Extracts from the experiences of a river angler, mostly barbel,
but with comment and musings about other species, river wildlife
and associated topics. All pictures will enlarge if you click
to view the River Diary season 2011/2012
to view the River Diary season 2010/2011
to view the River Diary season 2009/2010
to view the River Diary season 2008/2009
to view the River Diary season 2007/2008
|Nice mixed bag to finish
Despite another little ice-age trying to wreck the last few
days of the season, I was determined to fish on the last day,
so took some red maggots out to an Avon swim that I knew held
a few chub.
The plan was to sit in the sun and plop a maggot feeder out
into the flow, and let the fish do the work. I had chosen a
nice sheltered swim where the spring sunshine could warm my
bones, out of the continuing fish-bite-the-least, evil east
They were slow to start, probably as uncomfortable as me with
the nasty morning frost, but as the day wore on the chub became
braver, and I ended up with six fish, all four pounds-plus and
with a couple of mid-fives.
Usually chub knock and worry the feeder as a prelude to a bite,
but they were clearly a bit reticent, and all the bites were
solid pulls out of the blue, as the fish presumably worked their
way up to it, picking off maggots on the way, rather than moving
straight on to the feeder as they normally do.
I moved to a nearby barbelly spot, and had four chubby little
barbel as well, all clean young fish between three and five
pounds, and a good sign for the future. Barbel will feed well
in quite cold weather in the last week or so of the season,
and it was nice to finish off with a good catch of fish, and
they fought well on the chub gear, although I beefed up to a
14 hook on four pound hooklink for them.
Anglers love to spread gloom and doom, even when their fishing
is no worse than it has ever been, or better in some respects.
The chub fishing on the Hampshire Avon is probably better than
it has ever been, both in terms of numbers, average size and
supporting year-classes, although it does vary between stretches.
Some areas are in a real boom, others have smaller average sizes
or less fish, but the picture is generally very encouraging
for the future.
The numbers of Middle Avon barbel are stable in my view, even
increasing on some stretches, with lots of signs of small fish
coming through and good recruitment. Dace are showing signs
of improvement, but roach are in real scarcity still, and it
needs a bit of investigation and support to boost their numbers.
| Fat Avon five pounder
|| Last barbel of the season, healthy young four
|Chance of a grayling
All the Southern chalk streams have suffered from the freaky
wet weather, and have been flooded over the water meadows for
weeks. Once the aquifers are full, these rivers retain levels
for a long time after any rainfall, and take ages to drop. Grayling
fishing on these rivers has been a non-event until very recently,
but even now it is very hard work plodding through deep mud
and puddles that threaten to top the wellingtons.
It was nice to see a grayling again, and feel that persistent
heavy thump as a bigger than average fish hangs stubbornly in
the current. The smaller ones often feel big at first, and the
twelve ounce jobs are solid and unmoving when contact is made
on the strike.
Standing still in one spot is dangerous, as you slowly sink
into the soggy squelchy mud, and you can easily overbalance
and fall over if you try to move too quickly when dropping downstream
to land a fish. The fish made up for the discomfort, however,
and three two pound-plus fish and a sprinkling of lesser fish
was a satisfactory result.
A day on the Wylye proved to be good fun, with plenty of small
grayling and trout, but Martin had a lovely two pounder, over
two and a half I think, and a lot of little fish too.
In the meadows, the dried-out carcass of a cock salmon caused
some interest. The teeth on a big salmon, this one was probably
a twenty pounder, are quite impressive. They are fierce predators,
and will cause severe damage to each other when vying for mates
or dominance prior to spawning.
