Coarse Fishing Report By Adam Fisher
Following 2 months trout fishing in New Zealand, I was looking forward to getting back to Blighty and watching a pike bung in the margins, the fresh winter air and a warm and cosy pub after a long day in the wilds. Instead I have been asking myself: will it ever stop raining? We decided to hold off the November report due to a low number of catch returns and the forecast was so dire that reports for early December looked like they were going to be very few and far between too. Well, I don’t have to tell you how poor December was for river fishing. We had 7 reports from several very “dedicated” anglers, one of which managed a 10lb 1oz barbel from The Creel on the 7th – well done! Others either blanked or managed to put one or two barbel on the bank. Certainly the conditions were warm enough; the problem was simply getting near enough to the bank in relative safety. The Wye has not been on its own though: the Warwickshire Avon has been unfishable a lot of the time, the Severn too. River fishermen everywhere have had it tough.
November actually fished quite well considering. Whereas I would normally exchange the barbel rods for the grayling or pike rod, had I been here I would have barbel fished almost exclusively - it was so mild that sport continued well into the month for many. With temperatures more like October, those who got out there had some very good fishing indeed. During the first week anglers on Backney, Holme Lacy 3, Creel and Middle Hill Court all caught anything between 4 and 12 barbel. The catches continued and the trend for the 1st half of the month was for anglers to be catching 3 or 4 fish in a day. Warm and flooded are the ideal conditions to catch barbel and if the opportunity arises again between now and the end of the season I urge you to take it.
Predator fishing has been pretty non existent – pike cannot sight feed in the coloured water and presenting a smelly, static bait is near impossible in the turbulent margin. This said there were a few reports of pike captures – a 17lber from Middle Hill Court, a 9lber from Lower Canon Bridge, and an 11 & 15 from Courtfield. The window of opportunity was small and I know that all predator anglers are chomping at the bit to make the most of any respite in the rain that will allow the river to drop and clear.
By the 20th of November barbel and chub sport was still good and SM from Grayshot managed 12 barbel to 10-10 from Backney. That’s great late autumn/winter fishing. From the 27th November to the 7th December there wasn’t a single report and as I looked out of my home office window down onto the Wye I could understand why. I don’t think the river dropped below 2 metres above normal levels for at least a month. On a daily basis it seemed up and down like the proverbial and thick with sediment.
As we move into middle January there is an “Arctic Blast” forecast and, hopefully, this means a good dry spell allowing the rivers to return to a more consistent winter level. It’s been a miserable 2 months and as the time between now and the end of the season always seems to fly by, I’m sorry it’s not good news. There are always theories of the high flows doing damage to the ranunculus beds and I hope that this sustained flooding hasn’t caused too much of an issue there too. It does give the river a good clear out though. Fallen trees and rubbish gets washed away and although land based predators such as otters can do some damage to pike populations as they are forced to seek refuge tight to the margins, the avian predators should have struggled. Perhaps this is why a couple of pools that were due in the Passport next year have had to close – they have been literally wiped out by cormorants that have had to move away from the rivers in search of food.
I hope then that the floods have protected some fish stocks but only time will tell as the spring & summer comes around.
Something I’ve been meaning to do for a while is to acknowledge a good friend of mine and fellow brother of the angle, Dougal Ziegler. Perhaps better known for his role with the Environment Agency, Dougal has been my fishing buddy for some 15 years. We first met on a University field trip in the Swiss Alps and immediately our shared love for fishing and the outdoors became clear. Dougal is a model family man and works hard too, so time on the bank these days is limited, but when we do get out it’s always a great day with plenty of banter. My philosophy with fishing and reporting is that pictures speak a thousand words and one of my main drivers to try and make non-anglers appreciate what we do. Images therefore have to convey as many elements of what fishing is all about as possible. Fortunately Dougal is a super photographer and without him capturing the moments then so much of our journey wouldn’t exist as it does. We have worked together formagazines, where he receives high praise for his work, and you’ll always see a few of his images in the Passport and in this monthly report. I hope you all enjoy his images as much as I do. Opportunities to thank him properly are rare but this is one and so thank you Dougal. I would prefer to avoid pictures of flooding this month – winter can be hard enough on the angler’s spirit as it is – so will instead show a selection of some of the best moments the Dougal has captured over the years.
As always, we hope it inspires you.
A final word on escapism comes to you with memories of my recent trip to New Zealand. I covered 4,600 miles in search of trout utopia but on this occasion I didn’t find it. I’m sure it’s there but every time I got a sniff of it, nature’s force (this particular year being El Nino) would scupper things. From strong winds making casting and fish spotting impossible, to lashings of rain colouring the water – I was expecting gin clear water and breathless days wherever I went of course. I did manage some perfection however, where 5lb browns rose freely as far as the eye could see, supping anything put in their path however poorly presented. Days when every step I took was as deliberate as hunting leopard. I was invisible for brief moments in time and it was brilliant, not a care in the world and at one with my surroundings. I grew very attached to my campervan too and living so simply was hugely liberating. Sleeping where I wanted, I often had the sound of running water to help me off to the land of nod, not that I needed much rocking after a full day wading! It was good for the soul and if ever you need that real escapism then I highly recommend fishing in NZ. It’s got me going for the spring already and I can’t wait to get on the Usk as a more experienced trout fisherman. Surely I’ll hook every fish I cast at...? The difference will be it won’t be happening from my home on wheels but maybe this will only be temporary because as much as I said I’d never do the motorhome thing, I can see absolutely what it’s all about. With this new found open-mindedness I might even end up on a cruise, when there’s no more fishing to do that is.
Good luck if you manage to get out this January but please be very careful as the river will be treacherous with a layer of silt covering the banks and vegetation. Try and fish with company and don’t take any risks to net a fish. Don’t let me put you off though, a day on the bank at this time of year is as invigorating as it gets!
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This month was marked by extremely low river levels for the time of year and a lack of any real cold snap that we would expect with the change of season. Although the leaves have changed colour beautifully, much earlier than my records of previous autumns, the chill just hasn't quite been in the air to get the predator juices going for me and October is a month when the traditional predator season starts. What actually happened was barbel appeared to go through another "finicky" stage like the ones they have in summer, when high pressure accompanies low flows and leads to them shoaling up, only to come onto bait as dusk falls or if there's a flood. There was a way around it, however, and this was to fish for them on the float i.e a moving bait. Although this is enjoyable in the summer (wading is a good way of keeping cool!), I have never really done much of it in the autumn specifically targeting barbel. Usually October is a month when the trotting rod comes out, but really only to get a mixed bag together to get an idea of stocks. Dace, roach, bleak, perch, minnow, chub are all welcome and make for an enjoyable day stood waist deep in the river before it gets too cold. In the past I have also caught small barbel this way but after venturing into deeper water looking for some larger chub this month, a few larger barbel surprised me. The more maggots were sprayed, the more they fed, and so now I can't wait until next October for the "barbel on the float season"! Joking aside, what's been learnt is that when the fish became finicky to static bait, even late in the summer and into autumn, then a moving bait seems to be an unexpectedly productive alternative. Even though I've done a fair bit of guiding for barbel on the float, I took great pleasure in sending a few mates on their way for them to work it out themselves - what they considered to be one of the more difficult disciplines to master for any fish became suddenly easy, and the smiles on their faces said it all.
In October maggots were the reported choice of bait for a feeder and although you can run corn or even pellet under a float at barbel, a constant rain of white grubs is hard to beat. However, the fishing was generally finicky throughout the month and although I never pay much attention to the barometer unless pike fishing on the river, high pressure is the excuse I offer for the patchy sport. How patchy? Well, while 3 anglers were blanking on Sugwas Court, down river at the Creel 2 anglers caught 14 barbel on the same day. This was a similar story throughout the river as anglers on some beats did brilliantly whilst others struggled. The feeding patterns of barbel will now start to slow down as the colder temperatures set in, and maggots should continue to be a go to bait.
I made my annual pilgrimage to the upper Wye and her tributaries at the end of the month. October is the start of grayling fishing with bait on many rivers and is a wonderful time of year to be on the Upper Wye catchment. The leaf colours are breathtaking and with the low, clear water you can get an up close and personal experience of how wild the rivers are up there. Boulders are as big as armchairs, made smooth by flows strong enough to move them about and round them off. Little patches of gravel are deposited behind each one and the slack flow allows fish to shelter behind them as food is also deposited here. There are big slabs of bedrock, with sheer drop offs into deep water. Such bedrock is lethal to wade over without the right soles on your waders - it too is polished clean with very little weed growth for standard rubber soles to grip to. The deeper runs are usually very deep, but also gravel-filled and this is often where the grayling are. During the day it was still warm enough for grayling to rise to blue winged olives and pale wateries, and this makes trotting bait difficult. Often the grayling will boil where your maggots hit the surface. As you release your float to the stream you invariably get bites before everything is in a straight line and you have the space to strike. Although satisfying once the fight is under way and you've landed them, it can be frustrating not to get the whole experience of long trotting the float and waiting for it to disappear before giving a sweeping strike.
