Rob Leather looks forward to the start of the coarse fishing season.
I am fortunate to live within walking distance of the River as she flows steadily through Ross on Wye , Gilpins “gateway to the picturesque”. As a member of Ross AC for 6 years, I have spent many hours walking the banks observing the ever changing mood of the River and its inhabitants. I have also been known to enter its mysterious depths, wrapped warmly in a wetsuit, to discover secret depressions and favourite hideouts of the Wye’s signature fish, the barbel.
For us “folks of the angle”, 2020 will be noted as a year in which we will hold our fishing dear; the River will still hold its magic, the fish will still play their games on us and we will be blessed with a powerful continuity, in a world where recently there seemed none.
As I write this, a couple of weeks before the season starts, the River is already thickening with “green”. My kids are happily splashing around as the water temperature nudges 21 degrees Celsius and fears of last year, when the fishing was suspended, creep to mind. My prayers are with Zeus, the God of Thunder, for a few additional feet of river.
With the River warm, the fish will be seeking oxygenated water. I shall make my first casts in the faster, shallower runs. Some of the croys downstream of the Weirend carpark and the fast runs near the powerlines on upper Benhall offer some excellent spots to try. At the start of the season, especially with the water low, I have found it to be significantly more productive to fish the first or final hours of daylight. Many a time have I been stood in the River at 4am catching more fish than I need to, to have bites dry up by 7, and to watch anglers arriving at Wilton Bridge as I walk home.
My latest angling fad is to float fish wherever possible. Although the catch rate is lower than ledgering, the challenge of guiding the float, whilst trying to trundle the bait enticingly along the bottom, keeps me learning. Either through trying likely spots, or delivering a constant stream of offerings along a run, to then watch the float disappear, shortly followed by my line being stripped from my centrepin is a shot of adrenalin I enjoy that belies the typical sleepy image of angling. Luncheon meat or larger pellets seem to do the trick, even on the brightest of days.
For the traditional barbel angler, summer is the time for long hook lengths and often small baits. Flavoured maggots, on a 3 foot hook length with plenty of maggots and or hemp in a closed end feeder will succeed, although you may rouse the interest of small chub or dace. To combat this, a small single 8mm pellet with an open ended feeder CRAMMED TIGHT (for slow release) with hemp/halibut mix, a few free offerings with a 4 -6 foot hook length should see a few “tentative twitches”from the barbel. Another bait I only started using last year was sweetcorn. On every occasion I used it, it out-fished pellet. I need to put some more “science and statistics” behind this before I declare it my go-to summer bait, but give it a try. If you are new to the Wye, the fish are not tackle shy, but the river gods will try and steal your hooks and feeders with her rocky bottom. I use 12lb mainline and 10lb hook lengths along with barbless hooks to avoid mouth damage.
With the water likely to be warm and oxygen levels low, the recently spawned fish will need time to recover once in the net. Unless it is a particularly “special” fish (perhaps an elusive Wye double!) I am in the habit of not taking the fish out of the water, instead un-hooking them in the net and then leaving them to rest for a good while before returning them to their weedy abode.
Best of luck for the 2020 season. I’ll sign off with some of my favourite words from Isaak Walton.
“No life, no life so happy and so pleasant as the life of a well-governed angler; for when the lawyer is swallowed up with business, and the statesman is preventing or contriving plots, then we sit on cowslip banks, hear the birds sing, and possess ourselves in as much quietness as these silent silver streams, which we now see glide so quietly by us.
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