I have seen a double-figure salmon grab another of similar size
across the body and give it a good shake, no doubt inflicting
severe lacerations, and the scars on some spent salmon are often
caused by attacks from their brethren, I am sure.
| Two pound seven grayling
|| Huge teeth on cock salmon
| Small grayling are pretty fish
|| Martin pleased with his pb grayling
|Brief warm spell for barbel
The Avon has been in the fields and unapproachable, let alone
fishable, for months now, but the recent warm spell allows for
some fishing in those spots where I can fish on reasonably dry
Even then, you need to wade out a yard or two to cast in, but
I no longer have the enthusiasm to sit or stand in water all
These brief windows of opportunity can be productive in the
early stages, and then sport can die off, almost as if the fish
switch on suddenly, and feed up very quickly, then remain sated
for the rest of the warm spell.
I had a big nine within minutes of casting in, then nothing
for the rest of the session, but it was good to fish again,
and nice to see a fat healthy Avon barbel in good winter condition.
A day or so later, and again a quick response, this time from
a couple of smaller fish, one about five, the other possibly
seven, but youngish fish that bode well for the future.
The warmer weather had brought the birdlife out too, and I was
fortunate to see a hen harrier fly lazily past, striking terror
and confusion amongst the gulls that were gathered in the flooded
meadows. The lapwings were similarly alarmed, making a lot of
noise and scattering in panic as the big grey predator flew
One unlucky lapwing was hit by a sparrowhawk a minute later,
and struggled gamely in mid-air to escape from the talons of
the hawk. It eventually broke free, and shot across the river
in front of me and then landed and hid in a bramble bush.
The sparrowhawk flew off unconcerned, pretending nothing had
happened, in the same way cats do when prey escape.
| Healthy January barbel
|| Another young Avon barbel
||Flooded Avon valley
|Big roach of the Ebro
A short holiday on the River Ebro in Spain held the promise
of some very big roach, with a few huge carp as a possibility
if the roach could not be found.
On my last visits we had come across some big shoals of roach,
with a good average size, and a few two-plus fish, but evidence
of fish of three or even four pounds was clear from the past
catches of others. This was a trip in search of roach in numbers
and of an ultimate size unheard of in the UK.
The early morning on the first day was clear and cold and a
bit frosty, as Spain suffered with the rest of Europe from a
nasty unseasonal northerly airstream. The surface of the river
was being broken by roach rolling for as far as the eye could
see, however, and it was obvious that there were vast shoals
of fish out there, with fish of all sizes putting on a show.
Fish of a few ounces dimpled everywhere, but amongst them were
the splashy rolls and porpoising from very big roach.
These were quite uneducated fish, but the cold had put them
off a bit, and sport was initially slow, with a dozen or so
fish each on the first day, but the best an impressive Spanish
roach of 2lb 15oz.
Fishing at 50 yards in 40 feet of water took some getting used
to, and I persisted with pellets for too long, as the others
took fish after fish on sweetcorn.
A switch to corn and it was fish after fish for all of us in
the following couple of days, with a high average size, and
a sprinkling of two pounders, but no sign of the real biggies.
Despite zander, catfish and cormorants preying on these roach,
their numbers seemed quite sustainable, and there are clearly
millions of them in the river, and all clean, sparkly, fresh-looking
fish, with an amazing growth rate. I took some scale samples,
and when read back home it was confirmed that the fish in the
1lb 8oz to 1lb 14oz range were six year olds, and fish of 8-12
ounces were three years old. This is twice the growth rate of
fish in the UK, but with warmer average temperatures, a faster
growth rate is to be expected.
The weather warmed a bit in the last two days, and it was a
case of a fish a cast as roach hit the bait on the drop; I was
using a quivertip rod and remember my last ten fish were taken
without even putting the rod in the rest.
A couple of big fish were lost in the rocks at our feet, and
one of my fish was taken by a catfish on the way in; I had to
point the rod, clamp the reel and wait for a break as it steamed
off with awesome speed and power with my unfortunate roach in
Slime up the line confirmed it was a cat and not a zander that
had chomped the fish.