During the middle of the month I spent some time with Martin Bowler helping out on a feature for grayling, which will be upcoming in Angling Times in the next few weeks. He caught plenty of grayling, including a few decent ones, and it was a pleasure to see how someone who lives for fishing is still so passionate and dedicated to producing such interesting material for other anglers to enjoy. It should make good reading so look out for it on shelves soon.
Catch returns indicated that the big catches of barbel had slowed down. Not only does this happen as it gets colder but, as mentioned, the high pressure and low conditions certainly had a role to play this October. That said, Fownhope 5 yielded 18 to DSH from Berks on the 9th , and 12 to A from Didcot on the 22nd. The Creel produced 16 barbel to CM from Moreton in the Marsh on the 17th and Backney gave up 15 to PN from Ferndown on the 21st . Good to hear a positive report from Lower Ballingham once again, JD from Fulham catching 12 barbel on the 7th .
I mentioned last month that a few more anglers brave the Perryhill beat at this time of year. As the vegetation starts to die back then access becomes easier. CC from Cwmbran described the fishery perfectly in his catch return saying it was "Bushes, Barbed Wire, Bullocks and Barbel" the latter of which he caught 8. Some good perch were spotted by other anglers too.
As highlighted, maggots are great bait in low and clear conditions and NS from Basildon proved this with 10 barbel and 4 chub from Sugwas Court. This is a great fishery, never failing to surprise me with the captures there, especially the big perch. There is the odd complaint about the top part being overgown. Well, I suggest those anglers put the waders on and get out in the shallow water between the willows. Some of the best fishing on the beat is up here. The reason? Because it is left wild and effort is required to get the best from it. For those preferring not to put so much effort in, there is a mile of river to go at and plenty of swims. Again, we have the "one man's meat is another man's mutton" cliché with the below reports ...
P. P. from Harpenden, Saturday 10 October, 2015
Area: Middle & Lower Wye
Beat: Sugwas Court (Booking Office), Fishing Type: Coarse, No. Anglers: 3
X1 barbel and x3 chub caught here. Disappointed about access to river bank - above orchard only one possible swim. Woods dangerous to access and no fishing available here!
1 Barbel, 3 Chub
S. F. from Reigate, Wednesday 7 October, 2015
Area: Middle & Lower Wye
Beat: Sugwas Court (Booking Office), Fishing Type: Coarse, No. Anglers: 3
Another fine day greeted us and fearing the worse after three days of rain we were surprised to find the river in fine form, little bit of colour but perfect for fishing. We fished the bottom section and two of my friends were rewarded with 3 and 5 barbel all caught on pellet. The fish came throughout the day. I fished the top section and preserved with the pellet but couldn't buy a bite so float fished for a couple of hours and was rewarded with two perch of over 2lb and lost a bigger one which I managed to get to the surface but lost as he made a final dive for freedom ! I estimated him to be between 3 and 4lb.
It's a super stretch of water with many accessible swims lots of kingfishers flying low across the water buzzards with their cry gliding overhead such a wonderful place to be.
We have the same issue with Wyastone Leys, where I personally have easily identified 8 different pegs from Boys Rocks downstream for 400 yards. The river then goes extremely shallow, but this section is only about 2/5ths of the beat. As you leave the woods and get into the meadows, the river bends and deepens and stays deep until the lower limit of the stretch at the Mally Brook. Here the bank is open and you could get a 20 man match along it. We therefore find it very difficult to answer feedback such as the below;
M. M. from Halesowen, Sunday 11 October, 2015
Area: Middle & Lower Wye Beat: Wyastone Leys (Booking Office), Fishing Type: Coarse, No. Anglers: 2
Hi, whilst we enjoyed our day a lot, I would have the following comments to make. The fishing pegs are very very limited. Not having fished the stretch ever before I decided to walk it from top to bottom. I counted probaly 8 pegs in total that could be fished but 3 of these were really really awkward to fish and in fact most anglers wouldnt have even contemplated looking at them. 2 others at the lower end were in extremely shallow fast water and not really an option. With any water on then one of these would have been a no no so in reality there were about 4 pegs. I believe 4 anglers are allowed on it so possibly okay but then no options to move at all. We were lucky enough to be the only 2 anglers so we could move a bit but at £22 each we thought its very very expensive for the options available. With a little bank work the difficult pegs could be made better and a couple more created at the upper end. I suppose the question would be, would I return? The answer is only possibly if I knew we were the only 2 on there as 4 is to many for the stretch as it is.(from an angler thats seen a lot of river over many years). Thanks.
WUF note: Wyastone Leys, like many Passport fisheries, is a 2 person beat with an option of a party of 3
or 4 to book. 2 groups of 2 or 4 individuals would not be permitted.
1 Barbel, 1 Pike
If the maps are followed correctly the following is possible.
P. P. from Harpenden, Friday 9 October, 2015
Area: Middle & Lower Wye Beat: Wyastone Leys (Booking Office), Fishing Type: Coarse, No. Anglers: 3
x3 barbel from rocks- 8, 8:60 & 9:60 x6 from 1st meadow- sheep drink swim-all between 5lb & 9.6lb. All caught on pellet.
I'm sure the barbel in the Wye are getting bigger but discussion of this I will leave for another time. All I know is the following big fish were reported this month ...
MP from Didcot fished Wyebank and caught his 1st Wye double at 10-1 - well done! RD from Hillingdon caught 3 doubles from Backney in a day! PP from Kenilworth caught an 11-2 from Courtfield and MY from Lydney caught an 11 lber from Tresseck & Red Rails - an awesome fish for there. Sugwas (my fishery of the month!) also produced an excellent barbel of 10-8.
So now October is out the way, attentions will turn more to pike and chub, unless we have a warm flood to bring the barbel back on the feed. If the river is low then lures could still be an option for pike, especially as snags will be identifiable in the clear water. If the river rises and colours, then catch it on the drop to find pike behind marginal bushes where the small fish hold up in a flood. People have written to me asking where the chub have all gone, Holme Lacy 3 being the perfect example of their disappearing act. Back in July people were catching 30+ chub in a session whereas on the 4th of the month only 2 fell to 4 anglers. I have no fear for these fish as, like I mentioned last month, they seem to vanish at this time of year. Some cold weather and dusk falling at a more sociable hour should allow the chub angler to target them with big, smelly baits and I hope to hear of some good catches next month.
Last but not least, a mention for the stillwaters - Llandegfedd is back open for pike fishing and the home of the British record pike has produced a couple of decent fish. Nigel Botherway and I had a thoroughly enjoyable day there towards the middle of the month, but alas we blanked. As with the finicky barbel, high pressure was our excuse! I should mention other WUF waters that haven't really been fished much this year, possibly due to lack of summer flooding of the rivers? These waters shouldn't just be explored when the rivers are out of condition though. They are good fisheries in their own right and the following report sums them all up ...
T. P. from Ledbury, Wednesday 7 October, 2015
Area: Stillwaters Beat: Trelough Pool (Booking Office), Fishing Type: Coarse, No. Anglers: 1
2 bream only today - lake still one of the better stillwater venues with much potential for those who are prepared and able to make regular visits - really needs to be fished more to really unlock the potential of this lovely water.
Good luck whatever you're fishing for in November and please keep the catch returns coming in.
September is a fine month. Usually the second or third weeks can be guaranteed to have some sun with pleasant temperatures and we experience the first of those still autumn days when there is literally not a breath of wind. Inevitably the temperatures drop at night and according to the rule book, so the fishing improves. With the EA byelaw restriction on maggot use lifted on the 15th , catches of dace and roach always start appear in reports and with this the predator action picks up as a few cold nights shoal up the bait fish. It certainly is a beautiful time of year to be waterside with the tips of the trees near the water changing colour first, as if scalded by cold mist. The stillness, combined with everything just quietly becoming damp and starting to die back, fills the air with a thick smell of soil and vegetation - autumn is on the way.
Barbel fight extremely well during September, no doubt down to increased dissolved oxygen levels. They go back well too, which is some relief after episodes of perhaps taking 10 minutes or more to revive during August. They start to get fat now too and as will be revealed in the catch returns later, the doubles start to show with some regularity. Chub on the other hand do a disappearing act, not really coming back out to play until the cold weather sets in. Where they all go is anyone's guess but I suggest perhaps they go predatory for a while, feeding on the last of the fry, also familiarizing themselves with the margins in preparation for autumn/winter flooding. Perhaps I'm anthropomorphizing there and really they've switched on to falling nuts, berries & slugs.
