Saturday 10 January 2009

The sleeping river

I was up the allotment by 7.30am, digging worms by torchlight. They were not easy to find in the frozen ground until I pulled up a length of weed killing carpet and dug in the insulated soil beneath it. I toiled on, working up a sweat despite the sub zero temperatures, until I'd I managed enough for a whole day
, then returned home full of optimism. I was at the waters edge by first light, drawn to the roach swim I'd found last trip out.

A gloomy overcast morning promised a dark day, and I fancied, rising temperatures, however, the ground was still frozen solid and the cat ice had not yet thawed. The water was even lower now, and the flow had dwindled to a sluggish crawl. The swim had seen some activity since I was last here, the evidence, a piece of freshly cut eucaIyptus hung up in the reeds and a scatter of large fish scales that must have come from a carp or more likely a large chub, pointing to human activity on one hand and possibly that of an otter, on the other. I just cannot work out why a piece of a non-native tree should have been here, perhaps it came downstream from a back garden tree surgery session, and someone hooked it?

I cast out two rods loaded with worms, the light rod with a small red worm and the heavy rod a lobworm. Nothing happened for an hour or so and then suddenly the roach rod trembled and I was in to a good fish. I hoped it was a big roach but something in the jagging fight told me I was attached to yet another chub, and so it transpired. A fish average for the stretch, an old fish with battle scars, but welcome of course. A good start I thought, but after another hour of inactivity it seemed a false one.

I moved downstream to the next swim, a gap in the reeds that offered more scope than the previous, and I hoped more fish. But nothing happened. The rods sat absolutely motionless, without a twitch, for a further hour. I tried every bait in my armoury; bread, meat, pellet, worm and various cocktails, but without so much as a tremble on any. It was odd. The usual run of things on this river is spells of inactivity punctuated with often frantic spells of fishy attention, but today was turning out to be an exception.

I moved again, to a narrow channel between reed beds where the flow increased and then fell into a pool downstream. Again, nothing doing. The weather, which had been so gloomy, seemed to be on the break. A strip of light had appeared on the horizon to the South and promisingly, seemed to be approaching. Within the hour the clouds had broken, scattered and finally the sun appeared through them. Soon the sky had cleared completely, all the clouds had drifted northwards and the day was utterly transformed, from deep gloom to glorious clarity.

I hoped that this decisive change would bring about a distinct improvement in fishing fortunes but the drought continued. However, the sun was out and the cold had evaporated, in fact it was warm enough to do a spot of mid-winter sunbathing. I lit up the Kelly Kettle to brew a pint of tea, the thick smoke of dried reed stems drifted lazily across the meadow. It was pleasant, balmy, and interrupted by neither man, beast or fish. These were the quietest hours I'd spent on any midlands river since I started to fish them. It was as if the fish had been stolen away, moved en-masse, to elsewhere.

I moved swim again and again, but everywhere the story was the just the same. Now I've had this happen before, but on lakes and never rivers. I have fished alone all evening and into the night on certain carp lakes, where nothing happens or indeed will happen until a certain magic moment arrives. Until it does then rats, voles or mice will not scamper past, fish will not rise or jump, and the ducks will skulk around, drifting aimlessly along the edge of the reeds. The whole of nature seems hushed and listless, till quite suddenly, at a moment that has nothing to do with us, the ducks start to quarrel, the reeds rustle with moving rodents and carp jump unexpectedly in the margins. At these times it is almost certain that within no time at all you will have a screaming run, and perhaps, if you are unlucky, on both rods at once.

But somehow, I knew that this moment would not arrive whilst I was on the bank, but I fished on. Then, the temperature dipped and I had to dress up again. I noticed a misty look to the fields and so I moved around the trees to get a look at the horizon. A thick grey cloud hugging the skyline was moving gradually my way. Within half an hour I was immersed in dense freezing fog and within the whole hour the temperature had plummeted from an limber plus five, to a stiff minus seven.

Late in the evening I moved again, back to the roach swim. A huge raft of rubbish that had broken away from its moorings, drifted downstream and past my rod tops, the detritus in its wake, giving the first rod top movements since the morning's solitary chub. Then at last, I saw the evidence that the river still contained fish, as a big pursuing bow wave, and a splashy escape, saw a chub or big roach, avoid certain death at the jaws of a pike.


  1. Jeff, I think you'd like the Plough AS stretch of the Avon nr Ryton-on-Dunsmore.

    Still a small river here but full of features with some big Chub and Barbel.

    Also, Leamington Angling Assocs. water at Wasperton's worth a look.

  2. Thanks Izaak.

    I've been thinking of exploring other stretches of the Upper Avon but have had some trouble locating those who run them! Can't find any reference to Plough AS on the web unfortunately, have you any contact details?

  3. Jeff, email me at and I'll let you have the contact details of the Plough AS and a few other snippets of info which might be of interest.

    Best Regards,

    Keith .J