Must go back again, and hopefully in more clement weather!
| Lovely sparkling Ebro two pounder
|| Ebro looking downstream, a vast deep river full
||Ebro looking upstream, vast and deep and full of
carp, zander and catfish.
|More barbel research
23rd October 2012
I have been keen to catch barbel in order to provide scales
for the stable isotope analysis project that the BS is funding
in partnership with Queen Mary University and Bournemouth University,
and trips to the Kennet and Lea are producing a few fish for
the study. The project will use scales from Kennet, Lea, Hampshire
Avon and Teme, in order to compare rivers with a high crayfish
population with those where the pesky things are absent or scarce.
The scales we collected last season are of use, but recent scales
are going to be most useful, and all add to the data set. The
scientists have been collecting samples of weed, invertebrates
and crayfish from the stretches in question, and it was interesting
to see how many tiny crayfish they collected from the marginal
growth. These baby crays must be eaten by all fish, they are
especially delectable when soft-shelled I would expect.
Their effect on growth rates is not established, nor is that
of anglers bait, but this research will be really informative,
and may question some myths.
One Lea barbel had some nasty sores where fins joined the body,
and despite this seemed very healthy; it certainly fought like
stink! Probably a bacterial infection, but a reminder that it
is wise to dry your unhooking mat and weigh-sling between trips.
Some anglers I know have been in the habit of keeping a weigh-sling
permanently damp in a plastic bag, but this is very unwise,
and promotes the spread of infection. Dry your weigh-slings
as much as you can, along with nets and mats!
A Kennet eleven pounder the next day fought like stink too.
I thought it was a pike for a while, as it zoomed about and
thrashed on the surface in a most un-barbel like manner. Every
fish is an individual, and this solid specimen looked young
and healthy, and was very welcome when it took my sample of
a new paste recipe I have been trying.
| Collecting samples for barbel diet study
|| Nasty sores; dry those nets!
| Greedy gutty Kennet double
|| Feisty Lea cray
|Another successful Avon fundraiser
15th October 2012
The third annual Avon Fundraiser was a brilliant event, with
over five thousand pounds raised to support the work of the
Barbel Society and the Avon Roach Project on the Hampshire Avon.
The river was flooded and full of brown water and drifting weed,
and made fishing very difficult indeed for the sixty-odd competitors.
Martin Salter was the winner, with a seven pound barbel his
reward for persevering on his first visit to the lovely Somerley
Estate, and the Estate and Christchurch Angling Club are to
be thanked for generously providing the venue. This is the stretch
where Hugh Miles made the Handling Code film, as well as some
classic scenes from Catching the Impossible.
All the funds are earmarked for habitat works on the river,
and to support the work of Trevor and Budgie in raising roach
to replenish the ailing stocks on the river. The BS has already
spent a thousand or so on removing redundant and damaging iron
piles from the river, and we have consent to excavate a fry
bay next spring which will benefit fry of all species, not just
barbel and roach.
More such sites are being investigated, and the generosity of
the donors of auction lots and the bidders at the auction after
the meal makes it all possible.
Other wildlife and plants benefit from such wet swampy areas
too, so Natural England have been very supportive of our ideas.
The local EA fisheries staff have been extremely helpful too.
| Bays for fry like this are vital on the Avon
|| Iron piles removed, and tree pollarded, this bit
of river now flows naturally
||Site of new fry bay on the Avon
30th September 2012
The Barbel Day near Huntingdon was a great success, and it
was encouraging to see scientists and anglers in equal numbers
in a packed room and listening to some fascinating research
outcomes. Karen Twine stole the show with her ground-breaking
work on Ouse barbel, and described how her twenty tracked
barbel moved around the stretch for two years. They were not
massacred by otters, and only one was lost track of, maybe
just swimming off or simply fitted with a dodgy transmitter.
Karen outlined some interesting research on gravel quality
and habitat requirements of baby barbel. It was reinforced
by a later presentation, which supported the view that very
young barbel live in shallow slack water, in weedy cover.
Retaining and creating such habitat seems wise.
