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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    On another planet

    Default 100 Different Rivers

    A few years ago I set my self a challenge just for a bit of fun, just for the sake of it really with no agenda or expectation just a trek in to the unknown, rod in hand, a bit of bait and a lot of enthusiasm and earlier this year I finally completed it, and I've finally got round to writing what happened so here’s how it went….

    100 Different Rivers

    I have always had a love for fishing running water and quite a few years ago I got talking with my dad about how many rivers we had fished, over a glass or two of inspiration we began to count and the resulting total was surprising, whilst we had fished many stretches of local rivers like the Thames, Lea and Colne we hadn’t fished many different rivers at all, little more than a dozen in total, maybe fifteen at a push. We reminisced about days catching the bus then the train from our council house to get to Watford to fish the Gade and he also told me stories of how as a coach driver he used to take fishing clubs down to places like the Hampshire Avon and would borrow some gear to wet a line, these stories certainly whetted my appetite. After another glass (or two) I hastily said “Dad wouldn’t it be cool to fish 100 rivers” the reply was something along the lines of “bonkers you wont do it son” and whilst thinking he had a more than valid point, there was nothing like trying to prove your old man wrong.

    Challenge accepted I had to catch a fish for a river to qualify and fish like minnows and sticklebacks couldn’t count, after all I could have fished my local Edgware Brook, I would have caught something there but it would not have been very nice, no it had to be good clean rivers and hopefully good fishing. I also wanted them to be either free fishing or day ticket, joining a multitude of clubs would make it too easy I thought, I knew there would be quite a few but not sure how many I could find, either way if I fell short I would be fishing new rivers and getting a bend in the rod, I wasn’t worried about big fish or pb’s, it was a time to explore, get out and about and most of all I just wanted to have a fun easy challenge, knowing I had a few local rivers within striking distance plus some famous chalk stream day ticket venues to explore I set of on an awfully long adventure.

    A nice bit of free fishing on my doorstep

    After the first season (Did I mention this would be long?) a dozen or so rivers soon doubled when I visited some well known rivers and picked off others closer to home that I really should have fished before, spurred on by fishing some wonderful rivers I was well and truly hooked even if I did allow myself to chase roach, chub and barbel at my usual haunts every now and then with dad. Why I hadn’t fished these new rivers before I do not know, perhaps as anglers we learn our banker waters and stick to them knowing we can catch, maybe It’s because I’m greedy or perhaps familiarity does breed contempt, after all I was crossing many a good river I knew to fish somewhere potentially rubbish, a journey in to the unknown was probably the draw and at least that’s what I told myself.

    A well known river and the scenery was stunning

    After a period of knocking off rivers I already knew about things got a bit harder and a little more research was needed, word of mouth here, and magazine article there and of course much browsing of maps, these were the most fun, finding a blue line with a weird name and wondering what it will look like. A window was opened and for the first time 100 looked a distinct possibility and It wasn’t too long before I was around the 50 mark. The fishing gear even found it’s way in to the boot for family holidays, it was amazing how many great spots I found for a picnic all of which seemed to be by a river – funny that.

    A decent spot for a picnic

    Travelling further afield I found myself taking short breaks just for the fishing, staying in cheap hotels, caravan and camp sites with my maps printed off and enthusiasm overflowing. I made my way around the South, West Country, Midlands and East Anglia, my little old car trundling down the motorway being overtaken by nearly everyone and everything, the world may have been going by me at a pace but I cared not for I was going fishing, time and tide wait for no man but the river would still be there if I’m an hour late. Long 4 hour day trips to fish a random river may seem strange but I had nothing better to do and sometimes that road trip just beckons, the sense of adventure got me out the house when I had no work on and got me on a river bank somewhere, guaranteed to catch more than I would at home that’s for sure. If ever got a sat nav I’d be dangerous dad always said but whilst the cigarette lighter doesn’t work on my old banger the main things do and I was grateful I was never one of those cars on the hard shoulder, touch wood. Visiting different parts of the country and some amazing rivers I had never even heard of before was the best bit of it all and catching fish was a bonus, as was getting home safe and sound.

