The headlines in the newspapers and on the internet news sites all had the same headline last Thursday night and that was for the whole country to brace itself for the imminent arrival of the worst storm in over 50 years, this storm would bring half a months worth of rainfall in only two days and would be arriving over southern and northern Wales. This amount of rainfall, if true to their word, would mark disaster for the opening of the river season, if it arrived with such ferocity of rainfall in those areas it would see the River Wye, River Severn and River Dee being a complete wash out and unfortunately it proved to be accurate and the opening to the river season proved to be a disaster, for most.
As you can see by the chart above the River Dee was carrying a lot of water but we travelled through at midnight on Friday hoping to find a tributary where we could wet a line but alas even these usually gentle streams where a transformed into a raging dirty brown torrent.
Midnight in the pitch dark is no place to be taking decent pictures of the state of the river so me and my Fiance took a trip out the River Dee the following day to take some pictures in the light of day and these pictures below show just how much extra water the river was carrying, I think it peaked at 7.8m. The top image is a peg I fished last year when the river was at normal level and the below one is a picture of the same peg on Sunday, as you can see totally un-fishable.
We took in a few locations along the river around Chester and I have put them in a mini video below which will give you more of an idea as to the state of the river levels over the weekend. To our amazement though when we travelled to Eccleston Ferry there was a group of kids and there teacher suited and booted ready to go rowing, rather you than me I thought. The look on the kid’s faces as the tutor told them the river was high and dangerous so they needed to stick close and the look of fear as he read out to them the safety procedure in the case of an accident summed up to me how bad the river was.
Back to Saturday morning and it was gone 2am by the time we had travelled around some regular spots on the Dee hoping to find some slack water to fish, this ultimately proved a thankless task and it was back to the drawing board. Situations like this are when you see the benefit of technology these days as from a car park in the middle of no where I was able to check, on my phone, the last recorded water levels of the River Dane, Severn, Ribble and Wyre on the EA water level website, a totally priceless source of information for us river anglers. I had of course used this, the previous evening, to check the Dee and we all knew what we were heading to when we set off for the Dee but being opening weekend we thought we had to try.
So with all the rivers from the River Severn in Wales up to the River Wyre near Blackpool showing either a rising or already bloated river levels we were at a loss as to what to do next, none of us really wanted to fish a still water, we needed that fix that only running water could give us and after a few ideas bounding round one of us come up with the idea of fishing our local River Mersey, a river we have all lived next to our whole lives but never ever fished, our time had come.
The River Mersey, to all that line her banks, has long been seen as a dirty, polluted river with rumours of 3 eyed fish along with the odd glowing green specimen reported over the years. This view began the change a few years back when salmon where reported to be back in the river after a 2oo year absence the full report was published on the BBC news website on the following link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/manchester/hi/people_and_places/nature/newsid_8268000/8268790.stm.
Things since then have gone from strength to strength with regards fishing on the Mersey, Warrington Anglers now hold weekly matches on there with regular reports of good catches of bream and roach with other stretches of the Mersey now being home to specimen carp and pike. The tributaries further upstream are now also reporting quality fishing with the likes of the River Goyt now containing decent barbell and chub so in the past few years fishing on the Mersey has been on the increase.
We arrived on the Victoria Park stretch of the Mersey and with parking all along Weir Lane its really easy parking right behind you pegs so its river fishing that is accessible to all ages and abilities. I took a couple of pictures of the location that will be going live this week on the River Venues page on the blog so keep an eye out for that coming soon. The fishing from my point of view was none existent I tried to trot a float down the river with not so much as a chewed maggot for my efforts; my uncle applied the same tactics and managed to catch a few roach, dace and chub.
The star of the day was my dad who put faith in his trusty feeder tactics and caught a new fantastic personal best bream of exactly 7lb, speaking to my dad afterwards he said the bite nearly tore the rod in and he actually thought he had hooked a carp by the way it was fighting. I arrived to net the fish for him and was amazed by the colossal size and weight of the fish; I can only imagine what a 22lb bream would look like on the bank because this fish was huge.
We quickly took some pictures of the fish and as you can see my dad was more than made up with his capture and we quickly weighed the fish and took a few moments to admire the beauty of this warrior of a fish that has obviously been in the river for a good number of years.