I presented a summary of the work of the Barbel Society research
and conservation section, and this has moved in recent years
from simply just habitat work, to research into barbel growth,
ages, and diet. More details in the next Newsletter, but a
summary of BS RandC projects can be found on the home page.
Talks on gravel cleaning, crayfish predation on fish eggs,
and growth rates of barbel in UK rivers made for a most interesting
day, and there is a lot to be said for seeking out facts and
data and sharing logical thought before forming opinions about
the factors that may be affecting our riverine fish populations.
One outcome from the diet research indicates that barbel and
chub have very different diets, and so do not compete for
natural food as much as we might think, so thriving populations
of both are possible in a fishery, as is in fact the case
in many rivers.
I met Karen again when I went to visit the Arborfield stream
, which the BS helped to fund with 4K of RandC money. We helped
to pay for the reinstatement of this sidestream ,and the EA
were there to monitor fish populations. A resounding success,
as young fish of all species, including barbel, were taking
up residence in this new habitat. Karen is taking up post
as Fisheries Officer for the Loddon catchment, and has a keen
interest in the barbel populations to go with her considerable
| Baby Loddon barbel in Arborfield stream
|| EA team electrofishing the stream
||Arborfield stream now well established
|Pixham Ferry revisited
15th September 2012
Dickie Howell and I went up to Worcester to visit the new Barbel
Society fishery at Pixham Ferry, and it was nice to revisit
after not having fished it myself for some years. The old swims
were still there in essence, although the Society will have
to do some work improving the access to the river at low water
on the upper part of the fishery.
I remember taking a fair few doubles off Pixham in the past,
as well as some good bags of fish in the few occasions when
I fished there. Swims like the Green Door, Wasps Nest, Cables
and the Lightning Tree are still there, and there is scope to
create a load of new swims too.
We opted for a short walk, fishing within fifty yards of the
car park, and Dickie was rewarded second cast with a fat twelve
pounder, not a bad fish for his first visit, We had five fish
between us in a short afternoon, packing up at dusk, and the
signs are there for a very popular and productive fishery for
The swans were as bold as I remember, walking up to you and
begging or stealing bait from your bucket, and the boat traffic
is a bit different to the peace and quiet of the Hampshire Avon,
but the place has a sort of mysterious appeal of its own, and
I will make a few more visits before the season is out.
Great fun to hook a big Severn barbel in that deep murky water
and wonder just how big it is as it zooms across the river!
The Society takes on the water from 1st October, and permits
are limited, so you will need to act quickly to assure a place.
| Dickie ensconced at Pixham
|| Lower swims at Pixham
| Dickie with a hefty Pixham twelve
|| Mere seven pounder from sunny Pixham
1st September 2012
I was persuaded to head North of the Border in order to try
for some rare and very large Scottish roach, a trip that made
a welcome change from barbel fishing and a chance to land
a stillwater three-pounder. The lake is a shallow and weedy,
peaty brown affair, surrounded by trees and with very limited
access at present. Swims were very limited, and although nearly
fifty acres in size, the areas clear of dense Canadian pondweed
were few. There are some huge roach in residence though, and
hopes were high for a good number of fish over two, and probably
It was a generally pleasant experience, with sightings of
Red Squirrels and a good range of birdlife, along with an
evening visit by a trio of otters, which were noted as occasional
passers-by. They were no doubt roaming from their normal coastline
habitat, as the lake is only a few miles from the sea. The
small fish were a bit of a pain, and plenty enough for the
otters, and we had to use small boilies in order to be selective
for the bigger roach, which decided to feed for very short
spells at dawn and dusk.
We had one fish of exactly three pounds, but several within
an ounce of that magic weight, and most of the twos were over
two and a half. Slow fishing, but when a monster roach is
on the cards, it is worth the wait!
| Lake with Scottish castle in background
|| Big McRoach, close to three
||View across the lake, otters out of shot
|Avon doubles abound
15th August 2012
Even in the difficult conditions, there are good catches of
chub and barbel reported from the Avon, with a good helping
of double figure barbel for those that want to approach the
river. The high water has certainly spread the fish out, but
part of the challenge is in working out where they are!
