Coarse Fishing Report By Adam Fisher
October & November 2018
Doesn't time fly? One minute we're basking in high temperatures watching fish kite in and out of ranunculus through gin clear water, with flies dancing on the surface and the sun burning the back of our neck. Then, just like that, it's winter - a flooded, turbid river hurtles through, carrying a variety of debris. Cold hands are stuffed in pockets while wishing for a motionless rod tip to hoop over and the washer fluid runs out on the salty spray during the drive home.
That's the UK for you though and as an angler, the contrast of seasons is one of the reasons why we love it so much.
I normally always fish a particular day in October (my birthday - 40th this year!) but this year I trudged around a golf course before spending the rest of the weekend taking a walk far less spoiled around the Herefordshire countryside. My view of the river was from a distance but as the day coincided with huge floods, I didn't miss much.
If you're into hydrograph porn, the Wye gauges have to be some of the best out there. As a spate river the response to heavy rain is quick in most of the tributaries. You can follow the slugs of water as they enter the Wye and watch as the main channel builds and builds. As the floodwater starts to back up then one wonders how high levels might go. Then the river bursts its banks and the graph eases off as the flow dissipates out onto the floodplains.
This autumn brought some spectacular sunsets too and with the change of season comes a change in the light. Whether waterside or not, the setting skies were nothing short of stunning and being an angler only gives more opportunity to sit and watch this part of nature's diurnal process.
Warm storms can bring exceptional carp fishing on the still waters and can stir predators into action too. Cold storms and floods are the opposite. We had both in October and November. On Dean Macey's visit in early November there was a big question mark over river temps - was it too cold for barbel? Just in case he was heading back down the M50 with a blank, Dean posed with one of many of our shop fish cushions, in this case a 20lb pike who we now name Dean (read on). Well, luckily there was no blank and Dean ended up with a brace of double figure barbel, his second in a month! As I write at the beginning of December I've just heard that Dean's caught his first 20lb Wye pike - what a month for that man. I've been fortunate enough to experience a fair few notable fish captures with Dean and I honestly have not met many anglers as dedicated. His enthusiasm is right up there and take it from me, what you see on TV is atoned down version of what he's really like - a proper, big kid on an angling adventure! He catches a few too!
From one great angler to another: it was extremely sad to hear of the loss of John Wilson MBE from our Angling Journey. I think to each and every angler that watched him, we have a memory that will stay with us - that laugh, the shirts, the variety of tackle but purposeful for every occasion, not knowing what fish he'd hooked, his exasperation at the possibility of a fish slipping the hook to the net - "careful Wilson..."
For me it's every time I pinch a piece of bread flake on the hook, something I've done thousands of times since he showed me how to do it properly on an episode of Go Fishing when I was a boy. The hundreds of chub I've fooled and hooked as a result will be remembered as being down to him. A true, true inspiration. As much as it's a loss of course, the overwhelming number of comments I've read across social media have shown just how much John meant to such a variety of anglers from such a variety of angling backgrounds. His influence, I'd argue, is as strong as it ever was and will live on for a long time yet. Thanks John.
Another legend visited us on the Wye in October. An angler who needs no introduction - Chris Yates. His wizardly figure never fails to move me when I see him with or without a rod in hand. Along with a couple of his mates the intrepid piscators fished, fished, drank tea, and fished some more. I'll leave it to your imagination how it went for them. 3 anglers lost for 3 days in an autumnal Wye valley paradise.
Reports from the river were as expected with steady catches continuing through October. The early part of the month always seems to see the bigger barbel caught: this year was no exception.
Home fishery reported barbel of 11-2 & 10-6, Courtfield and Backney an 11lber each and four doubles for Whitehouse one day. The Creel is fishing as consistently as ever with reports of 13 barbel one day with a few doubles to 11-7 reported up to mid October. Fownhope 5 is good to those who make the effort - 15 barbel one day, a dozen chub another. Lower Ballingham is a fishery which has received rave reviews in the past, even if the opposite bank fishery almost certainly affects its catches negatively. However, it still fishes well on its day - reports of a 12-7 & 13lb to one angler on the same day as an 11-10 from Backney, 11-4 Whitehouse, and an 11lber from Courtfield. Clearly a "big fish day".
