2009 – Early July Blog

Isn’t it great to be back on the rivers again? Right now I’m filling my boots with barbel and chub, just because the novelty hasn’t quite worn off yet. I’m also inspired by the fact that they’re just so obliging and happy to feed in what some would have you believe are the worst conditions.

Mind you, I gather it’s not the same everywhere as one or two folk seem to be struggling to catch on the River Dove and it’s not a dissimilar story from the upper Trent. Sounds like folk are having to wait for the sun to set before they catch much. Old Stu (Walker) continues to buck the trend though. He’s catching plenty although he reckons this year is much harder. Easy to say when you’ve just had three doubles in a single session, the best going 12-1, eh, Stu?

Keep up the good work mate!

I’m not really catching anything exceptional and frankly I couldn’t care less. I had a cracking afternoon on a small Nottinghamshire river the other day. I ambled down there for 10am on a blue sky day. Not a cloud in the sky and the temperatures were already soaring. Not exactly the best catching conditions, are they?

Well, only one other angler on the river meant I had my pick of swims and I went straight for a banker. In went four droppers of hemp and the pellet mix that Stu and I have been working on. I then tackled up in a leisurely fashion and waited at least ten minutes before impatience got the better of me. I swung out my rig, worked the braided mainline around the trialing fronds of ranunculus, dipped the rod tip ‘neath the water and gently wrapped a loop of braid over my index finger. No place for rod rests, this.

Ten seconds passed and a sharp tug saw the rod hoop round and I was into a fish straight away. The 1.75lb test Infinity is perfect for rivers like this. Forgiving yet powerful; designed to use its progressive action, well, progressively! By that I mean when you need to apply extra power it’s always there in reserve but you’re unlikely to rip out the hook. Pefect, especially when matched with a centrepin as you feel the precise moment when you are forced to give line in your thumb. It’s spiritual rather than mechanical.

Fish netted, fish returned, swim rested and I’m back in again. Unfortunately Mr Chub decided to stick his nose in. Twice. But the chub here are packing on the ounces. I’d love to say pounds but they ain’t doing THAT well! You guys down south don’t know you’re born. But I’m not complaining, really.

So I moved. I’d baited a little swim I’ve never fished before. Just on the off chance. Alas it proved a waste of time, but you have to try these little hunches.

On down the river to another favoured area. Time for a sandwich after baiting up. Fed and watered I crept down to the fist baited swim. Hang on, what’s going on. The river had coloured up and rafts of weed were coming down at an increasing frequency. I gave it a go but couldn’t keep a bait in place for more that two minutes. Surely not again?

So I headed back upstream and sure enough the Environment Agency were up to their destructive best ripping out the weeds and causing carnage. This flood protection game is bordering on madness. Look, the banks here, all graded by diggers as part of the 1970’s projects when rivers were deemed ‘fluid relief channels’, are ten feet high. Once a flood lifts the river by a foot it is over the top of the weed and makes no difference whatsoever – so why on earth do they waste so much time, effort, machinery and manpower on decimating the environment?

I stopped and asked the guy who was operating the weed cutting boat how far upstream he was going and he said just as far as the bridge because it was too shallow to cut above it! Asked how much longer he’d be cutting the weed for, he replied, “Till August, I reckon, but mostly it will be downstream of here.”

It’s madness, honestly. Ecological vandalism in the name of flood protection that doesn’t work anyway. If you build a house on a flood plain you can expect to get flooded out now and then, surely. But wouldn’t that money be better spent clearing out the dykes and ditches that prevent the water getting away in the first place. me old mum was flooded out in the great Toll Bar floods in 2006 and at 89-years-old she seems to understand flooding and its causes a damn site better than some of these EA engineers.

But we play with cards we’re dealt and I headed upstream to a quiet bend where no boat could cut effectively. It’s a swim I don’t fish much because it’s not hard enough – does that make sense? Look, I dropper-ed out some bait and the fish came charging up from the undercut, out onto the shallows directly in front of me. It took them all of twenty seconds to get on the bait and when I dropper-ed bait on their heads they bolted downstream and then applied the air brakes, shuddering to a halt before turning straight round and racing back to be first on the bait.

It was like shelling peas and I’d had three barbel before they got really edgy. Pricking one and having it come off didn’t hep in the shallow water but I managed to coax another couple of fish, which meant I’d caught five barbel and pricked one in the space of an hour. I checked the time. 4pm. Time to go home.

In two short sessions fished in the heat of the day on two vastly different rivers I’d landed 13 barbel and lost four, plus I’d had over half a dozen decent chub, the best pushing 4lb. Okay, some might say the barbel were just schoolies, but do you think I care? No, they provided me with great sport in the sunshine.

Colour Predjudice

A call from Mick Wood didn’t bode too well. We were due to film a slot for Barbel Days And Ways Volume Three with him on the River Wharfe and if you were to stake your life on someone to catch a barbel to save your life from a Yorkshire river you’d be hard pressed to find someone more reliable than Mick.

“Bob, I can’t catch a fish, something’s wrong with the river! It’s the colour of milky tea yet it’s at normal summer level; I’ve only seen it like this once in twenty years and until it clears out there’s no chance of catching at all.”

“Normally when the rivers up, well, you know yourself, the Wharfe goes a peaty colour but this is a puzzle.”

