A time to acquaint (Entry 128)

There is an idea that we can only ever ‘live’ in the past. In the fractions of milliseconds it takes our brain to process the present, that moment we were in has already gone. It seems like the present but it’s a memory of it. I like that notion.

This week I made my first cast into a river I had wanted to fish ever since I was a small child. On the day the conditions were pretty horrendous. For fishing that is. It was cold. One of those colds that seem to cut straight through you. Later, as a gentle but northerly wind sprang up, the mercury plummeted even further. The rivers’ water was pure and clear. I could see for feet down into the deep margins. A heavy mist hung around all day. The tiny water droplets of which softened the edges of the drenched trees and completely masked more distant objects. It was just me and a section of river. Upstream and downstream, whatever I imagined them to be. Only to be proved or disproved by walking further. Leaving one perfect scene behind for another.

Paste!

I was here to fish of course but by now catching had become secondary. Maybe even further away than that. Tertiary? I had minimal tackle with me and just one bait. Cheesepaste. A bait befitting of the setting and one so linked with the species I hoped to catch. Chub. I knew that my tactics would have to be adapted slightly on a river much larger than my usual small river haunts. The river a merciless stealer of lead that ‘wanders’ in the flow. Time to find a weight that would just hold bottom then. I began by presenting a generous lump of paste a third of the way across the river, just out of the main flow. With a generous bow let out the lead held no problem and I was confident I would not fall foul to its snags. But would the rig be a delicate enough presentation for wary chub? Would I get a bite at all? The prospect of not getting one didn’t disappoint. I was totally in awe of this beautiful river and the conditions I had first witnessed it in. Happy with the presentation, for now at least, I settled into my chair. Time to keep a steady supply of warm coffee coming and hide away behind layers of warm clothing.

Trying to keep warm

The afternoon flew by. As is often the case when you are lost in a moment. A long moment, I concede. I was really enjoying the ambience of the place. I felt at home as soon as I arrived. A few casts had been made to the same spot on the crease in the interim. I was sure it would hold a chub or two but no signs had materialised. In between I dreamt of the fish I hoped to catch on future visits. Brassy chub and powerful, autumn barbel. Dace and roach aplenty and maybe a winter pike or two. For now though these ideas were simply that. Ideas. First, I would have to build up a better knowledge of the rivers moods and idiosyncrasies. I would have to experience it in drought and in flood. In Winter and in Summer. It is something I am looking forward to embracing. Just before dusk one of these daydreams was rudely interrupted by a savage pull on the quiver tip. Followed by a much more pronounced movement in the same direction a second later. It felt like a shadow of me that made the strike. My first fish. Both of the day and from the river. A very plump and welcomed chub.

My first chub from the river

With the chub returned and the rod re-cast, the night quickly took over. All too quickly everything was plunged into darkness. Time to enjoy another hour or so soaking up the atmosphere, whilst secretly hoping for the rod tip to pull around once more. It never moved though and that was quite ok by me. My day had already been made. Not so much by the capture of the chub but the way the late afternoon sun illuminated its flank in an orange warmth. In stark contrast to the steely blue hue of the cold, clear water. It was the fly angler I had spotted wading in amongst the rapids and the mist on my arrival. It was planning how to catch the special fish I know will create future memories. It was the slight panic as I tried to find my way back to the car in the dark on this unfamiliar stretch.

Did I say unfamiliar? Well, maybe a little less so than it had been just a few hours ago.

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NorthwestFisherman

Snow melt and sausages (Entry 127)

