Just last week it was winter coats, waterproof boots and trudging about in mud - now London is experiencing a heatwave; shorts, t-shirts and Converse. To celebrate James and I skived off for the afternoon, walked 12.3 miles and stalked a few bream and carp - lovely afternoon!
Second trip to this famous trout fishery, and once again we’d left it a bit too late in the year - it was far too warm. I was accompanying the fly guys; Steve and Dylan - and the scores from the last three trips (not that we keep score) were Steve 2 wins, Dyl 1 win and me, well, I’m yet to win one... Perhaps this time...
I couldn’t out fly fish these guys so my plan was to go stalking - but the recent rain had coloured the water - still, I could see into the margins. Steve and Dyl began by casting to moving fish, I started lapping the lakes searching for fish with my polaroids (2.0 yellow lens, everyone who tries them asks).
After a lap or two and a few casts to likely looking features I spotted a couple of rainbow trout heading in my direction - cast to them - and quickly ripped the fly out of the way when I saw a big brownie lurking about in the roots in front of me. It followed and after a couple of taps on the fly it engulfed it - fish on - and the fish I wanted!
A few shakes of it’s head before realising it was hooked and a powerful run across the lake to the island. A strong fish and a hell of a fight, back and forth before being ready for the net - I struggled to get the net off my back - fearing a last second hook pull - but it was mine. A double, 10lb 15oz, brown trout! Get in!!
My trip was made - my dream trout was on the books - but the fishing remained tough. Both Dyl and myself lost a rainbow each, I managed to snatch my fly out of the mouth of a monster rainbow and had a repeated follow by a jack pike about two pounds. But it wasn’t until well after lunch Steve had his first hit.
Rainbows fight differently than brownies, deep dives followed by smashing about on the surface, Steve took it steady and I eventually got the net under his fish. A beautiful 6lb 0oz rainbow trout just as Steve had resigned himself to a blank... Had the fish come on the feed in the late afternoon?
Short answer: No! We thrashed the water to a foam for a few follows before I spotted a rainbow cruising across a shallow bay, I quickly flicked my fly in front of it and bang, a 7lb 11oz new PB rainbow (end of fight video below). And that was the last of the action today, time for a curry and a few pints - the day was mine!
Not a great trip for the guys but two new PBs for me, including a double, the double brownie I’ve been dreaming of since I was a kid - it’s better to be lucky than good! Thanks Steve for the superb photos. We will be back - but next time I think we’ll wait for some better conditions (only 4 trout were landed on the lakes all day).
*Edit: The Video is short because Steve had to run right around the lake before starting filming (also explains the heavy breathing). Dyl always nets fish one handed while on the phone because he’s too cool for school. And yeah, 3 photos of the same fish because next to a 30lb pike, a double brownie has been top of the list.
The traditional season review, and this time it’s a full twelve months. A season that saw a new PB rainbow, tench, orfe and crucian and a tidal double figure pike - among others.
A long post, written throughout the year, but I tend to go back and read these recaps - this will be the ninth review - and I’ve put a lot of time on the riverbank and seen a lot of fish this season...
April: No closed season blues this year, summer arrived early and the tench and carp were soon on the feed. I spent some time tracking down a new species - a golden orfe - great fun stalking these.
And I had a brilliant trip to Lechlade chasing monster trout with Steve and Dyl - Steve won the day with a 9lb rainbow - but hopefully we'll be back, we all fancy a double.
May: I managed to snare my target 5lb plus orfe on the last trip to the orfe pond before a couple of tench bait-n-waiters. I beat my PB three times to a cracking 7lb 12oz fish.
Then I walked a lot of miles looking for a canal pike, um, I mean bream. Hard to find and even harder to get them to take a bait I was pleased with a canal best of 8lb 1oz.
June: The month started with a few canal perch and Farm crucians while I waited for the river season to open. But the season opener was a damp squib. Tough fishing on The Stour.
I bagged up closer to home in the summer heat - that barbel pull I'd missed for three months - remember that next season! And spent a fantastic day on James' boat in search of rudd.
July: Brilliant visit from Paulos and Sammi - the River Wye conditions were pretty horrible - where was the water? But we did manage a few chub and barbel - great to get Paulos a barbel!
Locally I had a few barbel, fishing in the middle of the day made things harder for myself - but you can't beat stalking them and watching them take the bait in the clear summer water.
August: The summer sun hung on, and the barbel remained on the feed - and I filled my boots! A trip to The Stour turned up four pike - not the target - but I'm not complaining!
And I managed to bag a local 5lb chub - I've been stalking these for nearly 8 months, so it was about time one slipped up. The next target is a London six - first step, try and spot one...
September: Summer began fading into autumn, in the remaining summer sunshine I made the most of some quick local sessions, taking my count to 70 barbel and 8 four pound plus chub.
I also beat my crucian PB, aiming for a three pounder, it was tough going but after a lot of hours and some serious rig development it all came good with some really massive crucians!