Strangford is a fishery that's turned the corner from negative to positive feedback. Anglers are now reporting better access, most likely due to the vegetation starting to die off as the autumn got in swing. With this came better fishing, of course. I know anglers fishing this stretch struggled through the rich vegetation of the summer when catches everywhere were slow. However, experience tells us virgin fisheries are always slow to start with - what could be called "new beat syndrome". As the barbel take time getting used to bait, so the catches steadily increase. Try going on the French rivers of the Lott and the Cher and watching shoals of barbel turn away from hemp and corn! Very frustrating but proof perhaps of their not being used to bait...... or at least that was my excuse!
Dean and Chapter is a new beat but is so massive we're yet to get a fine idea of what's where. These sorts of fisheries I love - truly wild fishing is very hard to find anymore. Well, here it is and for those who complain about wild access please be careful what you wish for!
There have been a few good reports of silver fish but, typically, the successes have been hard to repeat the following day. What happens to these dace, bleak and roach is beyond me. That said, catches at the recent Wye champs were some of the best reported and subsequent winter league matches have been remarked on as the best 50+ peg match venues in the country. Why do we not hear more of this? Still, what an accolade - we're not just a barbel river eh? Salmon may be experiencing tough times but a good river these days is also measured by its match results. I think we're there aren't we? Is it just coincidence that a lot of work goes into improving habitat and water quality in the Wye?
Mid October experienced balmy summer days again and some anglers suggested it was the "last days of summer". Some good fishing came with them but overall the steady autumn catches started to drop off. We experienced a huge flood mid-October and with temperatures dropping thereafter, the good barbel fishing was all but over. We had the first frosts and as much as remarks of a beautiful, crisp autumn day are good to hear, barbel fishing ended there. Yes, there were a few catches of 1 or 2 barbel but by the time November arrived we were gripped with frosts again. November? The less said the better. Time to move on from barbel...
For many years autumn was my favourite season, most obviously for the clichéd earthly smells, the dipping light, misty dawns and dusks. This had changed over the last few years, when spring took over for me - May especially, even though the river coarse fishing season is yet to open. And so now I'm looking forward to plenty of chub fishing and the odd pike day given the right conditions to get me through winter.
Maybe my getting older makes time fly by but on a positive note it is, all of a sudden, only a few weeks to the winter solstice (December 21st) marking the shortest day of the year. Get Christmas out the way and sometime in January you'll be doing something indoors or outdoors, when you'll say "crikey, it's 5 o'clock and it's still light." My point? It may be damp and gloomy but in a couple of weeks the days start to get longer - what's not to like about that?
I couldn't not mention Christmas of course! In the shop we're stocked up with all things fishing, shooting and outdoor. With our background we're here to meet the needs of the game angler as well as coarse, and given our location in the "old part" of Ross on Wye, we support the tourist shopper too. Daily I'm given the opportunity to showcase the fishing available on the Wye, Usk and their tributaries. Folk from around the country (and a surprising amount from overseas) are always keen to hear of how we implement our passion not just for the fishing, but through the conservation efforts of WUF & Co. The majority have never heard of anything remotely like our rivers trusts and so we should be very proud of what we do.
WUF and ourselves have a variety of Christmas gifts for "the angler that has everything" - you'll never go far wrong with a voucher but if you need something more specific then please contact us directly, we'll be more than happy to help. 2019 bookings are open and please, don't hang about as the prime times on the prime fisheries are filling daily.
With that in mind I'm going to look forward to my next report - this will probably be in February given the usually slow winter feedback. Fishing-wise over the next couple of months: hit a warm flood for barbel but don't expect catches like in summer. If conditions are right then pike are worth a go - cover the water. For a more likely chance of some sport, aim for the chub - they are the most obliging fish in a winter river. Liquidised bread and a handful of hemp make a good consistency for golf ball-sized groundbait in several swims. Then revisit each with a big chunk of bread flake on the hook (John Wilson style) or when really cold, some cheese paste. A big lump of luncheon meat is always a good bet too, especially if you've barbel fished all day in one swim. The bigger fish will be grubbing around and mopping up as the light fades.
