Tuesday, 8 September 2009

All's Well...

We were to do the canal on Saturday but a slight change of mind on Kevs side meant that a local river trip was feasible so we did what self respecting anglers do and opted for the chance of better fishing - and a river obviously was the preferable option. The choice was small, either the upper Avon or the Blythe, both small rivers close to Coventry, but my knowledge of both told me that on the balance we had a weed choked Avon or a crustacean infested Blythe, and with these conditions at about their rampant worst at this time of year it came down to fishing styles, pure and simple. Did we want to trot or stalk?

Shafts of light beyond Coleshill Church

When we arrived on the Blythe it was deceptively warm but with a fresh breeze from the West. The river looked great but I was already regretting trusting my morning weather eye as grey clouds gathered above us. I hadn't packed enough layers and the Blythe at Coleshill is exposed in its entire length to every breeze there being virtually zero cover in the water meadow through which it flows. I knew that by late afternoon with the wind coming from the very direction that a brolly could not impede without making fishing impossible, it was going to have robbed me of every last joule of heat.

Imagine a cyclist dressed for summer and after climbing a very steep hill to the summit of a fabulous mountain that on the other side has the longest descent to sea level of any mountain on earth, a descent without break, without any requirement to ever pedal. He dismounts and basks in the sun for an hour, allowing the sun to drive away the sweat and his metabolism to return to normal. He then begins his descent dressed for his ascent.

A quarter down he is feeling refreshed by the cooling breeze, half way down he is feeling a little chilly, three quarters down he is feeling very cold indeed and at the end of his run he is suffering the onset of hypothermia, his fingers are white, his eyes are streaming with tears, his mouth is frozen into a grimace of pain and his stare is wild and desperate.

This is what getting stuck in exposed places is like when you are ill prepared, even in Summer. How many times do I have to get caught out by the English weather before I learn?

The solution is simple and after suffering a few times quite easy to understand. Wear and pack more layers than you initially think are necessary and you will be alright. A tee shirt, a shirt, a thin v-neck pullover and a thick woolen jumper with a zip up neck will be fine in whatever combination the wildly variable conditions of early to late summer come at you. If rain is likely then a waterproof coat without lining is added and possibly the thick jumper subtracted.

Anyway, we started fishing and set up in two pegs in my favourite pool. I had a succession of small chub, seven of them plus a solitary perch before the swim fell quiet. Kev had one small chub in what seemed like quite barren water out front of him. I snagged a few Crayfish that had somehow managed to intercept the passing maggots but they all fell off before reaching the bank. Kev had similar problems.

We moved eventually to the faster water below the second pool along the stretch (never had a fish there) where Kev found a roach of half a pound or so. I naturally kicked up a gear at this good news but all I found was lightning fast bites that it was impossible to connect with, probably a hoard of minnows.

A third move down to the very end of the stretch was planned after lunch. I was glad to get there as this was the place I'd fished for an hour when I came here with Keith Jobling a while back. I found it had real potential then and have been itching to get back since.

The peg is a long curved stretch of steady water that eventually disappears below Blythe Bridge a couple of hundred yards distant. It looks very fishy, but the problem is that the majority of this length of river is on out of bounds land. All a day ticket angler has access to is a couple of consecutive pegs deep in a reed bed at the top of the stretch and these are only accessible in relatively low river conditions. Today was OK, Kev took the lower peg and myself the upper.

Has to be roach here...

The tactics were quite long trots down, the end of my trot being almost at the head of Kev's peg. I was getting a few bites and landed a gudgeon, then Kev hooked up to what was obviously a good fish but one that got into the cabbages between him and clear water. It looked a good fish and when Kev shouted 'roach' I made a dash to see it but it was promptly lost. I reckon it was a pounder at least. Then he immediately hooked another, this time landed with fuss, and it was also a nice fish, of about three quarters of a pound.

It seemed that Kev had a shoal of good roach out front and was about to capitalise, however the roach had other ideas and soon after, vanished off the radar. Roach, the most capricious of fish! After this optimistic start the fishing just stopped and bites became impossible to find - my theory is that the shallow waters of just a few feet depth had allowed us to easily spook the roach and we'd managed to kill the swim with our talk and movements, or feasibly that the terrifying head on collision course approach of two swans taking off from downstream scared them as much as it scared us!

When it was clear that things would not improve we moved back to the first pool for the rest of the evening. Here we both managed to land a steady run of enormous crayfish who had had taken to jumping up in the water and catching hold of whatever we cast in. I had one particularly ornery specimen who just would not let go of the lobworm bait I had switched to in hope of a nice perch or two. It took five minutes to persuade the bugger to release his vice like grip on my line, I kid you not.

Let go you bugger!

I will kill you...

It seemed hopeless with these critters snaffling everything in the water, but Kev got a further chub of a pound and a margin fished lobworm eventually brought me a real bite and a proper fish that gave me a sound thrashing for a short time. By the jaggy pumping fight it had to be a perch and so it was, but not as big as its fight led me to believe, nevertheless it turned the scales at one pound two ounces and that together with its cracking looks made me very, very happy!

Hurrah! Perca Fluviatilis!

Perch, I'm catching plenty of them of late. A two pounder would be nice...

I had a big smile on my face, even though I was by now as cold blooded as the fish and shivering in my pants, and even though my perch wasn't exactly huge, it was hard earned and so lovely looking, and then on the way back across the meadow to the car and home, we met up with this fella who wasn't any kind of beauty and looked as grumpy as could be!

Bufo Bufo! Why the long face?

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