October: Predator season started with a trip to the tidal Thames on James' boat where I landed my first tidal pike and the next cast was even better - a tidal double - brilliant start!
As well as pike I was keen to catch my 500th local barbel before the weather turned, and I landed some cracking fish to 9lb before hitting the magic 500 - the fighting fit beauty above - job done!
November: Opening day on The Frome and another new venue double figure pike was added to the list. I was keen to add more but my cat died and I didn't really feel like fishing for a few weeks.
Towards the end of the month I ventured back out on the boat and landed my first river zander - not only that but a tidal one. I also added a nine and a few jacks to take my season total to 15 pike.
December: The winter weather began to take a turn for the worst, making our perch and grayling fishing tricky. I beat the weather with 2 days on the Wye for 3 pike to 17lb before the snow washed in.
I ventured into the frost on our annual Christmas fly fishing trip with Steve and Dyl - love trying to tempt these cunning fish in the clear spring water - and 10 between us graced the net - brilliant!
January: The floods arrived hampering the predator fishing so I turned my attention to the local barbel population - I found a bigger stamp of fish taking my season total to 120 barbel to 10lb 9oz.
I also continued targeting chub, taking my river total to eleven fish over my 4lb target including my second five of the season at 5lb 1oz - a really big fish that has plenty of room to fill out.
February: The unsettled conditions continued, water levels up & down and towards the end of the month it got really cold. Locally I bagged a few barbel but it was getting harder to find them.
A boat trip on a flooded Thames produced a jack. And a three day weekend down south was tough going; but a couple of jacks, a few trout and a bream provided the action - chilly fishing!
March: A snowy start to the month but with only 2 weeks left I fished at every opportunity. I had my best roach of the season, a stunning river carp and took my local barbel total to 132 fish.
And a beautiful double figure pike completed my Oyster Treble - I’ve now had doubles from ten rivers. Well the season had to come to and end, but it was a cracker - roll on the next one!
Unlike barbel and chub I don’t have access to local pike, a pike trip requires a full day - combined with short daylight hours and flooding I never seem to do as much piking as I always plan. I really need to locate a stillwater fairly close as a flood back-up.
But they are my favourite species to fish for and it’s always great to get out after them. Piking less than I’d planned I still managed some fantastic fish; my first tidal double, doubles from new rivers and my biggest River Wye pike in quite a few years.
I also managed to complete the Oyster Treble, adding a river double to my canal and stillwater ones within the London tube network. So I finished the season with 24 pike including 4 doubles to 17lb 2oz - not bad, but hopefully I can do better next season...
I’m very lucky to have access to barbel a short distance away, not monsters, they are not going to set the angling world on fire - but the occasional double and pound for pound the best fight in British water.
When I could string a few hours together I’d grab the (ready packed) kit and head out for a wander. They have wised up to rolling meat, so now it’s a variety of techniques & bait - much more fun!
I popped out for a barbel wander 40 times last season, short sessions averaging about 2 or 3 hours - it’s just great to be on the riverbank. And I ended up with 132 barbel to 10lb 9oz - bloody lovely!
Targeting the often overlooked bigger chub on the local river I set myself the challenge of landing ten over 4lb last season. Not an easy target as the once prolific shoals have dwindled in numbers and the bigger chub are hard to track and very easily spooked.
I gradually chipped away at the target throughout the season, my best option was to locate them in clear water and wait for rain to add some colour - not an easy task when the shoals are so nomadic and travel long distances in a day, or even a few hours.
But I’m glad I stuck with it landing 12 chub over 4lb, including three over five pounds to 5lb 2oz with no recaptures - it’s hard to fool them twice! Seeming to possess the power of invisibility I wonder if there is a six in there somewhere? I really hope so!
The end of the season and I was on the riverbank - armed with a pint of maggots, half a loaf of bread and the stick 'n' pin - just waiting for enough light to attach the size 16 hook...
I wasn't after monsters just something to put a bend in the rod. And I was soon into the fish; a dozen or so chub to about 3½lb, a few dace and a couple of 8oz roach - pressure off the mission.
I managed to drag myself away and made a move to a secret gudgeon spot, I've pretty much neglected gudgeon this season - nearly left it too late - but I was hoping they were at home and on the munch...
Light ledger, red maggot and I bagged up - twelve gudgeon in just over an hour, the smallest was 1.2oz and the three biggest all went 2.0oz - yeah, I weighed them all! Perfect end to the season?
No, I needed 2 more barbel to take my local river total to 400 in 4 seasons, I liked the thought of a hundred fish average. Plus I needed that barbel fight to tide me over the three months...
The water was dirty but clearing - so back to basics, a bit of rolled luncheon meat. It took a few swims to find them - but I found the two more hard fighting barbel - perfect end to the season?!
OK then, one more cast - then one more - then one more - really last one... That was a knock... Perhaps just one more... Not a barbel but a cracking 5lb 0oz chub to end on... The perfect end to the season!