Saturday, 31 October 2009

A Game of Three Quarters

Chub after dark...
I've been fishing a particular stretch of the Avon looking for what in Wark's Avon terms would count as big roach. I don't actually know what a big Avon roach looks like, my never having caught one, but I'm sure it must be one over a pound and a half. Whether they go over the two is probable, even likely
given the fine state of health that the river seems to be in, but I wouldn't know where they'd be.

On this stretch the roach is the dominant fish by some margin. You get some chub, the wandering dace who turn up from time to time and the occasional gudgeon but the proportion by number caught is three quarters roach to a quarter of all the rest combined. I have never had a single perch and thankfully no bleak either. It should and indeed must contain some largish roach but despite having caught a hundred or so roach thus far, have not had one over eight ounces.

I may be flogging a dead horse...

But I don't mind.

This place is providing the opportunity for the learning of what I believe are the critical disciplines of river fishing, the practice that I gain there is invaluable. There is hardly ever a complete lack of bites from roach, indeed there are often far too many to cope with, so data floods in. The bites are either impossible to hit, slightly difficult or very easy depending upon approach, so changing tactics slightly and swapping baits or even bait size can make a vast difference. The stretch is gradually making me into an accomplished river angler despite its apparent lack of large specimens of the species, Rutilus Rutilus.

Yesterday afternoon I returned and fished two swims. Bait was breadflake under a cage feeder stuffed with 'liquidised' bread (a misleading term for the uninitiated; the bread is not actually made into soup, but made into soft crumb by smashing it to bits in a food liquidiser) and I was going to fish this method all afternoon in order to sharpen my reflexes and not be tempted to go for the float rod if things got tiresome.

Things got tiresome from the off. Sharp tugs and pulls on the tip that were impossible to connect with. Bread fishing is like that; either you find good fish willing to feed and receive almost unmissable confident pulls or hoards of small fish who snatch bits off the flake until nothing is left of it. On the day it's either the bait to use or the bait to lose.

I fished this first peg for a couple of exhausting hours, changing from a tail of a foot up to one of three feet plus and varying bait size and placing the bait in all likely looking spots but landed just the one small chub. It's a good swim though, in fact it is one of the most interesting and varied pegs along the entire stretch with big variations in flow and depth to explore, from a trough at least 14 feet in depth at the swims head rising to just five feet and with shallow margins of just a few feet in places. As yet I haven't really got the hang of it, but I'm certain that it contains some interesting fish.

I moved down to a peg that I make sure I fish every time I visit. This peg is throwing up some valuable information that may well provide the key for the rest of the stretch. Every time I have fished it I have caught lots of roach but only when casting downstream and into a particular band of water that extends from near bank to far, and all upstream casts have produced chub only. I had thought that this division of the swim may have been an unreliable quirk of numbers that would be upset by further enquiry so today I wanted to test it thoroughly, casting upstream for half an hour and downstream for the same time slot in rotation.

The downstream cast produced lots of sharp tugs and pulls of the kind that I'd had in the previous swim but no hookups. To see if things would improve if a change of bait was tried I swapped over to double maggot for a time and pulled roach after roach to the bank, all small, none over four ounces. Back to bread and back to impossible bites. The upstream casts produced hardly any action at all on either bait.

From the bank there appears to be very little difference between the head and tail of the swim but I suspect there is a difference in the composition of the riverbed between the two points from silt to clean gravel, but can't be sure. There is little variation in depth though, it is an even paced eight to nine foot deep glide of water the whole way down.

As the light failed I landed the first roach of the day to bread and the largest of the day at half a pound but then the downstream bites dried up and after dark stopped completely, but then the upstream casts came to life. A few bites were missed but then a nice strong pull met with a heavy fish that proved to be a chub approaching four pounds, easily my best chub from this stretch so far. Later another good bite saw a chub of two pounds on the bank, a weight that seems to be the standard for chub around these parts. Once again the upstream casts had proved to be falling into what appeared to be a 'chub only' club.

If this sharp and clear division of this one swim into two underwater zones is real then what I believe is also true is that the whole stretch is also divided thus and consequently the larger roach will be in strictly delineated zones of their own and certainly not hanging out with the tiddlers that I have been catching so far.

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