Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The Wye and the Wherefore

Kev has written up his report on our latest angling expedition to the Wye near Hay, so I was thinking I didn't have to, and as I've had some difficulty getting anywhere near a computer over the last few weeks thought I could get away with it! Not so, I have to get my thoughts down or the thoughts get me down. I find that writing these entries is something of a analytical tool that does help me up my game. I find that if I miss out a report then somehow I miss out on some level of understanding of what I have done.

We camped initially at the Boat Inn at Witney on Wye, a few miles downstream from Hay. The tiny campsite was chock full of canoeists and the only access to the river we had at our disposal was the short length of bank immediately in front of the pub. It would have been a fishable spot if it there hadn't been a constant stream of disembarking middle aged adventurers and their esses hoiking their boats up the steep steps from the water to dry land. Ice white goosefleshed paunches in clingy teeshirts are never a pretty sight. Think packs of frozen sausages.

Later on when all expedition members were safely ahoy and tucking into their copious beer supplies we found at that the spot was actually unfishable. A small inlet was trickling raw stinking sewage straight into the river at the precise spot where fishing would have been possible. Illegal, surely?

We decided not to and went for a walk up to the toll bridge instead. From way above the river we saw nothing at first, though the water was fairly clear, then a silver flash gave away the presence of fish. As we peered into the water we saw more and more of these turning fish until the whole river seemed alive with them. Without them turning flank up nothing whatsoever could be seen of the shoals - what they were, we could not tell, but they looked to be good fish.

Next morning we got wind of another campsite some miles downstream, with, not only ample room and provision of campfires with hardwood to burn at a quid a barrowload, but also enough pegs to give us a shot at some good fishing. After making a phone call to secure a pitch we broke camp and were there within the hour.

The stretch was shallow looking with long fronds of streaming weed visible over rocky gravel but right out front of our chosen pitch the water dropped away and by our bank formed a slow moving eddy with enough room for the two of us to fish. The opening tactics were ledger for me and sweetcorn and pellets for bait chucked out to the edge of the weedy shallows for a possible barbel or big chub and for Kev, float fishing in the eddy with maggots and worms.

I had bites almost immediately but nothing positive enough to warrant picking up the rod and striking at. Kev on the other hand began to catch bleak and small chub from the first cast and an hour or so in hooked up to a good fish on worm that gave him a little trouble on light tackle before slipping the hook. I wondered what it could have been? A sizeable chub, a big perch perhaps, but then again on a river such as the Wye, it could have been one of any number of species. I was intrigued.

My barbel tactics were not working and I was losing tackle on unseen snags. To counter the problem I tried casting straight out to the middle of the river and keeping the rods up as high as I could. This resulted in the first of a run of smallish chub that both me and Kev shared in when he switched to feeder and corn on the hook. For a hour or so they came one after the other before vanishing off the radar. I decided to try lobworms in the eddy and rigged up a float rod having got really cheesed off with snagging the lead every other cast on what I had by then figured out to be rocks.

To both fish this large eddy with floats meant casting just a few feet out and allowing the float to slowly drift backwards upstream where it would be taken by the clockwise current out to faster water, pulled downstream and eventually be sucked back in to start the process over. Very few casts got so very far though, the bites were coming all the time. I had the left side of the peg so my float wandered close to a rubbish raft under an overhanging tree before it turned, a place that looked and felt very promising for something more sizeable than had shown thus far. Sure enough, as my float went around to this snag for the third time I made contact with a hard fighting fish that felt to be quite weighty, but turned out to be a pristine perch of a pound and a quarter. Let me tell you, this fish was hard to beat, it fought twice its weight. This was to be the first of five perch with three around the pound mark that I was to catch in the next hour. All were absolutely perfect bright finned perch barred with deep black stripes on deep green flanks - really lovely fish. I hoped that somewhere down in the washing machine swirl of the eddy lurked a two, three or even a monster to top the catch, but after a while the bites stopped and I guessed the perch had moved on. Of course the fish that Kev had hooked and lost was almost certainly a perch too - and perhaps bigger than any of mine.

Kev meanwhile was catching bleak by the dozen in the centre of the eddy, on maggots and even corn. Perhaps the perch had been attracted to them? As evening approached I thought it was high time for breadflake and one of the big chub that I was certain were present in this swim, and probably lurking under the raft, so I mashed some bread and baited up the line so that the cloud would travel under and attract them out into open water. Classic chubbing.

The float dipped, dithered and plunged under just as it passed the raft. I expected a missed bite or at best a bleak so early into my strategy, but met with a hefty resistance that shot out from the raft and bored deep in the open water - when it realised it really was in trouble and suddenly plunged toward the near bank snags I knew it was a chub, but I turned it away in time, it tired and was deftly netted by Kev. A lovely fish of four pounds, give or take an ounce or two, short but very thick and stocky in the body, and with deep and rich golden hued scales. Perfect.

Next cast, the same thing happened; at the same place an identical bite resulted in the hooking of a chub of the same stamp, however this fish dashed so madly into the near bank that it actually just made it despite my best efforts to turn it away and found the snags, the line catching on a submerged branch. I slackened off when I realised I could not ping the line off by sinking the rod top, and the fish got off. Pulling for a break, the tackle shot out and tangled around the rod top in a hopeless birdsnest. It was too dark to retackle, the campfire and its attendant comforts called, and so we called it a day.

Next morning it was raining off and on, but enough to make problems for me, as I had forgotten to pack my umbrella and waterproof jacket. As usual! Nevertheless, I did my best to fish whilst Kev fished comfortably in the left of the swim. He caught a barbel of about a pound on ledgered lobworm, a couple of small chub and a perch of about a pound too. I caught a single bleak, in a break in the rain, and then it was time for home.

© Jeff Hatt 2009 All Rights Reserved


  1. Both of you appear to have a penchant for crazy hats.

    I'm off for an overnighter tomorrow and if I catch anything worth photographing then out comes the Barbour bush-whacker. You'll see! hmm... hmm...?

    It's got to be approaching prime-time for Roach-os soon eh Jeff? Fancy another sortie?

  2. With a name like Hatt I suppose I have to be what it says on my box!

    Norse name, BTW

    My grandfather always swore that he was a direct descendant of William the Conquerer.

    Normans = Northmen

    Northmen are Vikings, Vikings are Norse, name is Norse, therefore I am related to William the Conquerer.

    Obvious really...

    The norse name Hatt is quite common in this country and those quality name investigators who ply their trade in Debenhams and produce illuminated documents proclaiming heritage for the gullible to hang on the wall will say that it means something like "Dweller at the hill' or some such thing.

    It means hat!

    Pronounced 'hot' in Norse

    Jeff Hot - porn star...

    Actually I have lost my floppy hat since this trip and so I'm back in the market for something outlandish in headgear. I think Kev's hat is a masterpiece.

    As for roach fishing the answer is yes.

    River or puddle? Forget the canal, too much boat for time being, Napton sounds good, or at least I've heard it said that there are some really big roach swimming there

  3. My hat was a purchase in london from a small market, £3 - bargain!!! even the stall holder was wearing one!!!

    I did however not wear said black pork pie style hat to the Blythe and had a torrid time with very few fish. I was wearing my usual week day flat cap - not so lucky for fishing!

    I think a deerstalker or something else of a similar ilk is in order, something to cover the ears in the cooler months - maybe even army surplus?