    I even took up sea fishing, well coarse fishing style, twiddling my thumbs during the close season I decided to try a few tidal estuaries and It was great fun even if it was a major learning curve, bass, mullet, wrasse and other saltwater species offered super sport on coarse gear and a whole new world opened up, it was like taking up fishing again being a novice and I loved it. Sea anglers are a good down to earth bunch and I am slightly envious of those who have a nice bit of coast on their doorstep, I was more than happy to be running a float through in April and May, no more close season frustrations for me and I look forward to revisiting those coastal marks and learning a lot more, catching more new sea species with the odd new river here and there no doubt. Any excuse for a few days of fresh sea air each year.

    I would run a float through anywhere

    It had now been a few seasons since that initial conversation with dad and I was finally in touching distance in the 90s and I worked out I had only been doing between 10-20 new rivers a season, mind you I had also been fishing my usual rivers plus revisiting some of the new spots I had found. There was never any rush and I should have really done it all for charity but never thought of that, I was just doing it because I could. A leisurely stroll around the countryside had finally lead me closer to home and closer to my goal 96...97...98..99…….

    Number 100 was to be on a tiny river near where it all started. That was the plan, a tiny unknown stream, nothing pretentious, a down to earth finale where any fish would do. However It was one of those days, the wind was blowing squally showers sideways, my float was in the air most the time like a kite and I was fishing like an idiot, to make matters worse the stream was full of minnows, a stream I could jump across, was there any bigger fish in here I asked my self as the hours ticked by, with no evidence that anyone else had fished it I feared the old chequebook and pen, what a great time to blankety blank I thought! I was getting soaked, cold, deflated and hungry, the ‘just one more cast’ hunger we all get when we know we should stop for lunch.

    I found a deeper hole but yet more minnows until I finally, to my complete shock had something better on, I played it across the current like a giant barbel saying to myself “please don’t come off” then swung it to hand – a dace, all of four ounces perhaps the finest dace in the whole world, well to me it was as I gently returned it. I had the place to myself and whilst I stopped short of removing my fishing hat and raising my rod like a cricketer on his ton I did do some sort of stupid fist pump thing, laughed a lot and I think ‘get in’ was said a few times as I sprung about. Can catching small fish in a tiny river be fun? Well this was hilarious and I’m thankful no Joe Public was around to see my dace dance. I then sat back and thought to myself “I’ve done it Dad” Lunch tasted good right there, sitting soaked and cold with rain dripping down my nose, I looked around across the moor, I still hadn’t seen a single person all day and I thought of how lucky I am to be here fishing.

    Here are some of the rivers…

    Aldingbourne Rife, Addle Bourne, River Arun, River Adur, River Ash, River Ant, River Allen, River Arrow, River Avon x4, River Axe x2, River Anker, River Asker, River Bulbourne, Blackwater River, Borle Brook, River Bourne, River Brede, River Beane, River Brue, River Bure, Broadway Brook, River Banwell, River Brit, River Colne, River Cray, River Chet, River Chelt, River Chess, River Chew, River Crane, River Char, River Cam, River Cherwell, River Crouch, River Deben, River Derwent, River Erewash, River Ember, River Frome x3, Fray’s River, River Gade, River Great Ouse, River Great Stour, River Hamble, Heacham River, Hundred River, River Hiz, River Itchen, River Ivel, River Ise, River Kennet, River Lea, River Lark,, Lullebrook, Little Avon,River Lambourn, River Leam, Little Ouse, River Loddon, River Lugg, River Medway, Mor Brook, Mythe Brook, River Mole, River Mease, River Nene, River Otter, River Ouse, River Ouzel, River Rother, Rea Brook, River Salwarpe, River Severn, River Sid, River Stour x3, River Simene, River Trent, River Thurne, River Tame, River Teme, River Test, River Thet, River Tone, River Tillingham, River Thames, River Ver, River Waveney, River Wensum, River Wey x2, River Windrush, River Wissey, River Wye x2, River Yare, Land Yeo, Congresbury Yeo, Mark Yeo, River Yeo.

