Sunday, 28 February 2010

Perfect Sence

Flood water chub...

Because of my recent success with small stream roach I've been looking around for other brooks of similar scale that would be worth the effort of summertime reconnaissance trips with a view to finding the roach
that I want to fish for next winter. This approach worked has beautifully for me over the last season allowing me to enjoy cracking roach sport in the worst of cold weather that all but wiped out the chance of good fishing elsewhere. I have to say that if I had not put in the legwork whilst the stream was clear and low I would never had known or even suspected that they were there.

My research has led to some interesting stuff, especially the upper reaches of tributaries in the Trent catchment that are close enough to make the project worthwhile, namely the Soar, Anker, Sence and Tweed. It also led to the discovery of Mythe Farm, a day ticket water outside Atherstone that just had to be my next port of call.

The Stretch of water covered by the ticket looked fascinating due to it containing the confluence of the rivers Anker and Sence at a place called King Dicks Hole, where King Richard III reputedly watered his army's horses prior to the Battle of Bosworth field. Here the rivers meet at meet at roughly similar volumes, the Anker having the advantage by perhaps ten to fifteen percent (and thus taking precedence) which has the effect of creating an Anker downstream of the confluence at twice the volume of either river before it. What this would mean I imagined, was the option to try many very different types of river fishing all in the space of a mile of bank. A most interesting proposition...

Especially as the farm boasts not only a stock of barbel, but also offers brown trout and grayling fishing too, a rare opportunity round these parts. Also, I do associate grayling and trout in lowland rivers with large specimens of my main target species, the roach. I could be wrong of course, but I have a hunch that I'm not.

I took advantage of a clear Saturday to visit the place and plumb its depths. I hadn't a clue how much rain had fallen overnight but en route to the farm we crossed bridges over both rivers and at a glance they looked swollen and up to the tops of their banks, nevertheless, at the farmhouse I signed and dated the book (where it became clear that the stretch has been very lightly fished of late) paid my fiver and wandered down to the rivers where I was greeted with the slightly worrying sight of the Sence over the banks and in the fields.

High waters...

I walked downstream to King Dicks Hole where just below the waters-meet a sharp s-bend had formed, the water crashing against the far bank and ripping away noisily, but with a large and placid eddy on my bank that was perfectly fishable (It would also have been a perfectly good place to water horses) and indeed the river below was twice the size of either before it, just as I'd imagined.

I set up an avon rod with its straight avon tip for the powerful flow, a large cage feeder on a 12 inch link and a size twelve hook, quietly confident despite the uninviting swirling tea brown water, expecting to do rather well on this new water, and then I discovered to my dismay that I'd left my bread supply at home. I always carry a tin of meat in my kit just for when this problem arises but do I hate not having bread around, a comfort bait that I turn to when things are dire. Luckily I had packed a half pint of shrunken old maggots, so I decided to pack the feeder with maggots and bread crumbs, fish a big bunch of grubs on the hook and roam the whole day, to explore the entire stretch if I could and hopefully pick up a chub or two along the way.

New river anticipation...

This first swim was useless so I walked downstream along a long straight beat that looked absolutely perfect for long trotting at some future point in time, and all the way down to the end of the stretch at the Pinwall road bridge and then proceeded to fish my way back up, dropping into those pegs that offered water calm enough along the near bank to be able to hold bottom comfortably. I had absolutely no luck in any of them.

Twice the size of either before...

Eventually I abandoned the Anker feeling a little undergunned for its size and pace in flood, walking back up to the Sence to try small river chub tactics, an art I have not really had the opportunity to practice since this time last season when I was fishing the Upper Avon at Bretford. I then found what has to be the most chubby looking swim I have ever seen in my entire fishing career, a deep near bank eddy that formed off the side of a torrent of brown water running down the middle of the stream and all this just above the archetypal raft of rubbish trailing off an overhanging willow branch, the trunk of which carried an ancient motto carved into its crusty bark, which upon close scrutiny, I fancied read ~

Crabtree Woz Ere...!

I love this style of fishing, it's so predictable. You just pitch to the head of the swim or wherever you fathom is the best place under the circumstances of flow, a couple of balls of your bread ground-bait, be it mashed or liquidised, stuff a feeder full of the same with a dash of maggots on this occasion, bait your hook, cast the lot to the right spot (there's a little wooden sign directly above it with an arrow and the legend 'cast here' painted upon it) and sit back for nineteen minutes and thirty one seconds when the rod top wrenches around as a chub turns downstream with your bait in its mouth.

I struck and felt a powerful force deep down in the hole. I desired it to be a monstrous roach, trout or even salmon (I always entertain these fantasies when I know I've just hooked squalius cephalus) and so treated it with due care and attention. When Old Rubber Lips eventually surfaced I quickly bundled him in the net before he impaled himself headlong in the vegetation under my feet. A three and a quarter pounder on the scales, weighed not because he was large enough to warrant it as a specimen, but because I now fancied that I might have a chance at getting a fishing challenge point for chub.

