With thoughts of yesterday’s result fresh in my mind and the smile still visible on my face I could think of only one thing, getting back to the river. I woke whilst it was still dark, had tea and toast and left the house as the sky began to show colour. It was an overcast morning on the whole, with the odd patch of blue, but these were soon filled back in with grey stuff. We were forecast a little rain, scattered showers they said, but a little thing like getting wet wasn’t going to stop me from having fun.
The drive to the river was a short one, hardly any cars were on the roads and when I got there the lay-by was vacant. I assembled the rod before heading off to the river, the lack of light under the trees would have made things awkward, my eyes aren’t as sharp as they once were. With the net and rod set up and the creel over my shoulder I set forth, this time knowing exactly which pool I wanted to fish first.
The grass was wet with morning dew and my footwear was far from waterproof so by the time I got to that first pool my feet felt a tad uncomfortable. Once there I passed the gear over, straddle the fence as best I could all the time trying to avoid snagging anything on the barbed wire and once in position proceeded to feed the swim with a few maggots. After plumbing the depth I trotted through two white grubs and watched the float tip, which wasn’t as easy as yesterday, what with the lack of sun and the gloomy skies.
Just as the float reached the crease in the current it slid under, I struck and felt the first fish of the morning wiggle around trying to make its escape. As it surfaced I squinted somewhat, as at first glance it appeared that I’d caught a gudgeon first chuck. I dipped the net anyway just in case and was delighted when a look inside revealed that my inkling was correct! A super gudgeon similar in size to the one I’d caught the day before, all sparkly and splendid with blue, silver and little black spots.
I held perfection in my hand for a few seconds and admired its features. I measured it at 6.5 inches and weighed it at a little under an ounce and three quarters. I took a few photos and released it into the pool a little down from where I was fishing. I was made up, a wonderful fish so early, and I’d only had one cast!
The next trot through produced another quick bite, this time a minnow came to hand followed by a veritable shoal of his friends. They were such delightful little fish though, for once I took the time to look closely at a minnow and found the most fascinating colours and patterns along its flanks. It’s a magnificent fish that gets little or no respect, but one that has such an important role to play, for it is catching such fish that ignites the passion in us as young anglers and sets us on a path of discovery and wonderment. I’ll certainly never frown at catching them again.
Eventually the minnow action dried up so a move to the next pool came at a time when the cows started arriving. There were lots of them coming down the hill on the field opposite for their morning stroll. They were feeding not a handful of yards from the river bank; I could hear their noisy chewing. I scaled the fence and made my way along the path to the next likely monster gudgeon hiding place.
This particular pool was the one I found a dace in the day previous, and, true to form, the first trot through produced yet another silver dream. These fish are just so clean, so pure, untouched, a true virgin of the stream. I took a quick photo and released it downstream.
The next few trots produced minnows, then three casts went without a bite and when next the float buried I found myself giving line to what felt like and what I hoped would be a chub. On the surface there was far too much splashing around for it to be a chub; instead it was a really nice trout, wonderfully marked and quite sizeable too. I took a quick snap on the camera and tipped it back with the net. The commotion caused a lot of disturbance and shortly after that capture I moved on to the final pool on that stretch, the stretch I caught yesterday’s gobio gobio from.
With one gudgeon already under my belt I didn’t feel as much pressure to catch one, just happy to catch whatever came along, and the beauty of fishing this river and, indeed, many rivers, is that you really don’t know what’s going to end up in the net next. The first trot was fruitless, the next produced a splendid looking autumn perch, and the next three trots produced two gudgeon of 1.5oz apiece and a baby trout.
More minnows, another perch and a rather large twig were caught in the next half hour and with two hours left before I’d have to head off I wondered if there was another stretch I could find gudgeon in. More than happy with the bumper bag of fish I’d caught already I decided upon spending the rest of the morning exploring and headed for Southwick Pool, a deep hole that holds chub, perch and carp as well as the smaller species, and Rickety Bridge, but here it was too overgrown to actually fish.
As I got to the pool it started to rain. I sat on the jetty fishing just out from the marginal bushes on almost five feet of water. Two white maggots on the hook and a constant spray of a dozen maggots every couple of minutes and still I sat there for half an hour biteless. Whilst sitting there and getting slightly damp I contemplated following the river downstream. The overgrown nature of the banks meant I’d have to walk in the river at certain points over the shallower gravelly runs.
The first likely spot I came to was only eight feet long and five feet wide, the water ran in over shallows which foamed as it reached the slower water of the pool, and although it moved without pace it was still enough to push the float along. It was just under a foot deep and I almost passed it off and went on search of something deeper, but try I did and first cast saw a beautiful roach brought to hand.
I only caught the one roach from that small pool, but a slightly larger pool twenty yards downstream produced half a dozen roach, all fin perfect, all dazzling and all a joy to hold. Two small gudgeon came from the next spot; both made me smile and were released by hand downstream from where I stood. Just downstream I found something I haven’t seen for a very long time, a child’s swing made from a rope and a tyre. I remember swinging over rivers in something similar in the New Forest when I was a child, and seeing this brought those wonderful memories flooding back.
The final pool of the morning was full of minnows, although I also caught another couple of perch. Funny but it always seemed there were perch in the pools where there were most minnows. Figures really doesn’t it. At the end of the stretch, well, as far as I could go without a great deal of climbing or pruning, I called it a day, and what a day. Over the two short trips I set out to find something huge, something record breaking, and although I didn’t find it, what I did find was a world of amazement and damn good fun. Some of the most wild and peaceful fishing I’ve ever encountered, set among beautiful untouched countryside angling for some of the prettiest fish we have on these isles. What more could one want?