Perch are fattening up too. With the clear water and abundance of fry, September is the time of year for the angler to walk the banks and locate them by sight. There's some special fish in the Wye and in the feedback there are reports of sightings of these specimens. Perryhill's perch particularly get a mention every autumn and this month they were highlighted by more than one fishing party. Perryhill also contains some good barbel and now the vegetation is dying back it's a bit easier to access.
A. W. from Lowestoft, Suffolk , Monday 28 September, 2015
Area: Middle & Lower Wye
Beat: Perryhill (Booking Office), Fishing Type: Coarse, No. Anglers: 1
A great day on the Wye. A challenging beat as described but the rewards are there and the barbel fed all through the day for me including 4 to over 8lb, the biggest a fraction under 9lb. All caught on pellet and groundbait tactics! Thanks WUF.
16 Barbel, 3 Chub
T. B. from S.W London, Wednesday 30 September, 2015
Area: Middle & Lower Wye
Beat: Perryhill (Booking Office), No. Anglers: 3
A gorgeous day. A river that was running low and clear, so we weren't sure how it would fish in the bright sun. But we had a good day with 3 PB's, biggest 9lb 8oz. All fish taken on maggot. We must have looked like a mountain rescue team heading to the water, but we needed all the ropes etc :) There was plenty we didn't see so plenty to explore another time. Thanks WUF.
12 Barbel, 2 Chub
Looking at the catch returns there were still many bumper sessions in September, especially following the flood and flush through at the start of the month. MHC has really returned to form and RC caught 25 barbel on the 2nd . On the same day Backney produced 21 barbel to PD from Windsor, Fownhope 5 giving up 16 to GP from Basildon. The river then fined down and beats such as Kerne Bridge became fishable again - on the 7th RS from Merstham caught 18 barbel from the Bridge Pool. White House has also seen a return to form lately but I think this is just because people are fishing in the right areas again. DW from Milton Keynes caught 15 barbel and 13 chub there on the 8th , with DW from Lutterworth catching 12 a few days later. Not far downstream LW + 2 from Canvey Island were fishing The Creel - they caught 30 barbel between them.
Around the middle of the month the clarity really came back in the river and although the days became quite warm, a couple of cold nights meant the deeper stretches started to come back into form. Courtfield, for example, produced several doubles in the second half of the month, the biggest being 11-14. Backney also produced some very special barbel with several doubles to 12-4. Fownhope 5 also produced its biggest barbel of the year at 10-6.
Speaking of large barbel, there was a report of a dead fish that was estimated around 12lbs.
Distressingly, there have actually been numerous reports of fish trailing other anglers' hooklengths this year. My recommended set up for Wye barbel is simple and pretty indestructible, but there are one or two things you can do with your existing set up to reduce your chances of lost fish.
The 2 main reasons for snapping line will be damage to it or use of the wrong knot. 8lb mainline is actually plenty on the Wye, but always check your hooklength and mainline above the feeder/lead after each fish/cast. Any damage should be noticeable by roughness or curling of the coating of the line. Your hooklength will undoubtedly be higher breaking strain than the mainline, especially if using braid or fluorocarbon. Remember though, both of these materials require the correct knot - a strangulation knot will not work under pressure and whilst playing a fish, will pull braid apart like cotton. A blood knot will weaken fluorocarbon too and again the fight of a barbel will make this line seem to break inexplicably. These days I always go for a really simple knot like the Palomar. It's as strong as they come and it's really simple to tie, it also works with every line material you could choose. See this website for some interesting reading on knots.
Huge feeders/leads are not really necessary either (4oz +). What happens is that if you do not apply enough pressure to the fish, the weight can drag bottom. Even when playing barbel on a light feeder or lead, you must apply pressure to keep a fish that's designed to be on the bottom, up off it. They will pull back hard, and you must always be prepared for the 3 or 4 lunges as they reach the surface to be netted. If you are not ready on the clutch, this is when fish are often lost. Getting the balance right is the overall point, and if you use too heavy a rod (as many anglers I meet do) then you will only add more pressure to your mainline - I personally would much rather the rod do the work.
The alternative to worrying about losing fish from damaged line with heavy feeders/leads, is to fish light and under your rod tip - sometimes the biggest fish cruise the margins, especially in a flood, and a giant piece of luncheon meat is one of the best barbel baits known to man. Another alternative is to fish the float - there was some excellent sport to be had just last week and next month I hope to show you some images of this in October's report. Like dace and roach, barbel love maggots too and a bunch trotted tight to the river bed, combined with regular feeding, should get you a few fish.
P. W. from Great Rollright, Friday 18 September, 2015
Area: Middle & Lower Wye
Beat: Foy Bridge (Booking Office), Fishing Type: Coarse, No. Anglers: 2
What a lovely little stretch of river. Easy parking very close to the nearest swims. Swims were good for access although might have to be taken during wet weather as they may get muddy/slippy. Only one 'decent' fish - a 4.5lb chub but one good barbel lost. 10 very small (<1lb) barbel caught though and they were great to see - a good sign of active recruitment. Spent a good deal of time trotting small baits and caught a constant steam of smaller chub, dace and bleak and a single gudgeon. Lots of kingfisher sightings and a Daubentons bat appeared at about 5:30 pm which was very unusually early, nice to watch it hunting though. I think a lot of people stick it out on the Wye with big baits for big chub and barbel but they are missing a treat with the quality of the trotting sport for smaller chub and dace - it was literally a bite a chuck! Will be back one day soon.
10 Barbel, 60 Chub, 50 Other
The absence of chub through the month was notable and although some decent fish came to float at Foy, there was little mention of anything over 4lbs anywhere else. This, as previously mentioned, is just what happens at this time of year - it's a transition for the chub it seems. Then again, the fishing can still be hit and miss no matter what you fish for, as LJ from Gloucester expressed from his trip on the 29th to Upper Home Lacy - "New beat for me. No fish, not a single bite. Bright sunshine, low river, no flow, east wind - fishing as hard as it gets! I would say there was no fish there but I had eight lovely barbel the previous week on my first visit. The difference was 18 inches of extra water, that's all it needs."
There was another round of filming on the Wye for "Fishing Gurus" midway through the month - Dean Macey loves it on the Wye and grayling and chub were the target species this time. I was fortunate to be involved again and I'm pleased to say both days were a success. With the stunning weather, turning leaf, and Dean's endless enthusiasm, it promises to be good viewing - due to air as episode 5 on Sky Sports in November.
Looking forward to October, this is the month when the traditional pike season starts. For me, it's still just a little too warm for pike. Although many prefer to wait until it's freezing to fish for grayling, it's such a beautiful time of year to be on the upper reaches of the Wye catchment. With the trout season over, grayling are the perfect excuse to be there. Good luck whatever you fish for and enjoy.
I'll kick off this month by mentioning what for some are the devil fish of the river - barbel. In the past there's been claims in some quarters that barbel are a menace to the Wye and should be wiped from the river. Well, I'd like to provide some evidence that coinciding with the improvement of the salmon run over the last few years, is healthy barbel recruitment too. I have caught 4 fish under a pound this month. These smaller fish rarely take a static bait but there's always the odd one to catch on float. I'm mesmerised by their form at this size. It could just be that man is fascinated by anything in miniature, but maybe it's their stark contrast to an average sized fish of about 5lbs. So, although some fisheries may see a bit of a downturn in catches some years, it seems the future is bright for the Wye's barbel population.
I've also noticed an excellent head of micro barbel - aka gudgeon - in the margins. I used to love catching gudgeon as a boy and they're the first fish caught for many an angler. The similarity between gudgeon and barbel is not only their down turned mouth and shark like fins, but also their fondness for porpoising or leaping out of the water. Redmire is famous for its "farting gudgeon" as they leap around! Barbel do this too, just on a slightly different scale. If you don't see the fish you can tell it's a barbel leap by the noise - usually several very quick beats of the tail followed by a "slap", a splashy type of rise. When you have a small barbel on the line you may wonder what on earth it is. There isn't the dull, kiting pull back of a chub, or the locking to the riverbed strength of the barbel. Although a small barbel wriggles on the line like an eel it's not quite the full on jagging and twisting sensation coming from the same general direction. If you could guarantee bags of them they'd make tremendous sport float fishing with light tackle. On the feeder and 1.5lb test curve rod it's a bit of overkill. Although smaller, they must still be handled with care - they seem to play dead on the bank so make sure they're good and ready to go back before releasing them.
Up to a few weeks ago I was under the impression that canoes weren't too bad this year. However, as we got into August it just went crazy and reports from anglers confirmed this. Personally, I have never seen so many. The issue for fishery manager is not just the disturbance to anglers as they head through swims. Even on the busiest of days, an increasing proportion show consideration for anglers' lines. It's more to do with seemingly total disregard for the angler (not to mention wildlife and private property) as boats moor up on gravel beaches or start playing around in areas right in front of anglers. It's also the picnicking and leaving of litter. You'd be shocked at some of the things that people leave behind. The worst thing, however, is the faeces up on the top of the riverbank, and the paper that goes with it. Stepping in dog mess is one thing...