    I always did as much research as I could before fishing somewhere new but there were times when it looked private, in these cases I stayed away, except for one occasion when I kind chap allowed me to fish in his garden. Common land is normally privately owned and despite what many think is not a guarantee of piscatorial rights so these had to be researched and If areas were public I researched the local clubs to make sure it’s not their water, if it was council land and there was no official signs to the contrary then I went for it, this meant my fishing was never challenged and if I was to have trespassed then I would have moved on no question. Some rivers I fished are no longer available on day ticket and some have since suffered pollution, some are worth a day trip whereas others really aren’t, some have many different spots to fish and others have barely one, which you wouldn’t find in a hurry, I’m being deliberately vague for obvious reasons.

    A battle with a barbel

    The gear I used was basic most of the time, I often took just one float rod, which being five piece meant I could store my gear in the boot of my car, take my time looking for the right area and reccie the water with the tackle out of sight. My reel was loaded with either Drennan 4’4lb or 3’2lb floatfish with a slightly lighter hooklength. Size 18 for maggot or size 12 for bread and they were often the only baits I needed aside from some prawns and dry flies, keeping everything light and mobile I was able to roam, set up and pack up without fuss, often jumping back in the car to have a look at the next ‘possible’ I had mapped out down the road, or do some usual holiday stuff with the missus, it sure felt good stopping of at a nice country pub after a cracking bit of fishing.

    I was always float fishing or freelining moving baits, nothing against fishing static at all, It’s just I don’t have the patience to sit there as I always want to make something happen. Floats varied from wire stemmed sticks to matchsticks, wagglers to bubble floats and often no float at all fishing Tenkara style, the end justified the means and all I wanted was my bait to behave naturally. My set up was usually really simple as was my style as I’ve learned over the years my technique is a bit ‘out there’ at times, sometimes it pays to just keep at it on the days when you are hooking everything but fish, it’s amazing what comes to persistence and often watercraft was the most important skill to hone.

    Spending a day on a new river especially a clear one was like opening a new book each time and in turn I would be using that book to work out what the fish are doing on a similar river which may be coloured, even so every trip taught something new and there’s no substitute for getting out there, revisiting some rivers built up a better picture each time but having fished some of my local streams hundreds of times I maintain that is is impossible to fully learn any river, they change year on year, week on week even day by day. The river knows much that we never will and she won’t yield all her secrets to some nobody who is just a passing through in a mere blink of her eye.

    The sun sets on another adventure

    Each river threw up a unique challenge, one which I couldn’t wait to take on, every time I turned up at a new water I didn’t know what to expect and I always set up with the enthusiasm of a child, it really did rekindle a desire to explore the unknown we all started out with, I was suddenly the 8 year old on the bus heading off to our local pond with dad to catch my first perch each time. What species are down there? Are they monsters? Or will I blank? Perhaps it’s polluted and there’s no fish in there?

    Not knowing what fate lied in store magnified the excitement and anticipation, when the float went under I was often elated, even if it was the smallest fish of the day it would still be the first and a new river would be added to the list. Some rivers as it turned out were crammed full of fish and some you had to use all your tricks to get a bite, or get lucky depending on which way you look at it. Many rivers had vast shoals of fish that would stay around for a great day’s trotting whereas others had fish which would spook with the slightest disturbance, be it through heavy feet or an unnatural looking bait, these rivers were fun, a real challenge and great to learn from.

    On one river I had my first fish on a bare hook whilst testing my shotting whereas others I really had to work for it especially in winter. These were often the most rewarding and when the float did dip under the surprise often caught me unawares “blimey It’s gone under” would release steam in to the cold air on more than one occasion, yes all those hours on the road did lead to many a conversation with myself.

