Pete’s River Diary

Double success for Ron

My old friend Ron had paid for a day out on the Avon in aid of BS RandC Funds, and I was pleased to finally get it organised after a delay from last year, due to the awful river conditions we experienced twelve months ago. This year is quite the reverse, with low water and ever-clearing water making it much better for spotting of barbel and chub. We settled in a swim where fish could be seen easily, and fed them up until they were going potty for hemp and casters.

Ron was delighted with a barbel of about seven pounds on his first cast, and we relaxed and chatted about our days spent teaching and how things have changed for both teachers and kids over the years. We are both now retired from the profession, fishing instead of form-filling, and have much to reminisce about! Ron was so pleased with his barbel, he said I should take the next fish. On these guiding days, I do not fish, but try and ensure the guest has the sport, but for fun I relented and expected to get a ubiquitous chub next cast; the swim was full of them.

The rod walloped round and I was soon playing a very good barbel, and at 12.12 it was a significant specimen. I apologized to Ron profusely, as it should have been his fish, but he just smiled and congratulated me, a sign of a true angler and a real gent.

I made sure he was compensated though, and he took another barbel, several chub, and then a lovely first double on his pin and new rod, a beautiful stocky fish of 11.13. A wonderful day’s fishing, in excellent company, and some great […]

By |August 20th, 2013|Pete's River Diary|Comments Off on Double success for Ron|

Dead rabbit omen

After a busy few days with site meetings with the WCSRT, EA, landowners, local clubs etc regarding our BS habitat works on the Avon and Stour, it was good to have a day free to go fishing! As I wandered expectantly towards the river, I passed beneath a tall oak tree, a large and ancient specimen that is probably a few hundred years old. Something fell from the tree, and landed a few feet in front of me, with that soft, sickening thud that can only be made as a dead body hits the ground. It was a large rabbit, with no head, and a few entrails on show. My first thought was that it was lost prey from either a leopard, or a buzzard, both of which will stash a kill up a tree for a while. I quickly discounted the leopard, not common in the Avon valley, although there are tales of large black cats that could be escaped mountain lion. It was likely that one of the buzzards that I often saw perching in the oak had accidentally dropped a meal from a feeding branch above my head; I imagined it cursing to itself about a lost lunch, but took the dead rabbit as a bad omen, and fished with not much confidence.

The rabbit turned out to be lucky, though, and I had a couple of clean sprightly barbel of seven and eight pounds within a couple of hours, who had moved in on the bed of hemp I had introduced a day or so before when I last fished the swim. A quiet spell followed, then, as dusk approached, the slow purr of the centrepin suggested a better fish had […]

By |August 15th, 2013|Pete's River Diary|Comments Off on Dead rabbit omen|

Kennet fish-in

The first of the two Kennet fish-ins organised on the Lower Benyons by John Found was a quite successful affair, with a good few barbel caught and a good time was had by all. Some members had not fished it before, and it was actually only my second visit to the stretch.

It is full of classic barbel swims, but not every swim contains fish all the time, I was told. Some fish it by roving, but the river is big enough to set out to feed up a likely-looking swim and attract them out of the woodwork. Plenty of deep holes and weedy shallows, and lots of overhanging trees and woody debris in the water, and a good spawning site at the top end below the weir, where fast gravelly shallows and plenty of ranunculus can be found.

I had two tiny barbel, one of about six ounces, and another of about a pound, a sign that the barbel are breeding well in recent years. There are some huge fish there as well, with fourteen and fifteen pounders present. They are not immortal, despite what some anglers think, and will eventually die, but good to see small fish ready to replace them.

The eleven pounder I had was a stocky, healthy young fish though, and has a few years in it yet.

By |August 11th, 2013|Pete's River Diary|Comments Off on Kennet fish-in|

Avon barbel feeding at last

It is usually clear enough to find your Avon barbel by spotting, but the water remains stubbornly murky, enabling spotting to be feasible in only the shallower swims, whereas in normal years we can see them in eight feet of water.

The weed is growing slowly, and I guess it takes the nutrient out of the water that is causing the bloom of algae/diatoms that is staining the normally crystal-clear summer Avon.