If the fishing is slow, just try and enjoy being out there, like Daisy and I do - kettle on, a pack of Jammy Dodgers and more than enough Wye valley wildlife to keep your senses occupied!
Please keep the feedback coming and the images - it's great to see anglers out there enjoying the British countryside.
Good luck, and best wishes for the festive period.
August & September 2018
Following my reference to Mars in the July report, it seems we may well have had a few people visiting from the red planet after all! After very little fishing effort in June and July, many anglers made their return to the rivers last month. Disappointingly, there were quite a few complaints of poor access, banks being overgrown etc. Well, I'm afraid this is what happens when swims aren't fished for a month. We then received the first real rain for months and so the vegetation lushed up again too.
With the rain came a rise, albeit small, and all the flotsam and months of debris that had built up all along the margins on the exposed (dry) areas and in the slacks, got flushed down the channel. This, along with the untrodden banks and still relatively low water levels added up to a slight air of negativity along the river. Conditions weren't great in fairness, but I would have thought everyone would have just been happy to get back fishing after such a desperate summer!
The first rise was small so it disappeared as quickly as it arrived. Another 2 or 3 followed but still failed to give the river the flush it so desperately needed. Eventually, however, along with storm Ali we got it - 4.5 metres in just a few hours and it blasted every leaf, twig and negative comment from the summer out into the estuary! The fishing picked up at first, but on the peak of the flood it was just too dangerous and anglers retreated to claim a wash off. The good news was the river fell as quickly as it rose (until it reached ditch height which is when the fall starts to plateau - see images). The amount of weed and other debris was unprecedented - if you managed to keep your bait in for more than a couple of minutes you were either lucky or snagged!
What this big flood also left behind was the usual alluvium, which leaves the banks like a skid pan. We warned all anglers that came into the shop and posted warnings on social media. In winter I dread to think of what could happen if an angler slipped in. These days there are some very affordable buoyancy devices and I strongly recommend one if you're thinking of spending any particular amount of time next to a swollen winter river. We have them in the shop by the way and we'll be offering a special deal on them in encouragement of getting you into one.
The fishing after the flood was good and to be honest, this lasted right through September too. Without listing the dozens and dozens of reports here, I can assure you they were very, very good. All the fisheries were getting a bit of the action too, with just about everywhere below Hereford and down to Monmouth producing catches of 20+ barbel and chub at some point. It seems the low conditions of the summer that caused such a furore amongst some didn't do any harm after all.
During the middle of September the bigger barbel started showing too, with doubles again coming from just about every fishery below Hereford. The standout beats had to be Courtfield and Wyebank though - both fisheries returning catches of over 40 barbel and 30 chub in a day. Backney and the Creel did too, while our waters and Ross AC gave up some truly excellent sport. Sadly, from Hereford there were reports of litter and poaching - not the club's fault but sad to hear all the same.
We really are experiencing bumper times when it comes to fish numbers, especially following such a hot summer with such low conditions. It seems difficult not to tread on fry when walking in the margins and as we enter October the float anglers are reporting big bags of dace in places too - proper dace. There's also reports of some big chub. Having done a bit of reading and looking back at old records, a warm summer is often followed by some big chub in winter. Growth and survival rates for the fry are increased and as a result, those fish that feed on them grow too.
I'm excited about what this autumn and winter will bring. The only worry for me is pike populations - we've had a couple of poor winters. 2016/17 I put down to conditions (warm and wet). I only managed half a dozen sessions and this was testament to the conditions just not being right. I didn't catch a pike all that winter if I remember correctly but considering how few and short the sessions were then it's understandable. Last year we had the cold - remember the snow? This led to a lot of snowmelt too. Although there's always one or two caught, the consensus is that pike populations are poor right now. Either way, I always like to look forward to winter and have a freezer full of deadbaits ready to go. We're fully stocked in the shop for pike and perch fishing now, the latter species showing up in the 3lb category in the Wye all the time. I must give these a go at some point!
