Well, I confess to having a most enjoyable trip up to the River Wye, which was in fact a very last minute affair. Fed up with trying to gauge the perfect boat day for “Hi Sea Drifter”, something just told me to take advantage of the lack of rain and make a call up to Woody’s Tackle Shop in Hereford. The last time I was up there was my very first view of the Wye, and together we made a film for our Show, but alas it was in high summer with clear water and very low conditions. Not a chance of a Barbel or Chub, so in that respect it could be deemed a blank. This time I was on my own, but booked in a B & B so I could put a full two days in before any rains came and flooded or coloured the river too much. Perhaps I was still disappointed with the huge amount of weed and lack of mixed species from one of the famous southern rivers I had visited recently, but I was in no rush to get back there. It seems that many anglers are just chasing a few old Barbel that are left, and you cannot even find a wide stretch for trotting a float any distance due to the weed. It has always been a pet moan of mine that the relevant authorities or governing bodies don’t cut the weed properly so anglers can fish? You only had to look back at the famous Throop fishery when fishery manager Ernie Leah used to get in the river with chest waders and literally scythe out channels for the anglers to get their baits into. The fishery was fantastic, and drew hundreds of tourist anglers anxious to get some Barbel or Chub on a regular day ticket. Hands-on management was the order of the day, and now the weed is so thick I can’t even recognise swims. On the Hampshire Avon it seems even worse. Low water was the cause for the weed being left in, in order to hold water levels up, but all I would argue was that why could not channels be cut so anglers could at least run a float through ? But I guess it’s all labour intensive and of course weed cutting in the summer can only be done in certain periods.
Anyway, it was a pleasure to get up to the Wye, where Woody and the bankside anglers all seemed a lot more pleasant, positive and cheerful than many anglers fishing the southern rivers after the occasional big Barbel. And the Hereford & District AA have something like 11 miles of water?? So there are stretches where you don’t even see another angler and the countryside is, of course, superb. So after a near 3-hour drive up there, Woody drew me a map of where he thought I should fish, and I told him my priority was a Barbel. He thought with the colour dropping out of the water I should try Barbel on day 1, and Chub on day 2, as he thought it would clear and drop overnight. Pellets and feeder were the order of the day, and by the time I had found the car park area and talked to another visiting angler who was lost, I eventually dropped into what I thought was the spot. Well, I lost four, yes, four of Woody’s jumbo-sized feeders in the first four casts. The Wye is traditionally a Salmon river so there is no shortage of boulders and ledges there. At this point I was pretty down, as even in a known swim you need to know where to cast. I then decided to freeline with just a single SSG and cube of hot dog, to roll it through and try to find a snag-free spot. There was a spot slightly downstream I thought might suit, so (after losing the freeline gear as well!) fired out a pellet and feeder combo using banded pellet on the hook. After an hour I dropped a fish in a weedbed, but I thought it was a Chub. Then I got a Barbel, maybe 6lbs. Superb !…I worked away with the feeder and ended up hooking 7 Barbel, landing 5 up to 8lbs. Fantastic surroundings, superb river, and a sunny day for filming. Back in the B & B I reviewed some of the footage. It was good, considering I did all the filming on my own.
Next morning I wanted to try a Chub film, but I have to say it was tempting to hit that Barbel swim again. Beats sitting around with your bait in a weedbed down South. Woody again pencilled out a map, again on the Hereford & District AA stretch, which incidentally anyone can fish on a day ticket from his tackle shop. My first choice of swim looked the spot. But I felt wary. Which tree exactly was it on the opposite bank I had to cast to? I decided to phone Woody. He described the swim, pace, depth, etc and I sat looking for a while. Was I not a tad too far downstream? The water just didn’t “hold up” for the few seconds it takes for a Chub to find floatfished bait, but twenty yards upstream looked better. I loaded up the barrow (what a luxury) and moved again. By the time I was settled it was 11am, hardly an early start, plus Woody said I would need waders. Oh dear…at home I’m afraid. So I took the risk with wellies but found holding the rod over the main flow to “stall” the float decidedly difficult. Second trot down with a chunk of bread flake and I hit a Chub, around 3lbs. After that I worked away all day, with balls of bread and groundbait followed by the float every sixth time I threw some bait in. I lobbed a feeder rig out with luncheon meat and lost a Barbel that ate it close in. With a slight upstream Easterly wind I finished well, hooking 14 Chub and netting 12 up to an easy 4lbs. Thus my initiation into Wye fishing was completed. I envy those anglers lucky enough to fish all the private stretches of this river, but quite honestly for the day ticket fishing it offered I found it far better value than the southern rivers, and well worth the extra drive. I shall return, as Woody was telling me about the predator season due to open for Perch and Pike, and with such huge areas of river available it has got to be worth another 2-day shot. Staying overnight in the B & B made the long drive bearable, and I can’t imagine what numbers of Barbel and Chub I could have put together if half the day wasn’t spent filming. The pleasure I got from tackling my old adversary, the Barbel, was huge, as I used to do a lot of it 40 years ago, but with chest waders and a float. I imagine the Wye is one of the last of the great coarse fishing rivers left and I feel slightly aggrieved that I have never ventured there before, but hopefully I can now learn a lot more about it.
As to the films, we have another huge hitter when last Friday we put up the film about catching Carp on sweets. It was a great laugh filming it, plus we got to “stack n’ rack” some good Carp numbers at Watmore. It came about by requests on our comments section to use sweets, and if you haven’t seen it here’s the link. Our numbers are rocketing, pushing towards a MILLION VIEWS A MONTH!!!. Subscribers are now over 108,000 with another 25,000 subs on our other YouTube channel Totally Awesome Outdoors. Don’t forget to swing past that one if there is nothing else on television. Is it me, or are there just the same programmes being run over and over again, just on different channels. All my viewing is done on YouTube as I don’t sit down till 10pm most nights after editing and surfing the “Tube”. I often wonder why I even pay the License fee money with some of the poor content being shown. At least our Shows are all brand new.
Stop Press-I took a last minute run down to one of the Southern rivers, and despite clear conditions I struggled to find just 4 Pike to about 8lbs. And that was with a load of Sprats and covering the entire length of the fishery. There was one angler floatfishing at the very lower boundary and he told me many of the really big Barbel have died, for whatever reason, age,otters,who knows, but he said many of the anglers sitting all day on the bank don’t realise this. I could confirm that I never saw the vast shoals of Chub I used to see 40 years ago, and the Pike were noticeable by their absence. By this I mean in terms of numbers of small to medium fish. I would probably have caught the same if I went on a free stretch of the Thames! It makes me wonder what dire straits many of our rivers are really in. The angler told me the only species doing OK were the big Roach as the Cormorants had decimated most of the smaller species. My argument would be that a 20lb Pike would have no trouble slotting a 3lb Roach down the hatch, as I once had one grab a 4lb Chub across the centre and slice it like a kitchen knife !. All interesting stuff though, as the angler only lives over the field from the fishery and can pick the absolute best times. I personally never saw a single decent fish caught among 20 anglers all day, though doubtless the odd Barbel would make a showing at dusk. I certainly won’t be going back there, and it only confirmed to me that the Wye is the river to travel to. I feel another trip coming to Woody’s tackle shop in the very near future!!
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