End of Feb 2017
With winter coming to a close and spring not far off, I thought I’d give you a quick heads up on the activity since my last report back in November.
It has not been easy and that’s for sure, and I’ve found myself moving from one area to another. I think the inconsistent weather, plus not going for four weeks – due to a bad back – has had a significant impact. Towards the end of November, I was fishing the same swim towards ‘tennis court bay’ and had plenty of fish in front me, mostly Bream I might add. I think the combination of the sudden down turn in temperatures and, not feeding the swim for four weeks resulted in the fish drifting out into the deep channels. I might add here that from 20-rod lengths out the water is 50 plus foot, so plenty of places for them to go. What also hasn’t helped is the wind, which has been 20mph plus. On top of that, it has been changing direction from one day to the next and the last thing you want is a strong wind blowing in your chops when it is either raining or freezing. It is one thing fishing this time of year, but to be uncomfortable is too big an ask for an old guy like me.
I picked the tower stretch for my winter campaign expecting northerly winds, which would have been off my back. Hmm, as if that’s gonna happen with British weather, about as changeable as my hook baits haha.
So, when I returned to my normal swim in mid December, the number of fish has declined significantly. For sure, I was getting a couple of fish, but nothing of any note. I stuck with the Tower stretch up until Christmas, and although I had a couple of reasonable Bream to around 9lb, they were few and far between. What I found most frustrating and confusing was catching Bream within an hour of baiting, and after 3 hours, virtually nothing. Worth noting here, I was doing 24 hours plus, yep even in sub zero’s haha. Believe me; I tried all sorts of baiting campaigns. I tried increasing and reducing the amount of feed, and changed the type of food content. I varied the size of freebies in the mix and even the way I fed, switching from hard balls of ground bait to loose feed via a spod or spom. None of which showed any improvements, all resulting in a couple of fish and then 20 hours of nothing.
Over Christmas, I thought long and hard about my fishing, and decided on a new area come January. I picked a swim that seemed to be consistently sheltered from the cold prevailing winds, irrespective of direction. It is known as ‘Rabbits Wood’, which is at the bottom of Alton Hall Lane. You go through the kissing gate and follow the path for 400 meters to the left. On the map, you can’t mistake the area, sheltered by old tall trees. The swims are comfortable, the walk is sensible, and the environment is lovely. I like it here, very quiet and peaceful. On top of that, the depths are good, having 20 pus foot of water at 8 to 10 rods out, deepening off the further into the wood you go. Although I will say that the 50-foot channel is still less than a 100 meters away. A word of warning here, there are one or two old tree stumps left over from the initial flooding of the valley. Not much that you can do once hooked, other than pull and hope. To be fare, I’ve only caught up 3 or 4 times in a dozen sessions.
So, was it worth the move? Well, it was almost identical to the tower stretch, leaving me perplexed. Intriguingly, it again produced one or two fish at the start, and then nothing. As before, I went through the card with feeding, none of which has improved things. And trust me, I have some winter tricks up my sleeve, none of which made the slightest difference. One major problem here are the vast shoals of 6-10-ounce roach that keep banging at your hook baits, and munching their way through your ground-bait. Along with a very early tench (3lb), a few mid sized bream, I did hook an extremely big Carp. Sadly, I lost her at the net and only have myself to blame. I was getting single beeps, so cut down of hook length and hook size and, stupidly changed to a light wire hook. When I cast it out, I knew I would hook a blinking carp and ten minutes later, I did. To be fair, I had her on for 40 minutes, and just as I tried to turn her slightly towards the waiting landing net, the hook popped. (SWEAR WORDS).
So, where am I now? Well, I’ve decided on a complete change in area. I was told several times that most of the fish migrate towards the dam area during the winter months, and I believed this. On reflection, having fished through most of the winter, I know for sure the roach migrate towards the dam. However, other than moving for spawning, I believe the bream are territorial and never move far from their regular haunts. This is retrospective, as at the get-go, I thought if the bream all move, it would be easy winter pickings. My years of experience should have warned me away from this belief. Having spent the whole winter chasing shadows, I’ve certainly established what doesn’t work. I realise now that I should have picked an area where I previously had huge winter bream, all-be-it 5 years ago. Next week, it is back to Lemons Hill, where there is a consistent 20 foot of water almost bank to bank and no silly 50-foot channels for the fish to drift into leaving me with another 20 hours of nothing. At least this way, I am never going too far away from the bream. I reckon I have about another 3-4 weeks of winter fishing before spring kicks in for real. I want to arm myself with an area I can go to next winter and at least have half an idea. One thing for sure, there aren’t the vast shoals of 6-10-ounce roach to compete with at Lemons.
Overall, I have learnt so much this winter, and importantly established a lot of things that don’t work. This is always a good thing, as fishing it is not just about what works, it about knowing what doesn’t work.
I will let you know… Tight Lines, go-catch SteveD