Big Fish Column: Anglers warm to their task as week progresses
Last week was another of those that demonstrated the old cliché of a ‘game of two halves’ and locally fishing could not really have been more different at the start compared to the end.
The first half of the week saw solid lakes and icy cold rivers with just the occasional chub or grayling showing for the brave few prepared to make the effort to get out and fish.
The latter half of the week brought a rapid warming with the rivers quickly responding and plenty of fish, including the odd barbel, prepared to feed.
To begin at the beginning and it was a very tough going indeed as winter closed in for the first time.
Typically for the conditions the two species prepared to feed were chub and grayling and the fact that only a few were reported was probably more a reflection of the small number of anglers willing to go out and try, rather than a lack of fish prepared to feed.
This time around it was not, perhaps, so much a case of ‘fair weather angler’ syndrome but more the fact that a quick look at the forecast revealed that the cold snap was set to be short-lived and that a return to mild conditions was due.
For those who did pull on the thermal gear there were a good few chub to be caught in rivers which were, mostly, fining down nicely and carrying just a touch of colour.
The best of the small bunch reported was a 5lb 14oz fish to Twyford angler Billy Harris who fished the cage feeder with bread on a local venue.
A smaller fish of around the 3lb 8oz mark completed Billy’s day, both fish taking a small pinch of flake on a size 10 hook to a 4lb 8oz hook length and 5lb main line.
A scheduled visit to Barton Court on the upper River Kennet proved to be very timely for Lee Burgess as it is one of the few local day ticket beats where you can guarantee a few bites in the harshest of conditions.
It may not hold the numbers, or indeed size, of grayling associated with the more southerly chalkstreams, such as the Test or Itchen, but there are always a few willing to feed.
Lee put together a nice mixed bag of specimens to just over the pound mark along with a smattering of dace and, of course, the ubiquitous trout – out of season but nonetheless great fun on light trotting gear.
As far as trotting gear was concerned Lee opted for a 14ft float rod coupled with a centrepin reel loaded with 4lb line. A 2lb 12oz low diameter hook length and size 16 hook baited with double maggot formed the business end.
Frozen lakes also usually mean an influx of pike anglers to the rivers and so it was last week with a few keen predator anglers tackling the running water for the first time this season.
A few lures and deadbaits cast into swims that rarely see any predator angling pressure has been known to turn up some very interesting surprises in years past, but this time around there was nothing out of the ordinary reported, but Taplow’s Dick West netted a nice Thames fish of 12lb 8oz to a legered smelt, connecting with it after missing a series of dropped runs.
The relatively rapid warming brought an instant transformation to the rivers and a few barbel were reported from the Loddon and the Kennet, the former producing a nice winter fish of 10lb 10oz to Big Fish Column regular Stuart Moore who fished a mini boilie wrapped with paste on a size 8 hook to 15lb braid and 12lb main line.
Stu also netted a brace of chub, both weighing around the 3lb mark.
In water that, on some venues at least, was in great shape the chub fishing picked up markedly too.
Maidenhead’s Giles Devine bagged a couple of fish of to 5lb 8oz on a cheese-based bait from the Loddon at Twyford and Slough’s Elliott Richards a fish of 4lb 14oz from a backwater of the Thames at Windsor.
Some cracking perch responded to the warmer conditions too with fish to just shy of 4lb reported from some of the canalised sections of the River Kennet and specimens to over 2lb from local beats of the Thames, with Marlow looking particularly good.
At the time of writing all of the stillwaters have thawed out and are open for business again and with the water temperature now back to more ‘normal’ winter readings the carp are relatively quiet – giving the silver fish specialists a really good chance to get amongst a few good fish without the inevitable carp interruptions that warmer water brings.
With a forecast suggesting a semblance of stability the fishing this weekend should remain challenging, but improving!
Any anglers wishing to report catches may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org