Monday, 13 February 2017

So What Now?

Five weeks of the river fishing season remaining and priorities now fixed.

For that tail-end of the greatest of all angling challenges, to confound the prey in flowing water, every effort will be made to target them when conditions suit. Without the benefit of turbidity dawn, dusk and after dark only must prevail.

The Winter Big Canal Roach Challenge 2016/17 remains live, and will no doubt blend into spring, prior to a lake campaign when increasing air temperatures have caused that pivotal change in warmth of the water, and thus subsurface activity.

Just a few days ago a trip to a stretch of canal I fished as a schoolboy, cycling to and from tackle-laden, but certainly had not fished in the forty years since, gave up a beauty at one pound six to the usual method when trialling a new float very much suited to lift bites, my old stock now slowly diminishing.

Bream, hybrids and slightly smaller roach also followed.


The Leam.

I recently had the rather nice fortune of being asked by the Leamington Angling Association to write a few words of encouragement for people wishing to be graced by the banks of this engaging little river.

Incidentally, it has never occurred to me until now that non-locals may be inclined to pronounce the river's name 'leem' but, no, it is indeed 'lem' as in the first syllable of Royal Leamington Spa, through which it, usually somewhat stodgily, flows.

By way of endorsement it was only appropriate that practicing of that preaching followed.

One method that can be relied upon to provide some success within its wildly changeable depth, but that I didn't have space to go into in any detail in the LAA piece, is pole feeder fishing and when the river is up, coloured and cold. It gives a couple of extra dimensions in taking advantage of creases and slacks over that of the quiver-tip, namely:
• accuracy of placing bait and feed, and,
• more prospect of hitting finicky roach bites.

Last season and the season before it was trialled to good effect on stretches further upstream than the Leamington water and was immediately found, for no fathomable reason, to result in the best fish very quickly on bread but also to enable fish to be caught in the most challenging of water conditions from deep holes in which usually the hit-and-miss-ossity of any standard legering method in such tight areas of depth and flow power make it such a problem.

I have not written about this before, other than to hint at it some months ago, as it was work in progress but now I feel we are somewhere near the 'show and tell' stage.

Numerous issues have been addressed along the way and it now feels like a properly valid method to be listed alongside all the others. Given the traditional F, F & F penchant for bread and, secondarily, lobworm fishing it suits very well.

There are some clips, of varying quality, on YouTube and these certainly help but it is quite a technically tricky method and, as such, requires some explanation. It does however involve one of the most ingenious ideas one will ever come across to avoid fish feeling the resistance of the pole when biting.

Given the difficulty in explaining this in words alone I am planning a detailed post shortly. Appetite whetted? I do hope so.

Between half and a whole dozen paragraphs ago I seem to recall suggesting this section might be about the Leam, and so it is - now.

The pleasure in this type of small stream fishing is so much more than anyone can convey in words. Even the likes of David Carl Forbes and Tony Miles limited themselves largely to the 'how' rather than the 'why' when putting pen to paper on their now iconic publications on the subject.

For this humble follower of the angle the harder and more unlikely the acquisition of a bite may be, the more pleasure is to be derived in its pursuit.

Last weekend the colour remained strong, as did the flow
, and the banker roach swims were targeted. At this time our maritime climate was not struggling to burst over a trio of degrees as it has been these past few days.

Targetting known roach pegs and lowering the feeder neatly on or inside the crease line in the first swim, 8m from where I took my first Leam roach over a pound four or five seasons back, the indicator soon plunged down that hole and the wrath of a worthy sparring partner was engaged.

Now in a narrow, snag-strewn water, this was undoubtedly chubby crunch time. I use a heavy carp-style pole elastic for this job to take account of the heavy flow, depth, weight of feeder and the fish and, it may sound surprising, but the fight of even this 3lb plus chub was no match for the incredible subduing qualities of this latex. It is much easier to keep the fish where you want it as, held high over the head of the fish, the pull and power of the pole itself is cushioned but at the same time so are the movements of the fish and, as long as joints are not unshipped until the quarry is beaten, it can be netted without fear of falling foul of those habitual last minute lunges into weed and roots by your feet.

