Friday, 30 October 2015

Avon Roach, Barbel and Pike — Tunnel Vision

Martin hasn't got over it. Fishing the Wye with Trefor West and Joe Chatterton, he hooked but then lost what all agreed was a huge pike and according to Martin, taking his hands off the steering wheel and making shapes in the air, one with "a head this big". He has my sympathy. I once lost a pike at Bury Hill with a head that size. After 20 minutes of fraught battle and with the fish just starting to tire, the hook hold failed. It happens to us all from time to time...

'The one that got away'.

I love such stories. Angling would not be what it is without them. What is interesting is that I have lost large chub and barbel, pike, perch and zander and desirable specimens of every other species, but have never lost a large roach in my career. In fact I cannot recall ever losing a roach of any size once hooked, though I know I must have on occasion. 

On arrival at the banks of the Wark's Avon we encounter one that didn't get away. A carp captured, killed and mutilated by an otter. Interesting that they devour only the protein packed liver and kidneys leaving the carcass behind for the buzzards and the carrion crows.  This carp weighed probably four pounds but just a quarter of a pound of meat was eaten and so each otter must kill a lot of large fish in order to survive on such small portions. I wonder how many gross pounds of fish they must kill for their net daily rations?

I have no personal grudge against them. How can you blame a creature for doing what it must? But I think if we are to coexist peacefully then numbers must be carefully monitored and culls instigated when and if those numbers rise beyond the capacity of a watercourse to support them without decimation of stocks. I know that nature lovers would recoil in horror at such a proposal, but this island is an entirely managed landscape from coast to coast without one square inch of wilderness between.

Mother Nature cannot be left to her own devices here, I'm afraid.  

Not a wilderness

I've decided to go roaming from swim to swim where I'll flick bread and maggots about, see what I find in the way of roach. Martin will squat in just the one for barbel, chub and predatory fish. It doesn't really work out for me. The smaller species do not seem to be active. Bites are curiously hard to find and when they come are non-committal, and so I manage a few gudgeon, but dace and roach are nowhere to be found. Even small perch aren't bothering the grubs. It is most frustrating.

But then the rod is very nearly pulled in the water. Something really worthwhile has taken a bunch of maggots and greedily. I think it must be a trout by the lively fight which tests the light roach rod to its very limits. But it's a baby barbel!

I never expect to catch them this size and I'm always fooled into thinking, 'trout' whenever I do. The Avon does have a few here and there, but I've never had one yet. One day I might be fooled correctly!

Martin is getting what he set out for with braces of barbel and chub and a pike to his credit. Nothing spectacular but encouraging. I struggle to catch anything but gudgeon. And that's very discouraging. Of course there are those who'd blame such a lack of bites on cormorants swearing they'd cleaned the river of all small fish but that just isn't true. They are here in their millions but for some reason they are just not feeding while the larger ones are. Perhaps it's the known presence of an otter that is to blame, and when Martin calls and reports sighting a dog right under his staging, then perhaps there's a little truth in that.

Whatever the truth it seems I'm bound to fail. After last week's great success with roach I was cautious about being too gung ho about my prospects today. But I didn't expect to fail so dismally. 

We round off the day with a single chub to my rod and further pike and barbel to Martin's. Last week may have been all about 'yours truly', but today was all about 'the big guy'. 

Perhaps I should have changed tack and fished for barbel for once... 

But where roach are concerned I do suffer terrible tunnel vision! 


  1. Im not against otters Jeff far from it, but agree the situation needs to be montiored closely and i wouldnt be against a cull. The problem today is that there are so many additonal pressures facing fish stocks e.g. signal crays, cormarants, mitten crabs, mink etc etc and their collective impact combined with a resurgent otter population is not really undestood or even considered.
    Thankfully the spot on the avon in your post which is very close to my heart, is only being affected at present by otters and mink, so with the abesnece of the other pressures (for now at elast), I hope an ecological balance will be reached which means there are still worthwhile fish to target their in the future.


    1. I'm afraid it also has signals present, James. I caught one on a dead bait just last month in the upper weir run off.

  2. Thats the 1st one ive heard of from there, and ive never seen any there myself in all the years ive fished the venue. Still I guess it give the otters an alternative meal to the fish stocks, which is no bad thing!

    PS - i recommend trying a bit further downstream if your after roach


  3. Well, I have tried down and found them, James. Not big but encouraging ones. However, they just weren't having it on this day. Another day perhaps, though I don't think it has great roach potential, somehow. Call it a gut feeling but I'm yet to see any sign of large ones.

  4. "Baby" barbel are like "baby" tench. Very rare to catch one but very welcome when they do put in an appearance.