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.