Apologies for the lack of report in August - I was away filming with Korda in Italy fishing, which didn't really seemed like 'work'! I also set out 12 months ago with the goal of summiting the Matterhorn. Months of physical and mental preparation were involved but, sadly, on summit day the weather closed in and that was the end of that. I was gutted but onwards if not upwards!
I was then back in the UK fishing and actually dusted off the salmon fly rod after an honoured invite to join some friends in Scotland. Away I went and 3 days later 2 stunning salmon from the River Ness had been netted, admired, and returned strongly. I'm back to the Wye now and pleased to hear how the river has fished. As I write this report at the beginning of October the fishing has slowed but I'm happy it's just a transition between seasons. The bigger barbel are coming out even if the catches of shoal fish has slowed. Following a couple of sessions with Dean Macey we managed to get him 4 doubles in 2 visits, even one for Talk Sports Nigel Botherway, who I've just not seen enough of this year. With pike ahead no doubt there'll be more adventures for us so please watch this space. Chris Yates will be due his annual pilgrimage any day and with Drennan Cup Winning Dai Gribble a regular along with Martin Bowler, the Wye really is the river to fish right now. The booking system makes all this so possible and it's such a pleasure to hear direct feedback through the shop angler's tales about the food, their accommodation etc.
The maggot ban is now lifted on the Wye and so I encourage you to get out on the float whilst you can. Being a wild river it's not always possible to float fish from the bank, but with waders just about anything's possible. I suggest you give it a try now before it gets too cold! Caster and hemp are a deadly combo, and these days the type I prefer over maggots. At the end of the day you can switch over to the lead and fish over the bait that would have been depositing during the float session. It's a great approach, given the right swim.
As I say nearly every month, the valley is a truly magical place right now, with canoe traffic almost non-existent, the trees changing into their autumn oranges and reds, the stunning dawns and dusks. It's dream fishing for anyone. Bookings will start to be taken for next year very soon, so make your enquiries to the relevant organisations for exact dates.
Good luck and enjoy your fishing.
Examples of the measures that promote welfare all year round:
Only those living on Mars would be unaware that the UK has been basking in a heat wave throughout July. There were pleas for rain from the first day of the month and even though the long term forecast was predicting a repeat of one of the driest Junes on record, I don't think any of us would have believed just how hot it turned out to be.
Social and angling media was dominated by a handful of vociferous and furious individuals, outraged that people continued to fish on in these conditions. Maybe it was the heat and lack of fishing getting to them but it was quite shocking to see some anglers turn on others in such a way, instead of facing the bigger, perhaps harder questions of how we manage climate change and our environment. Did any of those people complain to the EA/their MP about all the irrigation pumps sucking precious water out of the river throughout July?
So the conditions in July were poor and there was pressure to close stretches. Some clubs did so, which is fine: their decision entirely.
Fish welfare, of course, should always be considered and good practices followed in all water/weather conditions. There is a well established code of conduct for barbel handling and, where booking systems operate, measures are in place which protect the fisheries and fish year round. For me, July was an opportunity to raise awareness of good practice to all anglers.
There are some other points that need to be made on the subject. When we make a booking it's not a catching ticket, it's a fishing ticket. It permits us access, to drive along, to picnic, sleep and explore a beautiful river in wonderful surroundings. While the barbel are off, the silver fishing has been superb. The fishing is a bonus on a lot of these Wye stretches but it is something that many seem to take for granted.
Anglers Mail got involved, publishing an error-ridden article about the heat and a supposed argument on the river. The weather has a strange way of making fools of people - we all remember Michael Fish's famous "hurricane, what hurricane?" so I think we should all express our sincere gratitude to Anglers Mail for sticking their necks out and guaranteeing a change in the weather!