I had a nice healthy twelve pounder the other day, followed
by an even healthier ten pounder the day after. I was eager
to catch a double for a guest who had yet to catch a barbel
over ten pounds, so hopes were reasonably high. Gerry is a valuable
supporter of the Barbel Society, and his Manchester United day
is always a favourite on the auction events.
Gerry is always great fun on a day out, and the pouring rain
did not dampen our spirits, even after several fishless hours
caster fishing in a swim I has assured him was going to guarantee
a fish. We caught a couple of ubiquitous chub, and some dace
that were starting to be a nuisance, and that did not bode well
for a barbel. Barbel in the swim usually keep the small fish
at bay, so things were beginning to look grim as the late afternoon
drifted by and early evening approached.
The rain had stopped at least, and as we took down the brollies
I suggested in an authoritative way that a pellet or boilie
fished over casters and hemp would be a good bet; a bait that
a lone barbel would take over a bed of particles, that would
also avoid the attentions of pesky small fish.
We had one last chance of a fish before Gerry had to leave.
I set up a pellet rig with a PVA bag of crushed pellet, and
lowered it into the swim.
The centrepin sang away within ten minutes, and Gerry was soon
posing happily with his first double, a solid twelve pounder
that saved the bacon for both of us, suitably impressed with
| Healthy Avon twelve
|| Gerry with his first double, an Avon twelve
||Healthy Avon ten
|Lovely little rivers
1st August 2012
The Avon is still running high and slightly coloured, with the
steady release of aquifer water maintain an almost constant
level despite a dry spell. Chalk streams are well -buffered
against dry weather, but this is a case of a river acting in
the way it generally does after sustained winter rains, rather
than normal summer flows. Freaky weather produces freaky flows
and weird weedgrowth too; the ranunculus has made a very late
start, then made a fast growth spurt as the water cleared, and
is now breaking off and drifting downriver in a constant stream
that makes it look like widespread weedcutting is occurring.
Time to visit the smaller rivers further up country, and it
was delight to see that the upper Loddon was at normal summer
level, running fresh and clear. It was possible to spot a couple
of barbel, cagey fish that are used to angling pressure, and
feed them up and tempt a couple of takes during the day, then
off at dusk as the night-nerds arrive. They may be easier to
catch at night, but not as much fun at all.
A chunky eight pounder made a mistake first, then the bigger
fish in the swim followed suit, but came off almost immediately,
just pricked him. It was great to feed them on little bits of
pellet, and watch as they became braver and braver, emerging
from the weed cover to have a quick nervous nibble in the open
area I was fishing.
The Lea is another intimate and slightly wild and natural little
river in the upper reaches, and the barbel struggle to reach
double figures, but make up for it with their numbers. Clear
water makes them tricky though, and unlike my first visit there
this season, they were hiding under cover and not willing to
come out and feed without some careful and persistent persuasion,
again a constant trickle of hemp and crumbled pellet. The small
fish fight brilliantly in these small rivers, great fun and
always good to catch from a new stretch.
| Chunky Loddon eight pounder
|| Lovely upper Lea
||Nice little Lea barbel
26th July 2012
The weather has finally cheered up a bit, getting quite hot,
almost too hot.
The water temperature was a shade under twenty degrees, and
enough to trigger a cessation of the salmon fishing, and possibly
a second spawning by both chub and barbel. The carp in the nearby
lakes were certainly having a go, and the excuse of spawning
was a good excuse for not catching much in the way of barbel
during the heatwave.
The river is still very high and quite coloured, making spotting
fish almost impossible. You have to fish with a memory of
the weedbeds and bottom features in mind, and I chose a fairly
shallow run where I had seen barbel in previous years in the
early season, but had to cast to a clear patch in the thick
streamer weed that I had hopefully remembered would still
be there. This high water in summer is tricky to fish, unlike
winter fishing when you know most of the weed has gone.