    I did manage a couple of blanks although I repaid one another visit a few years later with success, there was a roach shoal stretching from bank to bank on the second visit, magic! I knew I would catch this time. Turns out the water was too saline the first time around as it was only 50 yards from the sea and a storm had blown too much sea water over the pump house, pushing the fish upriver, at least that’s what some wise old sea dog told me, sounded right too and if there’s one thing in angling that’s worth learning is local knowledge is priceless, mind you he could have been a ghost as one minute he was there and next he was gone, such was the charm of some of the characters I met along the way. I ended up getting quality roach one after the other, whilst glancing up at the sea every now and then which was also surreal, this made the previous blank worthwhile although I did have to wait a few years before I realised the rivers true potential as it was miles away and one of those holiday venues. The other river was polluted which was sad and too many have major issues which were evident, some of the rivers have since been polluted after my first visit, some things sadly don’t change.

    Swollen rivers in winter needed a different train of thought

    The geography of each river was always different, sometimes I was limited to one swim, which was the only access point often involving some improvisation, a bit of wading perhaps, or a long net handle, that sort of thing, whereas other times there was miles of bank to wander. I would spend a whole day on some rivers and just and hour or two on others. I’d never knowingly trespass and did a lot of research although I did get it wrong a few times to be disappointed by a tree lined dry ditch that looked so inviting on a map, the best one was when I rocked up to fish a fine meandering footpath.

    Some of the rivers were easy to find as they were legendary but many I had never even heard of, probably tiny shadows of what they once were but rewarding to fish nonetheless. Freelining a maggot into a hole a foot deep trying to catch the only fish in view was just as good as a session running a stick through for 50lb of fish. Funny how setting out just to catch anything throws up some surprises so I was delighted to get a few big fish along the way, seems the more I fished the luckier I got. Catching the sea species was also a laugh as it usually meant a new pb every time given my limited experience of all things salty, it was great fun taking a photo of a new fish then trying to work out what on earth it is, even using books for reference was hard so It was good to get help off the internet, turns out there’s a lot more species that swim around our docks and estuaries than I had ever imagined, coarse techniques work well for marine species and it’s also weird how much they like bread.

    Many rivers were just too gorgeous to describe but I’ll give it a go anyhow, my favourites often involved fast water, the faster the better, the kind of flows almost too fast to stand in, I’d find myself sitting on a rock in the middle of a rapid upland river, dippers one side, wagtails the other and kingfishers visible from a long way downstream as they zoomed towards me, changing direction last minute like a fighter plane as I net another grayling, the only sounds being that of the bubbling water as it breaks over the rocks echoing in the steep gorges, seemingly in an endless rush to push downstream, it doesn’t get much better, a kid from the council estate in places like this, I had to pinch myself sometimes that it was all mine, at least for the day anyway and on many occasions I had the river to myself.

    Sometimes the fishing was sensational often throwing up the unexpected but most times I just had to settle for pretty darn good. Lowland drain type rivers offered a tranquil charm and a different more relaxed approach, although sometimes they are unfishable in summer due to weed and bankside vegetation, whereas others were accessible but full of boats and had courses shaped by man.

    Tidal reaches offered the possibility for absolutely anything and there was always something going on even if it was just me getting stuck in the mud again, these rivers always kept you on the go and could switch on or off at any given state of the tide depending on the ebb or indeed the flow.

    Small streams were always fun and hardly fished, especially if they were near a more illustrious river, full of flora and fauna gently meandering in summer but totally different beasts come winter, people don’t go for a wander up and down these rivers as much nowadays which is a shame and I must admit to loving these little intimate streams, some species can be surprisingly big if you put the work in and it doesn’t take a huge cast to the skyline to catch them.