There were some shocking images of rivers doing the rounds in July that perhaps portrayed the situation to be worse than it was. The upper Teme dried up (again) and was all over the BBC news. Then there was a tweet from EA staff showing a temperature reading of a dangerous 26.4 degrees from Ross on Wye, taken from the margins in very shallow water when their own and WUF's monitoring was showing 23 degrees for that location. There were photos of gravel beaches below Kerne Bridge and at the Old Bridge, Hereford that were used to back up the notion that those still fishing were irresponsible. HereFORD is named because there was a ford by the old bridge.
So why did we still allow coarse fishing? With the correct education and by numerous measures already in place to protect no matter what, and regular monitoring of water temperatures we were happy to allow people to continue, while at the same time raising awareness of the conditions.
Shall we move onto the fishing? Despite the conditions it was actually a fab month for
many with plenty of chub and barbel caught up and down the river. The weather was
gorgeous, if a little hot, and reports in the shop were of anglers out in the water
watching fish, studying the river bed, in awe at the amount of fry in the margins.
It was generally very positive!
Some anglers chose not to fish, such as SC from Oakley;
"River very low and slow. Weather was hot and sunny. Walked the beat a few times and then decided not to fish."
Some of those that did give it a try did very well, with numerous reports of 20+ barbel. I'm not an advocate of catching so many personally but I know it's hard to stop when you get into the fish. However, GB from Liphook applied the kind of common sense and restraint that I know exists in most anglers.
"Another beautiful beat secured by the Foundation. Very hot and low river conditions. I stopped fishing after barbel number 3, there were more fish in the swim to be caught but I felt uncomfortable putting them under any more pressure considering the conditions. All swam off strongly after a period of rest."
DM from Leatherhead made the most it, and reminded me about the football! It's all a distant memory sadly, very much like this drought will become when the autumn arrives! DM also pointed out that he was looking for deep gullies and fast water - something we've been advising to do all along - and it paid off.
"It proved to be the perfect place to settle the nerves after the England v
Columbia penalty shootout! The river is low but this stretch always has fast
deep gullies close in that hold plenty of fish. Hooked up within 5 minutes
and caught steadily during the day in the hazy sunshine. Feeder and pellet
proving as reliable as ever. Most fish were between 6 and 8 lb. Beautiful
stretch of river with easy access and plenty of decent swims, will definitely
20 Barbel, 5 Chub
Every stretch was different of course, some anglers saying the fish were struggling others saying all went back strong. It will be interesting to see what the reports are when conditions improve. I'm confident the river will fish as well as it always does.
There were many reports of eels, pretty much daily in fact. This could be due to the dry ground forcing them to move and make their way to the main river? It's good to hear whatever.
Lots of anglers expressed that they'd never seen so many canoes. They'd appear to be right as one operator informed me he reckoned 700 canoes launched from a single spot below Ross one Saturday, with half of these being privateers. Companies telling their clients that fishermen are grumpy is one thing but privateers launching, picnicking, boozing, defecating where they like is another level of disrespect for us anglers. One angler had a particularly unpleasant encounter and I hope anyone thinking about wild swimming the Wye might think twice after reading this report!
"Later a pair of kayak's beached on the island. From one, a middle aged gent disappeared into the trees to perform his ablutions. He reappeared, walked to the middle of the stream, dropped his shorts and proceeded to clean his backside, charming."
Looking forward I think we can all learn from the low levels of July. If you do fish please don't take the fish out of the water for pictures. Unhook them in the water and never weigh them - it just isn't necessary and puts real pressure on the fish.
August can be a busy month for canoes but with the best fishing being early and late you should miss most of the traffic anyway. The nights will get longer and the mornings dewy and cool. With September not far off, this is coming into prime fishing time.
Having not fished for a while (can you tell from this report?!) I am looking forward to getting back out and the bit of rain forecast should freshen things up. When it does I'll be heading straight to the float rod for a mixed bag and maybe a few barbel. As a spate river a good deluge for a few hours will make all the difference to the Wye but if we have a day's worth we'll all be moaning about fast water, floods and that we can't see through the turbidity!