The lead clonked down firmly on what seemed like a hard bottom,
but there was a band of thick weed just visible out from the
bank. I trickled in bits of paste and broken boilies, and
hoped for a response from one of the big barbel I had seen
in the past in this area. A rainbow trout of about three pounds
engulfed the boilie within seconds, ripping the rod round
violently and fooling me for a second or two into thinking
he was a barbel. A chub a couple of ounces under six did the
same thing next cast, but by now I knew the bait was landing
in a fairly clear spot.
A quiet spell followed, and despondency began to creep in.
Fishing the Avon is hard enough, and spotting fish is essential
for hope of consistent success. This rotten summer has made
that impossible so far, but fish are coming out if you are
lucky enough to drop on them.
I was lucky today, and the third bite resulted in contact
with a powerful fish that roared off down the middle of the
river, stopped and kicked, and went off again just as powerfully.
A carp was a possibility, and only when I saw the first glimpse
of the great long golden frame of a substantial barbel did
I put carp out of my mind. A twenty pound common is not that
uncommon on the river, and they fight as hard as a barbel,
though not usually as methodically, dashing about in a more
mindless, cavalier manner as a rule.
A lovely chocolatey-brown barbel, with immaculate fins was
eventually in the net, and at fourteen three, a most sizeable
specimen and extremely welcome. Sizeable, exceptionally long
droopy barbels on this fish make it recognizable should we
meet up again, and it was given plenty of recovery time in
the big deep net before release.
| Nearly six pounds, again
|| Fourteen pounder recovers safely in the big net
||Big whiskers on the 14.3
|Pastures new and more
Avon crayfish evidence
20th July 2012
An investigative trip to the River Lea was an interesting interlude,
and the upper river was a pretty sight, with lots of natural
features and a good head of young barbel made me very welcome.
After a good look round, and just one chub in my first choice
of swim, I moved to another cracking- looking swim and had four
barbel in four casts. Not big fish, but great fighters in a
small river and terrific fun.
A couple more fish, including the biggest at about six pounds
and the smallest at barely a pound followed before a threatening
storm made me pack up early.
There were signs of a significant signal crayfish population
too; a couple of big ones were crawling about in the shallows
under my feet as I fished. They can be a real pain on small
rivers, but generally only when there are no barbel in your
swim! No crayfish trouble means that barbel are not far away.
There is no doubt they eat them, although not clear if they
affect either growth rates or spawning success of barbel.
There are those who spout these assertions as facts rather
than just possibilities, and it is not wise to do so without
There is evidence of signal crayfish in the Hampshire Avon,
and the latest was in some otter spraint I found on the middle
river the next day. The poo of otters is quite distinctive,
and smells strongly of violets. The flowery odour is unmistakable,
as well as the mixture of small bones and scales that indicate
the content of the otters last meal. This one had clearly
munched the whole of a large red signal cray, and had passed
large chunks of shell and an assortment of knee joints; bet
it made his eyes water. I very much welcome control of that
horrible invader by the otter.
Lea barbel seem to be thriving in conjunction with a heavy
crayfish presence however, as Kennet fish have for many years,
and a visit to the Kennet this season had no crayfish trouble,
and not much trouble from barbel either. One fish first cast,
a healthy nine pounder, and not a bite or nibble from either
species for the rest of the day.
| Lovely little Lea barbel
|| Colourful Kennet fish
||Colourful otter spraint, crayfish muncher!
|Old Warrior of the Avon
18th July 2012
The weather is so depressing and dreary that I have hardly fished
at all, not keen to fish in cold rain or wade through water
and sit perched in a puddle to sit by a brown, boily and uninspiring
I dragged myself out on a fairly dry day to wet a line, and
was rewarded with a hefty twelve pound ten ounce barbel that
made the trudge over the soggy meadows worthwhile.
