Well if you’re a fan of rain I think we can safely say that you’ve had a wonderful winter, in fact your autumn was pretty spectacular too.
If winter barbel are your thing it has actually been a long spell of opportunity but for me personally winter means spending the majority of my time sitting behind a quiver tip rod along with the occasional day trotting and maybe a few days piking and river wise it has been rubbish, I well and truly lost the desire to fish for quite some time.
It was actually Xmas week when I got my angling mojo kick started, granted that was partially inspired by the need to escape the festivities for a few hours but once riverside the magic flooded back, and I was an angler again. I had plumped for a stretch of the Derbyshire Derwent that I am very familiar with, once quite productive as a chub fishery it is now in a different phase and realistically you are looking to buy yourself a bite and a blank isn’t unexpected. I don’t do static when I’m chubbing and travelling light is very much the order of the day. The compact transition ruckbag is now my roving bag of choice, the superb and ridiculously light Aeronium superlite chair is in one hand with a bankstick and landing net wedged inside and in the other is my Neoteric FS quiver rod paired with a 4000 size Axis reel. I can, and do, walk for miles with that set up.
The river was up, not surprisingly, fishable but higher than I like. My routine is to bait several swims with a few lumps of cheese paste and then fish them in rotation for maybe 30 to 45 minutes each. On my fourth swim of the afternoon my luck came good and the tip banged round before see-sawing as the link leger bounced downstream after being dislodged. I had rigged up with one of the new Supersteel hooks in a size 4 and it gave a cracking hook hold which was fortunate considering the pressure I had to apply to draw the fish upstream in the pacey water. Making a respectable 5lb 10oz’s on the scales I was more than happy and after a couple more unproductive swims were fished I headed back home for more mince pies.
A couple of totally forgettable trips after perch followed and I then decided to break out the trotting gear and catch a few grayling, the stretch I chub fished is stuffed with them, not big but fun. Four hours without a bite left me gobsmacked, I guess the weather has messed the fish up as much as it has the angler. A rethink was in order and after a caffeine boost I chucked the kit back in the van and headed north to the River Dove where I fished until dusk, for one bite! Fortunately that bite came from a nice fish, no monster but probably the biggest I’ve ever caught from that area. More miles covered again proved the worth of condensing the tackle, one item I wouldn’t leave out however is my eva waist pouch, absolutely perfect for keeping your maggots to hand.
A few small chub from the Ouse saved a trip south from being blank and then it was off on a proper road trip down to deepest darkest Dorset in search of a big grayling. From Leicestershire Dorset is a proper pain to get to, despite getting up at 4am it was almost 9.30 when we finally pulled up next to the river. It was very fortunate that as a last-minute thought I’d packed my waders as the fields were sodden, in fact in places the banks were breached and river and field were as one. It was always going to be tricky and the sum total after two days hard fishing was seven grayling and a handful of brownies, none of the monsters for which the river is famous graced us with their presence but who can be disappointed with beautiful fish like this.
I had been glued to the EA river level site and the weather forecasts for months by this stage and low and behold finally I saw a window of opportunity to get down to the Ouse in good conditions, a two day trip was swiftly organised for the end of the week with the night being spent in the back of the van, pure luxury! I actually pulled a swift one and managed to get down to the river just before dark a day early and the water level looked great, I could almost smell those chub crawling up the bank. First cast and wallop, 5lb 3oz, here we go, bonanza time, can’t go wrong Thomo lad. A couple of hours later and a 4lber joined the tally but although I fished until midnight only the two bites came my way. Next morning, I was out in the freezing fog just after 7am and I didn’t turn in until 11.30pm, I walked 7 miles and covered loads of fantastic looking swims, not one bite. I was almost tempted to knock it on the head and drive home there and then but I’d waited a long while for these conditions, so I told myself not to be so daft and got my head down in the van. It was almost tropical in comparison to the previous night, a mere minus three instead of five below!
I had moved to a different stretch at teatime the previous evening and it was nice to fish some fresh water, it was a glorious morning too, crisp frost until the sun peaked through. In my second swim I actually had a bite, after all of those motionless hours it comes as something of a shock. I had swung the rig against a near bank tree and I had to really give it the butt while walking upstream to bully the chub from the timber and certainly loss. This one weighed 5lb 12oz’s, lovely sport that hit and hold stuff it really gets the heart going.
I’d had my eye on a bit far bank snag upstream since I arrived and had popped a few free offerings in earlier, I’d never fished the spot before, usually tending to fish the downstream section of the fishery but it did look nice and nothing ventured nothing gained so I decided I’d have half an hour in there before moving on. Twenty minutes in and the quiver tip went from bent double to straight in a split second indicating slack line caused by a fish moving the swan shot, I literally watched the line cut across the current as I struck into a hard fighting fish determined to bury itself in the nearside foliage. The Neoteric won the day once again and as it rolled into the net, I knew my efforts had all been worthwhile, it really is a case of the harder the journey the greater the reward. A cracking Ouse chub of 6lb 14oz was more than enough for me to call it a day a happy man.