When I wrote my June report and bemoaned my bad luck in the early flourishes of the season, little did I know that things would hardly improve for the entirety of July. There have however been a couple of rays of sunshine to brighten the otherwise gloomy month I have been enduring on the river bank; a nice barbel and a very good chub, both from my ‘local’, the river Dane.
Due to a change of work location I am currently heading out from Chester to get my Friday afternoon fix; consequently my venues have changed from my beloved Ribble or Dove to either the Severn or heading homeward to Cheshire and my old stomping ground, the Dane.
07.07.17 River Dane, Middlewich
This was my first visit to a new club length of this Cheshire gem, although I have fished the other bank quite extensively in the past. It’s a strange thing in small river fishing but swims you might ignore on one bank look like sure-fire winners from the opposite side.
It was bright sun, low levels and fairly clear today, so a stealthy approach would be essential. I love fishing a natural overgrown river but most of the obvious swims had been fished already this season so it was easy to identify the popular locations. Contrary as I am, I try to avoid them where possible and look for somewhere less well trodden.
I approached a few likely spots as carefully as I could and pre baited with a handful of hemp and a few mixed pellets, keeping my silluette off the skyline and being mindful not to bump about and alert wary fish. Unfortunately I was so careful I sneaked into a swim already occupied by another angler; I must have been quiet as he didn’t notice my presence before I had left him in peace, moving away to the far end of the stretch.
This kind of stealthy approach is essential on small clear rivers like the Dane; Chub and Barbel will melt away at the first sight of a clumsy angler breaking the skyline or hammering in banksticks, a habit I find really annoying and unnecessary. Personally I usually touch ledger with my rod tip at water level on the Dane, and rarely use a rodrest, preferring to balance the rod along my leg with hand on cork and line across my fingers.
The conditions were not ideal so it was no surprise when my first 2 swims proved fruitless, but I had high hopes for the 3rd, a lovely silent pool surrounded by willows, a difficult cast with trees overhead, plus both upstream and down featured some gnarly old snags in the water. I decided to lower my bait in just a few feet from my own bank and slightly downstream, using the dense undergrowth as cover. I knew I would have to be firm with any fish hooked because of the proliferation of snags. I fed a few handfuls of hemp and pellets as I was confident there would be fish about. I left the swim alone to allow the fish to gain confidence and get feeding over the freebies, sneaking off to explore the remainder of the stretch. On my return I got myself back into position with minimal disturbance and lowered my bait into position. Fifteen minutes later I began to wonder if my confidence was misplaced, when without warning the rod was almost wrenched from my grasp by the powerful and unmistakable surge of a barbel. The fight should have been short as I had tackled up appropriately for the snags, but the fish had other ideas and lead me a merry dance; several times the tackle seemed to be at the limits of it’s endurance as I ‘locked up’ to keep the fish out of the roots. Finally I managed to usher it into open water and over the rim of the net, a lovely summer fish of 8lb8oz, a very respectable size for the Dane.
I thought the commotion had destroyed the swim so I tried the last pool on the stretch to no avail. I had to leave at 8pm, well before dusk, the most productive time, so I decided to return to the willow swim for the last hour. Surprisingly I had a good chub of 4lb first drop-in which disturbed the swim yet again, but I still decided to stay put for the last cast and was shocked to snag a feisty 4lb barbel before I packed up.
23.07.17 Mid Ribble
I managed to organise a day session and fished a club water with a mate, Kris. We were lucky enough to get the swims we wanted just upstream of the spawning grounds with a bit of depth and flow, which this time last year were absolutely prolific. Something has changed this season though, whether its the weather conditions, or the fish may have spawned early, but either way it just didn’t fish. We managed a couple of roach and chub between us and left feeling bemused and disappointed by the lack of action.
Generally I feel the rivers I frequent haven’t fished particularly well despite the nice wet conditions. A lot of fish have been coming out of the Trent but I don’t go there that often. I also wonder if the majority of captures aren’t coming from the same few ‘fliers’ giving a false impression of the general quality of the fishing. Or maybe I have just lost my mojo!
28.07.17 River Severn near Atcham
A new stretch of the Severn to explore. I was the only one in attendance so had the run of the water, always a nice position to be in as it allows a bit of pre-baiting and wandering around to take place. I love to do this on a new stretch just to get a rough idea of the depths and maybe find a few features along the way. Unfortunately the conditions were pretty rotten with gales and swirling winds meaning sheltering under a brolley was a thankless task. Despite these problems I thought it was a nice venue, alive with wildlife including kingfishers, kestrels and a quite rare Little Egret.
I moved swims late afternoon, I just didn’t feel right in the first place and hadn’t had a single tap, so I settled on a very deep pool further upstream. I fished a lump of flavoured luncheon meet in the margin downstream in 15-20ft of water no further than 10ft from the bank, and my second rod in the main flow line with feeder and pellet.
Half an hour in I had a bream around 3lb on the pellet line which was slightly encouraging, and then 10 minutes later a proper bite which on initial contact felt like another bream, however it quickly became clear I was attached to something far more substantial than a bream. Whatever it was plodded around taking line at will, then I would crank it toward me for a couple of minutes before it would decide it didn’t like the location and head elsewhere. Ten minutes later I had it under my rod tip when disaster struck and the hooklink parted. I convinced myself it was a big old Barbel at the time, but on reflection, given the nature of the swim, I have come to the conclusion it was big pike that took hold of a bream I had hooked. Either way it was a bit of excitement on an otherwise uneventful session.
Just before I packed up at 11pm I managed at last to snag a barbel, just a splasher around 4-5lb but very, very welcome.
31.07.17 River Dane Middlewich
If you have read my blog before you will know I have a few targets I set myself each season, one of which is quite longstanding. In short I am trying to catch a 5lb chub from the Dane; I know it doesn’t sound much on paper but fish of that size are few and far between on there. Talking to people on the bank you would think they were ten-a-penny, yet I have never beaten 4lb14oz despite fishing it regularly during the autumn and winter for many years, nor have I seen anybody else catch one and weigh it over the magical figure.
The Dane used to be a prolific chub venue, these days the fishing has changed quite a lot, in that it is difficult to build a swim and catch a large bag of chub from one place. The fish are still there but to be successful mobility is key, and taking one or two fish from a swim has to be followed by a move to the next likely location. Maybe its down to predation or over-fishing, but one result is that the average size of fish seems to have increased, so I am convinced the 5lb target is achievable in the waters I have at my disposal.
Given the above I was elated to land a sizable fish that fought like a Barbel, and that had the length, if not the girth of a 5lb’er. I’ve had plenty of 5’s from the Ribble and Dove so when I lifted it I just knew it was there or there abouts the magical figure. I have a different kit for my ‘small river’ fishing with a set of flyweight scales. Imagine my disappointment when I got them out to discover the bloody thing had come unwound inside and would not work. There were no other anglers about so I had to console myself with a picture, and the thought that fish of the correct physical proportions to possibly achieve 5lb do exist, and even better, I can catch them! Roll on autumn, I will be back!
So barring a couple of minor successes on the Dane, my July fishing has been largely forgettable. Fish seem to be coming out all over the country which could be depressing if I didn’t enjoy my fishing so much whatever the result. Things can only get better, bring on August!!