A very nice Leam chub of 3lbs 4ozs resulted followed by a couple of nice roach.

I then fished the banker swim and sat it out with coarsely liquidised bread in the feeder and nips of flakes on the hook. Roach came after two drops had put a little bait into the water and a series followed up to ten ounces for an enjoyable net of four pounds four ounces in conditions under which one would not have believed it possible without the benefit of this method.

The fish do tend to wander in coloured water, moving up and down and side to side, presumably in reaction to flow changes and it is necessary to work your way around the area on streams such as this to stay in touch. One thing is noticeable though and that is that if there are feeding fish present you will catch them immediately.

Just this last weekend produced a larger chub at 3.7.0 on an 8m Pole with this method, landed comfortably even after it went under a snag but the usual slack line trick saw him come out again. A few nice roach and the odd dace completed the scene.

A three pound chub is a noteworthy fish on the Leam these days and two in a week is a very welcome reward for applying a relatively new-found method.


North Oxford Canal

This past weekend it was seriously chilly on the bank. Although the air temperatures were higher than on frosty days beforehand, the bitter easterly breeze drove sleet into the cheeks like a dominatrix ice queen.

The first two sheltered pegs produced just a lone 10 ounce roach by way of consolation for having braved it.

The fish knew. They sat in the open water with the Siberian blow straight in the face .

I was supposed to pick The Boy Wonder up at ten (no, he hadn't fallen over) but, due to the age old communication issue with those of a certain age, would not respond to messages, so I would have been senseless not to. Just as I was losing hope anyway up popped the float in a hideous waving lift bite and, as I struck, the wished-for giant roach to ease the misery of the conditions really did appear to be fighting back. The water was clear to about 20" down, almost too clear, and so the need to stop the fish swirling on the surface was essential.

Consequently it was some time into the scrap that a hybrid of 1.8.0 came into view, not a roach but boy was it a welcome sight on that morning.

As I alluded to in a recent post, a roving shoal can suddenly present a flurry of action and four bites in four drops ensued; an immediately following 12 ounce roach; a 6 ouncer, dropped-off when I was being too ambitious, or maybe frozen, to net it, and a missed bite.

...and that was that, but glowing-faced proof that in the harshest of conditions pleasure is to be had for those sufficiently intrepid to search.


In Conclusion

In closing, one would hope that the rain continues. I note this morning that the local rivers have risen and peaked today after more rain at the weekend.

After the first deluge put the rivers very high, and over the road in places, any additional rain has been slow to enter the them due to previously waterlogged ground and freezing conditions. These factors appear jointly to affect things in that the water logging ensures that pretty much any level of subsequent rain affects the level and colour of the water and the frost locks water into the ground thus making the levels stay high and relatively stable longer due to its gradual release.


Winter Big Canal Roach Challenge 2016/17

The complete list of 1lb+ fish thus far:


Leamington Angling Association Newsletter, January 2017.

Rough River and Small Stream Fishing. David Carl Forbes (Cassell, 1977).

Big Fish from Small Streams, Tony Miles (Little Egret Press, August 2013). 


  1. I'm joining LAA for next season so really should make an effort to fish it. Your article is just what I need. The upper section being the most appealing if I'm honest. Keep up the good work George.

    1. It's a good book Mick for sure.

      There's a definite drop-off in size of fish compared to the Avon of course but it's an engaging water.

      I'm sure you'll enjoy it and it'd be interesting to see what pike you might extract. There are plenty in there.

  2. Those Roach look in great nick George, what more could an angler want than catching a few pearlers like that !

    1. Yes James, mostly not been caught and it being so narrow and snaggy - no cormorants. Only otters, heron & Kingfisher to avoid...which is perfectly natural of course.

      Not in your bracket size-wise but nice fishing for sure.