Towards the end of the river season the draw of the mighty Hampshire Avon and Dorset Stour is hard to resist, so I don’t. My last trip was in conditions that were far from perfect, the chub would have acclimatised to the extreme cold but I had not; still I had caught chub up to a respectable 6lb-4oz and I looked forward to this trip and catching even more of them.
The weather was turning from those extreme cold figures to a forecast of almost summer temperatures at 17C or even 18C by the Thursday; with each day of my intended three day session getting warmer how could I fail? I started off at 5:00am on Tuesday for the 2.5 hour trip as this beats most of the works traffic though I am always amazed at how many cars are about at that time. I had arranged to meet up with John Found in the car park on the Hampshire Avon and sure enough he was already in place and changing into his fishing clothing when I pulled up next to him. Today would be dry but windy with a big chill factor, 10C on the thermometer but 4C on the hands and body exposed to the biting wind. Following a short discussion as to what swims to fish we were both on our seperate way, the chosen swims were some considerable distance apart but with mobile phones we could keep in touch as to how we were progressing with the attempt to catch these sometimes elusive fish.
I considered using the large pellets mentioned in the last blog for about two seconds and then decided on the usual feeder maggot approach, the splash off those pellets would scare every chub within a hundred yards of my swim. The river itself is frighteningly low and everybody is extremely concerned about the coming year, how much lower can it go without very serious problems.
I started off in a favourite swim and after the usual wait I landed a 5lb-4oz chub, that seemed to bode well for the coming days but then I had to wait quite some time before the next bite produced a great fish of 6lb-6oz, an improvement on the season’s best. I was now going into the afternoon and John was having little joy in his swim, plenty of knocks but no fish. Following the advice of our local expert, Pete Reading, he moved upstream about 15 yards and it proved its worth when he quickly caught his first chub of the day, not big but a starter. The thought was that he was fishing at the downstream end of the chub’s territory and those knocks could well have been just tail flicks. As was discussed later at Pete’s house, ‘If you want to meet someone you could stand outside their front door and eventually they will come out. Go inside the house and they are there most of the time.’ John lost another chub that got into the rushes at his feet, and no more action followed so that was it for day one.
Wednesday the forecast was fairly dire, strong winds and rain for most of the day. When fishing the Avon there are very few sheltered spots so taking the umbrella was essential. John had decided to fish the same swim as he ended up in the previous day; I moved to a different section and settled into a swim that had previously giving quite good results although by its very nature the fish could be holding up in any of several spots. I soon settled into the routine of casting and bait dropping that goes along with this style of fishing. A couple of droppers of both hemp and maggot to start the day, regular casting to keep fresh maggots going into the flow where they will eventually be washed downstream. Then just the occasional top up of hemp to hopefully attract fish from even further downstream. The plan was great but at the end of the day I had just one medium chub for my efforts, the plans don’t always work. That said, John’s plan did. Not in his first choice swim, but by 11:00am he had still had no action and decided on a move to a swim a couple of hundred yards away – good move as it turned out!
Following the same routine as I just described he quickly put a 5lb-7oz chub in the net but even better he followed it up with a new river best for him at 6lb-10oz. This might sound easy but his swim was in major traffic lane for the weed that always seems to be drifting down the river. It can be a nightmare and your cast can stay in place for seconds or maybe ten minutes, but you will be wiped out. Rod held high or right down low, even the tip under water and you still catch the drifting rubbish. On a day like today the wind will dislodge much of this weed rubbish back into the flow making the problem even worse; it is only the potential rewards that keep you going and John got yet another reward in the form of his last chub of the day at 6lb-1oz. His last fish though was a bonus barbel of 8lb-10oz taken just as the sun was setting to round off a great day’s fishing.
The next day, Thursday, was the one where the weather forecast looked most favourable. Possibly 17C, dry with light SW winds, what more could you ask for? I went into a different swim again and John went back to the swim that had produced such a good result the previous day. I worked on my swim with feeder and dropper up to 1:00pm with just one medium chub again. There had been a couple of real wrap rounds but these were far more likely to have been a passing salmon or pike, just maybe a barbel but I would have expected a take of him if that was the culprit. I decided on another move but when I tried the chosen swim all I got was minnows, little demons that jump onto a bait as soon as it enters their area of occupation. I tried a few casts but all to no avail, moved along to another nearby swim but again they were there. Although not set in stone there is a fair chance that when the minnows are about in that number then the chub are not present. The chub could turn up at any moment and the minnows stop but I did not want to waste my time on the bank hoping that this would happen. Meanwhile it was happening in John’s swim.
He had gone through the morning without a touch, but the weed was far less of a problem and there were no minnows to contend with. Then out of the blue he got a bite and immediately hooked what he thought was going to be a very good chub, a couple of minutes later he knew it was not a chub but far more likely to be a barbel. It fortunately had not made any powerful runs downstream, after all John was fishing with chub gear and could probably not have stopped it. Several long minutes later he drew a large barbel over the waiting landing net and once weighed he had a new personal best barbel for the river at 13lb-8oz. Fantastic! He then got a couple more chub though these were of far more moderate size at less than 5lb. When he phoned to say he would be packing up at 4:00pm to beat the traffic on his way home I did not hesitate to comment I would be there shortly.
I got round to his swim and found that although I had fished it many times and caught plenty of fish in the past, John was fishing to a different part of the currents than those I would normally chose. When he began to put his tackle away he was still getting the occasional knock off something, trouble was it could be a dace or roach, you never know. With two new river personal bests under his belt, both of which were very big fish he left a very happy man well content with his results for the three day break. Then I began to fish with just under two hours of daylight left and obviously I was more confident of a fish than in my previous two swims for the day. No bait dropping to be done, John had already done so on a few occasions so I relied on the swim feeder doing the job with the recasting needed following the occasional wipe out by weed. Just the same as John I had several knocks but could not contact a fish but then at gone 5:00pm I finally hit a good fish that played hard to get in the extra flow of this swim. I wondered if it was another barbel but then I saw the silver flash of a chub and things got very interesting. When it finally went over the rim of the net I wondered if I had recaptured John’s 6lb-10oz fish of the previous day but that was not to be. The scales gave a reading of 7lb-2oz on a near perfect specimen chub, only the fourth over that magic weight that I’ve achieved. A chap fishing nearby had seen me land the fish and he came across to look at it, this helped in getting photos since he had confirmed that he was quite reasonable at that task and so he proved to be. Not long after that the minnows moved in as is so often the case at dusk, I packed up but who worried about minnows – not me.
In three days fishing John and I had only caught a handful of chub each, but what an average, 6lb-1oz, 6lb-6oz, 6lb-10oz and that 7lb-2oz cheery on the cake. With John’s 13lb-8oz barbel it went to show just why the Southern rivers have such a draw on me. The following day I stopped off at the roach lake but I had used up my allocation of luck when just one of the bigger roach fell to my maggot feeder, better luck next time.