How do we explain this to anglers? Well, we can't. Fisheries have started to place signs up with wording such as; PRIVATE LAND - strictly no mooring or stopping. I've had 2 signs ripped down already this summer. When politely asked to leave the area most people think you're out to ruin their fun. Sadly, the good have to pay for the bad and although many are children enjoying our wonderful river environment, supervised by perfectly polite adults, I always have to explain the message that they are sending to the less considerate. When I get a call or text at 3am from someone on the hillside nearby telling me there's a fire and lights down on the riverbank, I have to head down and investigate - it's part of my job. On these occasions I am often confronted by a group of folk whose excuse is that they went past last year and saw people picnicking there and that there were fire ashes already there. So as you can see it is hard not to be frustrated when innocent folk, although just trying to enjoy the outdoors, are sending a message that has knock on effects that take others from their family at unsociable hours. The problem would be nothing like what it is if there weren't so many of course, but due to lack of regulation and ignorance from the governing bodies, the quantity of canoes is just outrageous. At what point will the impacts on this Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) be considered? It's a question that Natural England will never answer. Adding to the frustration is that when required infrastructure to allow better access for the angler, such as chopping a willow bow that's causing bank erosion, is prohibited without their consent. One of the hardest things to swallow is when people say "it's all our river and we're free to do what we want. In other countries they don't have these restrictions." What is not considered, however, is that when it comes to exploitation of these areas, we are not in Canada or Alaska. We are a very small, densely populated country and there is only one river Wye!
Reading the August reports I don't think any other form of outdoor activity gives such one on one invasion and environmental threat. SD from South Yorkshire, fishing Backney on the 16th August commented: "What did cause issues though was the canoeists. We arrived just after lunch to fish until late and when we arrived it was like the D-Day landings, there were canoes beached/ landed everywhere. We even witnessed them landing on crib 1 then proceed to climb on the roof of the hut and jump up and down yelling and shouting. We had to walk along the banks and politely remind them that landing was not allowed in this area, most just accepted this and carried on their way although there were a couple of exceptions to this. Don't know what the answer is to this as the owners of the beat have posted clear signage all along the beat indicating that landing is not allowed. The canoeists seem to find the signs just a convenient place to sit! I should say that all the major canoe companies on the Wye were represented."
Earlier in the month AS from Newent came across a similar incident when fishing Wyebank. "Waste
of 20 quid. Boat traffic constant from 10 a.m till 7pm totally destroying fishing. Capsized boats,
people swimming in your swim, stopping for lunch all down the swim all day. Told a few I had payed
to fish, they moved and within 2 minutes the next few canoes were moored up. The arrogance of a few
ruins it for so many. A few were more river wise paddling fast to pass through but mostly a bunch of
arrogant idiots who quite honestly could not give a hoot.. and at their age, oh dear.. I have had
this on other beats, people throwing stones in your swim and had them hitting the banks you are sat
on. Mindless idiots.
WUF Note: July and August is the peak time for canoe traffic on the navigable sections of the Wye. Although we appreciate it is not always convenient, the advice to anglers is to concentrate fishing effort early morning and late evening at this time of year. Canoe traffic is less then and the fish are often more active."
SM from Swindon was fishing Fownhope 5 at the beginning of the month..... "Very warm sunny day that seem to bring out every canoe on the Wye. We had a few parties of blokes coming down, obviously tanked up. These fine gentlemen totally disregarded our position on the river and just spread themselves right across the river. I saw 3 gents during the day, standing up in the boats, urinating, oblivious to any other persons. We all pay for the right to use this beautiful place only to be ruined by the few who don't care. I watched as one of these gents just emptied his litter into the river. Crisp bag and beers cans, once again, he was another one oblivious to my calls to stop. To be honest, I did note that the red boats were letting most of the idiots in them. Someone will get physically hurt soon if this does not get better control. Children and families will see what I saw today and I don't believe that is right. The Wye should be used, not abused. I love to canoe as well, but these people should not be allowed. More control needed from these companies rather than just take any idiots money. We still had a great day as usual, so a big thanks to the W&U again. See you soon, SM."
The river was low at the beginning of the month, really low. Catches were generally a bit slow, and my fishing was nearly all for chub on the float. Bait was mostly breadflake and armed with a pair of waders you can cover so much water. One of the most exiting things about this time of year is that chub feed on the surface with gusto. As you mash the bread up in the water to feed the swim, inevitably some of it floats and as your eyes are fixed on your float downstream, or as you're baiting your hook (basically, not watching the rest of the water), you hear slurps as the chub take the loose bread off the top. It's really exciting fishing and you can see rises for hundreds of yards down river, giving you a good idea of really how many chub are in there. I recommend it.
During the middle of the month we had the biggest flood since the start of the season. This was much needed and with it came coloured water and the expected increase in catch returns. I fished for barbel and managed one or two. I can see how the Wye's banks can seem overgrown to many but it took me just 5 minutes to push my way through some nettles and Himalayan Balsam without having to "beat" anything down (see photos right).
Middle Hill Court has really returned to form this year. JH from Oxford had 21 barbel on the 30/8. Sugwas Court too has "come back to life" and catches of 11 barbel in consecutive days by DU from Marlborough followed a catch of 28 barbel and 16 chub by TM from Heptonstall. Backney really can turn up the goods and this month it has fished superbly, with catches of 38 barbel and 21 chub to one angler on the 10th , followed up on the 11th with 25, the 14th with 28 and the 15th with 20+. These sorts of catches didn't slow down with the extra water and the 22nd was the real red letter day with JS from Sutton Coldfield catching 32. Wyebank seems to have come back into a bit of form too with KS from Bridgend catching 31 on the 3rd and SWP from Chertsey catching 20 on the 10th . The same angler also added to the mixed reports from Fownhope 5. I'm chosing to mention this one as it has nothing to do with access or number of fish caught - "really feel privileged to be able to be on such a beautiful stretch."
To back up this I'd like to take the opportunity to highlight this catch return from a client who fishes with his friend for the Golden Maggot Trophy;
R. H. from East Peckham, Thursday 20 August, 2015
Area: Middle & Lower Wye
Beat: Wyebank (Booking Office), Fishing Type: Coarse, No. Anglers: 2
We arrived early in the morning for our first visit to Wyebank and made our way down to the bottom pool to bait up. The river was clear and very low, we were a little concerned that we might struggle in the conditions. We trotted floating crust for a couple of hours starting from the shallows working our way down to the bottom pool. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Chub most obliging and of a good average size. We landed 13 Chub to 5lb 3oz (PB for me) and most fish were over 4lb. We fished the bottom pool through to about midday and landed 4 small Barbel. Canoes had started to arrive and we decided to leave and come back for an evening session.
Arrived back about 5:30, baited up and went for a pint and returned about 7:00. Fished the bottompool where we had a fantastic evening session landing 12 Barbel. Some very small ones but also fish of 4lb 8oz, 4lb 11oz, 6lb 12oz and the last fish of the evening 9lb.
I would like to add that in the build up to fishing at Wyebank I read many of the catch reports from
the beginning of the season. For the most part the fishing had been prolific. This however had not
stopped a number of people moaning about SMALL BARBEL (surely this is such a positive) the PATH
which yes is a little tricky but it is on a river bank which through the winter I suspect is in many
places under water, this obviously makes it very difficult to maintain. CANOEISTS, they have a right
to the river as well, we avoided the peak times but found those we encountered to do there best to
avoid us and all were polite. It is a privilege to fish the River Wye and I would like to thank the
WUF, keep up the good work.
1 Trout, 16 Barbel, 17 Chub
The Creel continued to fish well too and there's been multiple catches of barbel and chub there. This monthly report seems to never go without mentioning yet another red letter day on Holme Lacy 3 - IP from Torquay catching 35 chub on the 16th , well done. Kerne Bridge has picked up this month too with BG from Taunton catching 11 barbel followed by 18 barbel the next day. Lower Carrots & Luggsmouth pleased a couple of anglers from Wiltshire on the 13th as they caught 18 barbel and 9 chub.
Out of the stillwaters, Trelough is giving some good fishing with some very positive feedback. There's been plenty of carp caught up to 20lb and a few roach and bream. The other stillwaters should pick up again too as cool nights push the fish down, only to become more active through the day.
