Chub and bream keep out the cold

November 23, 2017 at 11:00 pm

Reporting yet another bout of pollution a fortnight ago on my local urban river, I paid a visit for a couple of hours today to see what was biting, if anything. A bitterly cold wind was blowing from the northwest and it was a case of winter draws on, literally, this being the first outing wearing my thermals. I’d decided on one of the nearest swims to the car park, where, with other bailiffs we had removed a pile of rubbish in the summer, which had included a shopping trolley, a couple of bikes and a BBQ.

Arriving at 1pm, I was soon set up with my 12 ft Hardy float rod and 3 No 4 Ali stem stick float rig, the size 16 barbless hook ready for a 5 mm bread punch pellet. Setting out my stall, I had prebaited with a couple of egg sized balls of liquidised bread down the middle, where the flow is strongest, expecting instant bites from the off.

There is an old saying “Expectation is the mother of frustration” and this sums up the first twenty minutes. I had expected the float to sail away with the first cast, an upstream wind allowing the bait to flutter slowly dowstream toward an imagined shoal of roach, but if they were there, they were not interested today. I refer to this as my roach swim, but knowledge of the recent oil pollution saw me ready to pack up, when the float gave one sharp dip. No follow on pull under, just one dip.

The bread was half gone and I rebaited, following the float with another small ball of crumb. Half way along the trot, two dips and it held under. An upward strike put a bend in the rod, while the float scribed a lazy S in the surface film, a slow thumping fight indicating the culprit long before the deep shape of a skimmer bream flashed underwater. The landing net went out and the bream slid in, a rare fish in this river.

Broad in the shoulder, this was close to a pound, the hook barely holding in the skin of its lip.  I had walked down with a local couple exercising their dog, who had witnessed the pollution of this small waterway, saying that their 12 year old son had often fish here before the troubles. They were now on their way back home and stopped to watch me land the fish. At least they would have something positive to pass on.

With the path running behind me, I was joined by another walker, also an angler, who despite living close to the river, had never fished it, preferring commercial carp lakes. Having just missed an unmissable bite, he came down the bank for a better look. He had never seen anyone using a bread punch before and answered his questions giving a brief teach in, while keeping an eye on my float. Another unmissable bite, but this time I hit it, the rod doubling over as the fish ran beneath a tree on the far bank upstream. It doubled back, diving deep under my own bank, as I pushed the rod away from me to draw it out, seeing a good chub veering from left to right searching for a snag. The chub came out and rushed off downstream, heading for a tangle of branches, backwinding and side strain slowing it down. Now it was under my downstream bank, diving beneath the outstretched landing net. Next pass I had it.

Once again the size 16 barbless was just in the top lip. On this light weight gear a three pound chub takes some landing.

Having stirred up the swim, it was another fifteen minutes before any sign of a bite. A tap,tap and a sharp pull under was missed. The bites got fussy, then stopped. The river had taken on a matt, grey look. It was still not 3 pm, but the temperature was dropping fast and it was clear that more oil was coating the surface, iridescent trails of oil snaking across the surface. Pulling out my keepnet, rainbow globules burst on the surface from the disturbed mud, the net having a distinct odour.

Arriving earlier in the day may have put more fish in the net, but at least I had caught something decent, while the river is struggling against the efforts of irresponsible individuals, or companies. Passing the town outfall, an oily scum was entering the river again.