It was cold. Seriously cold. The wind hurtled in from the north, cutting through anything unfortunate enough to break its path. Unfortunately for me that ‘anything’ was me, walking as fast as I could toward a swim. I hoped to find a sheltered one but I knew by the wind direction there would be very few swims fitting that description today. Still, the pace I was walking at did help generate a little heat. As did the prospect of a winter chub. Although the conditions were not great. Snow melt in the river, her waters a disconcerting brown colour, and with a bright, sunny day forecast, I knew I was up against it. But as had been said many times before, you won’t catch sat indoors. With this in mind onward I trotted. A typical small river winter swim I looked for swims with slack water, preferably with a little depth, but anywhere outside of the main flow. The swim above is a typical example. The main flow of the river to the left and the slack, hopefully inviting-to-chub water, to the right. I fed a few tiny helpings of cheese paste on the crease and slowly set up a very simple link ledger. I debated using a smaller hook than usual, but I went with the idea that if the fish were going to move to the bait, I should offer them something worth moving for. In terms of size and nutritional value. So a size 8 hook opted for, tied on and the rig was finished. Hookbait; a thumb sized chunk of cheese paste with added garlic. I got comfortable on the floor, using my unhooking mat as a seat, and delicately flicked the rig into position. Holding the rod, I wrapped the line around my finger to feel for any inquisitive chubs investigative plucks that may otherwise go unnoticed on the tip. I had forgot how a steady flow resonated through the line. The pulse of the river; like static on a TV screen. Ten uneventful minutes went by; time for a re-cast. This time a little further down the swim. But before I had chance to reel in, the rod tip knocked slightly. I felt a steady, but delicate, pressure build. A chub had taken the bait. I edged the rod forward a little, giving the fish a little more ‘slack’ before striking. And when I did the rod bent pleasingly. Ear to ear grin. Then back to concentration. I needed to land this fish as in these difficult conditions, it might be the only bite of the day. A very welcomed 4lb chub The fight was a fairly short one but I was certainly not complaining. Fish number one was in the net. I gave it a quick weigh. A few ounces over four pound and in tremendously good condition it has to be said. A little washed out from the coloured water. I returned my prize well away from the swim and fed a few more lumps of paste. No point fishing it now though so for an hour I explored another two likely looking swims. Without success. By now the sun was at it highest and the wind still mercilessly swept in. Probably the worst time of day for the chance of a bite. That is, of course, from any fish. For me however it was a different matter. A cup of tea and a cheese and pickle sandwich. It was noticeable how little wildlife there was today. Apart from a robin, who had followed me to each of the three swims so far, it was eerily quiet. No finches, wrens or kingfishers. No woodpeckers pecking in the woodland. I hadn’t noticed any buzzards either. Sausages! After eating I fished a few swims. They had a little more pace than the first three so bait for these would be some left over sausage I had re-fried in turmeric. I fished slithers of them rather than sections, flicking the rig on the crease of the flow, and preferred to touch ledger rather than use the rod tip. It was fascinating bouncing the baits around the swims. Feeling the swan shots clatter over clean gravel and ‘fizz’ through sandier areas. It was now mid afternoon and I was still stuck on one chub. Time to find a swim to fish until dusk. Thankfully the swim I found was a little more sheltered than the rest of the river. As I settled in, enjoying a cup of tea, I introduced free offerings of cheese paste. I was in no rush to make a cast. I noticed how the thwarted wind had affected the temperature. It felt balmy in comparison to earlier. With my tea finished it was time for a cast. A big lump of cheese paste soon wafting in the flow. I had an almost instant response. The rod tip lunged round, dropped back, then lunge forward once more. Finger tips made redundant in this case. I swept the rod over my shoulder and connected with a solid weight. A very erratic fight commenced. The fish first dived for cover, then ran across the flow to the far bank before giving up. I was somewhat suspicious at this. At the net it woke up, making a play for the myriad of twigs and stems under my own bank. Typical chub. Dirty fighters. The hook held though and fish number two was on the bank. A hard fighting chubChunky chub number two. This time two ounces under four pound but sharing the same superb condition as the first fish. I was one happy angler. For the last hour I sat and held the rod. I tried various areas of the swim as the watery sun set in front of me. The pale blue sky darkened and became a deep purple. A fitting backdrop for my final cast. For some time after I felt for a bite. I admired the trees and fence posts as they lost their colour and became silhouettes. The perfect end to a thoroughly enjoyable, but freezing cold, winters day.

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NorthwestFisherman

A case of ‘the one that got away’ (Entry 67)

I’m really busy with various things at the moment but I made a promise to myself, that even if it is for just two hours, I will get a little fishing in every week. And thats what time limit I had this week. What better way to spend a short amount of time than roving a small river with some cheesepaste trying to tempt a chub. The river would be the same that I have been fishing for the grayling but much lower down, where it is deeper, a little slower but still as overgrown and ‘fishy.’