On the 14th September the maggot ban lifts from the Wye - this should see mixed species catches pick up. We've received already one from CW of Gloucestershire who fished Foy and had a lovely mixed bag of chub, dace and barbel on corn. September is always one of my favourite months for fishing and as we start to get the misty mornings, just being out on the bank does wonders for the soul. Sometimes you go through phases where you wonder what on Earth is wrong with you, not being bothered to get your fishing tackle out. I know I'm not the only one. You just can't put your finger on it and before you know it weeks have gone by and you haven't fished. When you finally push yourself somewhat reluctantly to see what it's all about again, it becomes clear quite quickly what you've been missing. If you've been missing something this summer, give fishing a try again. Good luck.
This month's report has been helped by a remarkable level of angler feedback, with around 300 coarse fishing catch returns to go through. Thank you to all who've taken a few minutes of your time to respond to the automated email from the Booking Office. The catch returns are an opportunity to let us know not just how the fishing was, but also to notify other anglers of the good and bad points you've experienced with access, directions, canoe traffic etc. If, however, there is anything that is an issue in real time, then please let the Booking Office know as soon as possible - issues relayed after the event are hard to act on. Any suspected illegal activity should be reported to the EA hotline as soon as possible on 0800 807060. Anyone who doubts the efficacy of this service (and sometimes, it'd be difficult to blame them!) should know that persistent illegal fishing on the Usk in the Brecon area was cracked down upon by Natural Resources Wales officers after it had been reported a few times.
At the end of June temperatures were into the 30s and at this time of year the fishing can hit a bit of a slump, usually requiring a good flush through to get the fish moving again (barbel especially). The temperatures continued to rise into July and on the 2nd an angler reported that it had reached a sweltering 37C at Preston Court! Elsewhere on the river anglers were experiencing the hottest July day on record and it was no surprise to hear that they hadn't had a "knock" on some beats.
Being a "man on the ground" I receive a fair bit of feedback face to face on the riverbank. As can be expected with fishing, this isn't always positive! At other times it comes through what is receiving a growing opinion of one of the downsides of modern day fishing - website forums. I have to confess it hurts when so much effort goes on behind the scenes, at all hours of the day, with the overall intention of providing pleasure. Some don't agree with the higher prices to fish the Wye compared to other rivers and when anglers have taken the plunge to pay higher sums, they often assume that this equals instantly hungry fish! What is being offered primarily is the opportunity to access and fish some of the most beautiful river our country has to offer, access to much of which may otherwise be closed off to the public. This is offered in combination with a certain level of exclusivity to your day - on most beats on most days you won't see a soul. A higher fee isn't supposed to mean more work to access the banks either - there won't be swathes of natural vegetation flattened to make way for steps, with swims every 20 metres. Where this is done, it gives the impression of benefit to the angler. However, the majority of swims on these kinds of stretches will be over shallow or snaggy water, which after a season has gone by with no anglers fishing them, will grow back over anyway.
The point is that although first impressions may be of inaccessibility and of few swims, not everywhere holds fish. It is simply not worth putting swims in when the water beyond this undergrowth is not conducive for good fishing. There are worn swims for good reason and there are yards of overgrown bank for a reason too. In between, however, there are plenty of fishy little pockets for the pioneering angler (at the risk of completely contradicting myself!).
So, as I elude to nearly every month, you sometimes have to work at Wye fisheries to get the best out of them. The following 2 are perfect examples of this from Fownhope 5.
G. M. from Leominster , Monday 27 July, 2015
Area: Middle & Lower Wye
Beat: Fownhope 5 (Booking Office), Fishing Type: Coarse, No. Anglers: 3
A fairly good day. The lads battled into the wood, they were not impressed with the dangerous nature of the wood and disappointment with the fields below and inaccessibility of the river. Upper pools produced later in the day. Again another beat where work is needed to improve the fishing experience or reduce the cost of the ticket. The boys had to contend with people walking the beat and pestering them for information too.
C. B. from Cardiff, Sunday 19 July, 2015
Area: Middle & Lower Wye
Beat: Fownhope 5 (Booking Office), Fishing Type: Coarse, No. Anglers: 2
Lovely beat with lots of different swims. Caught two Barbel & one chub, all putting up a great fight. Barbel to 8lbs. A pleasure to be on the river with some friends....
I will probably then continue to mention it every month as we receive conflicting reports of some anglers finding access tough, whilst others find exactly what they want, proof again below that you just can't please everyone! There's bad, good, and indifferent.....
G. M. from Leominster, Tuesday 28 July, 2015
Area: Middle & Lower Wye
Beat: Middle Ballingham & Fownhope No.8 (Booking Office), Fishing Type: Coarse, No. Anglers: 2
A very disappointing beat and a huge let down after early success on other beats. There is serious investment needed here in opening up the water. Either that or a serious rethink on pricing this beat. I paid for majestic scenery not majestic fishing on this beat as there are not the pegs on the beat. POOR!
D. C. &. S. B. from Norton, North Yorkshire, Wednesday 1 July, 2015
Area: Middle & Lower Wye
Beat: Middle Ballingham & Fownhope No.8 (Booking Office), Fishing Type: Coarse, No. Anglers: 2
Lots of swims cut out on this fishery so plenty to go at however we made our own after my professional barbel spotter took a wander and found some in a very inaccessible area where we have found them before. Our rope came in handy today.
S. T. from Stoke on Trent, Saturday 25 July, 2015
Area: Middle & Lower Wye
Beat: Middle Ballingham & Fownhope No.8 (Booking Office), Fishing Type: Coarse, No. Anglers: 2
7 chub caught from various swims, most coming from the faster water towards the top of the beat in the first hour. Struggled for fish the rest of the day despite trying numerous other spots. However, really nice place to spend a day despite the lack of fish.
You don't have to be Bear Grylls though. There is an approach where perhaps you could take a little more patience and think outside the box, rather than expecting every barbel in the river to hang itself because those before you may have had such good fishing! A good example this month was from JK from Peterborough fishing Sugwas Court. Their party experienced a slow start, perhaps due to high expectations, but then "heavy baiting followed by a long lunch paid off", as when they returned to the river they revisited the baited spot and banked 15 barbel and 7 chub before dusk.
The moral is had they continued to bombard the river with feeder full after feeder full, changing hook lengths and trying different baits, perhaps getting frustrated at the lack of action, then they may have fooled one or two more fish. However, by allowing the fish to get confident over a baited patch they caught more in a few hours than they would have done in the whole day. Give it a try next time, and as I nearly always suggest to anglers I guide, bait a few spots and return later.
Enough of the excuses! The early part of the month, however hot, fished well, and from the 3rd July for the following 10 days I can highlight the following reports:
KP from Dunstable - Backney - 14 barbel & 8 chub
GH from Staines - Wyebank - 9 barbel & 7 chub
GP from Basildon - Sugwas Court - 12 barbel
LS from Stevenage - Caradoc - 32 barbel to 3 anglers
DA from Evesham - Lower Canon Bridge - 8 barbel & 8 chub
DC from N Yorks - Courtfield - contradicting another angler who said there were very few swims, he said there were plenty and caught several barbel to 10lb 5oz.
PE from Stillington - Wyastone - only caught 1 eel but said "some times it's your day and sometimes it's not, but it's still a great river to fish!"
NW from Stroud - How Caple Court - "Tough going and some fantastic fishy battles - an experience neither of us will forget soon!"
BS from Crawley - Sugwas Court - 22 barbel
CN from London - Lower Canon Bridge - 20 barbel
SS from Berkeley - Creel - 10 barbel and 14 chub
Things slowed down at the middle of the month and this is when some describe the river as being in its "awkward stage": 1 or 2 barbel caught in quick succession and then the swim dies. Maybe contradicting what I highlighted earlier, and just to emphasise again that it's fishing not "catching",renowned areas can be baited heavily and returned to full of expectation for the evening session, often only to produce a chub or two.
Mid July saw a small rise in river levels and this brought with it a monumental amount of weed and debris. What happens over time is that weed and debris collects in the slack areas created in the margins, behind bushes and fallen trees etc - a lot of this is natural breakdown but it's also cut in some areas to allow for rowing, but more often it is ripped up by swans. The smallest of rises then allows the main current to start reaching these slack areas again and the water begins to move. This movement is known in fluid dynamics as an "eddy". All it takes is one strand of weed from the accumulated weed raft to catch the main current, and it pulls with it the knotted body of debris. This can take several goes, but once momentum builds and the weed raft itself is eddying, it eventually gets caught in the flow, and before you know it there's huge slugs of vibrant green weed and swan feathers, some as big as cars, making their way down river. One strand caught on your taught line and you may think you've got a bite. If left, the pressure will often pull your feeder/lead into a snag, and before you know it your rod is hooped over with the line singing under tension. My advice in these conditions is to always keep an eye upstream, and if there's anything headed anywhere near your line, then take the rod off the rod rest and either drop or lift the tip to guide the line away. Sometimes this is impossible due to sheer quantity of weed, especially when it is loose strands and not in rafts, but the idea is it may buy you a bit more fishing instead of just recasting a heavy feeder only to put fish off, or even giving up altogether and heading home.
