With the days counting down to the end of the coarse fishing season on rivers, I was determined in my quest to catch some chub from my local river, the previous week failing on this count, but giving me a respectable net of roach. Two days of rain had kept me inside, but a damp grey morning was giving way to weak sunshine by the afternoon and I decided to play my joker and fish at the Last Chance Saloon, the weir, a mile downstream.
Driving down the lane, I nearly kept on going, the river, the colour of milky coffee, was lapping the underside of the bridge and spilling onto the roadway on either side, rushing at full speed towards the Thames. Already with a heavy heart, the fishing trolley was loaded and pulled the two hundred yards to toward the weir, which was in full flood, pounding away, draining the town’s treated water, swelled by the recent rain. The force of the river was pushing it’s way to the middle of the weir stream, but there were slacks hard under my bank and on the bend opposite, so all was not lost and I went through the motions of setting up my 14 foot rod, with 5lb line to a 6 No 4 ali stemmed stick float. This was already made up on a winder, with a 3lb hook link to a size 16 barbless hook.
I had a range of baits with me, sweet corn, hempseed and liquidised bread from the freezer, red worms from the compost heap and red maggots turned to casters from the fridge, that were well past their sell by date. Balls of bread, were dropped two feet from the bank at my feet and I watched them being swept down toward the bush on the corner. Even the slack was pushing through and now the wind had picked up, bringing a light drizzle. What was I doing here? What chances were there of catching a fish in these conditions? Anglers are optimists. We see opportunity in every difficulty.
I set the float a foot over depth, the hook baited with a 6mm bread pellet and eased it down to the bush, held back clear of the tangled branches, where I could see a couple of floats, lost by previous anglers. After a few minutes, my float dipped and held, but I missed the bite, being taken by surprise. Encouraged, I fed another ball and missed the bite, the bread gone. I would only get a bite following a ball of bread, which I missed every time, so changed bait to a small worm. Success! The float sailed away and a good fish was on. Pulling it hard away from the bush, the fish dashed off down the middle against back-wind, then began a head shaking fight back upstream, only to come off unseen. Not amused, I tried several slow trots to the bush to no avail and decided another bait change might work. Deepening up more, I laid on with the worm in the edge, while I rooted through my bait bag for the hemp and casters, feeding the casters at my feet, with the heavier hemp across the slack and flow. The float bobbed and pulled under. I was in again, another fish zooming away downstream, the rod bending round to take the shock, as it made for the white water. This time it stayed on and a nice junior chub came to the net, the worm taken well down.
The wind and drizzle forgotten, more hemp and casters were fed in and a single caster put on the hook, being dropped just short of the bush and laid on again. The float dipped, then nothing. The caster had been shelled. It happened again. There were fish under that bush, but twenty minutes into the session and I only had one chub to show for it. I shallowed up and let the float run through. It dived, the rod bent over then sprung back, the hook link tangled round the float and I was cursing myself. A bumped fish and now a tangle to be unravelled with cold, wet hands. A few more casters were fed in and soon the sorted rig was lowered in to follow them down, the float sinking out of sight. I lifted and the float stayed down, just long enough to think it was snagged, then pow! The rod was ripped round and I was back-winding furiously, as the line zipped across the weir stream toward the far side. Convinced this was a losing battle, I hung on, not trying to bully the fish across, applying pressure and giving line, when needed. Back on my side of the whitewater, a flash of reddish tail broke surface. A monster roach? A broad flash of gold now had me thinking rudd, then a roll and it was confirmed as a carp. The rolling continued, as I brought the carp against the main current over to my landing net, holding my breath, it slid over the rim. Phew! Didn’t think I’d get this one. Time for a much needed cup of tea.
Everything from now on was going to be a bonus and next trot down I was playing a 6 oz chub, which fought well in the fast water, this to be the last from the bush. I fed the casters further out into the flow and began feeding a few pieces of sweet corn over to the opposite bank with a view to fishing the slower water on the bend. More shelled casters and an on-off, persuaded me to switch lines, adding depth to fish the heavier sweet corn, the fourteen foot rod lifting the line clear of the fast running river, giving good control to the float, as it fished the crease of the bend. Half way down, the tip angled over and skated sideways; a chub had hooked it’self. Not a big fish again, but a spirited fight, the hook neatly in the top lip.
The sweet corn was working well, taking another four small chub, but time and the light were against me and I called it a day at 5pm, the two hours giving me plenty of action and food for thought on a grey February afternoon, when apart from that carp, nothing else, but chub were interested in feeding.
Unusual net fellows, this little river runs through several lakes on it’s way to this point and often has a surprise, or two in store for the few in the know local anglers, who take the time to search out some of it’s secrets.