Opening Day of the Season: First Innings

As I spent the opening day of the fishing season in fine company, it is only fitting I spent the evening with fine ale. So I wrote this whilst enjoying a pint of Sharp’s Doombar, drowning my sorrows in the local watering hole as I scored a duck!

I invited two stalwarts of river restoration, John Sutton and Dominic Martyn, to spend the opening day of the coarse fish season on my stretch of newly improved river channel. This was done, you understand, purely with the intention of undertaking a ‘creel survey’ to establish if fish stocks had improved since the enhancements started three months ago. (I’m sure the fact that a bottle of fine wine was offered up as the prize for the first barbel and/or the biggest fish in no way ensured their attendance!)

I had given them free access to fish where they liked, and Dom arrived before the birds awoke to pick his first spot just upstream of the fallen Willow tree towards the downstream limit of the river, a spot where I hadn’t carried out any enhancements, but which had resulted in a 6lb+ Chub for my father just before the end of last season!

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Just upstream of Dom’s swim, thousands of small fry were gathered in the edge, amongst the woody debris, native lilies and marginal reed in one of the areas I had gently narrowed previously, which was a fantastic sign of life since the enhancements started.

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I arrived to say hello around 0800, having my customary morning wander around with a .17 rifle on the look out for Mink and supplying fresh tea to my old boss, John, who had settled himself fishing in the weir pool on the float and centrepin, matched to a very nice (and very new looking) Greys rod along the tree line downstream of the weir.

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A smattering of Perch and Gudgeon performed well, but the bigger fish such as Barbel and Chub were conspicuous by their absence. Several smaller Chub in the 2lb – 4lb bracket were caught, but the bigger 5lb+ fish, of which I know there are a number, were hiding well! John, for the second time on the trot, hooked and landed a nice wild Brown Trout of around 18oz from the weir pool which is encouraging. Trout in this particular river, 20 years ago would have been unheard of. Unfortunately, for me at least, duty called, and I had to retire to the office to do some work for the morning before rejoining them on the bank at lunchtime, to show the way to the nearest pub for refreshments and a superb light luncheon!

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The mid-section of the river was looking sublime in the afternoon sun, with beds of Ranunculus sp providing some useful in-channel cover and the marginal vegetation taking hold! Suitably refreshed, we resumed our ‘creel survey’, with me electing to fish on the upstream side of the weir to John (on the Top River), where a large Willow has cracked and fallen in the channel over some lovely gravels. The water is shallow, fast and clear here (around 2ft), but I was confident that with over 80% of the channel covered by the willow, there would be a Chub or a Barbel lurking under it!

IMG_7063My hunch was correct, for on my first cast, a large barbel swung out from under the weed raft in the centre of the photo above, looked at me in disgust at disturbing his mid-afternoon sunbath, and drifted off downstream with scant regard for the lump of hair-rigged meat 12 inches away! A further half an hour trying various spots in the same swim resulted in nothing, so I moved downstream to the site of the disused weir.
DSCF9226With the lower flows in the summer, I was able to see just how shallow and gravelly this run is, as well as evidence of recent spawning. Not wanting to disturb the swim, I left it alone and retired back inside the office to try and keep the paperwork side of things ticking along, having not seen any of the usual shoal of Chub sat up on the gravels. It was just downstream of here I had witnessed three Barbel of around 8lb, 10lb and 12lb respectively, spawning on the marginal gravels.

One of the larger specimen Chub put in an appearance shortly afterwards from the slack at the edge of the Hinged Willow swim further downstream in the meadow, with Dom acknowledging the battle-scarred fish an ounce under 6lb at 15lb 15oz – and the biggest fish of the day to be caught.

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I hope to keep you updated on further work and catches throughout the season. If you are interested in fishing the river, please contact me on ACountryChap@outlook.com.

Regards and Tight Lines,

ACC.

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