During this dirty spell for fishing, CP from Oxford fished Wyebank and caught 24 barbel. About 300 yards away on Courtfield, however, the report was of unfishable conditions. Sometimes you can get way with a sheltered spot. On the same day well up river after the weed had cleared, Sugwas Court and Backney produced nearly 20 barbel each, with rolling meat being the successful method to get bait amongst the weed beds. Interestingly, Wyebank did fish sporadically - on the 8th July one angler had 4 barbel, the day after another caught 52!
Following a small rise in levels we would normally expect catches to pick up and on some beats they certainly did; PH from Hastings fished Middle Hill Court and had 19 barbel on the 15th July, followed on the 16th with 23 barbel and 24 chub. I know this beat intimately and this is a tremendous catch. The chub obliged on these 2 particular days too, with KS from Cardiff catching 24 chub from Foy on the 15th and SH from Leeds catching 31 on the 16th . The successful technique for both anglers was my favourite chub bait - bread.
Towards the end of the month the catches continued, and the usual positive reports came in from Holme Lacy 3. This a superbly kept fishery by Colin the ghillie and anyone looking for real treat should book here. The fishing's not bad either! AJ & DP from Windsor caught 29 barbel and 59 chub one day, and on another GM reported 25 barbel and 88 chub! We don't hear many reports from Lower Carrots and Luggsmouth but PB from Crewe hit it just right on the 19th catching 22 barbel.
What's also worth mentioning this month is the number of eels caught. Just as we've had a good spring for salmon, shad, lamprey, and plenty of fry in the river, the eel catches have been noticeably up on previous years. JM from Charlton caught 13 eels over 4 days. This is more like eel catches of 20 years ago, where you couldn't even get away from them on bread!
So July fished well and with another good flush of fresh water at the end of the month, August should fish well too. Canoe traffic will be heavy and you may experience other river users due to school holidays but the fish don't really mind so be patient and pick either end of the day to give your utmost concentration on that rod tip. We'll soon be having misty mornings and getting a few hours in after work will be tight, so make the most of it. Good luck and tight lines.
Firstly I must apologise for the lateness of this report. In combination with leaving it to the last minute due to forecasted thunderstorms and the anticipated improvement in catch returns, I have been hospitalized with a knee infection following a tumble off a mountain bike. I should stick to fishing. It's surprising the lack of any sort of network for sending/receiving emails in Hereford hospital too, so this has had to wait until a return to the home office. One might think that I'd have had time to write some sort of masterpiece following this time laid up – the truth is, as most will know, hospital is absolutely mind-numbing and with the frustration of being unable to fish, inspiration is hard to find. Thankfully, the catch returns have been flooding in and so I am able to report from the first glorious weeks of the season.
We've seen more weed than in quite a few years in the Wye, following a distinct lack of it in recent years. Its vibrant green presence, wafting in the crystal clear flow, has stimulated the senses to remind me of summers gone by, wading amongst it as a boy, getting my nose as close to the water as possible to be as amongst that watery world as possible - I always said I wanted to come back as a fish! The sound of babbling water over shallows and around your cooling legs, the smell of the water...it's indescribable. Although chilly, it has been sunny and perhaps the lackof algal blooms has been due to the increase in weed? It would coincide with the lack of the weed in the last two years, two of the worst years I've known for algal blooms.
I love a weedy river. It acts as a sieve for hemp and pellets and the barbel love to live under it, kiting between the weed beds and gliding across the gravelly channels to intercept trundling bait. They root through the gravel in the slower flow created behind the main bulk of weed, where most of the bait and natural food will have deposited - it's just like in the textbooks. The weed also stops your bait washing miles off downstream and it keeps the barbel closer to where you introduced it. Where they would normally take a bait and peel off in the flow, amongst the weed it's more fierce, perhaps as they snatch the opportunity as your bait speeds up when it finds a channel. If static fishing it can be a nightmare however, as the barbel feed with such gusto that the rod tip bangs around all over the place from their flanks brushing the line or when they're really having it from them headbutting the feeder!
Shad were reported in huge numbers, again more than for many years after their populations have reduced, primarily through overfishing, pollution and habitat destruction. Although we always see a few "May Fish" they are not in the abundance they once were - as a boy we were allowed to fish for them, and eat them. A tiny blade spinner with a single hook was sold as a "shad spinner", but it always needed a swan shot or more to get it down and as you drew it back up through the water column and it came into view, so did dozens of big eyed, oversized herrings (alosinae), flashing silver as they turned away after they'd taken a bite and missed. The shad numbers seem to correlate somewhat with the salmon numbers, and it's been a magical return to form for the Wye this spring - see here for more details.
A huge quantity and mixture of fry species were notable too. At dusk the river has been alive from bank to bank with the dimpling of baby fish, with the odd bigger wave as they were harassed by chub and perch. Word was also around the local pubs and amongst dog walkers that they'd never seen so many anglers, if not fishing then walking the bank in preparation, baiting up, cutting in swims etc.
So the river was in perfect nick for the start of the season, despite the late spring most barbel spawned back in April, the chub in May. Levels were perfect and there were no excuses. Returns then proved very good with the best June 16th I can remember for a while, for the chub as well as the barbel;
- TU from Bristol caught 11 barbel from Backney.
- TM at Middle Hill Court had 18 barbel and 9 chub, followed up on the 17th with 17 barbel and 6 chub from Sugwas Court.
- CT & JT from Tring fished Lower Backney and caught 14 barbel and 16 chub.
- LM from Wirral had 10 barbel and 33 chub from Wyebank on the 17th , with the 18th producing 24 barbel and 28 chub for RM from London. Wyebank fished well opening day too with 10 barbel and 16 chub.
- KC from Leeds 40 chub from Holme Lacy 3
- LM from Stoke on Trent– 26 chub from Foy
It wasn't only the river that fished well on opening day, PK from Hinkley caught 26 wild carp from Pant Y Llyn - well done!
For the rest of the month the form continued, with catches of over 20 chub a common occurrence, and even a 6lb 7oz specimen from Lower Canon Bridge, which I've always thought has the potential to produce this stamp of fish. Some beats took a while longer to come into form for barbel but when they did it was worth the wait - JJ from Swindon fished the Creel on the 21st and caught 20 barbel. Towards the end of the month the thunderstorms arrived but not in time to include into this month's report. This should have freshened the river up as just on the turn of the month following some extremely hot weather, things were starting to show signs of slowing down. The size of the fish was not particularly notable for the start of the season, but then chub and barbel are at their lowestweights. This said, someone fishing Courtfield reported a "13 Barbell" as their biggest fish along with "some others 10lb+" - let's hope this is sustainable and Courtfield being 4 individual rods doesn't get too pressured.
What a start I'm sure you'll agree! Bare in mind this is just a few of many returns from June and my apologies to those I haven't mentioned this time around. Going forward, we are into the toughest month for anglers and fish alike, especially with water levels painfully low. Yet gallons of nature's finest is still being sucked out to water potatoes that probably don't even stay in our country! Blimey, I'm starting sound like a certain salmon fishing blogger! Anyway, the point is that canoes will become an increasing issue as school holidays kick in and with low levels means slow progress for them, especially along weedy stretches. Warm and low water will affect the barbel once caught too - here's a brief recommended code of conduct:
- Once netted keep the barbel in the water for a few minutes before unhooking.
- Make sure you have a decent size unhooking mat not far from the waters edge.
- Forceps to hand make unhooking safer and quicker.
- Rest the fish in the margin again before taking pictures.
- Don't weigh fish under 7 or 8lbs, it really isn't necessary - most good barbel anglers don't weigh fish unless they may be a double.
- Rest the fish again before gently releasing it, making sure it's kicking consistently - one kick of the tail doesn't mean it's ready.
- If it looks like the fish can't keep itself upright without support, don't release it.
Lastly, I'd like to mention the "wild" nature of the Wye, something that, in my opinion at least, is one of the river's most endearing features. One angler this month insisted that its fisheries needed to be of better quality, after catching 11 barbel! Any angler wanting relatively pristine fishing is going to have to accept a greater degree of bankside foliage, especially early in the season. The Wye is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) too, so there are legal considerations before the Agent Orange can be deployed! One recommendation was to bring a machete with you - please don't, if only because you will have some questions to answer if stopped by the police on the way to your fishing! The opening weeks on the Wye are always booked up months in advance yet there is no extra cost for these early tickets, despite this high demand. It might be worth bearing this in mind before grumbling about having to push one or two nettles back before getting the water’s edge.
Enjoy your fishing and good luck!
