Saturday, 19 January 2013

Small Stream Adventures — A Surprise Find

What's a winter without snow? Last winter was a non-event with just one fall of about half an inch in Coventry, the two winters preceding were proper ones, this year looked like a wash out through November and December, but yesterday it finally came in abundance so naturally I went fishing

I don't know why I like fishing when it's snowing, but I do. Perhaps it's because roach look so bloody ravishing against it with their silvery scales and bright red eyes and fins? Maybe it's because the largest roach I ever caught was banked against it? But mostly it's because it creates such a beautiful setting for fishing when a fall is heavy, fresh and flawless.

Snow makes roach fishing hard going though. Constantly recasting bread is not the easiest thing to do as the fingers get colder and colder when fumbling with a hook and bait is a necessary pain and after an hour or two a genuine one. Nevertheless, if I were to miss the opportunity I'd regret it, so I get out and do it regardless.

The river appeared like a black streak of pitch winding through the virginal white of the meadow. Dog walkers hadn't yet ventured out so there wasn't a mark on it but those in my own trail and the dusty dry snow fell heavily covering them over behind.

I sat myself down perched high above the river and dropped the bread disk bait, pre-prepared for ease, into the sluggish water. I was expecting bite after bite as I would have gotten two years ago when I last fished this particular stretch and under similar conditions. None came immediately and I thought that odd, but five minutes later the tip twitched. There were fish here after all.

It was half an hour later that a bite came that was enough of one to strike at. I missed it, over egged it, and tangled in the little bush to my left. Free-lining with just a couple of BB shot to sink the bread takes a bit of getting used to — strikes at bites when there's just ten feet of line or less in the water tend to zip out far too quickly and tangling in bushes is a bad idea with cold fingers!

I finally hooked one and it was a roach as expected. An average fish for the stream of about three quarters of a pound. I wanted to see if the biggest of the fish I'd caught two years ago from this swim had grown on to a pound and a half or more in the meantime but the bites weren't forthcoming and it looked as if they'd moved out of what had been home to quite a large shoal.

For the last hour I moved upstream to fish above a new river feature created by the floods. A far bank bush had fallen in, created a dam and added an extra six inches of water to what had been a shallow run. First cast came a bite, and the second too. They were here, or so I thought when the third cast hooked a fish, only it wasn't quite what I'd come to expect from this stretch because it turned out to be a chub.

No greats shakes — a chub. However, this was a newcomer because they simply weren't around before. If they had been then I'd have seen them in summertime when the water is gin clear and because no chub can resist bread I'd have caught them amongst the roach in wintertime. But I never did. Just as roach had made their way upstream to occupy a newly created home during the floods and travelled a mile to do so, chub had also travelled up from way downstream, probably two miles or more, to occupy new territory here. One day, no doubt, I'll catch a trout!

A third fish was caught at the last. A roach. By then it was too cold to fish on and getting dark too, so it was time to warm up with a brisk walk the mile and half home thinking about floods and their far reaching effects on small streams through what had become a landscape flattened by sleds, snow angels, tires and footprints, streaked with wandering tracks leading through the wrong kind of snow to the crumbled heaps of aborted snowmen.


  1. proper hardcore angling there m8t well done

  2. I've really been enjoying your tales of a changing stream it must be very satisfying to have caught some fish there too?

  3. It has been George. It's such a small and delicate ecosystem that I've come to care for it. Catching the fish it holds has become something of a passionate study rather than a means to rack up points on some arbitrary set of standards. Though I wouldn't mind beating my one-four river best, which is an astonishing fish for such a little stream, at some point!

    It's in recovery after a century of abuse and getting healthier all the time. I like watching what happens. It's miraculous to see nature abhor a vacuum and fill it against the odds. Pitching in a few logs and rocks has amazing repercussions, so much so that I'm loath to interfere too much, afraid of what I might undo!

  4. That stream looks wonderful Jeff and there is something rather special about fishing in the snow, the way it amplifies even the slightest of sounds. Well done on those fish, they look in very good condition.

  5. There's never a mark on them, a scale missing or a split fin, Mark.