Blankety, blank defeats optimism on poisoned river

February 15, 2017 at 8:39 pm

Despite a major oil spill on my local river, a flood seemed to have improved the water quality and a couple of anglers reported catching a good net of roach and chub, but before I could get down for a test fishing session, more oil was seen pouring from a drainage outlet of the town. Ever the optimist, I decided to take the short drive to the river anyway, to see for myself, but first impressions were not good.

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A small boom was covering the outlet from one of the drainage tunnels, while a larger boom stretched the full width of the weir, all very serious stuff, backed up by yet another boom reaching across the gravel shallows, fifty yards down stream, which was visibly catching surface scum.

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Below this the river appeared normal, the local duck population looking in fine health, as they gobbled down bread offered by school children enjoying a half term break.

My target swim was a few hundred yards further down the path, a spot where a recent tree fall had reduced the river by half, creating a deep, smooth flowing run about three feet deep.

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I had been saving this swim since the summer, then it had produced a steady supply of roach, rudd, perch and chub, plus the odd skimmer bream, all caught off the rod top, where they were queuing up to take the maggot bait. Two winters ago it was almost exclusively quality roach, that had seized my bread punch pellets.

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Today conditions seemed perfect, a nice green tinge and gentle flow, would have had my anticipation on full alert, but I had already spotted pools of oil reflecting up from shallow depressions, left stranded by the high water at the weekend. Bearing in mind that the fishing may be difficult, I selected a small stick float rig with a size 18 hook and punched a 5 mm pellet out, to start proceedings, following an egg shaped ball of liquidised bread down the swim.

For the next hour I rang the changes, running through shallow, over depth, holding back and laying on. Not a ripple, or a dip of the float to encourage me. The bread remained on the hook, unless tested by myself for softness. I had always assumed that, if I had been able to trot as far as the overhanging tree, a chub would take the bait every time, but had never been able to put it into practice, due to the float being dragged under by a fish long before it got that far. Last resort was to break a small worm in half and put it wriggling on the hook. Surely a small perch, or gudgeon would oblige? Not a touch. Various people stopped to ask if I’d managed to catch a fish, all aware of the recent pollution. One couple, regulars on this stretch had also not seen a bite, when fishing the day before.

The last Ace up my sleeve was to pack up and drive a couple of miles downstream to where water surges over a weir from the town water treatment works. Even on the coldest of days, this swim produces double figure nets of roach and chub, with the likelyhood of a bonus bream, or carp. This could not fail me.

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Oh, yes it could! Now tackled up with a 14 ft rod and a 4BB stick, I fed balls of bread to my left to drift into the faster water coming over the weir, which back eddies into the flow from the main river. The hot spot has always been at the edge of the foam, holding back bringing a sail away bite every time. After an hour, chub and roach would venture up into the slower water to hoover up the bread crumb draping the bottom. Not today thank you! Again a worm was ignored, even when held back and trotted down the foam. I usually complain to my wife about this swim, the constant leaning out over the high bank to net fish, giving me back ache. This time it was complaining about having blanked twice from two different swims on the same afternoon.

My only hope is that the fish are still there, but put off their feed by the chemicals drifting down to them, although as the water coming over the weir is from a source way above the pollution, those fish would not have been affected, so what is going on? Time will tell.

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Just one example of the variety, that this swim could produce, even a carp putting in a surprise appearance.