As always, you just can't please all the people all the time, and you know you're probably doing something right when people are knocking you from both sides. Personally the support has been overwhelming and, fortunately, the majority see through the crap. They trust those who work on the river and they go and enjoy their fishing. I encourage you all to do the same - nothing lasts forever and right now (August) the coarse fishing on the Wye is as good as any point I remember in recent years.
Well what a year for weather! After flooding over most of the winter and the river having a good flush through, spring was unseasonably cold - we still had snow in April and even frosts in May.
Despite this, things looked good at the beginning of June. In fact the moisture followed by some warm and sunny weather meant the bankside vegetation exploded. It was as lush as I've know come about the 10th June. The barbel and chub had been seen spawning, and hope filled the air for a good start. The lushness of the vegetation, however, did mean we needed to do more than usual to keep the banks clear. So, armed with strimmers, WUF and others from Angling Dreams set to making the fisheries fishable - we hope you found the hard work worth it. Certainly the majority of report were pleased, but as always one or two found things "inaccessible" when the day before an angler on the same beat "had more swims than we knew what do with, thanks WUF for improving the access". It just shows how varied expectations are when it comes to fishing and whatever you do, you cannot please everyone all of the time!
Given the time constraints not everywhere on a beat gets done, but after trimming 18 swims on one venue we had a party of 4 who still found the beat "like a jungle". I wonder if they went to the right fishery at all?!
In the 30°C heat we encountered at the end of the month I'd have been happy wading out and stood in the river, a tactic that makes much of any fishery fishable. But, of course, one man's meat and all that.
On about June 12th the dreaded algal bloom began and with a float fishing feature booked in for the opening day we felt doomed. In the shop there was a general buzz, however, with lots of anglers popping in to chat about tactics etc. After an appearance from Martin Bowler on the 15th we headed for a bankside bbq (on a private stretch) to chat all things fishing, and what a memorable evening it was. At 4am on the 16th and there was a tap on the window of my car and through my bleary eyes I saw the figure of Martin Bowler, ready for action - had he even slept with excitement? Whatever, he smiled and made it clear he'd had breakfast and was ready!
"Stay sleeping if you want mate, come down about 4.15" - A 15 minute lie in was all he offered, but I knew if I nodded off again it would be another hour or more.
Besides I was awake, it was June 16th! By 7am we'd had a couple of barbel each and the feature was 'in the can'. Like a couple of school boys we carried on fishing though. My mates Chris & Rich were chub gods for the day even if the barbel eluded them. Another couple of friends Dean and Roger lost their barbel virginity and even managed to beat their PBs. You can read Martin's article in the AT, or through the Angling Dreams website in due course.
Although the start of the season never really fishes well and the algal bloom leaves the river looking a bit grim, June 16th is filled with hope and optimism and it's just nice to be back by running water. Up and down the river reports were mixed as you’d expect, but where it was good it was very, very good. In fact I'd say it was possibly one of the best starts to a river season I can remember. There were chub galore, many anglers catching in excess of 20 in a day - when anglers got amongst the barbel, they got well amongst them, catching right through the day too. As the opening week went on, the algae bloom was expected to intensify as the weather warmed up. However, the opposite happened and as we entered the second week of the season and with temps approaching 30°C, the Wye ran as clear as tap water, fresh and fast, and most certainly with more weed in the channel than we've seen for a few years. This was a welcome sight - the pretty white flower of the ranunculus covering the channel from bank to bank in places.
All fish love weed - they can seek shelter from predators and sunlight, the frongs acting as sieves for their larder - snails, invertebrates, fry. My theory is this also acts as a filter for the algal bloom. Perhaps the recent poor years for this has been as a result of no weed allowing the bloom to, well, bloom. The low light levels then reduce weed growth and so the vicious circle begins.