May has been more like April in terms of weather; a blustery north and/or east wind, the odd hailstorm, and a generally chilly feel to the air. There have been some decent catches from the stillwaters but with cold nights I personally have struggled with the tench fishing. Most stillwater fish generally start to think about spawning in May but while the carp and tench are yet to spawn, they’ve also been a bit finicky due to the cool temps. Quabs tench certainly have and only one or two have had their heads down to feed, and then only for a few minutes at a time rather than for good spells. The chub have been as obliging as ever though and along with a few nice rudd, fishing at Quabs has provided a few very pleasurable evenings fishing.
Fortunately it's a productive time of year to see all nature in action and if you spend enough time looking you should see a good amount of fish movement. As the weed and lillies start to break surface, they disturb the lake and river bed and the fish tend to hang around these areas as a food source. Due to the lack of full cover the fish are more visible, and even if not feeding they can be quite tame to your presence, allowing you to get really close to study their behaviour. With the huge hatches of flies comes fish feeding up in the surface layers too, and just about all species will have a go at an emerging insect.
The rivers are looking good - there was a small algal bloom towards the beginning of the month, identified by the colour from a small spate not clearing quite as quickly as it should have. There were other small spates to follow though and these soon cleared the colour out. The continuing good flow has resulted in some pretty decent salmon fishing throughout the river - see salmon catches on the WUF website. Some pretty exciting trout fishing has been had on the Usk and the tribs too and I will take the opportunity again to plug the quality of fishing available, not as difficult as you might think and a great opportunity to improve your water craft.
Bankside vegetation has been slower than usual to reach jungle status, but this will no doubt accelerate the moment we get a good spell of the currant bun. This will bring with it the inevitable early season frustration from a few who find the undergrowth troubling and complain of an unkept fishery - most coarse anglers I know would sell their grandmother to feel they're first in a swim, or at least one of the first! If you have the privilege of being on the river in the opening week, please don't just smash your way though the long grass, snapping branches to make yourself comfortable. Take your time and try to blend into your surroundings - the fishing can often be slow early season and clearing enough space for yourself and the rest of your street won't put more fish on the bank!
All of the main coarse beats in the Fishing Passport are booked for the opening week, with the odd exception. Upper Clifford, for example, is still available for the opening day - this is surprising as the Cae Mawr Pool is one of the best barbel swims on the river. The wildlife has it's variations further up river, and it's a whole different experience, so if you've missed your chance at fishing on the lower river this could be the opportunity to try somewhere different.
Tips for the start of the season? The barbel are never too far from pacey water due to their spawning habits. Although most of them should have finished spawning by now, I suggest there may be a few stragglers so please handle them with extra care. In my experience the chub usually do a disappearing act the moment the clock strikes midnight on the 16th , up to now they are shoaled up in numbers sipping mayflies relentlessly - see pic attached. Also you may catch the odd shad and good numbers are reported this year. Again, please be careful handling one if you do catch one, they are protected and do not "go back" quite so easily as other fish.
The continuing small rises in water level should keep the river pretty fresh and although it's been cool, I'm expecting a pretty decent start to the river season. As I write the temperatures are forecast to rise significantly in the next week. Let's hope I haven't jinxed it but either way it's always a long 3 months and the anticipation levels are building nicely. Good luck to all lucky enough to be out in the first couple of weeks and I look forward to seeing the catch returns filter in.
Predictably, this is a short report this month. The rivers are closed for coarse fishing and the few stillwaters fishable through the Passport have seen infrequent action. It was a warm month, perhaps a little too warm - bright days and cold nights are not the favourite weather conditions for the stillwater angler, and despite this, stillwaters appear to have taken some time to warm up. The high temperatures combined with low river levels have meant that the barbel have had a go at spawning and over 60 were spotted near Monmouth earlier on in the month. During May you should start to see the chub doing the same and if you're at the right pool this really is a sight to behold - I've seen more than 100 fish in 50 yards of river in springs gone by.
I've suggested before how a bit of sun makes it all too easy to think summer has arrived and can lead to expectations of tench fizzing all around your float at dawn. Realistically, that never happens until around early May, however, and with spawning to think about a blank is a stark reality! This said, I have been watching tench feeding as the month ends, and with a few warmer nights forecast then perhaps tinca tinca will put in an appearance soon.
Those who have taken the time to put in a catch return have reported plenty of rudd, Quabs producing the best of these (pictured), and RM from Kington catching a few at The Trout Pool too. Trelough Pool, being shallow, usually responds quite well to early season sun, and the catch reports have proved this. KW from Tredegar caught several carp to just under 20lb over 2 visits, including other fish of 15 & 16lbs. SK from Tredegar also caught some decent carp and a bream towards the end of the month. Trelough is a beautiful lake and, having it all to yourself with a booking of 2, it's really worth a visit. No one has fished Eccleswall Court yet this spring, and I wonder if they're put off by catch returns of last season? It's a shame more don't give it a try. I was there one evening last week and you could see the carp cruising around on the bottom pool. There does only appear to be rudd in the top one but a few of these looked a decent size. Priory Pool has been fished by a house rod a couple of times, who had a screaming run off a carp and plenty of nice rudd. The bigger ones lie under the small ones so it can be a bit frustrating getting through them. I find feeding 2 spots at once can help get your hookbait through the smaller surface fish.
Going into May more stillwater fish should start waking up. My advice is to get there at dawn or dusk is, not least for the increased likelihood of seeing fish moving about. On getting to the water, the first thing I always do is rake up the bed. A rake on a rope such as the one pictured is easy to make at home. These stillwaters are not heavily fished so after blustery conditions you may encounter debris on the bottom making presenting a bait difficult. Believe it or not the splash of a rake doesn't always spook the fish and the stirring up of the bottom can pull fish in from the other side of the pool. A few balls of groundbait over the top and the dining table is set! An alternative tip at this time of year is to fish up in the water column with maggot and caster - as the upper layers warm first then so the fish come up in the water too.
Good luck for May and fingers crossed there'll be some tench to report this time next month!
These coarse season reports started in June 2014 with an emphasis on how fishing is about spending time with friends and enjoying the time of year. The end of the season carries much the same sentiment for me. I fished with 6 different mates in the last 2 weeks, a couple of whom hadn't been on the bank since October 2014. I suspect it was the suggestion of big Wye pike and perhaps some barbel feeding rather than my company though!
The beauty of having these friends is that we all have one blindingly obvious thing in common – fishing. What to fish for, however, is a harder thing to agree on. Despite best intentions, with heart set on a particular species, the sap rises and what you feel like fishing for changes. It's a perennial decision but treating any trip as a bit of a social takes away the angst, and a simple choice most Wye anglers leave themselves with is barbel if warm, pike & chub if cold and a retreat to a still water if a raging spate!
It was a strange end of season for many barbel anglers. At the beginning of the month the water was freezing and was full of snow melt. It may have looked promising carrying colour but with the freezing water, hopes were low. The barbel thought differently though and local reports were of good numbers of fish, in excellent condition too, really plump and fin perfect. I heard of 8 barbel to an angler near Symonds Yat on the 3rd, then 11 and 12 respectively to 2 different anglers just below Hereford. On the 4th March we had a small flood and as the river dropped the water temperature rose to a healthy 47C. This would have most barbel anglers attempting to pull off any white lie to get out on the bank. However, the reality was that those same anglers who had done so well suddenly started struggling – it was the wrong way around, and a few rule books went in the bin as a result. Anglers on Wye and Usk Foundation waters did well though. Some were filing their boots whilst a large group of us were litter picking somewhere near Symonds Yat East - thank you again to those who volunteered! More information on the litter clean up can be found on the Wye and Usk Foundation website.
The last week's barbel sport on the Wye was impressive. RW from Southampton had 7 barbel and 4 chub to pellet tactics on Backney on the 7th, with anglers the following days catching 13 barbel from Holme Lacy 3 and 10 from Backney again. AP from Woodford Green had 15 from Whitehouse on the 10th, the same day the Creel fished well as did Sugwas Court, with double figure quantities caught there. There were numerous fish approaching double figures or just over, but the fish of the last week for me was caught by SM from Grayshot, an 11lb 5oz specimen from Wyastone Leys - an awesome fish for the Wye, well done.
Whitney Court has fished well all season for chub and this was no different for the last couple of weeks with double figure quantities caught to individual anglers. Luggsbridge on the Lugg fished well throughout the season too and I'm surprised more anglers don't take advantage of this great little river. If you love the wild and overgrown nature of the Wye then the Lugg may just make you think you've died and gone to Chub heaven. AS from Newent had 10 to 4lb all on float fished maggots one day and lost 2 heavier fish.
The cold March conditions had me chasing big pike initially, and a good choice it was as 3 x 20lbers found my net on the 5th & 6th March, with another on the 12th. We actually had 4 fish in a mad half an hour, which is typical for the time of year as the males all shoal up behind the females looking for a "bit of action". Our big fish came from completely different stretches of river. My chums were not so lucky but good banter was had and we said goodbye to the river season in style. My last venture out was after a barbel and despite confidence levels being a bit low, a few of us managed to catch. The barbel were, as had been reported to me the week before, in perfect condition, I'm sure you'll agree.
