Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Rutilus Rutilus! Wherefore Art Thou?

The canal big roach campaign had provided a few decent fish and a new personal best, but for what now seemed like a large effort. The warmer weather had had no influence upon roach feeding, and if anything had produced a downturn and so I decided that a trip to the river was in order, a return to the Avon at Bretford.

Real perty, but just too snaggy to fish...

I took a bucket of various baits that I might try out, but decided to concentrate upon worm. The long reedy glide was first swim, the place where I had first contacted the river's enigmatic roach population, and fished two rod. It was one of those idiot mornings, one of those beginnings when it is as if you had never cast a line in your entire life. I spent an age setting up the rods, checking for nicks in the line ( I will never suffer an inexplicable line break ever again) and security of knots, tying light hooklinks to main lines with the utmost care, and then immediately cast straight into the far bank reeds, snapping up in the process of getting my end gear back. I suffered stupid tangles around the rod top, around the other rod top, around the backs of reels, on the calf strap of my wellies, on banksticks, on vegetation, you name it, I tangled around it. It was a ridiculous performance, a comedy.

Eventually I got two worms in the water at the one time, and then baited the swim with a little feed, a mix of bread crumb, hemp and sweetcorn. I calmed myself down and prepared for bites. They came, almost immediately, but I proceeded to miss every single one. After some time of this cat and mouse affair, I switched baits and tactics, a heavy rod (1.75 - 8lb test) on meat, and a light rod (1.25 - 4lb test) on breadflake. The meat rod got the first round of attention with plenty of knocks and pull rounds, but infuriatingly, no contact at all. I tried a thin sliver of meat but got no response from that. Then, while I was taking a leak, the bread rod pulled over savagely, stayed there for a few seconds quivering and then sprang back limp and lifeless. I was glad to miss the bite, for fighting a fish with your old chap dangling in the wind is just not on!

I recast the bread and decided to rebait the meat rod with a big lobworm and put it upstream. As I was about to cast the lob, the bread rod made an exact repeat performance but this time I chucked the meat rod in the reeds and struck. It was a chub, one that fought all the way up the side of the reed bed, bringing me very close to peril on four pound line. A pristine Avon chub, at exactly three and a half pounds.

Eye of chub...

The fighting fish killed the swim and so I moved downstream to my favourite chub swim on the stretch, hoping for a roach! I put a lob out right and a small worm left. I barely had time to sit down before the right hand rod tugged around savagely and I was into what I knew was a chub, but it bumped the hook and got away just a few seconds later. Then a chap appeared behind me dressed in town clothes, and proceeded to chat. Turns out he was another angler looking for a spot of river fishing and wanting to know how the fish were feeding before deciding. I told him I'd had a chub, chatted for a time and then the right hand rod pulled around once more in the savage fashion of the previous bite. This time I hooked up good and proper, and the fish fought like a demon all the way to the net. At one point I imagined it to be one of the upper Avon's rare barbel, the fight was so dogged and powerful. At the net I was surprised to see not old whiskers but a chub that might have been lucky to top three pounds!

Thought it was old whiskers, but it weren't...

He decided to fish, bid farewell, went back to his motor to get dressed for the day and collect his tackle, but not before informing me that I could actually fish the next stretch down, without a problem. Of course I'd often imagined what lay below the big bend at the limit of my knowledge downstream, and it took little to convince me to find out. I upped sticks and made my way.

What I found was a long, straight and wide length of water that ran from shallow gravel bottomed beginnings after the broad bend had been traversed, progressing toward slower deeper water and finally ending in a reedy pool just before a small weir. The water looked so very 'roachy', with a promising green tinge to it, and plenty of scope for long trotting a pinch of flake. I fished the end swim first but found it so full of snags that I swiftly moved away, back upstream. I tried a few pegs but kept moving, wanting to just sample the stretch for now, and come back another time for a more in-depth survey. I ended up at the shallow gravelly glide where the stretch began and caught a small fish that at first I took for a roach, it had the same metallic silvery sheen, but on second glance I saw chub. Then I looked again and saw dace! The very first dace I had ever caught, which flipped out of my hand and into the water as I was admiring it, and before I could take a snap...

Above Woody Bend...

I moved again, to a tricky swim just above the bend with snags a plenty. I put out a small worm to the left, a bait that was snaffled up within seconds of putting the rod in the rest, which bent around just as savagely as the previous bites had and resulted in a fish that proceeded to fight on the surface thirty yards downstream. I thought it might be a trout, but of course it was yet another chub, almost the twin of the first of the day. Once again, the fight killed the swim, but I didn't mind by now, it was obviously one of those one fish per swim kind of days, and it seemed, by the evidence of the savage takes I had experienced so far, that if a chub was in residence then it wanted that big worm very much...

Just can't stop catching em...

I still wanted a roach though, and after three chub and a bonus dace was determined to get one if I could. I moved right upstream near the bridge and settled into a swim that had always thwarted my efforts. I'd had plenty of bites here but had never managed to hold a fish for more than a few seconds at most before it bumped the hook. I'd seen roach here in the summer, and hoped that I could tempt one now. It was last chance really, the light was fading fast.

A lob was dropped into position, a hole near the far bank that in summer had been quite weed free. Five minutes later another big bite resulted in the smallest chub I'd ever seen on this stretch, at dead on two pounds. That was it. No roach, but another fine day's chubbing!

Rutilus, Rutilus, Wherefore Art Thou?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jeff,

    I fished the Bretford stretch a lot when i was a kid and in my youth - when it was within cycling range of home.

    The biggest Chub I've ever caught from there was just upstream of the road bridge in the pool before the water quickens towards the bridge itself. The killer bait was always a free-lined slug or shelled snail, cast to ensure a lovely 'plop' as it landed near to some cover. The line just zings across the top in the summer as the Chub race out to be the first to grab the bait!

    Also a safe bet for good Chub is the the overhanging willow on the left hand bend below the road bridge, the pool immediately below this bend with the back eddy on the far side and the depression with the hawthorn bush on the far bank at the first fence line. I think this last spot is just above the 'reedy glide' you describe.

    I've never fished for Roach here but understand the willows (52.386210, -1.372175) produce in winter.

    The biggest roach I've seen on the stretch are just above the small weir on the near bank opposite the farm house (52.383702, -1.376156). I saw them in summer amongst the cabbages (about 15 years ago) and was awestruck.

    The pool below the weir holds good Pike.

    The woody bend you describe is really shallow in summer.