This fish came early on in the session for my dad so all our confidence was raised by the capture of this fish but alas it was not forthcoming. We did put in a few hours on there but after being on the bank since midnight and not having any sleep it eventually caught up with us and we called it a day around 1pm, not a great day for us but a day that will never be forgotten for the memories that bream provided will last long in the memory and great again to see my dad back amongst the fish.
That concluded our fishing over the weekend as Sunday was left for the rivers to run off a bit and for me to get some pictures of the flooded river Dee for this week’s blog entry.
The Small but Mighty River Dane – Monday 18th June 2012
All through Sunday I had my eyes glued to the EA river level website, watching closely the levels of the River Dane in particular and surprisingly she was dropping down nicely and by Sunday Afternoon it was quite clear the river would be in fine fettle the next day so plans where made to attack the river the following afternoon when I had a half day booked off from work.
I have long been a fan of using big baits for chub and with the river probably carrying a tinge of colour still so smelly bait is generally a good bet, I have long been a fan of luncheon meat on the rivers and I have over the last few seasons tinkered with a mix that has done me proud. I always start of with the ingredients shown in the picture below but this time I added some of the HalfBean Baits Hemp Carp Goop into the mixture as well as a few other ingredients that unfortunately will have to remain a secret but you will not go far wrong with this as a base mix in creating your own unique flavours. I have never added the Halfbean Baits hemp carp Goop before so I was interested to see if it had any impact on results.
The meat cut into cubes it was left to marinate in the mix over night to let as much of the flavour penetrate the meat and make it irresistible to the chub. Looking at the bag later that evening it stunk to high heaven, which I saw as a good thing and I had high hopes for the session the following day. Again these plans were announced on the Facebook page and on Twitter, both are great places to see how my fishing is going on during the week and links can be found in the right hand tool bar.
Monday morning arrived and with only a half day in work I counted every one of the 3 hours and 42 minutes I was at my desk. I looked longingly out of the window at the clear conditions just dying to get out of work and on my way to my natural home, the river bank.
Midday came and dead on the stroke of midday I was out of work like a rocket had been lit under my backside, it was a quick trip home to load the car and pick up my dad and we were on our way to the river, isn’t it amazing how long the journey is to the river yet the journey home never seems so long eh??.
We arrived in the car park to the site of one car parked up so my confidence levels where raised as the stretch we were on does not have too many swims and can suffer with too much angling pressure. Walking the banks it wasn’t too long before we bumped into the owner of the guy fishing a swim created over the close season by a big tree falling into the margins I must admit I will be having a few casts in that swim next time its free. Speaking to the guy he was, like all anglers you meet on the river, a pleasure to speak to and I happily chatted to him about how his river campaign had started which turned out to be great news for him as he had caught two chub but bad news for me as they had both come from the swim I was walking too and to make matters worse he confirmed there had been four cars in the car park when he arrived.
This may not seem like a bad thing but on such a small intimate river two chub coming out of a swim you intend to fish is a lot of commotion and can easily spook the fish, not to mention you have no idea on what bait the anglers have been fishing, how many anglers have been in the swim throughout the morning and no idea at the amount of bait that has been introduced. I personally don’t use much bait on the river Dane but I know others lean towards laying a blanket of feed down to get the fish confident both methods are fine of course and both catch fish but it just makes it that little bit harder not knowing, still I stuck to my guns and fished the peg I had been day dreaming about all morning.
Arriving at my peg all I could hear was the soothing sound of the river flowing by past my feet and the birds singing in the fields around me with the occasional call of the local buzzards riding the upper warm thermals, it was a joy to be back on the river banks, not a soul in sight and a beautiful swim to go at that could be approached with both trotting and feeder tactics. The sky above was bright blue with the odd whispy cloud and it was really warm. With bright clear conditions I knew any chub would be deep under the cover of the far bank snags and would need tempting out from there gloomy lair with a steady stream of bait so I began on the trotting rod fishing maggot leaving the quiver tipped meat for when the day cooled and the evening cloud cover moved in.
Not long after starting trotting my first fish on the season was on the bank and it is by no means the biggest fish I have ever caught but it has to be one of the most beautifully marked. The river is jammed packed full of minnows and fishing maggot can be impossible some times as there are literally hordes of these minnows in the river but just look at the magical colours on this minnow I can only imagine how popular these fish would be to catch if they went to around 5lb in weight, beautiful fish!!.
