.Blackwater and R.Loddon would be in flood and well in the fields, what I didn't factor in is that there would only be one spot I could fish on the entire downstream beats of the Blackwater's confluence with the Loddon, so I set up camp and opted to fish one rod upstream and one just downstream both in the margins to avoid the detritus that was coming down, the increased flow is really stirring up the bottom and although good that the gravels are getting a good polishing off it made presentation a challenge. 


Lovely stages of moon-set.

 The clear skies gave way to incredible views of the stars, shooting stars and the occasional satellite hurtling above, this wonderful viewing is indicative of being in the countryside and the low levels of light pollution, however I did not come just for the views, I came for a brutal tussle with a monster Loddon Barbel, in fact at the moment I would take a 4lb Barbel right now given the lack of action, the fish are there but I haven't found them and after 10 hrs static fishing completed in that one peg I packed down and went rolling upstream whilst hiding most of the gear in the only bush I could find that wasn't submerged under 2-3ft of floodwater.

 Once I began to roll meat the sense of expectation grew as I am doing what I do best and feel confident that if its going to happen in these conditions it'll happen fairly quickly, the problem is every 10 metres looks like the best Barbel swim you've ever seen! So it makes coverage a challenge.

Knowing your surroundings in
 these conditions is paramount.

 At 9.1c and slightly dropping river with heavy colour I felt meat would have been the best approach but unfortunately it just didn't happen for me and at 2pm having arrived at 2130 the night before I packed up and headed for home, across the flooded fields back to the car.

Rigged for a self take.

 Fast forward to yesterday (07/01/23) where I had decided on a change of scenery but not too far from the Loddon. The R.Kennet would play host to me for a day, obviously a double figure Barbel was the target as is the case with such prime conditions for the species.

 Having never visited the river I was surprised to see basically a pacy canal! Lined with barges I wasn't sure if I was in the right place but bites came fairly quickly to begin with as I had clearly dropped in on a few of them as both rods showed promising signs of life. I tried to contact a couple of the bites but it was impossible, about an hour after casting I had a more positive bite which showed something was taking a proper interest and after allowing the bite to develop I lifted the rod and away it went, I wasn't sure what had made off downstream with my lump of meat, I hoped for a Barbel but very quickly that hope was dashed as a massive Trout rose to the surface, twisting and turning in the current ( the species wasn't initially determined as Brian and I debated what it was before approaching the net ) Once in the net it was evident that the biggest Brown Trout I have ever seen was laying in my net, not my target but would certainly take that!

8lbs 13oz!!! My word what a fish that was.

 It was not a Barbel but a huge fish all the same. Having briefly weighed it for the records and a quick photo she went back to wreak havoc on the small fish populations. Once that Trout had gone back the swim went dead, not even a touch so Brian and I continued on downstream looking to fish everywhere that looked like it would hold a Barbel. In search of fish we did cover some serious ground, 8.2 miles all told for the day which just shows sometimes you have to be mobile to stand a chance, unfortunately for us even all that effort we weren't rewarded and not through the lack of trying.

 As dusk was only an hour away we decided to head back up and fish static baits upstream of where we started as we had found a lovely deep gully completely gravel lined with only a little bit of weed so that was where we set up and fished both rods on large lumps of meat. Initially everything was still and the only motion was the wind rattling across the river, but out of the blue I had a couple of little taps that were fairly noticeable in the gusting wind, so I sat guarding the rod but nothing happened for about 15mins.

 I recast my downstream rod and felt the lead down, as I was walking back to spot I could hear the clutch on my upstream rod going into meltdown, I then glanced at the rod to see it pivoting on the rod rest with the tip aimed at the water and the butt waving around at chest/head height! The fish that had picked up the bait was in full battle mode and I was late to the party. I thank my lucky stars that the rod hadn't gone for a swim as I would only have myself to blame and prime example why ordinarily I use back rests (grippers), but here I couldn't get them into the bank because it was so hard, getting the front rests in was hard enough in the edge of the bank.

 But all that fear of losing the rod was hypothetical as I didn't lose the fish and I was in-fact doing battle with a Barbel, I just couldn't tell how big, it felt heavy but wasn't really giving it the beans, kind of thankful for that too, not long after I was in total control I guided what was clearly a big Barbel straight into an awaiting net that Brian manned expertly! Once she was in I punched the air and shook Brian's hand, that capture has been a very long time in the making. Many years pondering over when to fish it, where to fish, what club/s to join etc, in the end yesterday was the day it all came together, yesterday I caught a River Kennet Barbel....but....it was not just a River Kennet Barbel, it was a double figure Barbel.

 For all the blanks it was moments like that that make all that effort worth every minute, the elation is immeasurable when you know how much has gone into the captures.

 Once I had allowed the adrenaline to subside I got it together and sorted out the scales, sling etc and we got to work. She registered an extremely pleasing 11lb 12ozs and river number *18* had been achieved, a potentially difficult river chalked off in 9 hours! TO THE PUB!!!!!

On cloud bloody nine!!!!

 What a start to 2023! Special moments in time that won't be forgotten.

What A Start!

   Since the river season ended I've taken a 3 week hiatus from fishing, work as usual the excuse! Storm Kathleen however was predicted ...