An obviously old fish, with gnarled and slightly ragged fins,
patchy scales, and a distinct two-tone appearance, with a
light front end and a darker tail section. An excellent fight
though, after one of those long slow confident bites that
woke me from a doze and signalled a bigger than average fish.
A spanking young six pounder, one of the new generation, made
an appearance on the next cast. Fish do get old, lose condition,
and eventually die, and the younger year classes will inevitably
arrive to replace them if the river is in a reasonably healthy
The latest invader to pollute the river is the azolla water
fern, and it is apparent everywhere on the Avon on the slacks
and backwaters. It is more of a problem in ponds and lakes,
however, and it is not clear if it will cause any major problems
on the river other than being a bit unsightly. The water drops
from a recent shower sparkled and shone like diamonds on the
surface of the mat of fern, and made it a bit less unpleasant
in appearance I suppose.
A welcome river tourist was a big eel that gave me a vicious
bite and had me thinking it was another barbel for a few minutes,
as it burrowed into the weed. It must have been nearly three
pounds in weight, and I was able to unhook and return it without
too much fuss. The bigger ones are quite well-behaved as a
rule, and it allowed me a quick photo before it slithered
off through the wet grass and back into the river.
| Big greedy eel
|| Azolla sparkling with water drops
||Two tone twelve pounder
|First double and a rising
4th July 2012
The first Avon double was a fat sparkling eleven pounder, that
took a big lump of paste fished winter-style in a rising and
coloured river. Big lead and backlead, rod tip submerged, and
a patient wait for the reel to scream. A lovely fish, arriving
just after a big dog otter had porpoised elegantly under the
opposite bank, then carried on upstream, leaving that tell-tale
line of bubbles to mark his path.
I saw a bitch and two cubs work their way through my swim one
afternoon last winter, and caught six chub after they had passed,
so it does not seem that they spook fish unduly when passing
through. Might be different when they are hunting, but all the
evidence from spraint is that they eat small fish mostly, along
with a range of food items that does not normally include double-figure
The prophets of doom do not seem to be correct in the view that
otters are going to munch their way through the Avon barbel
and chub stocks, and catches indicate a boom in chub of all
sizes and healthy barbel numbers capable of self-sustaining
a good population.
A couple of smaller barbel the next afternoon, one a lean, clean
fish of about six pounds, and another solid nine pounder, were
quite welcome in the circumstances, along with a couple of ubiquitous
chub, young fresh fish, and the best just over six pounds.
It is like winter fishing still, wading out to a swim and perching
miserably in a grey rainstorm waiting for a fish to take. The
summer had better arrive soon.
| Well-whiskered nine pounder
|| Nice fat eleven pounder
||Another six pound chub
|First barbel and chunky
25th June 2012
The first Avon barbel was a stocky nine pounder, looking very
fit and young, and an obvious female. To get a barbel on the
fourth trip is about average, but there are odd fish coming
out all over, with at least four thirteen pounders from the
middle Avon I have heard of, and the Royalty is fishing quite
well for barbel I hear.
The sexing of barbel is not easy, but the females have a
very fleshy vent , and the males a much smaller, neater orifice
in that area. Barbel eggs are the biggest of any coarse fish,
so the ladies need a sizeable oviduct!
It is still hard to spot the weedbeds and clear areas need
to be found by plonking about with a lead or baitdropper.
The dropper will not open on a weedy bottom, and that is another
clue to a clear area.
Hemp was used as an attractor, but the fish took a nice big
paste-wrapped boilie, and woke me from a doze as it ripped
line off the centrepin on the bite. Great stuff.
The chub are still in good condition, and may spawn late
this year; they are still quite patchy in numbers, and may
be gathering on the shallows.
A six pounder that took next cast was in almost perfect condition,
scale and fins all in a pristine state, which again indicates
not having spawned yet.