I arrived at the river mid afternoon and on first inspection, knew I was in for a tough time. The river still had a good amount of extra water on and the colour had already begun to drop out. But I was willing to try. Find a few slack areas behind trees or on the nearside of bends, feed a little cheesepaste, have a cup of coffee, then give it fifteen minutes before moving on. Sounds good to me.

Chub anyone?I walked away from the car to the furthest swim. It would take me just over two hours to visit all the swims I knew would be fishable. The swim here is usually quite shallow and the water skims over a gavel bottom. There is a deeply undercut bank where the river gouges away the sandy soil on the far bank, and under my feet, when there is extra water on, turns into a slow back eddy. It offers fish a little calm water and will also collect any natural food. There simply had to be a fish or two down there. But would they be interested in the cheesepaste? I’d find out soon enough. I broke a small ball of it and fed it into the swim, just under my feet no more than four feet from the bank, where the water is at its deepest. I had my coffee whilst letting the bait settle and hopefully rouse the interest of Mr Chub. Above me a woodpecker rhythmically tapped at the tree bark. A splash of white, black and red in an otherwise green and brown backdrop. Once he spotted me he soon flew away but it was a nice sight all the same. Time to drop in the rig. Carefully I placed it into position. Free-lined cheesepaste. There was no need for any additional weight. Sitting well back from the edge, I wrapped the line around my finger and waited for a bite. Five minutes past. A little pluck on the line out of the blue, then a more pronounced pull. Fish on. I had to play it fairly hard to keep the fish from finding one of the multitude of snags, but on 6lb line, I felt I always had the upper hand.

A chunky chub

This chunky chub of 4lb 9oz was the culprit and obviously had a liking for some stinky cheesepaste. It was a fish in lovely condition apart from one obvious puncture would on the other flank. It looked fairly recent to. Maybe a cormorant or some other predator. I don’t know. I applied some Propolis to the would, made sure it ‘stuck’ and returned the fish. Propolis is used by koi carp enthusiasts as a natural antibacterial and healing agent. If its good enough for them its good enough for fishing. I use it whenever I see a fish with damage. Big or small, carp, barbel or any other. It’s also good at alleviating hayfever symptoms but I only just found this out so I can’t say wether it works or not. With that swim now disturbed I made my way to the next in the hope of another chub.

Bee propolis

The sun had now made it’s way behind the clouds and this gave me a little more confidence. I changed my plans slightly when I got settled in the swim. It looked really good and I had a lot of water to draw fish from. I therefore decided to give it an hour and slowly build up the swim. I fed a few pellets I had with me and every few minutes, a little chunk of cheesepaste. I used a fairly light leger to search the swim. Bumping the lead down the swim occasionally and letting it come to rest where the flow dictated. As I expected it was slow going and for thirty minutes nothing happened.

On a cast a little further down the swim I had a little pluck which didn’t materialise into anything. Another ten minutes went by before the tip pulled round Slowly. I struck into a heavy weight and at first I thought I had snagged up. Then the snag began to move, toward me thankfully. This was a very heavy fish. Suddenly the fish shook its head and did a complete u-turn, and at some speed. Stripping line off the reel the fish headed away from me. As I said before I was on 6lb line and was not geared up for this. With the fish heading towards a huge dead tree and a raft of debris I had to hold on and hope for the best. Unfortunately the fish was soon free, the hook having pulled, but thankfully I didn’t leave any end tackle with the fish. Quite what the fish was I wouldn’t like to say, it was heavy and very powerful, and its turn of pace was staggering. Barbel or carp? Thats fishing for you. It wouldn’t be interesting to succeed all the time. It’s part of the charm of the sport, so many variables out of your control, its amazing we catch any fish at all. I’ll certainly be rigging up on heavier gear for the next few sessions just in case I happen to meet with that brute again!

Thanks for reading this update. You might like to head over to my Facebook page. Once there if you ‘like’ the page, you will get all the blog, twitter and Facebook updates in one place! You can click the link at the end or hit like to the top right of the home page. Don’t forget to share this with anyone you know might appreciate it using the social media buttons below.

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Until Next time tight lines,

NorthwestFisherman

Trying to find the chub (Entry 33)

More cold weather. Hopefully this will be the last really harsh spell we have before spring begins. I say hopefully as last year in just twenty four hours we had a temperature change of something like 17 degrees, and this was towards the end of April. We just cant predict what is going to happen, but one thing is for sure, I will always be out trying to catch fish. After scraping the frost from the car I made my way down the motorway having decided to head back to a familiar stretch. With the temperature dropping so significantly, I needed to give myself the best chance of a bite or two. But a bite from what? Chub were going to be my target, on many occasions they are a most obliging fish in far from ideal conditions.