The other interesting point to consider is this increase in weed has followed a persistently flooded winter. One might think that 2 months of persistent flood would rip up all the weed. I personally think the weed is used to it, designed for it, and the heavy flooding only cleans the river out rather than damaging it. Is this why we had such a seemingly healthy start then? Perhaps the summer floods of 2007 and 2010 started a cycle of damage - the more weed from summer meaning the more resistance and so more for the water to "grab onto"? Has the lack of summer flooding in recent years allowed the established weed beds to thrive?
As the month went on the heatwave didn't seem to affect the fishing - bumper catches of chub and barbel continued, with plenty of eels and small stuff to keep the trotting angler occupied. A few were disappointed they couldn't fish maggots (it's an EA Byelaw that WUF enforce), but in my experience corn with plenty of hemp, introduced to create a rain of bait through the water column, brings fish up off the bottom, and I've caught as many barbel on corn as on maggot.
It wasn't all good though and we feared the algae would return with the persistent hot weather and lack of rain. The river kept dropping and as we approached the last few days of the month the fishing got really tough. Early and late became the only real times for catching fish and even then anglers found it tough. At the turn of the month the only real way to catch them was on trotted baits during the day. Still, some excellent fishing was to be had - several anglers reported to us in the shop of 15 plus barbel in a session on the float, with the odd double figure fish too.
Sadly there's already been a massive numbers of canoes reported, worse than ever I feel. There have also been many more people than I've known before camping the night and saying they saw it from some nutty woman on social media and TV suggesting all and sundry should stash their kit in the bushes and swim, wild camp, trespass and defecate to their hearts content. All very well but as I've expressed before, this is not Canada or Alaska. We are a small, densely populated country and there is only one such river where you can do these 'wild things' - the Wye. Encouraging people to do what they want is selfish and totally unsustainable. Moreover, it does little help the environment, dissatisfies the paying members of the public and landowners who earn their living from their sporting rights. It's part of what identifies us in the British countryside and why we have rod licences etc. We pay to use the river and support our Governing body the EA. Why should these 'free spirits' get away with neglecting this?
Although we have turned the corner of the month, I would like to take the time to offer some barbel handling guidelines. Fish are not going back well due to low dissolved oxygen levels, and many places have even stopped fishing altogether until conditions improve. If you have to go fishing, please unhook and return fish without taking them out of the water at all.
Below is a set of guidelines for dealing with barbel at all times of year, and especially in summer. It often takes anglers by surprise when what seemed like a revived fish appears belly up shortly after release. By following the below this should nearly always be prevented.
Leave a netted fish in the water for a few minutes before unhooking
Have a pre-dipped unhooking mat close by
If you wish to photograph a fish then make it as swift as possible - good preparation helps. Try and rest a fish again between photographing/weighing
Find a suitable place to release - look for gentle flow and ideally where both hands can be used to support the net and/or fish. If releasing from a net use gentle encouragement to keep the fish upright - an upside down fish is not reviving
Never release a fish until it can keep itself upright without your support
Please resist weighing fish that are not considered to be above the average Wye stamp - we suggest this to be about 7lbs
Double figure fish can take up to 20 minutes to revive. Before releasing make sure they are upright for several minutes without your support
This fine weather has meant there's been some fantastic sunsets and, as always, it's not just about the catching. A low clear river is the perfect chance to study the river bed, take some notes, see if you can observe some fish and give them some bait. Sometimes I prefer to watch them rather than catch them and, of course, in these conditions it's better for all. Your study will also help come your next visit - if the river is coloured or flooded you'll know your way around much better.
All the shad are gone now but it's been a great year for them with dozens seen kiting around in the tails of pools. They left the river early though - a sign of the heat wave on the way? The fish always seem to know more than we do.
Until the next report please do a rain dance and enjoy your fishing.
First things first, my apologies for the lack of reports over the winter and in the run up to the end of the season. There were two main reasons for this. Firstly, it was such a dire winter for rivers where there either wasn't much fishing going on or when there was, nothing was being caught. So the reports were held off each month in anticipation of some good and consistent fishing news but this never came!