    Other rivers were urban, such areas often have the most free fishing and whilst it isn’t always pretty they can be really good, I grew up fishing these so have no problem with them, besides living in a deprived area had it’s benefits as everywhere else seemed nicer, even the graffiti was spelt better. Some areas have gone downhill though regarding the fishing, although quite why anyone would want to risk their health eating fish from some of these rivers is beyond me, it is going on and there’s no denying it’s having an impact on fish stocks. Urban areas of country towns are usually nicer and it is quite funny when you walk through a park in waders, wearing a manky old fishing jacket and a smelly bait apron that has got it’s own ecosystem. “Morning” often catches out those who stare although that usually means getting asked what’s in there, I’m always surprised when the locals don’t know what’s in the water their dogs paddle in each day or when walkers finally see their first kingfisher – welcome to our world. They get quite curious if you’re catching fish and even more so when you tell them how far you have come.

    I would always find time to chat to families and passers by even if it compromised the fishing sometimes, kids walking off asking their dad if they can go fishing was often more rewarding to hear than the splash of another fish, although I would often catch something when watched, be rude not to show them a fish or two, even if it was just to allay the stereotype of us sitting there catching nothing. It would be sad If local people never saw any anglers on the banks of the rivers, whilst they drink at pubs named after our forebears. You do get a lot of funny looks though when you take a wrong turn and end up away from the river in the local high street, which I have managed a few times, sometimes you have to just laugh it off after all you could be going to work like they are.

    Overall it’s something I wish I had done earlier as I could only imagine how good some of these rivers were decades ago but I still enjoyed fishing many of the rivers that by popular opinion are well past their best. I had a wonderful time exploring unknown rivers even if expectation levels were low at times and this meant some pleasant surprises and hidden gems were found. It was great to ‘feel’ a new river and sense the contrasting nuances each river offered, differing flows and the lie of each river meant different behaviour and this in turn meant a different thought approach was needed for success, even if I did keep the fishing side of things simple drawing knowledge from a trip to a similar river could mean the difference between a good day or not. Saying that though, no two rivers were the same, some were similar but never the same.

    A little 'Lady' on the shallows

    Species varied in their distribution with some rivers screaming a certain species but not having them and others being more predictable although I am loathe to say that word in describing any river, often similar waters were in close vicinity of each other and sometimes this didn’t make sense that the species were different. Of course one day trip cannot give a complete overview of a whole river but it can give a good idea of stock levels and distribution in certain stretches.

    Grayling for example are very common in certain areas, such a fast, agile fish who’s elegant lady like appearance belies their ability in the fastest of currents, one of my favourite fish to catch even if they are quite bonkers at times, they can smash a bait so quick the float doesn’t even move or you could end up catching dozens from a foot of water where you can’t even see any fish, fighting to the end they need some care when unhooking and how well they swam off varied from river to river.

    Talking of mad fish, trout are even more common, growing up in London the only ones I ever saw were in a supermarket or tiny escapees from trout farms, turns out they are everywhere and don’t come in cellophane, I did manage some wild brownies on a few rivers inside the M25 which was a bonus, this may sound strange to those who have trout in abundance but it’s actually quite a rare occurrence.

    Dace seem to be doing well and are often the apex fish on many rivers which indicates the problems the larger fish are facing. Barbel on the other hand seemed to have peaked a few years back but how much of that is down to reliance on stocking? I did get a few on new rivers but didn’t really target them as well as I could, once again some rivers seem to have stronger fish than others, something I found intriguing.

    Eels are rare, nothing new there but I did try for them on rivers that looked ‘eely’ with more success coming on rivers that had unbroken access to the sea. Big Roach and Perch had the wonderful knack of turning up when least expected whereas carp and tench eluded me completely during the challenge, I did come agonizingly close to a small wild common on a tiny coastal river although I wasn’t too worried as I’ve only had two dozen river carp and a handful of river tench in my whole life so I wasn’t expecting to get either during the challenge.

    Pike would be pike and announce their presence rather obtrusively given I wasn’t fishing for them, I managed to land a fair few including a flukey 20lb fish from a famous trout beat whilst after grayling, never ever seen a pike as fat and I think I never will.

