Saturday, 27 February 2010

Captain Parker and the Millers Thumb

Captain LA Parker was one of the most famous anglers of the first half of the 20th Century. "Skipper" as he was known took over and ran the Bull Hotel in Downton which became a place of pilgrimage for many anglers. By a strange quirk of fate I found myself renting a holiday cottage in Downton from Len and Eileen Parker, Len is "Skippers" son.

Captain Parker's book "This Fishing" published in 1948 is well worth a read and the chapter relating to water temperatures and fishing prospects was well ahead of its time, I will certainly be carrying a thermometer in future.

Unfortunately my arrival in Downton coincided with heavy rain which meant that apart from the Hampshire Avon the Wessex rivers were unfishable. The Hampshire Avon being a chalk stream holds its water better than most rivers and although bank high was still running clear.

I opted for a day after the dace on the London Angling Association stretch at Britford. Although the carriers are renowned for big roach the better dace are on the main river, so I headed for a favourite spot on the main river where big dace normally congregate prior to spawning. Although the water was tanking through there was a slacker area on the far bank that I could trot. After a couple of hours I realised that the dace were not at home and only managed a couple of chub in the two pound class.

After fishing a couple of swims without success Stuart the river keeper put me right and directed me to a weirpool where only half the gates had been lifted leaving an eddying area of slack water on the inside. Trotting this swim was a bit strange as the float went round the swim in an elongated oval, one minute the avon float was going fast downstream and then slowly returned towards me. I missed a number of bites as tackle control was tricky but soon managed a couple of dace, some minnows and a roach of around twelve ounces.

It was one of those swims that was more efficiently tackled on the feeder so relunctantly I set up a light quivertipping outfit with a small blockend feeder. My catch rate improved and I added several more dace to 7oz, four brown trout, yet more minnows and a bullhead.

The bulhead is an unusual capture on rod and line and is also known as the Millers Thumb, its flattened shape said to resemble the thumb of a miller splayed from testing flour.

The last couple of hours were reserved for roaching and I fancied a slow swim on a carrier just above another weirpool. A couple of handfuls of mashed bread were thrown in to prime the swim. I fished a piece of breadflake on a size 10 hook to an 18 inch hook-length below a cage feeder. I missed the first bite and had to wait until after dark for the quivertip to pull round again, unfortunately the culprit was not the expected big roach but a chub in the three pound class.

The river had risen a couple of inches in the last hour and with further rain overnight the Avon was in the fields the following day.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

One almighty stretch!

Another week of below average temperatures meant that my planned river perching session would have to wait. Instead I opted to go chub fishing on the Welland, revisiting the stretch I fished last week. The river had fined down nicely and carried a greenish tinge with the bottom visible in eighteen inches of water, perfect.

 My approach to small rivers is simple, I fish each likely spot for about twenty minutes before moving onto the next swim. Although many anglers recommend baiting half a dozen swims before fishing, I prefer to introduce the hook bait only as I feel that this approach offers a better chance of catching the largest chub in the group.

During the course of the day I had three chub to 4lb 6oz, although I could easily have had a couple more! Just before dusk I decided to fish a tree lined eddy where I hoped that a perch might be in residence. There was just enough room to poke a rod through the branches and flick a lobworm just off the crease (the junction between the flow and slacker water). After five minutes the bobbin moved steadily up to the rod and a controlled strike connected. I soon saw the broad flank of a decent river bream on the surface, however due to overhead branches I struggled to get the fish within reach of my net. With one last almighty stretch a large river bream, which weighed 6lb 12oz finally came over the net.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Lovely chubbly!

The last couple of months of the river season are the best for catching big chub. For twenty years chub fishing on my local river Welland was the mainstay of my winter fishing programme.  In recent years my chub fishing has been carried out during occasional visits to the Dorset Stour where I have been lucky enough to catch chub in excess of seven pounds and my local river has been neglected.

It was time to make amends, although when I set eyes on a brown, foamy river with visibility limited to a couple of inches I nearly went straight home. I spent a hopeless couple of hours on the first stretch before deciding to move several miles downstream, where a tributary would, I hoped, be fishable. On this stretch the water level had dropped several feet meaning that the chub would no longer be in the feeder stream. At least the flow was more manageable so I decided to make the best of it and search out the slacks. The stretch was always prolific although my best from it was only 4lb 9oz and only a handful of fours came my way (remember that).

I have to admit I was not feeling confident as chub and coloured water do not go together. In years gone by I would switch to roach fishing in these conditions, but nowadays I am more likely to locate rocking horse droppings than I am to locate a big roach on the welland.

Not having the benefit of summer observation I would have to rely on watercraft, luckily there were plenty of features to fish to, rafts, small slacks, deep bends and confluences. By staying mobile and moving swims every twenty minutes it meant that a lot of swims could be covered during the course of the afternoon. Chub tackle is best kept simple so I was equipped with a quivertip rod matched to a small fixed spool reel loaded with 6lb line. The end rig consisted of a swan shot or two pinched around eighteen inches from the hook and my bait in these conditions would be two lobworms on a size 6 hook. Where the current allows I like to use a washing up liquid bottle top as a bobbin.

The afternoon passed by quietly with two chub in the two pound class being hooked in slacks, the second dropping off at the net.

A large raft on the other bank could not be ignored especially as a crease meant that the flow was on the inside bank and the far side was slack. In coloured water chub often retreat into the slacker water away from the crease, maybe the suspended mud in the water irritates their gills, so I flicked over the bait and raised the rod high to avoid catching the line in the flow. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a large dark brown creature run along the waterline, it seemed too big for a mink, an otter maybe? Before I could look at it properly the rodtip banged over and my strike saw both the creature disappear and the rod hoop right over as a big fish headed for the tree roots. After some hairy moments at full stretch guiding the chub past some marginal reeds she was finally netted. I noticed that the chub was the same size as my landing net, twenty two inches and although hollow I felt she would probably go over five pounds.

The scales confirmed five pounds exactly and my biggest ever from this stretch. "Lovely chubbly"