As I write, the river is dropping and clearing, and the weedbeds
are starting to show. Farmers and some anglers moan constantly
about the weed, and want it cut, but I think it is best left
alone, so it can form natural, self-draining channels and
continue to provide shelter for inverts, fry and big fish
Where weed has been heavily cut, it tends to come back even
more vigorously, and generate a vicious circle, with weedcutting
begetting more weedcutting as thicker growth returns. Weed
cutting in low flows, in order to make fishing easier, is
a fairly brainless exercise, and low flow is not a result
of heavy weedgrowth; the reverse is true. Cutting weed will
only lower levels and ultimately reduce local flow even more.
A few holes cut in weed manually do no harm though, and I
carry a rake to do such work myself, but wholesale removal
| Chunky Avon chub
|| Weedy Avon
|Slow start to season
20th June 2012
Heavy rain and high water are not helpful at the start of
the season, and fishing the Avon this June is like fishing
it in winter, with high coloured water, no obvious swims established,
and weedgrowth very patchy and submerged.
The start is always slow for barbel, which is no doubt due
to them being on the move after spawning and not yet settled
in, and possibly not yet used to angler bait. It is often
July before I get an Avon barbel, and this year it looks like
being no exception.
Opening day was a ritual more than anything, a chance to
break the water and with only the hope of an inaugural chub.
The chub and a couple of hefty Avon bream did inaugurate the
season in the first couple of days, and they were in good
condition. The bream are fighters, and quite hard to get to
the net. Once they get above six or seven pounds they have
a good amount of stamina and surface area to help in the fast
The river is dropping fast, but recent rains may hold it
up a bit more, so I do not expect much in the way of barbel
for a while. Still having to wear wellies and sit in water
to fish in some swims, and the wet windy cold weather dampens
my enthusiasm to fish at all.
The terns and egrets are having a lovely time thinning out
the minnow population, and these little fish are extremely
numerous in both Avon and Stour. I have watched minnows hanging
about in huge shoals just downstream of spawning roach and
barbel, and they are quite ferocious and aggressive feeders.
Makes you wonder how many eggs and newly-hatched larvae these
little fish eat, not to mention the loach, bullheads, perch
and eels, but then again chub eat barbel spawn, and vice versa,
and this is the reason why fish produce so many eggs; most
are eaten within minutes, sometimes by the parents.
| Avon minnows grow big
|| Avon chub like all and any boilies
||Fat Avon bream
With low water and vile weather I have not yet managed to get
out on the Avon for any salmon fishing, although it must be
said the chances of actually catching one are still remarkably
The Avon rod catches are bumping steadily along the bottom
in terms of numbers, and it is arguable whether the species
can exist as a sustainable population in the long term. They
keep spawning and coming back in sufficient numbers to maintain
a viable fishery for the time being, however, and local activists
have recently come together to buy out the net fishermen in
Congratulations to all those involved, and hopefully a move
welcomed by the salmon and sea-trout as well. There have been
several salmon taken on the fly so far this season, with a
22-pounder just below Ringwood the latest encouraging capture.
Despite the low flows, fish are clearly creeping their way
upstream. Salmonids will possibly suffer poor recruitment
with low flows, but it is hard to predict what will happen.
Better fry survival may more than compensate for less well-scoured
gravels and late runs of fish. The whole lifecycle of salmon
is enormously complex and difficult to make predictions about,
so as much research as possible is needed.
The EA are doing a bit of interesting work on smolt migrations,
which could be affected by low flows, which involves capturing
samples and tracking them with small acoustic tags. The rate
at which the smolts move, and where they gather together should
be useful information.
The smolts tend to migrate downstream, usually just under
the surface at night, and a clever device that can be placed
across the smaller tributaries has a good capture rate. I
was also interested to see the tags in action, and we discussed
the extent to which they could be used with barbel. The tags
are inserted into the body cavity, and remain active for three
months, and would be ideal for tracking barbel movements prior
to and after spawning.
Detectors at regular intervals along a stretch can identify
individual fish, and could record their movements very accurately.
| Smolt trap in action
|| Small smolt, too small to tag