Only two weeks to go before the start of the close season and with the rivers running quite clear it seemed sensible to continue with some chub fishing on the Ouse; I also fancied the idea of squeezing in some perch fishing on the river if the opportunity presented itself. I’d got an entire Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon at “Carpin’ On” to attend, manning the Predation Action Group (PAG) stand for the fourth year running, so the first fortnight of March was going to be quite an intensive fishing related period.
The “Carpin’ On” weekend over at Five Lakes in Essex was excellent. As always it was a great chance to meet up with friends old and new and a superb opportunity to drum-up some funding while promoting the aims of the Predation Action Group. My gratitude must go to Tim, Pip, Bev, Jemima and the rest of the Angling Publications team for looking after me over the weekend; Joss and Ron for helping to man the stand and to all of the stars that came over to say ‘hi’ and show their support.
Back with the actual fishing, I had decided to turn my back on the more popular stretches of the Gt. Ouse preferring to explore the exciting potential of the quieter, more remote parts. I knew I’d be making life more difficult for myself by ignoring some known big fish but the prospect of hunting down outsized specimens that rarely see a hook-bait was just too tempting , so that’s what I did…
The fishing proved to be very slow with bites hard to come by on these undisturbed, under-fished stretches: an absence of anglers really does seem to reflect the general lack of fish. However, the thought of drawing over the rim of my landing net a monster chub that hadn’t been caught for years was enough of an incentive to stay with the plan.
I found the major drawback to fishing the more remote parts of the river – particularly in the evenings and during the night – was the regular encounters with otters. The frequency of these was frustrating in terms of their effect on the fishing but also very worrying: otters are clearly affecting fish stocks and other creatures that would normally live along the riverbanks. It became part of the routine that I’d fish some swims on a particular stretch until being disturbed by an otter then, depending on the time and conditions, I’d either trudge back to the car and go home or drive to another stretch and start again.
Fishing remote stretches of river through to the early hours with the possibility of frequent swim-changes means travelling relatively light. However, wanting to cover a couple of different methods and baits I usually took two rods and was careful to avoid carrying further unnecessary gear; I took an umbrella only when the forecast looked particularly grim.
My ‘main’ rod was a quiver-tip rod rigged to present bread-flake on the end of a long hook-length with liquidized bread in an open feeder. Space permitting, a second rod was set up to present a boilie hook-bait on a bolt-type rig. Sometimes I’d try a different bait on the quiver-tip rod: lobworm on the hook and the feeder swapped for the lightest lead I could get away with. This was my favourite alternative.
As mentioned, the chub fishing was slow and it was rare to catch more than one fish per trip. The average size was nothing to get overly excited about either and I certainly couldn’t find any undiscovered “monsters”: even the odd 5lber was hard to come by.
As luck would have it, a rare day-session geared towards perch rather than chub led to the discovery of a perch holding spot after a relatively quiet day when a couple of nice fish were caught just as the light was fading. Experience has shown that perch are likely to shoal up tight at this time of year, with the larger females in a stretch holding up in a confined area. This prompted a quick return to the same swim on the penultimate day of the season. Fortunately the fish were still there and a whole stack of decent perch was caught on quiver-tipped lobworm. Bites came in spells throughout the day, with the final tally including 12 fish over 2lb, the heaviest of which weighing exactly 3lb.
The last day of the season fell on a Saturday and involved a very pleasurable trip over to Milton Keynes to attend a “Nash Shop Day” at “Gone Fishin’”, the tackle shop at Wolverton, as part of my Nash consultant duties. I always enjoy this type of event and this particular day was especially pleasant as Martin and the guys at the shop were incredibly friendly and a pleasure to work with. To be honest it’s difficult to call it ‘work’ when you get to talk fishing all day with the customers and to catch up with fellow Nash-related buddies. My daughter also came over for a few hours to take some photos and to video some interviews with me and Alan Blair, Nash’s Operations Director, as part of her media-related university studies -so it was even a family get-together!
After the “Shop Day” I was soon back in the car and heading off to the river to try for a big chub before midnight when the season ended. It was a long trek from where I could park to reach the remote part of river I had in mind, but I knew that despite the many river enthusiasts eager to exploit the last day of the season I’d be virtually guaranteed undisturbed fishing on this very quiet section.
My favoured spot appeared to have been recently fished but I had previously prepared two very discrete little swims further downstream so I had a couple of alternatives. On the first trip the original swim had provided a big thumping bite I’d somehow failed to connect with so I was looking forward to making amends on this visit.
Almost as soon as I’d made my first cast my carefully prepared plans started to unravel as a group of four swans suddenly appeared over the horizon and landed just downstream. This angered what I assumed to be the resident pair who were soon chasing the new arrivals up and down the river close to my swim and the two I’d previously prepared! Things then went from bad to worse as more and more swans arrived on the scene, causing the resident pair to go ballistic in trying to chase them all off. Soon the river was being churned to a foam as even the interloping swans -which now numbered around 30 – started to squabble and fight amongst themselves in such a confined area. It soon became clear that my plans for a quiet few hours fishing had become totally unhinged and that any self-respecting chub would be long gone.
With the swan chaos unlikely to be resolved any time soon I had no choice but to pack up and march back to the car and set off again in search of another stretch of river. I ended up several miles away in an area I knew had produced a big chub earlier in the season, but one that had only been fished a handful of times over the previous few years. It looked devoid of anglers and I settled into a large swim with plenty of features but open to the very chilly breeze. My first cast produced a nice roach that looked just shy of a pound.The next couple of casts drew plucks and tweaks on the tip, from roach I suspected, but the initial activity died down and the final few hours until midnight passed without further excitement.
With the rivers now closed my short term plans were now concentrated on still waters with a big bream my priority. I had taken the decision not to fish Ferry Lagoon this spring as I was finding it more and more difficult to convince myself that the massive bream were still alive: a change of venue would be necessary. Mallard Lake on the Bluebell Fishery complex has thrown up the odd big bream to carp anglers, with the biggest supposedly over 18lb assuming it was weighed correctly. With a healthy head of carp in Mallard I knew I’d probably get a few bites even if the bream weren’t cooperative. With my girlfriend away on a sailing trip I was able to organize a 4 night trip that would lead into the Easter Bank Holiday weekend and a rare get-together with my friend, Ian.
I was really looking forward to the first proper still-water session of the year, a proper catch up with a good friend and the possibility of a few bites if things went well. However, with the word-count creeping towards my limit I’ll have to let you know how things turned out in my next piece.
Until then… happy fishing!