I arrived at the river around midday and, as I usually do, walked the bank dropping a few helping of cheese paste in any likely looking spots. Of course, I have a few swims on this stretch now that I rate above others, but it is surprising how many of my PB’s or memorabe fish have come from swims that ‘usually dont produce.’ So its best to fish everywhere that looks right, regardless of past events. As we all know, fish sometimes forget to read the rules.

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The first swim I fished was a section I had never fished before. I always knew it was a slightly deeper section from the steadier water there. Not a sign of a boil or shallow gravel bank. IMG_1455I decided to give it an hour here, all the while trickling in a few tiny lumps of cheese paste. After twenty minutes of motionless tip, I reeled in and re-baited my hook with a section of spicy sausage wich got an almost instant reaction, and as the line pulled tight over my fingers, I struck into a lively fish. At first I thought it was a trout, but once the fish held deep in the steady flow I knew it was my target species. The first fish of the day is always played extra carefully and thankfully was netted without circumstance. Weighing in at 3lb 10oz its not a huge chub nationally, but for the river I am fishing, and certainly where I am fishing it, a very good chub. Happy with that fish and the little bit of information I had learnt about the section, I headed for more familiar territory in the hope some fish had located my pre-fed cheese paste offerings.

After a good twenty minute walk I arrived at a swim. The rig needed some adjustment for this swim. I wanted the bait to flutter underneath a overhanging tree, so I lengthened the gap between link and hook. I use a short section of fluorocarbon pulled through two float stops. This allows me to fish without any knots direct to my mainline but also to change the length of the tail to suit conditions or situation. Today a tail of about three foot seemed to be best. After moulding some cheese paste over the size 8 hook and taking an SSG shot off the link, I crept into position, and gently flicked the rig into position. I held the line tight just as it hit bottom thus allowing the shot and hookbait, hopefully, to pull round an end up somewhere under the overhanging tree. Its worth pointing out if you do fish like this and get a bite keep that rod low, even plunging it under the water, so the line doesn’t become tangled in the branches. What is a haven for a chub is certainly not for your line!

IMG_1464

All of a minute went by before the line tightened and another angry chub was hooked. This fish was a little smaller than the last but still a welcome fish on a cold and blustery day. After returning the fish I trickled in a little bit more bait and had a cup of tea, allowing the swim settle. Another cast was made a ten minutes later an another chub was hooked, in fact another lovely fish at 3lb 9oz.

IMG_1470

I tried a few more swims after this one and not one produced a bite. One of them usually a ‘banker’ swim too. Every swim fished allows you to build up a picture of what mood the fish are in. Today any swim that had a little bit of pace and/or less depth seemed IMG_1481devoid of fish. Slacker or deeper water produced a bite almost instantly. The fish were obviously trying to conserve as much energy as possible and laying up in steady water. Based on this knowledge I made the last swim a tiny but deep back eddy which I had found on my last visit. It didn’t produce that day but would it today? It took around five minutes for a bite to develop but eventually I hooked another chub. It fought extremely hard but I successfully netted the fish, even after it had dived for cover in the nearside brambles and vegetation, as they often do. Another 3lb plus fish and a happy, but cold, angler.

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Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Chub fishing in the snow (Entry 29)

With the cold weather continuing and more snow forecast, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get out at all this week. Not because I don’t like fishing in the cold and when there’s a carpet of snow on the ground, I was simply unsure whether I would be able to get from my house to the river. Luckily the predicted heavy snow turned out to a little less than anticipated. Having not been out to the tackle shop I had no maggots in which ruled out a few hours trotting for grayling. I therefore had one option left which was to continue from where I left off last week, and fish for chub with cheese paste.