So that was excuse number one. The second is that when we did get to the end of the season, I was busy setting up our new fishing shop in Ross on Wye. As some of you may know I've been running Angling Dreams for several years now. We share a few fisheries with the Fishing Passport, offer guiding services, packages, journalism etc. Whilst doing this for several seasons it became clear that the Passport angler, as well as ours, wanted more from their tackle shop and, quite simply, this just wasn't around. So over Christmas time the decision was made - move the Angling Dreams office and add a retail arm to our operations. Obviously high street retail is tough due the internet but done right we felt there was still the space for a traditional and quality tackle shop. With Ross on Wye having so many old and quirky buildings we went for it. Two and a half months later on May 1st we opened "Fishers".
The shop stocks coarse and game tackle, as well as bait (no maggots yet sorry!), artwork, books and fishing novelties such as Billy Big Mouth Bass! There are tackle brands such as Drennan, Korda, Sticky, Rio, Vision, Reddington, Fulling Mill to name a few. We also stock a range of outdoor supplies such as insect repellant, first aid kits, batteries, clothing, energy bars, as well as a comprehensive range of clothing, waders and wellies. We have also obtained accounts for Barbour and Alan Paine, and along with an Eley cartridge account pending will be able to supply the shooting fraternity come the autumn.
So thanks for allowing me to plug this! We are very proud of the venture and hopefully will inspire the present and encourage the future of angling.
The Passport angler will benefit too, as there is nowhere around the lower Wye that caters for the salmon and trout angler sufficiently. For the hundreds of coarse anglers that stay in the area, we can look after you too and instead of lugging your bait and tackle around before getting here or digging around on the internet, we welcome your visit for some "finger on the pulse" tips and advice.
We display daily river levels, conditions and prospects, and will be offering prizes for fish of the week/month. We have "Passion for Angling" playing on a loop and even trout fishing from remote rivers in New Zealand, so come on in and take your time to soak up the fishy vibes!
On to the reports and to be honest the overall picture from the winter was of flood after flood. Just as the river became sort of fishable then another spate would be on its way - just take a look at the hydrograph images! No wonder then that pike catches were low, chub too. And with a lot of snow melt and cold water barbel were not an option either. The beast from the east even slowed the grayling fishing as ice hung around in the margins of rivers all day. It was freezing that one - even 2 sets of thermals didn't allow me a full morning's wading.
I managed one or two short pike sessions but they resulted in blanks. So overall it was a winter to forget for fishing on the Wye catchment. If it's any consolation, the salmon anglers endured the same and only one or two fishable days were had until right up to the beginning of May.
Looking forward then, the new season is around the corner and it's mental how quick it suddenly arrives after staring the 3 month break in the face. The rivers have finally dropped, the vegetation is getting lusher by the hour, and the chub and barbel have already started spawning. Looking at the river banks there are loads of fallen trees from the sustained winter floods. This will no doubt have changed the topography of the river bed too. Ok, some of your favourite swims may be filled in, but new ones will appear and the fish will move until they find a comfortable flow. The banks will still have a layer of silt from flood too and it won't take much rain to make them slick again, so please go careful if we have some rain.
Overall I'd say prospects are good - a harsh winter has benefits to this kind of ecosystem, clearing out the weak and leaving only the strong. I think it also gives the silt and gravel a good flush through too. WUF have a couple of new beats that are well worth a try: Dean & Chapter and Strangford first class middle Wye coarse fishing on offer here. As with all of the beats they get booked up pretty quick, so I suggest you take a look at The Fishing Passport page and see what's still available. Whilst you're there you may want to check out the new Wye and Usk Foundation webpage - lots of interesting information on the Foundation's work. We'll be keen to see your catch returns coming in from June 16th, and my next report will follow then. I'd be interested in any shad or eel captures too.
Tips for opening week - fish small and feed light and do your very best to enjoy the surroundings of the glorious river Wye in June. On opening day I'll be out on a feature with friend of The Foundation and Angling Dreams, Martin Bowler, and we'll be back in the shop for lunchtime if anyone wants to pop in and see us. Live updates on timings will be available through our Angling Dreams Facebook page.
Until then, good luck if you're out after tench and please be respectful if any carp are spawning.