I am fortunate to live in an area offering a wide range of fishing, the problem being where next? When a planned trip to Berkshire’s River Kennet fell through at the last minute, I was baited up for a fast flowing river, but with nowhere to go. Not for long. Under ten miles from my home is a river, which, like many in England, was a victim of the country’s industrial past, with mills driving machinery, while the water was used throughout it’s length to carry away waste products. Later on with the advent of the motor car, it’s flood plain was scavenged for gravel to tarmac roads, while the remaining holes became sites for landfill, or filled with water to provide more fishing. Today the river runs clear and fast through a ribbon of green, towards the River Thames, the industrial estates and housing are still there, but masked by trees.
This swim is typical of the hard fish river, the banks are worn and the trees opposite are festooned with floats and broken lines, the fence on the far side hides an automated industrial process plant, that rattles and grinds away 24/7. The attraction is that there are plenty of fish here, my only other visit being an autumn day three years before, when only equipped with bread as bait, I filled my net with roach and chub. Today I had hempseed and red maggots, being interested to see what the change in bait would bring.
I set up my Hardy 12 ft soft action match rod, with it’s companion ABU 501 closed face reel, to control a 3 No 4 Middy ali stemmed stick float, putting a single red maggot on a size 16 hook. On my arrival I’d seeded the swim with a couple of handfuls each of maggots and hemp, not being surprised when on the first trot down the middle, the float dipped, then sank slowly out of sight. The rod bent into a deep bodied roach, that flashed in the morning sunlight, as it dashed around the swim. The net went out and I brought the rod back to slide the 8 oz red fin into it. The rod top snagged in the branched above me and I watched helplessly, as the roach danced half in and half out of the water, tangling the line in the leaves, before flicking off the barbless hook. One point down to the fish. Hooking the float with the landing net, I cut the line above it and pulled the rod line through. A two loop join and I was ready again, but not before moving a few yards up, away from the overhanging branches.
This then gave me another problem, the raft of weeds now in front, that would attract any fighting fish, as proved on the second cast, when a perch demonstrated how easy it was to dump the hook, when being brought through them. Two points to the fish. A compromise position was found, I would just have to be careful with the rod top, when netting a fish. Third trot and a smaller perch obliged and I decided to swing it in, only for the lip hooked fish to wriggle off and drop at my feet, bouncing back in before I could grab it. Three nil to the fish. Mental note: net all fish.
The float dipped, then faded from view, a sideways strike to avoid the trees and I was into a solid fish that soon let me know that it meant business, running on the back wind toward the roots along the far side. As I got the landing net ready, I heard myself say “don’t loose this fish”, playing a nice perch in the open water, before bringing it close to the enticing weeds, extending the net out over them to scoop it in. Phew! I don’t know what I would have done, if I’d lost this one. Maybe I take my fishing too seriously? Next trot down, I held the float back hard, it stopped and sank. The bouncing fight told me I had a second chance at landing a roach, it diving beneath the net and into the weeds, but surfacing long enough to net it.
Like the perch, the hook dropped out in the net. I was beginning to relax now; two quality fish in the net and plenty of bites. Another half an hour and the middle line was exhausted, a few lightly hooked perch, that came off before the net not helping. I’d been feeding hemp with maggots over to the far bank and first trot down at the same depth, the float shot away, with the line following, the initial rod bending strike pointing to a decent fish, but the line eased and small chub came to hand.
More small chub followed, many too small to keep in the net, but I kept feeding heavily in the hope of a better fish, but with none showing, a change was required. There was a steady upstream wind, that allowed the float to be inched down the swim and with the stick set overdepth, eased the maggot down a against the flow. The next bite, buried with what I thought was another perch, but instead a big gudgeon, spewing maggots, was pulling like a good ‘un, I even netted it.
I missed the next few bites, sharp dives of the float. Still feeding hemp, fish were hitting the shot, a No 4 going completely. I pulled the strung out shot into a bulk and hit a dace immediately, only for it to be taken by a pike, as it struggled. The pike let go, then came back and took the stricken dace again on the surface. A new hook link needed. Another trot, held back hard and a good roach was on, fighting all over the river, going for those weeds again, but successfully netted.
No apologies for a picture of another roach, this one a fin perfect 6 oz fish. Next cast, held back at the same spot, the float sank away and an even better roach was battling towards the weeds, this one making it and snagging the hook, but staying on. I could just reach it with the landing net and lift it, but the hook remained in the weed stem, pulling the roach back over the rim of the net. Needless to say, this was another fish lost and a new hook link again. This was not the easiest of swims to fish, having also snagged the overhead branches, when netting fish, a few more times, each one requiring the line to be cut. The bait was presented again, and another 8 oz roach hooked, then lost in my haste to get it over the weeds. That was the last roach I saw. Trotting further down, another good dace took, taken in turn by the pike before it cleared the bottom. I had the pike on for a few minutes, seeing that it was only about 2 lb, but when I pressured it, the hook came out of the dace. No doubt, while the pike was still munching on it’s prize, I managed another dace.
I shallowed up again and allowed the float to run in towards the overhanging tree along the far side, pulling the bottom shot up to give a foot of free line in the hope of a bigger chub, but saw only more small chub and the occasional perch.
Deepening up again, the float would dip, but not go under, when it reached the branches trailing in the water. Something was interested, but not taking, so I tried pulling the float back a foot, then letting it go again. Bingo! The float sank away and a nice perch was on. The pike was now taking the perch, something I’ve not experienced before. Each time the perch was released, resulting in a panic stricken fish, some landed, others lost. The pike ignored the small chub that I retrieved slowly across the surface, it just wanted the stripeys.
The final hour was spent teasing these perch to take, until I think they were all in my net, or like the roach had thought wiser of taking my maggots. Some came off, as most were very lightly hooked in the tip of their lips, but by end of the morning session, I had around twenty in my net, plus the bonus roach, for over 7 lb of fish.
I may return on a blackberrying visit soon, bringing along my pole saw for a bit of tree trimming.