And so it was. As we’d booked the day i our diaries I suggested we went ahead all the same. You never know, the colour had to drop out at some point and when it does the fish should go on a feeding binge. So we turned up at the appointed hour – that’s 4.30am in the car park – and gave it a go. When I saw the river for myself I knew immediately that we were going to struggle and struggle we did.

By 8.00am we were on our way home!

Oh well, we’ll just have to go back when the colour goes but it’s a bit of a mystery where it’s coming from. I can only guess that there’s some serious dredging or other civil engineering works taking place way upstream involving a great deal of riverbed disturbance.

No Pay, No Say

By lunchtime I was getting withdrawal symptoms, not having caught a fish all day(!) so on a whim I nipped down to the River Dearne. It’s close enough to home to see the riverbank from my bedroom window, holds one or two decent barbel, reputedly into double figures (I had an eight-pounder six years ago), yet I hardly ever bother with it.

The Diary Doesn't Lie

The Diary Doesn't Lie

I first fished the Dearne on Monday 3rd June 1985 – back in those days we didn’t have a closed season as such on the Yorkshire rivers. How times and attitudes change! My diary records that I caught 5 gudgeon and some sticklebacks and I was ecstatic. To us, back then, to catch anything from the Dearne was regarded as being akin to a miracle. Little was I to know that I would soon be catching chub, bream and quality roach in numbers. What’s more, I practically had the place to myself.

But word soon got out. It was impossible to hide the fact you were fishing the River when it was a popular dog walking route and soon the crowds arrived and with the crowds came the problems of litter and vandalism. Today’s trip was my first for a couple of seasons and it took me ten minutes to remember why. It wasn’t so much the television that was bobbing up and down on the ripples, it was more the two-metre wide circles of scorched earth where bonfires had been lit, the discarded lager cans, the carrier bags, food wrappers, fishing tackle packaging and general detritus. Not one but two 4X4’s parked next to the river had me puzzling how they got there, too. Crikey they could shift most of the rubbish in one trip!

Mid 1980's - before the slalom bends

Mid 80's below Harlington footbridge before slalom bends were introduced

It’s a tip of a place set in a lovely valley. I went on TV and and campaigned in the angling press to preserve it when plans were submitted to re-route the river to allow open cast mining. I was one of the guys who planted the trees that now afford cover for chub and I still wouldn’t shed too many tears if fishing was banned here completely. We anglers have disgraced ourselves and I know, you might think that it’s kids and yobbo’s who don’t have a license who leave the mess behind, and in a few weeks when the schools break up gangs of teenagers will be using the weirpool as a lido but the plain fact is the place needs policing.

Especially during the closed season when you’ll find anglers secretly fishing in lots of little nooks and crannies.

A cracking Dearne barble

A cracking Dearne barbel

There’s a discussion currently running in the Rivers section of BFW where a few responsible anglers who fish the Dearne are concerned about canoes using the river and I applaud the sensible few who are actively seeking to stop this happening. However, we anglers in the Dearne Valley do not have a leg to stand on because outside of a couple of short lengths controlled by angling clubs, the Dearne is a free for all. No-one pays a penny to fish there and as a consequence we really don’t have a voice. We’re poaching for want of a better word because no-one has given us permission to fish in the first place.

And there’s the rub. No pay, no say.

A Way Forward?

Step back from the fishing and look at the River from a non-anglers point of view, try looking at it from a bird watchers stance, because it does run straight through a vast nature reserve, hang on, it runs through at least two if you include Denaby Ings, and what do they think of us anglers. I’ll tell you – vandals and litter louts.

Worth fighting for?

Worth fighting for?

The way forward is for us to pay and then to manage the river ourselves – and that will not be easy. But what if a like-minded group was to approach the EA and offer to work in partnership. To patrol the river, invite anglers to join the, I don’t know, the Dearne Preservation Society, to involve the local police when patrols go out – just in case a bit of back-up is required. It needs a hard line approach on rules implemented with kid gloves, but if folk are really serious about the Dearne it’s the only way to go.

Free fishing is worth nothing.

Anyway, I turned up, I dropper-ed a few pellets and proceeded to miss two proper pulls, possibly from chub but I suspect the first was a barbel. Maybe I should have changed the hook as I had caught at least six barbel on it previously! After an hour I’d got itchy feet and after 90 minutes I packed up so as to get home before all the yummy mummies blocked the lane as they drove half a mile to pick up their kids from school.

A double blow-out in one day. Good to get my feet back on the ground, eh?

Busy Times Lie Ahead

As I walked through the door the phone rang;it was Mick Brais, producer of Sky TV’s Tight Lines asking if I could squeeze in a date to guest on the show in July. It would be rude to decline although bearing in mind I already have two trips planned to different parts of the Wye, a few days on the Teme with Dave Mason, the two-day Tacklefest show in Peterborough plus Mick Woods’ Wharfe filming to reschedule as well as my own fshing and column deadlines, it wa near miracle that we could find a compatible date. But I think we’ve nailed it. Somehow I think July is going to be a busy month and August doesn’t look to be much easier!

However, as work goes, it’s a lot more enjoyable than my old life in the full-time job so no complaints from me.

Oddball Fact (For no  apparent reason):  Technically speaking there are no burglaries during daylight hours in the UK. There are break-ins but burglaries can only occur during the hours of darkness.


And just for good measure – let’s call it an encore – here’s a little bit of DVD footage that Improve Your Carse Fishing Editor, Kev Green shot while we were fishing up at Wyreside Lakes two years ago. It’s been around for a while but that’s no problem, I’m sure.

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