The first Sence chub

All I needed now was another - a good six pounder would do very nicely - and on the watch I had approximately two and a half hours in which to catch it or its equivalent in lesser specimens....

Now began a series of short hops as no more bites came from the swim (henceforth known as 'Crabtree's') within the next twenty minutes, but it proved really hard to find other chubby swims, or rather chubby swims fishable under the present difficult conditions, as I walked upstream. Then I spied another of those little wooden signs partially hidden under a near bank tree pointing to a spot that could be reached only with a highly technical cast involving the main flow force and various arcs and angles of rod and line. The first shot proved adequate but there was something not quite right about it, so after ten minutes I cast once again. This cast landed just so but I thought I'd over egged on the arcs and angles by just a tad. I left it there to empty the feeder and then cast once more. This one landed just so and pulled perfectly into place. I sat on my hands and waited for the rod to pull over hard.

Nineteen minutes and thirty one seconds passed, but nothing whatsoever happened. Miffed that whosoever had hung the sign in the dangling branches had been having a laugh at my expense, I thought of upping sticks, but then something said "cast again, young man, cast again"...

I did as I was told, and after just a minute at rest the rod top pulled around as if a log had snagged the line. I struck and found myself attached to another chub, a tiddler of a pound and half who'd been in the wars. They all count though, they all count. Now, with four and three quarter pounds to my credit a mere four and half pounder would be very nearly enough and a five pounder would clinch it.

And number two...

I walked right along to the upper limits of the stretch where I found some smooth roachy looking water but racing through just a bit too fast for my liking. I eventually put down by a ford, but this was useless. I now had to move back downstream and either explore new options or revisit those that had produced thus far. It was still proving really hard to find any fishable water even though I'd noticed that the water had been falling gradually all day. I tried another swim but found the water too snaggy eventually deciding to go right back down to King Dicks Hole and try again.

The Sence in full flow...

You have been warned...

I really do enjoy this dimension of our challenge. When the chance presents itself to rack up a point for a species you really do get down and dirty with the fishing, grafting at it and against the clock. Now I was visibly running out of time - twenty precious minutes I wasted there and the light was beginning to fade in the sky so I knew I'd have to be pretty sharpish about finding another chub or two to make up my weight of fish before it was time to go.

A natural arch from bank to bank...

By now I'd pretty much exhausted my options and had decided if any swim I'd found thus far would do the honours concerning further chub, then it just had to be Crabtree's. I settled back in and proceeded as before but by now I only had enough bait for a couple or three chucks in so each had to count. The first cast was perfect, I put the rod in the rest and decided to set up the camera for a self timer picture whilst the ground bait worked its magic. I clicked the button and waited for the three beeps and click. Almost exactly as the shutter fired the rod top arced and sprang back and I struck into another three pound chub...

And chub number three...

Close but no cigar...!. Still short by a pound and a half, and with just one feeder load left in the tin. I released the fish some way downstream,reloaded and cast once again. Then I had the phone call that would call time; the girls had finished their shopping and were on the way back from Brum.

"How long?" I asked.

"Twenty minutes" they replied.

"Call me when you are near" said I, "I'll pack up and meet you at the farm when I get your call"

Last cast...

Out went the last cast and on went the headlamp, full beam focussed upon the tip for maximum visibility and unblinking concentration, but somehow I knew it was over. I was willing things just a little too hard now, it was as if I were spooking the fish and emptying the swim with the din of my willpower, but it was too late to move again.

I got the inevitable phone call and packed away the gear, trudging back to the farm in the pitch black of a heavily overcast night. A couple of farm dogs howled as I unlatched the gate and scurrying across the concrete into the beam of my headlamp, their wary eyes like hot coals.

Of course the girls had got lost in the dark lanes and were running late so I could have fished on...!

Next time...

....and there will be a next time, very, very soon.


  1. You beat me to it Jeff!

    I was doing some research myself a few weeks ago and I stumbled on this venue and bookmarked it. I even spoke to Brian about it and he was keen for it.

    The only problem has been the extra water we've had recently - I don't like tackling new waters in dodgy conditions.

    All credit to you for giving it a bash though and it sounds like a fair effort in those conditions. I'm hoping to get there within the next 2 weeks all being well.

  2. Sean, I think that it's worth a bash. Me and Kev are meeting up there next Saturday morning, if you or anyone else reading could make it we could have a bit of a fish-in. There's plenty enough room for a group.

    My way of thinking is that if I can winkle out a few in the worst conditions possible then what would it be like at its best?

  3. Saturday is going to be my next day out, so I may well pop over given the favourable looking forecast.

    We had a Saxon Mill visit penciled in for the end of the season, but I think the lure of a new venue will swing it. I'll talk to Brian in a day or so.