Photograph by Steve Barnett

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Winter Inter - Lude

Each Spring the Wild Trout Trust holds an auction of donated lots for its major, annual fund raiser.  Lots vary from items of tackle, to entire fishing holidays in all sorts of places around the world.  For the donor there is the satisfaction that the Wild Trout Trust is getting the biggest possible bang from the donor's gifted buck.  For the bidders that don't win a particular Lot, they have the satisfaction that their bids have helped maximise the value to the Trust.  The lucky winners of the Lots have their satisfaction in that they have made valuable contributions to the Trust's work and have got something rather special to look forward to...

Thus it was in the Spring of 2019 when your blogger was the lucky winner of a day of fishing for roach with Dr Redfin himself, Dr Mark Everard.  The prize was for two anglers to spend a full day with Mark fishing on either a very private stretch of the Bristol Avon, or on the Hampshire Avon.  Mark advised that we should fish late in the season for best results, although there is always the risk of inclement weather and high, coloured water in wintertime.  He being the foremost 'Expert' in all matters to do with the Roach, Rutilus rutilus, we took his advice and took the risk. 

This really is the COMPLETE book of the Roach

Sunday last, saw your blogger and his pal John heading south west for a three hours drive to the Cotswolds and the Mayfield House Hotel in Crudwell, Wiltshire.  We were met by Mark and his pal Frank at the hotel and, after a pleasant couple of hours relaxing, listening and learning more about what to expect, we went to bed excited at the prospects of the morrow.

Monday morning and Wiltshire was frosted and fogged.  After our hearty breakfasts we followed Mark to a private estate and its secret length of the Bristol Avon.  A minor snag with Mark's car was attended to and, then loaded up with coarse fishing gear, we had a steady walk down to the river.  Mark took us down to the bottom of the beat, where we set up and started fishing.  The flow was brisk and the river much deeper than the little streams and rivers in Derbyshire where we fish the dry fly.
The Swim!
Suffice it to say, the fishing was difficult for each of us.  Mark and John set up legering rods, your blogger, pig headedly, was determined to float fish, trotting with an ancient cane rod, called "Kennet Perfection" and using a centre pin reel (Grandad's old Speedia) and so eschewed the leger tackle. 
Looking upstream from the swim, the bread crumb balls went in the edge just here.
After an hour or so, feeding in hand squashed balls of bread crumbs well up from the swim and determinedly trotting the swim with bread flake nipped onto a size 12 hook, your correspondent was visited by his host.

"How are you doing?"

"Not sure.  Am I doing this right?" asked as I held the float back a little to accommodate a slight rise in the river bed.

"Looks okay...  Looks like you have a fish!"

The float had moved to the side and an old instinct had kicked in as your blogger set the hook.

"Yes you've got one... and it's a roach.  Would you like me to net it?"

"Oh thank you, yes please.  Net's here on the left."

Mark took the long handled net and sank the meshes.  The lucky angler drew the roach over the net and Mark did the rest.

"We must have a photo!  Wet your hands on the net."  (Sounded just like me with guests on my bit of fishing...)

The roach was passed over and held for a snap.

"Do you want angler and roach, or just roach?"

"Just roach!"
RR's First Bristol Avon Roach (photograph thanks to Dr Mark Everard)
The roach was then carefully laid back into the wet net and lowered gently into the river to swim free and go about its roachy business...

Some of the swims needed a level of skill beyond that of your blogger to cast into.  Mark could deliver his float anywhere with a flick of the wrist and his perfect execution of the F W K Wallis cast.  My attempts led to tangles and frustration.  That cast is a skill I will have to work on. 
Mark and John concentrating into the gloom
Through the day and into night we fished on but Mark was the only one to have any further success.  It didn't seem to matter.  We were enjoying ourselves too much to really notice.  Mark is a helpful host and it was a pleasure to meet him.  We learned a few things and, as is always true when learning stuff, we recognised that there is a lot more to learn...
Venus (top left) Looks Down on the Bristol Avon
The Bristol Avon is a beautiful river.  We struggled.  That roach was largely a matter of luck and of being put in the best swim by a kind host.  It would be wonderful to revisit when the river was lower, clearer and not quite so cold. 

Regular Rod