Thursday, 24 March 2011

The End is Nigh! ...Final Days of the River Fishing Season 2010/11

For the first two or three years of this millennium I generally experienced some great fishing towards the back-end of the season.  For some reason, as my river experience has grown each year, my "final session" captures have dwindled.  For the last 4 or 5 "final sessions" I have targetted perch and failedd to catch anything of merit.  I was all set for my final session of the 2010/11 season and after my success piking the previous week, I decided to have a final blow-out session piking, back on the Dove.  With my confidence buoyed by my recent capture, I thought I'd try some different stretches to search out new swims for fishing in the future.  On my way from the freezer after grabbing some pike baits, I spotted my lobworm sack and - despite my previous "last session" experiences with perch - couldn't resist taking them along in case there was a rare, big Dove stripey out there with my name on it.

The original "final" session...
I arrived at the first new stretch before dawn and had a walk to find a few features before grabbing my gear.  The wind was absolutely horrendous and I can't think of a session when I've fished in stronger winds.  On the way down to the features I'd spotted and chummed-up, the wind was behind me, so it made the mile-plus trudge with all my gear (including so many layers that I was comfy when sat in the cold wind, but hot as hell once I started walking!) quite pleasant and easy.  I had so many features to choose from, straight out of the river pike textbook; with eddies, slack water, overhanging trees, faster shallows and steadier pools.  It was hard to know where to start but I managed to cast one rod into a slack below a high bank and the other bait went between some overhanging trees, both initially fishing in around 5 feet of water.  It seemed perfect, but the conditions were not that condusive to successful predator fishing.  The water was low and gin clear and the clouds were continually breaking, meaning the river was bathed in sunshine for most of the day.  At least there was a chop on the water, but that was only due to the gale force winds which pummelled me no matter where I sat! 

Over a period of around four hours I searched a couple of swims, casting the baits around and never leaving them in place for too long.  Both runs the previous week had come within 5 minutes or so of casting out, so I knew that if I landed a bait presented correctly in the right place, I was in with a good chance.  Not a touch came my way, so I decided to move to yet another new stretch.  My walk back to the van was completely against the wind and with the surface area created by me, my rod bag, tackle bag and worst of all, my unhooking mat, I had to battle to make every footstep!  I decided to break the journey up by dropping into another swim which I'd pre-baited with some chum earlier.  Again, nothing happened so I resumed my trek against the headwind and finally managed to drive to the new stretch.

I had a couple of swims in mind here, both a long walk from the car park, but this time I was walking into the wind to reach them.  At some points I couldn't physically walk against the gusts and had to wait for a slight drop in wind speed.  Progress was both slow and exhausting so as I passed swim number one (which I'd planned to fish later, after fishing the farthest one first), I decided I could go no further.  I attempted to chum up behind a far-bank tree, but the wind stopped me reaching beyond half-way!  Accurate casting (usually one of my stronger points) was also nigh-on impossible.  By now I was getting really frustrated, so decided that I'd set my float rod up and have a trot down the near-margin for a perch or two, and hope the wind died down later on.  You guessed it, the wind made trotting less of a precise art and more of a repeated untangling exercise, but I did stick with it for half an hour or so.  In this time I had no bites, but on my final trot, as I began to retrieve, I saw a long silver flash behind my float, before everything went quite solid.  After fishing all day with deadbaits, I had hooked a pike on a lobworm!  Fortunately it was not a big one and had been hooked right in the scissors, so I was able to land it after quite an impressive fight, but one I was never really in any danger of losing.

I moved back to piking after this, and another angler Ian, who I've since found out is a fellow blogger, moved into the "perch" swim and also caught a pike on a lobworm!  This has given me some food for thought regarding the diets of certain pike at certain times of the year.  These fish were surely after some quick, easy protein before spawning, so maybe their diets switch to such easily digestible food sources if the conditions are right.  How widespread or common this switch is, is open to debate and/or experimentation, but it's something I'm going to consider when fishing for back-end predators next season.  I had a good chat with Ian before he left and I fished on well into dark, but couldn't coax a bite on a deadbait.  I retired, drained, wind-battered and quite downbeat about a session I was hoping for much more from.

The actual "final" session

I couldn't really end what has actually been a pretty good season on such a low note, so when the weather settled over the weekend I decided to fish after work for the final few hours before the curtain finally fell.  It was mild but the rivers were still low.  In the daytime the skies were clear and the sun bright, so this would surely result in many species feeding nocturnally, I thought.  So I got out the barbel rods for a final flog in the hope that I could end the season the way I started it ...with a double figure barbel.

As I've mentioned before, the barbelling I enjoy most is on summer rivers which are low and clear, but if they're fished right (and also preferably in the dark), they can be productive.  Predators tend to take over as my main winter targets, so my winter barbel fishing experience is limited to literally 2 or 3 sessions ever.  This is completely against general barbel fishing principles, because not only are the fish at their largest toward the end of the season, if the conditions are right they're reputedly easier to catch too.  I spent two hours each in two different swims, using two varieties of super-stinky luncheon meat which I'd flavoured myself.  One batch with Dynamite "Red Fish" liquid and krill powder, the other with some paprika, cayenne and krill powder.  They were prepared a couple of days before, briefly frozen then defrosted and left to sweat for a few hours, so the flavours had really sunk in.  I used large chunks and relied solely on these for attraction, rather than any loosefeed, which may have fed-off any prospective barbel (or even chub!), rather than encouraged them to take my baits.  I had convinced myself that all of the necessary elements had come together at exactly the right time, so I could be in for an evening to remember.  I don't think I've been as excited about a session since my first of the season!

This fishless post has already gone on for far too long so I'm not going to draw it out for any longer.  Basically, I didn't get a bite, but the evening was a very pleasant one to be sat beside the river, which was notably very serene, slow and calm.  It seemed very poetic, almost as if the rivers had gone through so much over the past nine months that they'd finally given up and had begun their three month rest a few hours early.

Having no fish photos to post, I decided to pose for this one at 11.50 on March 14th.  There was still ten minutes of the season left, but already my optimism had faded and I knew my fate...

A massive shrug or holding a massive imaginary barbel?  I'll leave that for you to decide!
During the closed season I'll be trying to fit in a few after-work eel, zander and maybe even carp stalking sessions.  I'm also hoping to do a day or possibly 24-hour session tench fishing on a local estate lake, I've been invited for a day fly fishing for trout on a Derbyshire reservoir and I've also been invited onto an un-fished private pond which apparently has some perch potential, so I'll let you know how I get on with these...

Oh, and I've also booked for a week in September chasing the monster Zander and Catfish of the River Ebro!