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Big Fish Column: River anglers make the most of the change in temperature

By Ian Welch

The change from a high pressure weather system, bringing sub-zero temperatures, to a low pressure one, delivering mild, wet conditions is always good news for angling. So much the better when it occurs at the weekend when more of us can get out and make the most of it.

So it was last week as a plummeting barometer indicated a weather system moving in from the south-west. The rivers, typically, reacted more quickly than the stillwaters and a few local barbel made an appearance as a result.

In a week that saw a record-equalling 18lb plus Thames barbel reported the best fish to a local angler was also a Thames fish, in the shape of a 14lb 4oz fish to Holyport’s Dave McManus.

Regular readers will know that Dave is no stranger to the Big Fish Column and has featured for many years with some exceptional barbel catches from his beloved River Kennet. However, love does not always persist and when Dave called me last week he told me, “My relationship with the Kennet is over. It is sad but it is not the river I grew up with and, worse still, I can see no way ahead for improvement. As far as barbel are concerned it’s dead.”

Tough words indeed from someone who has fished the river man and boy but comments which, I suspect, will resonate with many local anglers. I would argue that the Kennet is not quite ‘dead’ yet but I do agree with Dave when he says he can see no way forward for the river.

The Reading and District Angling Association, by some margin our largest local Kennet club, are working with the Environment Agency on many great projects but – and it is no criticism of RDAA - one has to ask if it is too little, too late. Time will tell…

As far as Dave McManus is concerned his move to barbel fishing on the River Thames has been a steep learning curve and after a couple of months of blank sessions he was finally rewarded with a big fish last weekend when his paste-wrapped pellet hook bait was taken by the 14lb fish just before midnight. A size 8 hook to a long, 15lb coated braid hook length with a 2.5oz lead did the trick in a swim just below a bend in the river.

At this time of year, the windows of opportunity for great barbel fishing can be all too brief and the forecast suggests a return to high pressure, clear skies and freezing temperatures for the weekend ahead – so chub and, possibly, pike might be better targets for anyone looking to get out during the next few days.

As far as pike are concerned it is fair to say that local pike anglers have endured a relatively quiet start to the New Year but news this week of the best snapper of the year in the shape of a 23lb beast to Reading’s Gordon McKie.

Gord was not fishing one of the local stillwaters that have a track record of producing the occasional pike of this size, but was fishing a section of the River Thames at Pangbourne when his sink-and-draw tactics connected with the fish on his very first cast!

Local pike topping 20lb are as rare as the proverbial rocking horse droppings, one from a river even more so, well done Gordon.

To finish with trout and the winter fishing at Haywards Farm Lake continues to bring much to cheer about for local game anglers as the sport has remained excellent. The latest big fish to be banked was a lovely rainbow trout of 10lb 8oz to venue regular Simon Bedwell and anyone looking to take advantage of the brilliant sport currently on offer will be delighted to hear that the first stocking of 2017 saw brown and rainbow trout to 14lb introduced last week.

Any anglers wishing to report catches may contact me at ian@bigfishtrail.com

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