Found a shoal of barbel in some shallow, weedy water, and a whole bunch of greedy chub, but it took a second session in the swim before they responded to the bait and came onto the feed properly. High water temperatures may not have helped, but eventually they got their heads down and I had a bag of five barbel, all six and seven pounders, and seven chub, two of them over six. All fought well, and were fin-perfect, and there were a couple of big barbel lurking about that will have to wait until next time.

If you take time to look at your fish, you will see all the colour variations and slight abnormalities that are quite normal. The chub had very bright, orangey-yellow fins, it seemed, and some of the barbel had one or two orange spots on the belly that are apparently caused by a tiny skin parasite. All fish will carry a range of parasites, both internally and externally, and these are quite harmless unless weakness and disease or environmental conditions favour a boom in parasite numbers.

By |August 3rd, 2013|Pete's River Diary|Comments Off on Avon barbel feeding at last|

Change of scenery

Had to visit the Severn at Pixham to see the revetment carried out by the EA for Flood Defence purposes. It seems that the bank required armouring to slow down erosion, and although an initial cause for concern, it may be that the stable layer of heavy rocks will actually make fishing more comfortable. The swims were in fact easier to fish at low water, and if the rocks stay in place, no detriment to the fishing. We shall see.

The afternoon was spent at the BS stretch at Bransford, and with low, warm water it was not going to be easy. I had four chub and a barbel of about eight, so not bad considering conditions. There have been several nines and a ten from Bransford this season, and a nicer bit of river you could not ask for, with proper steps and secure car parking close to your swim. I will be back in a week or so, after a flush of rain has freshened the river and got the barbel moving.

I returned down South for a day fishing for the mullet in Christchurch Harbour, and was jammy enough to take a fish just over seven pounds. They are tricky, enigmatic fish, and sitting in a boat in the wide open expanse of the harbour made a nice change from the river bank. I’ll be back there too!

By |July 21st, 2013|Pete's River Diary|Comments Off on Change of scenery|

Gnarled old fish

Another couple of barbel today, but both were clearly quite old fish. As barbel get older, they seem to show signs of fin damage, which mostly repairs itself.

An honest 9.15 was also a bit blind in one eye, but still capable of feeding and fighting hard. The dorsal was very long and scythe-like, and the gnarled fins and patchy scales told the story of a long life, and often the damage is due to being caught and mis-handled.

The smaller fish had some tail damage, but very old and well-repaired, and the cause could only be guessed at. It was about six pounds, but could have been more than 15 years old, and probably a male. I have caught it before, two years ago, from the same swim.

The fresh young fish are also there, however, and there are increasingly encouraging signs of younger generations coming through.

An old acquaintance in the form of a mirror carp of about twelve pounds had me thinking he was a barbel for a while, tearing off across the river in a sizzling run. This fish was caught by me a few years ago, a mile downstream, and his distinctive tiny mouth can not be mistaken. It is difficult to put a forefinger in the tiny tube of a mouth, maybe a simple deformation, or a result of hook damage perhaps, but he can still feed greedily and take my bait again.

By |July 14th, 2013|Pete's River Diary|Comments Off on Gnarled old fish|

Big barbel bonus

I fished a swim I have never fished before today, and used the old watercraft to try and work it out. Not difficult to do really, since there is very little serious weed yet and hard to spot weedbeds, let alone any fish, as the water remains very coloured with algae/diatoms, whatever.

I just leaded around in an area of strong even flow, upstream of a normally very weedy area, and baitdropped a bit of hemp and crumbled boilie into a likely clear spot. Lots of drifting weed was coming down, so a heavy backlead and sunken rod tip avoided most of that.

Three fit chub came in the first three casts, then a bit of a quiet spell, but with a feeling that there was life in the swim, I sat back with a sort of inexplicable confidence, as the hot sun slowly began to lose the fierce intensity that had made fishing almost unbearable that afternoon.

The chub would have rattled any barbel, but it was not long before the firm, continuous purr of the ratchet signalled a bite from something more substantial than a chub. It fought like a chub though, and came towards me shaking its head, and only when it carried on upstream past me and started to take a bit of line did I decide it was a barbel after all.