I persevered on the maggot trotting down the swim and caught countless numbers of minnows some even taking 4 maggots on a size 18 hook, it was getting out of control so I began to increase the amount of maggots I was introducing each trot down and this immediately saw much better fish move in as the bites from the minnows disappeared and after a few more trots down I connected with a better fish, not a chub, that was clear form the outset of the fight, but another beautiful river fish, the grayling.
Now you will notice the picture above, below the picture of the grayling, this is the fish being rested in the margins in the net. The grayling is very much like the barbell and pike it gives it all in the fight and afterwards is completely drained, think of it as a 100m sprinter being thrown into an a swimming race straight after running the 100m they wouldn’t have the energy to even get going, this is kind of what it is like putting a grayling or barbell straight back into the flow after catching it.
The afternoon wore on and I managed to land two more grayling from the swim as well as a mountain of minnows but with the evening approaching I began to drip feed some samples of meat into the flow at increasing regular intervals to try and get the chub searching for this tasty bait in preparation for trying to catch one of two later on in the evening.
The shadows from the trees on the far bank began to get longer and they now blocked all sunlight from the water, the clouds had began to come in and now and the whole feel of the are changed. Spending a lot of time on the river you get a feel for when the time is right for a bite and everything at that moment just felt right for the chub to be about so it was away with my trotting rod and out came the barbell 1.75tc rod, ready to do battle with a late evening chub.
I have been using pre tied hair rigs for my fishing in the last two years but in the closed season I have began to tie my own rigs n preparation for my chub and barbel fishing and this was to be its first outing on the river. I like to keep my fishing as simple as possible, for many years I have used just a straight lead stopped with a weight for my lead fishing but I rarely now fish without using the ESP lead clips with the tubing up the line, I still use this tubing on the river, not for its camouflage properties but for it to protect the line when the fish is amongst the snags I feel it offers some added protection to the main line and I have not noticed any reduction in bites although the river was coloured on Monday.
When fishing on the rivers, especially for chub I like to get in a comfortable position, usually seeing me sat on my trusty unhooking mat with the rod low to the water and the line resting across my finger, feeling for the bite. It is a technique I saw first on one of Matt Hayes shows and I must admit it takes some getting used to but after a while you get to a stage where you don’t even have to watch the tip all the time you can take in the wildlife around you safe in the knowledge that any bite will be picked up. Chub have got a name for being greedy eating machines that give violent wraps on the quiver tip but in my experience they can also give the most gentle of bites as the mouth the bait before snatching at it, this is when you can get ahead of the game with them and hook a fish that might of got away with the bait had the bite been registered through the tip and not the line across the finger.
The bait hadn’t been in the swim more than 30 seconds when I felt a subtle pull on the line and knowing this was a chub mouthing the bait I quickly struck into a fish and there was no mistaking what was on the other end this time the solid resistance and the line heading towards the roots of the safety of the trees, this was a chub.
There are rare reports of the odd barbel residing in these sections of the dane and if I am ever lucky enough to connect with one I want to land the fish so i always go armed with 10lb line, it may seem like overkill for the chub but it is not the case on this small intimate river where the fish go hard for the safety of the snags and sometimes when the fishing gets tough you need to get closer to the snags. This setup balanced with a soft action rod saw me tame my first proper fish of the season and I was more than happy.
The afternoon moved into late evening and I missed a cracker of a bite to the curse of all anglers the mobile phone going off but I knew I hadn’t made any contact with the fish so I was still in with a chance so I quickly made my excuses and re baited up and was back in there waiting like an expectant heron and within 10 minutes it was a case of de-ja-vu as I felt another wrap round of a bite but there was no mistakes this time and I connected with a hard fighting chub that knew every nook and cranny of the river and I was amazed when a chub around 3lb graced the net and not a specimen around 5lb, still I was a happy angler.
All in all I was more than happy with two chub from the swim considering the pressure it had been out under throughout the day and I was happy that the bait had worked again on this river. It was amazing to be back on the river and I only hope the river gods are kind to us again this weekend with the weather but looking at the forecast I think we are in for some bad weather.
Till next time I wish you all