Caught by the River


8th September 2008

I was hoping that my ‘pleasures of August’ would be coming from the Dorset Stour on whose banks I spent my holiday last month. Two weeks with my rods set up and 24 hour access to the river. Gotta be good, right?

We were staying on a park on the Throop stretch (beat two) which is known to hold barbel, chub,
perch and pike to specimen size, plus bream, roach, dace and eels.
I found the eels. It wasn’t hard. In went the meat and on went an eel. The eels were on the Spam within minutes. They loved it. I fished several swims but soon realised that the river was absolutely full of them.

This wasn’t what I wanted, I didn’t want to catch eels, so I sought advice from the man staying in the next ‘van, the one with the Barbel Society sticker in the back window of his car; “if you are going to use meat, put a quarter of a tin on a size two hook. They (the eels) will nibble away at it but it will take ‘em ages to get through it all. Better still use halibut pellets. Mind you the buggers are having them now too”. Oh. Not great to hear that on day two of fourteen. See, I don’t fish with pellets, but he had been there for the best part of a fortnight and was speaking as a broken man. It didn’t take long to discover that what he spoke was the truth.
My decision was to avoid static baits and to fish for perch with worms or maggots on the float. So at dawn the next day I headed down to a swim on the bend just below the weir which last year gave me a couple around the 1.8 mark.

The wind was up and the streamer weed was thick. My relative lack of experience in these conditions was obvious but within 30 minutes I’d had four cracking perch all between 1lb and 1.6. and I was happy. But this flurry of activity killed the swim and the wind was making float control difficult, I had an hour or so before breakfast so I switched over to a feeder and cast the short distance to the far bank. I had a few worms left so one of those went on the hook and before long I was catching small chub. These came pretty much every cast, all around 1lb, but every now and then I got a knock which wasn’t really a bite but I knew that the worm had been snatched. I also totally knew what was taking them. Just at that moment, the water in front of me broke and up came a cormorant, holding a huge eel in it’s mouth. It was a proper scrap, the bird wrestling the fish, going under and up again several times before finally – and sword swallower style – claiming victory.
I called it a day but revisited that swim the following week with Andrew, who had joined us for a couple of days. Andrew had never seen an eel before. I assured him that his life was about to change. Guess what? I lied. Not one eel. I used meat and maggots and worms. I should have used halibut pellets. I did catch something though. A flat fish ( a dab?) the size of my palm. It went for a worm that was longer than itself and it made us laugh.
And that was that. We tried the Royalty the next day but rain stopped play which was a real shame as it was our first time on there and, although some say it’s passed it’s best it still holds tradition as well as some good fish.

Summer has gone now, even shorter this year than last, but that’s OK with me. Autumn is my favourite season. I like nature’s new colours and the dew from the first frosts. I like apples & pears, oysters & mussels and fishing for chub & roach. It’s also the last real chance for a carp, as the temperature drops so do their noses as they fill up in preparation for the Winter shutdown.

Fishing is on hold for a couple of weeks though. Next weekend I’ll be on the bank of the Thames, but I’ll be inside the halls of the South Bank where we are celebrating our record labels 18th birthday with three nights of shows. After that Robin & I are heading down to Cornwall to have a look at Kurt Jackson’s new ‘Tamar’ paintings on show at the Lemon Street Gallery in Truro. Plus, we’ll be visiting Port Eliot to talk more about next years literary festival. That festival is gonna be a lot of fun. July 24 – 26, 2009. Put it in your diary. (JB)

Duck pic by Sonny
River pic by Wendy