A good solid ten and a half pounder, and a satisfying fish from the new swim. An hour later, the pin really did scream off, and a fish that simply would not stop had me convinced it was a carp. It hurtled off downstream and across, burning my thumb on the spool, then did it again for good measure before burying itself in […]

By |July 8th, 2013|Pete's River Diary|Comments Off on Big barbel bonus|

First Avon double and more chub

A twelve pound barbel is a nice way to start the season in terms of double figure fish, and this fish was a longish, lean and probably fairly old fish, but it fought like a tiger despite its age.

At first I thought it was a chub, as it shook its head and thumped about, but it soon realized what was happening and screamed off downstream and convinced me it was no mere chub.

I think I have caught it before, same swim, same time last year, and if so it is a fish that stays at home, unlike some, which are real roamers and are never caught twice in the same place.

Hard to see in still, but the baitdropper and a bit of dragging the lead and bare hooklink across the bottom will find a clear spot, though there is a nasty snag in the swim too, a sunken tree trunk half buried in the bottom, which takes no prisoners.

A young, clean, spotless eight pound barbel, from the next generation, came next cast. The scale readings from the Avon barbel scales that we have been sending to Bournemouth University indicate a good range of year classes and a sustainable barbel population, and despite the miserable, negative moanings of some, the evidence is that the Avon barbel are holding their own and showing signs of stability and some improvement.

The chub are still coming thick and fast, and fight really hard on the barbel tackle; strange how they are almost a pest when barbel fishing, but a worthy sole quarry in the winter on finer gear, and much more welcome at that time of year! They are learning fast, and once caught a time or two they will […]

By |July 1st, 2013|Pete's River Diary|Comments Off on First Avon double and more chub|

First Avon barbel and the chub boom

An Avon barbel is often not expected until July, and the murky river means that the almost essential spotting is quite difficult. The low water levels, high temperatures and lack of streamer weed seem to have produced a more dense algal bloom than usual; the river will often take well into July to clear, but seems exceptionally coloured for the time of year.

Pleased therefore to take a fit and feisty seven pound barbel in a catch of eleven chub this afternoon. The chub were in a greedy mood, as is likely early season, and they went bonkers for a simple pellet rig, just aimed at getting a few bites. Actually, at least one of the chub was caught twice, and he did not take long to recover and come back for more.

The chub were all in quite good condition, and fought very well, and were mostly around four to five pounds, with one just topping six pounds.

A day or so later I was pestered by smaller fish, with sparkling little fish of barely a pound wolfing down the pellets. The Avon chub population is looking very healthy, with some very big fish, and a good range of year classes in evidence. The Avon chub fishing has probably never been as good as it currently is on the middle river.

By |June 22nd, 2013|Pete's River Diary|Comments Off on First Avon barbel and the chub boom|

Les barbeaux de la Vienne

A chance of a few days on the lovely River Vienne, after an invite at fairly short notice, was not to be missed. I have fished here before, and relished the scenery, the food, the wine, the fishing, and meeting the people that make this part of France so relaxing and charming.

The Vienne, a rocky, surging river, not unlike the Wye, is largely unfished, and the carp are more attractive to the locals than the barbel. The local anglers are becoming very educated in fish welfare, and the young carp anglers are keen and respectful of their quarry. The carp in the Vienne do not grow big by French standards, but fight like crazy. The silures, the catfish, are still prized by all as a delicacy, as are the sandres, zander, but the barbel are left alone for some reason.

They do not grow big, but are numerous and fight hard, and a pleasant day catching fierce little French barbel in virgin swims, with sight of another angler a rarity, is an experience I shall return for.

We found lots of new swims, spent lazy days catching barbel and carp, and few bream, and had a glorious time. A five pound barbel was a monster, and truly felt like one.

I learnt a recipe for bream that involved a lot of boiling, making a bouillon, and addition of a range of herbs and spices, from a strange but fascinating lady who came to chat, as the French do, while I was fishing, but do not intend to try it out.

By |June 16th, 2013|Pete's River Diary|Comments Off on Les barbeaux de la Vienne|