River bream

Strong winds were forecast for the last week of the river season, which ends on 14-Mar. Not ideal for either fishing effectively or staying comfortable, but with time running out there was no option but to give it a go.

The first session started unconvincingly when I tried to fish amongst reeds which were thrashing in the wind and constantly catching the line and hook. In my next spot I was very exposed and starting to feel cold despite having layered up. A missed bite told me fish were there but I didn’t want to freeze solid trying to catch them.

Then I had a brain wave: the nearby weir pool island would offer shelter and an easy cast into the pool tail. Ten minutes later I was settled in there, totally protected from the gale blasting through the tree tops, warming up nicely in the sun and getting into a much more positive frame of mind.

Weirpool tail

A gentle lob put my swimfeeder on the edge of the current, with a small worm on the hook. For an hour nothing happened, then the quivertip twitched before pulling forward. Tightening up put me in contact with a heavy weight that at first refused to budge. After boring about on the bottom and then waving its tail at the surface, a good bream of 6lb 10oz eventually came in:

River bream

That was it for the day (apart from two missed bites) but it felt like a minor triumph given the shaky start. As I packed up, heavy rain started falling, quickly turning into sleet as the wind picked up a notch.

Three days later I had another go. It was still very windy so it was back to the weir pool. While I was tackling up an EA employee came along saying fishing was not allowed there. Rather annoying, but anyway I went off to try somewhere else.

In my new swim the quivertip was jumping around too much in the howling wind so I decided to hold the rod and feel the line for bites. This had the added advantage that I could sit more comfortably, sideways on to the breeze.

Wind on the river

The sound of the wind and the constant ruffling of the water meant I could hardly hear myself think, but there was no mistaking the first bite. A series of plucks on the line was a clear signal cutting through the noise. Just a small chub of about a pound, but very welcome. Shortly after I felt a decisive pull and on lifting the rod found myself playing another similar sized fish:


The wind chill was getting to me, so again I had to walk away from biting fish. I didn’t mind too much, as I knew another more sheltered spot that should be worth a go – the junction of the main river with a lock cut.

Casting into the middle is usually productive here, but after an hour I was still biteless. It occurred to me that with the river running fast after the recent rain, it might be better fishing a bit closer to the slack water of the cut. This quickly brought a 6oz roach on worm. On the next cast something more substantial took hold. Another good bream, 7lb 4oz this time:

Bream 7lb 4oz

Minutes later a sharp jab on the quivertip signalled that another fish had located the worm on the riverbed. It was putting up a rather bream-like nodding resistance, so I was surprised to see the bold stripes of a large perch looming up out of the murk. That went 2lb 10oz:

Large perch

Walking back in the dusk along the deserted river bank, I reflected on a rewarding couple of days.

River at dusk

Windy Westmill Lake

It was pretty windy on a recent visit to Westmill Lake and I was initially plagued by floating catkins that were being pushed here and there by the breeze:

Catkins on Westmill Lake

These catkins were either preventing the bait sinking or catching on the line when I reeled in. Sometimes they would disappear for a while, only to come drifting back again. Despite managing a few roach and perch I quickly ran out of patience with the floating menace and decided on a move.


Walking round the lake, there were some signs of spring, despite the rather cold conditions. Hawthorn coming in to leaf:

Westmill hawthorn

Blackthorn flowering:

Westmill blackthorn

On the other side of the lake the wind was blowing right to left, sweeping any catkins away. A cross wind often renders waggler fishing futile by dragging the float sideways, but somehow I managed a half-decent presentation. A run of  roach kept me busy for a while:

Windy Westmill Lake

Then I caught a colourful rudd:


With the breeze pushing into my end of the lake it seemed likely bream would be around, so I rigged up a groundbait swimfeeder with a small worm for bait. It was a matter of watching the rod tip for bites:


Probably an hour later there was a deliberate pull on the rod tip. Chucking down my float rod (which I had been keeping busy with in the meantime), I grabbed the feeder rod and struck. Something on the other end put up a solid, plodding resistance with an occasional flash of bronze underwater. A bream:


Later on a perch picked up the worm:


In the late afternoon, some rain squalls came through and the temperature dropped sharply. Perhaps as a result of this, the fish seemed to switch off completely, with no more bites on either method. Time to head home for a cup of tea.

Go with the flow

There is a close season for coarse fishing on rivers from 15-March to 15-June, so at this time of year I usually do a few trips on flowing water, before it’s too late. As a teenager I spent many hours fishing on small streams, and forty years later, these waters have lost none of their appeal.

In the early days I used worms for bait almost exclusively. They were easy to keep on the hook and also free; I used to dig them in the garden. Nowadays I still save a bit of cash by running a small wormery, the residents of which munch their way through a lot of my kitchen scraps:


Another good thing about worms is that there are no species of fish that won’t take them. Armed with a boxful, I arrived on the banks of a favourite small river the other day to find it running fairly clear:

Small river

If the water is coloured (i.e. muddy) after rain, then fish may not see a moving bait; it can be better to fish static on the bottom. In these conditions however, I could use a float to carry the worm along, searching out the fish:

Fishing float

In the first spot there wasn’t much doing until I tried a cast upstream of my position and caught this lovely dace – a small fish found almost exclusively on rivers:


No more action in that swim so it was time to move on downstream. This run just upstream of a sharp bend looked to be worth a go:

River swim

The main current here was on the left hand side, with slacker water on the right. Casting into the middle of the river, the float ran through quite fast, but no bites resulted. A better tactic was to swing it out to the right, close to the trees, and let it slowly drift along on the edge of the slack water. This brought a brightly coloured perch:

River perch

Shortly after that, an overambitious cast ended up in the tree branches. I got my tackle back (minus the hook), re-rigged and moved again. After that disturbance, any fish nearby would probably have bolted.

The next swim had produced some good sized chub in recent weeks to me and my brother. The key holding area was under an overhanging willow. The first few trots down with the float got no response. Not wanting to use a plummet to find the depth, for fear that the splash would alarm the fish, I was simply increasing depth on each cast. Eventually the float pulled slowly under. Not a fish, the hook was dragging the bottom. I reduced the fishing depth by three inches, and cast again. This time, as the float reached the tree, it went under purposefully. My strike hit solid resistance, almost like being stuck in the bottom, until the rod got pulled over by a heavy fish heading downstream.

After an exciting few minutes this chub of about 4lbs 8oz was on the bank (like the dace, a species that is mainly found in rivers):


Just before packing up, I caught a small roach, then another dace:


River fishing seems to be less popular these days for some reason. Often you won’t see anyone else all day. That’s a good reason to try it of course – you will have some peace and quiet as you search out wild fish in their natural habitat.

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