In summary, it's been a stand-out season of numerous large barbel (double figures), with some excellent chub fishing, even if the specimens over the magical 6lb mark didn't really put in their usual winter appearance. Pike fishing remained as good as ever on the Wye and it is still the river to come to for a fish of a lifetime. The roach and dace sport has still not notably picked up, except for one or two reported catches – how long will it be before the cycle comes back round to offer us some quality roach sport on the Wye once more? The match catches were good and the river seems to have just peaked for big perch. Numerous 2lbers were caught right through the Hereford area and I'm sure there's the odd surprise knocking about somewhere. Searching out the water could take a lifetime however, as big perch don't like moving far for bait. Looking to next season I predict we may have a Wye barbel record shaker on our hands - the big fish are subject to repeat captures and anglers are starting to suss out the better locations. They report these fish in fantastic condition, so I suggest that if the bait keeps going in then the fish will just keep getting bigger.
On a different note (and one that will become more relevant with still water news coming up in April and May), this report is not exclusive to the Wye, nor is it exclusive to waters participating in the Passport scheme. But when reporting on the Wye I try to include news on matches and from individuals fishing other stretches of river, to give you as much of an idea of what's happening up and down the river as I can. For whatever reason, some fisheries don't want their catches publicised so if there are any that don't want to be mentioned specifically, please let myself or WUF know.
Suggestions for the river closed season? If you just need to be near running water and don't fancy fly fishing for trout (you're mad if you don't!), use the public footpaths to explore the riverbanks, armed with polaroids and perhaps some bait. It's not uncommon to see spawning fish, as well as an opportunity to identify underwater features and snags before they're obscured by foliage or weed. There's some fabulous still water fishing out there too and with Easter approaching we should be due a warm enough spell to get some tench on the move. With the brilliant white hawthorn blossom amongst the hedgerows and the smell of wild garlic hanging in the air, spring is here and I know where I'll be over the next few weeks – either on a quiet still water somewhere hoping for tench, or exploring some wild mountain stream with my trout rod. Good luck and enjoy.
February can be an all-or-nothing month for coarse fishing. If you get a big flood and some snow melt, or just really cold conditions, it's all over before you know it. If the conditions are in your favour then a p.b. is on the cards as nearly all species are approaching their biggest weights of the season. My timing just hasn't been right this February. I have had to plan my fishing days and when they've come around the river has been high, coloured and very cold. I had a chat with Martin Bowler this morning and he said there's nothing worse than a high, cold river. He's still managed to winkle a few fish out though, as any good angler would. Martin will no doubt have some excellent tips in this week's Angling Times - I've been fortunate to contribute this issue and there's a great pull out section on end of season river fishing tips - make sure you pick up a copy.
There have been some good catches though. January ended with ML from London catching a 1lb roach from How Caple Court - always great to hear of roach being caught on the Wye. The same day RH from Melksham landed an 18lb pike from Wyastone Leys. It then went really cold at the beginning of February and it was the second week before the Wye dropped and became fishable again. Chub fishing picked up first and at Preston Court SS from Berkeley banked 9 of them on bread. NR from Worcester followed up a week later with 12 chub from Whitney Court. As the rivers dropped further the pike fishing came on and in-between spates EE from Thatto Heath caught a 25lb beauty on lure from Huntsham Bridge. A 22lb fish was also caught at Hay Castle by LM, although it's a secret that it was caught on 6 maggots, a size 14 hook and 7lb line! The highlight report of the month for me was on the 27th when LD from Cranfield fished Backney and caught 6 barbel to 11lb, all this after a frosty start - well done that man.
There have been some suggestions for a while now that postcodes should be included in beat details. First of all it is impossible to put a postcode on a gate, a tree or a layby in the middle of nowhere! The alternative would be to put the postcode of the nearest property, but in past experience this leads to knocking on doors at all hours asking where the river is. This would not reflect well on the Booking Office and they would risk losing fisheries I'm sure. The WUF beat maps are very clear in my opinion, and much time and care is taken to make sure the instructions are as concise, yet understandable as possible. If you have any recommendations on how they could be improved once you followed them, then please let the Booking Office know.
At this time of year when vegetation is at its least, it's easy to see just how much litter gets dropped, washed, blown etc into the river channel. Tony Norman has been leading a litter picking project for some time now. There are various days scheduled up and down the river so please click on the link at the bottom of this month's report and get yourself involved - who knows, the fishing gods may pay you back with a nice fish before the season's out!
So there's only 2 weeks left of the coarse season - how it flies around after Christmas. The daffodils are poking their heads out, snowdrops are all around, we even had double figure temperatures at night last week. We have a long way to go and there's still plenty of snow on the Welsh hills, but spring is definitely around the corner. I'll be reporting from the stillwaters come April, hopefully with a few early season tench and carp to talk about. In the meantime, if you find yourself going nuts after March 14th I can highly recommend getting a little 6ft fly rod and venturing up into the Welsh hills after some wild brown trout - it's one of the truest adventures you'll have in these isles. If casting a fly isn't your thing, then get your salmon licence off the EA and head out after a Wye springer (salmon). They go like a train if you're lucky enough to hook one and at least you'll be by the river. Whatever you're up to I wish you all the best for the last couple of weeks and without wishing time away, it won't be long until the glorious 16th June - bees buzzing around, sweating in a t-shirt, and the smell of sweetcorn and hemp on your hands. Lovely. :)
For more information on the 2015 Wye Litter Clear-up, please click here.
When a river goes bottle green in winter you know there's been a few hard frosts, most of the weed's died back and the fish are hungry. For the Wye this January we've had a tinge of green for 2 days and that's the lot. The rest of the time it's been up and down like the proverbial, with just a heavy rainstorm or the melting of a heavy frost on the Irfon catchment throwing the level up and making the usually slack water of the best pike swims unfishable. When the current is boily and welling up off the bottom it makes it hard for the fish to rest, or hold station. They constantly have to work and this is not what a pike wants to do, nor many other fish it seems. A winter fish wants to conserve its energy for what could be weeks of flood and cold when food is more scarce than usual. I like to think that a high river pushes all the bait fish to the bank, probably into fallen or flooded trees where the current is at its slackest and they are safe from predators. This helps the pike angler though as downstream of a bush are usually the slackest areas, and pike can rest up here, with the perfect window to watch their prey as they eventually filter out from these bushes or make a mistake.
What happens when the river comes up is that although some larger slacks become boily and unfishable, new slacks are created elsewhere. With this in mind, it is restricting to go pike fishing, or for chub and perch for that matter, without being prepared to rove and on beats like White House or Preston Court, there may be some 20 odd swims to have a go at. This is more than enough for a day's piking, 20 minutes a swim, 20 swims, that's 6:50 hours. If you then return to a couple at the end of the day, ones that looked really promising or where you may have even had a dropped run, then there's more than enough for a days fishing. My top tips for roving for pike (chub and perch too) are:
Waterproof trousers - great for sliding up and down the banks, sitting down, kneeling, dealing with unhooking a fish, and, of course, keeping you dry and warm.
Stick with one bait: just sardines for pike; cheesepaste for chub; worm for perch. This takes an extra element of doubt out of the equation. When there's so many other variables to consider I'd rather move swim than change bait.
Give yourself a set time in each swim, 20 minutes, half an hour, whatever you want, but stick to it accurately and you'll fish efficiently. For added drama you can count from 10 to 0 before lifting the rod and reeling in - it's a great feeling when a fish takes in this time!
Travel light. No chair just a good unhooking mat to sit on and a net. No rod rest - there's very little vegetation so your rod can lie on the ground (baitrunner on of course). And hold your chub rod - you'll hit more bites than if you wait for the tip to wrap round.
Try everywhere. As you're controlling time in each swim and keeping it brief then have a cast in that spot you would normally say doesn't look fishy - you may be surprised.
The only upside of the river Wye being out of sorts is that it forces me to fish other venues. I was down on the river Test last week, Kennet and Warwickshire Avon before that. Although some fair travelling is necessary, it sharpens your skills when you fish other rivers and when the Wye does come back into condition you appreciate it more too. It seems that everyone might have been off fishing these rivers in January as angler feedback has been very quiet, the only notable captures really being some good chub fishing on the river Lugg and at Sugwas Court on the Wye. However, Backney again produced some good pike fishing and by contacting the owner when you make a booking you'll get pointed in the right direction for a fish or two.
Prospects are hard to suggest at this point. There's snow on the hills and bitter cold rivers are still running above normal levels. As mentioned earlier, I suggest you rove and find the fish rather than waiting for them to come to you. I'll be out chub fishing through much of February, armed with cheesepaste and a sensitive hand to hit those gentle pulls. Can't wait!