Urban river chub and roach spree cut short by pollution

August 18, 2017 at 3:35 pm

Following several pollution incidents this year, my local river appeared to be in recovery six weeks ago, when despite an unidentifiable surface scum, it fished well on the bread punch with most of the silver fish species ending up in my keepnet. As a bailiff for the council backed fishing club, that has taken control of the water, my patrols have shown a healthy river running clear and decided that it was time for another monitoring session.

Arriving on a bright afternoon I walked down to an area where a club Himalayan balsam clearing operation has left an open area ideal for fishing. Expecting chub from under the far bank trees, I dropped in a couple of balls of liquidised bread, before setting up my 12 ft Hardy stick float rod with a 3 No 4 ali stemmed float. A sail away bite was a good sign and struck into my first fish, a palm sized rudd.

On my way to the swim I’d passed Jane, who was fishing with her young son. After a membership check, she said that they “only” had bread as bait and hadn’t caught anything yet. Informing her that I rarely fished with anything else, I suggested that she come down to see how I was getting on later.

As that first fish plopped into the keepnet, Jane appeared behind me and my next cast saw the float dive away again, the rod bending now into a hard fighting chub.

My visitor was amazed when the next cast saw a repeat performance, followed by a furious fight from an even bigger chub, that charged off downstream before coming to the net.

Another ball of bread and the float sank away again, the rod bending over as the fish dived back beneath the trees, now with an even larger chub. Close to my bank a submerged branch was visible and each time the chub had made a dive toward it as they neared the landing net, this one almost making it to the snag, but side strain kept it clear.

During this time I was giving a running commentary and trying to give Jane a crash course in bread punch fishing. Her son was using big pinches of bread from a slice, which were giving nibbling bites, while my 5 mm bread pellet was getting a positive pull under every cast. How do you pack years of experience into ten minutes? I’m sure Jane returned to her son more confused than when she arrived.

A smaller chub followed from beneath the trees, then the bites became difficult to hit. Leaving the float to disappear from view before striking gave the answer, 4 inch chublets. Their bigger brothers had gone off the feed and these juveniles were fighting over the bait as it sank. I stopped feeding that line and switched to the middle. Setting the float another foot deeper, I cast down stream and held it back over the feed. A dip, dip, sink bite brought another change of fish as a roach of a few ounces came to the surface. The next bite from the middle had me convinced that I had another chub, when it rushed over to the far bank, but the flash of a red dorsal fin identified it as a decent roach.

This was the last good fish of the session. I had become aware that the river was becoming misty with a grey/blue tinge, while the bites were becoming very fussy, those fish hooked being tiny roach of less than an ounce, which I put straight back. Shallowing up the float, I was back to the miniature chub again from under the trees. As the river became more coloured, the bites faded away. In my book, if you can’t catch on the punch, you can’t catch anything.

Half an hour without a bite is a long time, when the previous hour was a fish a chuck, even if most of them were too small for the net. The once visible submerged branches in close had now faded in the murk and it was time investigate where it was coming from.

I had intended fishing for three hours, but it was pointless to carry on, what had started as a possible red letter day had ended with disappointment and I pulled in my net.

I walked back upstream towards the outlet weir. Jane and her son were long gone, they would have stopped getting bites before me.

At the weir the blue tinged water was coming from my side of the sill, the cloudy mixture billowing into the clear water from the confluence of the wild river. Somewhere under the town upstream, contaminated water was emptying down a drain. Accidental, or intentional it can only be bad for the river. The Environment Agency have been informed, but the three outlet pipes are linked to many miles of rainwater drains under industrial estates. Searching for a needle in a haystack comes to mind.