As I made my way down the M6 surprisingly the snow had indeed fell less and in the surrounding fields, bright green patches of grass could be seen. On arriving at the river I found much the same, snow drifts and deeper spots, with clearer patches of mud and grass standing free from snow. The river itself was at normal winter level and carrying more colour than last week, probably due to a little snow melt which didn’t fill me with confidence. But as ever, I did believe I had a chance of a bite or two. No doubt the fish themselves would be shoaled up tighter than last week. Having fished this stretch a few times now, I know some good areas to fish, some very tight to the near bank, behind obstructions that create perfect ‘ambushing’ areas for a chub to lie in wait for any food items to be brought down to it in the main flow. The snow, deep mud and persistent cold wind made walking the banks very hard and quickly sapped my energy. I don’t know what it is that drives us anglers to fish in such conditions but you really can see, if you step back from it all, how the general public and uninitiated might consider us to be mad.

It's important to leave your hook point exposed when using chesse pasteI fished a little differently from last week. Instead of feeding a number of swims and then fishing them in rotation, I decided to fish a bigger piece of paste but make this the only thing in the swim. Obviously if a fish is present then my chances of it picking up my bait were greatly increased. I was also basing this approach on the idea of ‘effort versus reward’. River fish fish need to keep eating as they are using energy constantly but when in a torpid state they would much rather get a lot of energy value from one big mouthful than have to use up a lot of energy picking off little morsels, such as maggot. Well that was the theory.

The first swim was fished for an hour,  a little longer than I would usually give it, but in that time I did cast to three different places that I thought would hold some fish. Alas there IMG_1356wasn’t any so I moved downstream to where the river runs underneath the road. I hadn’t fished this swim before but have always meant to. Just in front of the bridge support on the far bank there is a huge tree stump in the water that creates a delightful slack. It took a few SSG shot and a substantial bow in the line to hold bottom. It looked perfect but there it stayed for 20 motionless minutes. It was time for a little food and a warm cup of tea. It’s worth pointing out that if you are going to venture out fishing in cold conditions, that wearing lots of thin layers and taking enough food and warm drinks to cover your time on the bank, is very important. Fishing is something we do for fun and its worth taking care of yourself and not putting yourself in too much danger. Safety speech over! There was only one thing to do now, I had to take the long walk to the head of the stretch where there was three good swims all within 200 metres of each other. I didn’t relish the thought of the walk through saturated ground but I knew if I was to catch these swims would be my best bet. With that I set off for the horizon!

IMG_1352Some 20 minutes later I was at the first of the three swims. Its a small, but deep hole, tight to the near bank, and with a high bank it’s imperative to keep as low as possible. If this means crawling through mud and snow then so be it. On went a big lump of cheese paste and I lowered the rig into position. After ten minutes I felt a little pluck on the line before the tip was pulled round ever so slightly. Enough to strike at and thankfully I had a fish on, which at first I though was trout from the speed it took of at. The fish then held stationary in the main flow, shook its head and began to plod. Classic chub fight. Once netted and a quick photo taken, I weighed the fish at 3lb 10oz. Happy angler now!

The first fish of the dayAfter that fish I made my way to the next swim, its an interesting swim and one which holds a lot of options and places to present your bait. You can easily spend an hour there, which I did, but had nothing to show for my efforts. I think the fish were really tightly shoaled today and I might have fared better fishing into dark which wasn’t an option today. On my way back to the car I decided to have one last cast in the swim that gave me the fish earlier and I am glad I did as it produced another fish within five minutes, again to a big pinch of cheese paste. The fish was a little smaller at 3lb 8oz but made the arduous trek across the field that little bit easier. To catch any fish in these conditions would have been a good result, but to catch two good sized chub in just a few hours, during the day, I was made up.

A last gasp winter chubDon’t forget you can get twitter updates notifying you of new blog updates by adding @NorthwestFish or you can follow my blog by clicking the link at the top of the page. I update every Saturday morning.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

On the river for chub (Entry 28)

Well, it’s here again. That white fluffy stuff that usually brings havoc to our transport system and has every child rushing to find something suitable to slide down hills on. As the snow begins to fall and the temperatures drop, so the stillwaters begin to freeze over and once more its the rivers that offer any angler ‘committed’ enough a chance to wet a line.

Obviously then, this is where I was going to be heading this week but I couldn’t decide what to fish for. Should I trot for grayling with maggots or fish for chub exploring any likely spots with a big, smelly bait. Another question popped into my head. ‘What would Jan Porter do’? I don’t know why it did. A quick message via twitter saw Jan reply opting for grayling but then again he couldn’t rule out the chance of a chub even in the bleakest conditions. A decision had to be made and simply because I feel I have neglected chub of late I decided it would be wandering the banks with a handful of cheese paste and a ledger rod.

