Here's an interesting map of the British Isles from drought to complete saturation —and with almost every drop of the water that achieved the astonishing feat falling in just the last two months. It was a remarkable time when even non-anglers were forced to notice what a surfeit of the wet stuff really can achieve, but with the evidence everywhere to see we don't need a map to tell us anglers that!
Reaching the river Avon at Hampton Lucy it was abundantly clear that the vast floodplain there had been submerged for much of that time and that the river had reached peak heights that would have us at the fishery gate in the picture below with only our eyes above the surface.
The river now was five foot below the soles of our our boots. All around were the signs of the receded floods —trapped debris choking broken willows who'd fallen off their precarious perches when banks were undermined, thick deposits of sand well above bank where huge swirling back eddies had formed on the inside of bends, butterflied mussel shells littering the fields and a continuous strand of filamentous plant matter woven through the very tops of the riverside hedgerows, drawn across mown lawns, wrapped around tree trunks, continuing into the woods beyond, and vanishing north-east all the way to the headwaters of the river and every of its tributaries, and south-west, all the way to the sea...
But now the river looked fantastic. It was still flowing strongly within its banks but was that lovely green colour that screams 'fish' instead of the disheartening thick brown flotsam and jetsom soup we'd grown so accustomed to. We couldn't wait to get stuck in. Martin went barbel fishing in the weir pool and I went off searching for chub with bread and it was pretty clear I'd find them because the river looked a chub fishing heaven with all kinds of features to cast at.
The first swims I chose to try were ones normally difficult to reach because of a muddy swamp between bank and channel but now a foot or two of water covered the bog and a long cast reached into it. No bites were found in the first above the willow stump but a move with rod and net below it bought an immediate response when the first fish of the year was hooked and banked. I hoped for a roach on the way in but of course it was the day's target, albeit a small one.
The tackle was brought down and I settled in for an hour or two. Next cast to the same spot sat for a while — I turned to extract something or other from the tackle bag only to find the rod hooped hard over when I looked back. The fish made a strong run downstream, stopped and came up near bank. This felt a better fish altogether and gave a tough and dogged account of itself. Another chub of three and a half pounds.
Two fish on consecutive casts and I thought I was in for a proper bagging session now! If I played my cards right I could winkle out one after the other and perhaps get a five pounder or better still by end of day if they were feeding this well in the morning. Another cast, and a tremble of the rod top. A fourth cast, and a tiny nudge. A fifth cast sat for ten minutes before a rewind. The sixth, seventh, tenth, twentieth, the fortieth, the hundredth and no doubt the five hundredth if I 'd the time to get so far made absolutely no impact whatsoever on the now obdurate fish despite swim hopping the entire stretch from weir to bridge from ten o'clock in the morning till five o'clock in the evening.
Martin had fared no better in the weir pool with just a couple of little knocks and his worm chewed once or twice through all the day. His pellets and boilies went ignored completely as had my luncheon meat when the lack of action on bread forced the sleeper rod out of the quiver. The brief feeding spell had either lasted minutes, or we'd arrived at the very last of it.
Nevertheless, it was so enjoyable to be out and about on a such a lovely mild day with the river looking better than it had for months on end that it really didn't matter. It was a shame that the fish didn't oblige, but they've had something of a surfeit lately, I'd suppose, of whatever food was swept up and drowned from the submerged land and dislodged from the bed. I couldn't find a live mussel anywhere. I'm sure the chub would have had one of those... hungry or not.