    I could go on for hours about different theories for each species as I spent as much time watching them as fishing for them, something I’ve learned to do more of over the years and low summer levels are perfect for this, and polaroids of course. It’s a shame low summer levels can be frightfully low with each summer seemingly getting worse. Every fish I caught I returned including the trout and sea fish, with all the problems fish face in our rivers the last thing they needed was a whack on the head from me, getting a big fish especially somewhere urban points to the fact it’s a true survivor, something I thought about when returning chub in swims littered with beer cans and barbeques. I tried to tidy up where possible and always had a spare binbag in my rucksack but it would be a shame to dwell on that issue too much although once again it’s a problem that won’t go away.

    Big perch had a nice habit of turning up

    On the whole the positives outweighed the negatives like an elephant versus shrew see-saw battle. It’s amazing how setting a quest can be so much fun and for me it was an adventure, one that got me out the house, inspiring yet so simple, one I think may not stop for a while.

    I’m revisiting many of the rivers as after all I do have a pretty big old ‘club book’ of waters to choose from now. Over 100 rivers and maybe three times that in different stretches, not to mention the ponds and canals, I could fish a different spot each day of the year I reckon, although I’d be stupid to try that, or would I? Hmm best leave that one, but the memories I can visit whenever I choose. The fact that I have also fished a few more new rivers since penning this shows that there’s still plenty out there, I know of some near me that for some reason I missed and others further afield that I’ve just not got to yet. Plus areas out of the way that I could venture to if ever I got a decent car, or maybe even a campervan, kit it out and live off grid for a while, that’s a road trip! 200 rivers? now that would be bonkers right dad?

    A good west country chub

    Best Wishes

    Ps Was limited to 10 photos on this post but got hundreds, plus I was going to do some art work for it but didn't have time, just realised it's a bit of a read sorry about that, tight lines.
    Last edited by theartist; 30-04-2019 at 15:22.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    The Nene Valley

    Default Re: 100 Different Rivers

    Terrific post and venture Rob ..................the little Ise can throw up a few surprises
    Last edited by barbelboi; 21-12-2017 at 18:49.
    That's about as big as a fish that big gets
    If you understand what you’re doing, you’re not learning anything................

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2015
    leafy cheshire

    Default Re: 100 Different Rivers

    Bloody hell Rob how are we mere mortals going to follow that post!?

    Somehow ones exploits on an unknown lake catching 10 tiddly roach and a juvenile carp seem , well, inadequate !

    I'm off to the Brahmaputra in the new year fishing for mahseer so there!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    south yorkshire
    Blog Entries

    Default Re: 100 Different Rivers

    Posts like that and more would save some of the failing angling mags.
    Well done !!!!!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    on the move

    Default Re: 100 Different Rivers

    One of the best posts I have ever read,
    There are rivers on your list I have never even heard of so I had to look them up.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2014

    Default Re: 100 Different Rivers

    Thread of the year! When's the book coming out?

  7. #7

    Default Re: 100 Different Rivers

    Cracking post. Well done and what a great idea for a challenge. Another example of how varied this wonderful past time of ours is.

    Thats got to be at least an article for fishing magic ...I am sure the editor would snap your hand off if you offered to write up your adventures in even more detail.

    Oh yes the camper van and disipearing off the grid idea...I came close some years ago in a part time sort of way but real life stopped it. If you get the chance and your circumstances allow it - grab it I would say.

    Your description of travelling a silly amount of miles just to look at a ditch struck a cord with me too. Google maps has saved me ALLOT of petrol money I can tell you

    Great post and good to have you still on board the FM ship

  8. #8

    Default Re: 100 Different Rivers

    Just simply Amazing.

    You should feel really very proud. What an achievement.

  9. #9

    Default Re: 100 Different Rivers

    Superb, well done!

  10. #10
    binka Guest

    Default Re: 100 Different Rivers

    Absolutely fantastic Rob, nothing less.

    Very well done...

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