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I arrived at the river after noon and made my way towards the head of the stretch taking with me nothing but the cheese paste. Looking for any likely looking swims, like the one above, I worked my way downstream feeding a few pieces of cheese paste in each. Once at the downstream limit and having fed six swims, I headed to collect my gear from the car. I like to travel light when fishing like this, so it was simply unhooking mat, landing net, IMG_1474scales, a small bag with essential tackle items and a flask of tea. Oh, and a rod of course. I headed back to the first swim I had fed, baited the hook with an almond sized lump of cheese paste and crept into position. As the swim was very close in I had to keep low. There is no point going to all the trouble of feeding swims only to approach the swim with heavy feet. The ‘fearfullest of fishes’ will not abide this. The flow was very slight in this swim and was eddying back on itself. I dropped the running link ledger of a single SSG shot into position and let a little slack line out. I knelt on my unhooking mat, line wrapped around my finger and waited for any signs of fish. It took a full minute for the tip to start vibrating and a quick strike met with solid, lumbering resistance. Definitely a chub and what a way to start! I had to be careful playing the fish however as the nearside of the river was full of twigs and snags, ready for any wily chub to make a dive to safety.

A fish in under a minute - chub around 4lbI managed to safely net the chub and it is pictured above. A pristine and chunky 4lb fish with a definite liking for my cheese paste. I returned the fish well away from the swim although felt that I wouldn’t get any more fish from here due to the nature of the fight. The fish bore hard for the trees to the left and probably disturbed any fish that lay in the slack water there. Even so I gave it another cast. A motionless 15 minutes went by and confirmed to me there was no more fish willing to feed here so I headed to swim number two. No fish were forthcoming. The same could be said about swim number three and swim number four. I felt sure I was fishing correctly and the fish I had caught in the first swim gave me hope that I would eventually locate another fish or two in another swim.

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Swim number five was called upon. Would there be any fish here? I baited my hook and looked at the swim. I decided to add more shot to the link for this swim as the pace was greater here. I also wanted to fish further out in the slightly deeper water towards the far Grayling on cheese paste?bank. The rod top bounced around as the rig found its way into position. Two minutes later the rod tip arched over and I was playing chub number two, a little smaller than the first fish at around 3lb but a welcome fish all the same. I was able to play the fish well away from where I hooked it so I decided to have another cast. A little more cheese paste was fed before doing so. Another bite came within minutes and proved to be a surprise grayling, a respectable fish of around 1lb. It’s the first one I have ever caught on cheese paste. Maybe the fish had an identity crisis either way it brought a splash of colour to an otherwise dull and drab day. I decided to fish this swim for awhile longer as the fish didn’t seem to be backing off. I started to feed small bits a cheese paste quite regularly and fish a larger lump in various places of the swim. For the next 30 minutes I had a run of bites resulting in some nice sized chub all between 3-4lb.

Another chunky River Dane chubAs dusk approached I felt I had the best chance to get amongst a bigger fish. I had purposely left a swim for this time of day and it was a swim I had fished before. Although there was still fish to be had from my current swim I decided to see if I could snatch a bigger fish as the light levels fell. On arriving at swim six I went through the same ritual as I had done all day. Baited my hook well away from the swim, then made my way carefully into position and cast my rig. It settled beautifully and I was sure I would get a bite. It took a little while for one to materialise. A few taps made way to a typical huge chub knock before a more pronounced rattle gave me something to strike at. Unfortunately the fish itself wasn’t a monster but a welcome fish to end the session on.

The last chub of the session as the light starts to goToday’s session proved that, when it comes to small rivers, if you give yourself a chance by feeding numerous swims, approaching them quietly and more importantly, you are lucky enough to locate a few fish, even in cold, winter conditions you can catch some quality fish in just a few hours. As I am writing this entry the snow is now falling outside and a quick look at the forecast reveals that the temperatures are only going to get colder over the next few days. This means that the stillwaters will no doubt have a lid on them for a week or more so and next weeks entry will more than likely see me on the river once more where this time I may turn my attention to grayling. After all variety, as they say, is the spice of life.

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Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman