The end of September already? That was quick! A funny start to the season, the weather was all over the place, the stag beetles didn't fly and the fish hadn't spawned - I saw pike spawning in late June, three months late! Here's a quick recap of the summer season before I swap my cap for a woolly hat...
June: Opening day was a blank - not the way to start a season, but the next day I stalked out a new PB bream from a clear chalk stream. I then resulted to a few local barbel fishing sessions, although I'm not really targeting them this season. The highlight was a new local river PB roach, 1lb 4½oz, cracking fish but still room for improvement.
July: I struggled to find feeding fish but a trip to The Wye turned things around. Catching chub, barbel and perch. It was great fishing with my Dad, brother and an old mate from school. It was great to see Roger and Steve land a barbel, and even better to see Paulos bag his first ever barbel and add a PB chub!
August: The plan was to crack on with the Specimen Challenge and my targets were crucians and rudd - but work had other ideas, I struggled to find time on the bank and when I did conditions were against me. I managed the target species but not the target weights - next year (I'm going to extend the challenge).
September: More time on the bank and more fish in the net. I stalked out a double figure river bream, at 10lb 9oz my target was cracked. An old warrior of a barbel, at 9lb 14oz I really didn't care about those two extra ounces. A new PB chub at 5lb 14oz, bigger to come I hope. And rounded off the month with some trotting for dace, great fun.
Winter is coming: I'm hoping to start my predator campaign with a pike session or two next week, and a six pound chub is at the forefront of my mind. And who knows, perhaps a shark or two...
Another trip chasing dace and I added 11 more to the season total, I weighed the biggest four; 8.1oz, 8.8oz, 9.0oz (below) and 10.0oz (above). Not a bad stamp of fish, and very close to a new PB, but a long way off the target - still, it's a lot of fun catching them.
I had a couple of roach, no minnows this time (because I'd brought the mini scales) and a few chub. When targeting dace and you hit a chub about a pound you're convinced you've hit gold, heart skips a beat until you see those white lips!
I think I'll give it a break for the time being and target them in winter when they are at top weight - but I'll be keeping an eye out for a big dace over the coming trips...
What can be better than a couple of hours in the late summer sunshine trotting for dace? My target is a pound plus fish, but for now I'm just happy to get some on the scoreboard. Flicking in a few maggots made them rise in the water and reveal their location.
I managed 17 dace, the best going 10oz and a couple of roach. I did lose a slightly bigger dace but a lot more searching will be required to find my target - and more than a bit of luck!
I did forget my kitchen scales again - so obvious I landed another monster minnow, got to put some weights to these...
This weekend saw the beginning of my quest for a PB chub, the target for the winter is a 7lb fish, but this weekend was all about exploring new water while it is shallow and clear. A ridiculously early start saw me and James on the first stretch just after dawn.
After walking the stretch James spotted a chub in the weeds and landed a four pounder first cast, great stuff. I fancied a spot a bit further down, a overhanging tree with a deep pool beneath. I fed in some meat and set up a freelined bait and it wasn't long before I saw some big white lips suck in a free sample.
I cast across and the chub nailed it straight away, a good fight trying to get in the roots before my prize was in the net. A new PB of 5lb 14oz, one good meal away from a six! And thanks to James for a cracking photo. We continued fishing but the brief feeding spell was over.
I had a plan, they wouldn't be able to resist a Beetle Spin would they? I thrashed the water to a foam, on this stretch and some others - and the chub loved following it, but they wouldn't commit - I don't think it was the lure, I think the bright conditions put them off. A perch and a jack nailed it though - not the target but great fun.
As darkness approached we opted for a bait and wait approach where we'd seen chub during the day. About an hour after dark I had the only bite - a rip round - and I missed it!
Day 2 and we were back one the first stretch to watch the sunrise. We had trouble spotting the chub, James managed to stalk out another four pounder before the sun came up. Then we spotted a couple of shoals of big fish but feeding time was over. I did spot a few pike to about 16 or 17lb, I'll be back for them!
With lots of water to explore we abandoned the kit and taking advantage of the high sun and clear water went fish spotting - reference for future trips. We eventually ended up trotting some long glides with maggots but James was getting plagued by salmon parr and I was upstream in minnow territory!
As evening approached it was decision time, bait and wait for chub or explore a nearby chalk stream? I think we made the right choice, spending the last two hours of daylight trotting a little pool we must have had well over 50 grayling with a few trout mixed in - fish to just over a pound were as easy to catch as the chub were difficult! Can't wait to get back after those chub though...
I just wish I had my digital scales with me, 10cm long (I measured the bait lid when I got home). The only other taker on a very quick morning stream fishing session was a trout about 2lb, I think the target chub can see the line - time to scale down further...
I was just about to make a cast downstream when a big barbel flashed in front of me, I abandoned the cast and instead cast about 10 foot up and wound down so my luncheon meat was about a foot in front of the fish. As I put the rod on the floor it lurched towards the river - fish on!
A couple of powerful runs downstream and then it gave up, I wound it back - looked like a monster and I was eager to get her in the net - but when she saw the net the fight was back on.
An ancient warrior, front half of a tank and the frame of a much bigger fish. The tail was almost gone and she had seen better days, she went 9lb 14oz and I wondered what she looked like in her prime?
A quick photo and a mat shot and she swam away strongly - what a fish! On route down the river I caught one about 2lb, I'd caught a past monster and hopefully a future one...
A very early start and me and James were on the river just after sunrise, we were going hunting cormorants with bazookas! Unfortunately bazookas are hard to acquire, even in Streatham, so we settled for a wander and a bit of fish spotting...
First up we found a big shoal of bream between 3lb and 5lb, not monsters by recent standards, so it was a bream fishing competition - first to 10 fish wins. In my defence bream are fairly new to me and James has been catching them since he was 18 months old... 10 bream to 5... Moving on...
We explored three rivers and a total of five stretches, James had a deadline of midday, and by 4pm we'd caught a total of 6 species; bream, roach, chub, dace, gudgeon and trout... OK, a bit late and no monsters but a great morning's fishing.
Back to the chalk stream to stalk out a new PB bream and it took about 30 minutes searching the riverbed with polarized glasses before I spotted a shoal in the gin-clear water. A dozen fish about 5 or 6lb, with a lump in the mix. I fed them some free samples and quickly set up the world's simplest rig - size 10 hook directly to 10lb mainline, wetting the bread makes it sink.
Ten minutes later I had them feeding confidently, but there was no logic to which bream was going to eat which bit of bread. Often, but not always, the lead fish would miss the bread and one behind would grab it. Sometimes they would move across the stream to intercept it, sometimes they didn't bother. It was breaking my brain!
Eventually the lump moved to the outside edge of the shoal and I cast upstream and slightly outside the target. And watched with my heart in my mouth as she pealed off from the shoal and sucked in the bread. Not a bad fight for a bream, mostly just turning broadside in the current while I prayed the hook wouldn't pull.
Safely in the net. I'd got my double, 10lb 9oz, and a beautiful dark bream at that - brilliant!