Wednesday, 21 March 2012


Last venue of the river season

One day left then and it was back to the Leam to follow more precisely the 'laws of small river fishing'. With Jeff Hatt's timely advice fresh in my mind I left the village stores with TWO White Tin Loaves and a ladle to apply it with, perhaps I took him too literally?!

Having given myself less restriction than the customary 2 hour slot I walked a touch further than previously, commencing at the furthest swim I had formerly dabbled in and starting around 3pm by introducing two handfuls of mashed bread into that and, on the grounds that I was alone on the venue, each of the next three swims. This decision was preceded by some genuine pangs of guilt as I was brought up to fish one swim so that the others were available for other anglers but I am getting used to the fact that small river fishing would falter on that aspect alone and, as we are not talking venues where all the pegs are defined and worn, this was the time to get used to the principle

In doing so I fairly immediately questioned the wisdom of such an approach as I watched a shoal of 5 or 6 chub in the 2lb class slowly sink their black-piped grey forms into the deeper darkness of the second swim, the water so clear as to make concealment of my presence almost an impossibility

The early start could quite easily have been foregone for two or three hours' bird watching as I only enjoyed the occasion tap on the tip trying all four swims with the now customary large cube of rubbery crust on the hook in search of the target - a first ever 4lb river chub. The inclusion of the word 'river' is a bit of a giveaway clue here to the fact that, yes, I once managed an incredibly flukey Oxford Canal chub of 4.3.0 with 12 minutes of a match to go back in 1994 (on carp gear just after I'd fortuitously lost my light caster rig on a snag!) which was accompanied in the keepnet by a small shoal of very nervous gobies huddled in a corner

The final gambit was to revisit the first swim which I most fancied for the compulsory bite as the chill of dusk descended. Having neatly located a submerged branch in a deeper channel by trying to remove it from the river bed on my first visit to the swim I moved upstream a little on my return having introduced (a ladle of) more mashed bread above my previous baiting as I departed earlier to try the other swims

I was just silently and simultaneously bemoaning the fact that I'd left my head torch in the car, enjoying the clear loud hooting of the invisible resident tawny owl just 15 metres in front of me and listening to my bat detector hissing its disapproval of the low evening temperature keeping bats in their roosts when the experience from my first small river session just four trips ago must have occurred again as I instinctively struck into a savage bite and relied on the Avon to get the fish away from any snags and into the the dark

So everything went to plan with the chub's capture except the missing SD card still in my laptop from my last post meaning I had to delete an image to get this 'record shot', as birders would say as an excuse for a worse than useless photograph, of the fish

I have to say, as soon as I saw the fish in the net I could be sure the target was going to be safe until next season. It was noticeably larger than the fish I had four trips back and the scales confirmed the discrepancy to be 10ozs as they settled at 2.15.0. Nevertheless my biggest since that chance encounter 18 years ago and this time actually an intentional capture, albeit on the last possible cast of the season. As the fat lady was clearing her throat I packed away by Braille and gazed across the meadow into the waist-deep blanket of mist before walking back across the spongey pasture considering the lessons of the preceding month with a hint of satisfaction but this was more to do with 'being out there' and the last minute avoidance of a blank than the actual catch, nice though it was. So neither death (thankfully), nor glory (sadly) but a satisfactory conclusion to perhaps the last bastion of common sense in the coarse fishing calendar - the river season

My baptism has been into a different world; different approach, tactics, method...skills even; different everything, but those aspects worth remembering are noted and next season we'll give it another go, without doubt

Meanwhile I was tempted to try the same tactic on a peg on the North Oxford Canal at Rugby on Sunday where chub used to be found but without success, so next week it will be back to the canals, properly and in earnest, in pursuit of their slightly larger inhabitants and seeking to make direct comparisons to the '80's & '90's. Another interesting little episode to come, of that I'm certain


  1. George, This reminds me of fishing the Avon at Bretford. I used to 'ladle' in three or four handfuls of hemp just above a certain spot, three or four slices of mashed bread pitched in well above the spot, ten small chunks of meat to the same place because it sinks slowly and a good handful of 18mm halibut pellets chucked all over the place to get them rooting around. As night approached the trembles would start, and then when the light was gone, the savage bites. I was using chunks of meat half the size of a matchbox, and as thick.

    One night I had four chub over four pounds in a midwinter half-hour from a swim you'd never think could contain them all, but they'd followed the milky bread trail upstream and settled in for a banquet. I had to leave an hour after dark but would surely have had four more the same size or better if I'd stayed on till six.

    Conversely. Keith Jobling took two six pounders on different evenings from a stretch a couple miles lower down by simply trundling a large freelined flake of bread through the swims, the chub bolting out of cover and nailing it before it slipped out of their territory and into another's.

    Greedy fish! Suicidal on the right day

  2. Thanks (again) Jeff!

    All this will be put into the mental mincer and out will churn another tactic for next season

    'Looking forward to getting back to the cut this week though. Mainly I am inrigued to see what happens just after dark there as well, as not many of the matches I fished 'way back when' were at that time of day! I do recall taking some tasty roach late in evening matches and also a few bigger perch when out for a couple of late hours practice

    (Imagine sound of hands being rubbed together)


  3. Yep, the last hour of light can see some very interesting things happen on the cut. The fish get very frisky and confident and enter the very shallowest water up the far bank shelf in search of patches of the day's accumulated fodder, often in less than two feet of water as light falls. They are really greedy at this time. Bites are unlike any other canal bite. none of that silly, is it, ain't it, nonsense! Finesse goes out the window. They'll still have it!