By mid February I was itching to get back on the rivers, especially the Upper Severn to fish for chub. On my first trip I was talking to my mate Adam Firth who was fishing a bit further upstream and had caught 2 small chub. I said to him that in the area we were fishing approximately every third chub is a 'five' when my tip pulled round. The inevitable happened as the scales showed 5-2. I retained it in the landing net so as not to spook any others and next cast a 4-7 took my bread flake offering and joined it in the net. After a quick start bites dried up and the only other memory of the trip was walking about 600 yards in the dark to a new swim only to find I'd left a pocket on my Ruckbag open and my tackle box, forceps and other bits had fallen out. I returned to the previous swim more in hope than expectation but found all but one item within a few feet of where I'd lifted the bag.
Shortly after the rain came and the rivers rose rapidly meaning the chub gear was left at home and the barbel rods were given an airing. Trips to the Dove and Trent were fruitless but I finally got a bend in them on the Severn, firstly with a fish-shaped log and then with a modest, but very welcome, barbel.
I also had a close encounter with a sparrowhawk when standing at the back of my swim. I saw it come over the brow of the hill and just stood still and it flew towards me and passed within 2 feet of my head! Moments like this aren't the reason we go fishing but they certainly add to the enjoyment.
In early March I was back on the banks of the Severn with Adam Firth to film some footage for the new Korum DVD. The original plan was to rove for chub but the river was still in flood and over 6 feet up so plans were changed and barbel were the target. I didn't manage anything big but I was happy to land something for the camera.
An impromptu social trip to the Lower Severn with Nate Green and Ash Bradley saw my barbel baits remain untouched but the zander that the pair of them caught whetted my appetite for next winter. Nate's only weighed 6lb 15oz - I use the word only as all three of us thought it would weigh over 8lb. It left me wondering what a real big zed will look like - hopefully I'll find out later in the year!
The last three days of the season were split between the Wye and Upper Severn. Two days piking on the Wye proved to be great exercise as I walked over 6 miles fishing likely spots. Sadly the pike were either not in them or not feeding and a solitary pike of about 10b was the only one I landed. I did miss a couple of very fast runs on lamprey sections which I suspected were from chub not pike. On the second evening I finally hooked into one of these runs and a chub of about 3lb confirmed my suspicions.
After the first day's pike fishing I fished into dark for chub. After missing a bite on luncheon meat I tried flake and hooked into a fish that initially just shook it's head like a chub but it then decided to tear off downstream and in three sustained runs went about 30 yards. I suspected it was a carp as it fought just like the only Wye carp I've caught which was many years ago in a swim close by. Very gradually I gained line but it was clear the line was running through a willow tree 10 yards downstream and when it reached this tree the inevitable happened and the line parted. My disappointment was eased by a couple of chub soon afterwards, including my best from the Wye of 5lb 14oz.
The last day of the season was spent on the Upper Severn which is one of my favourite venues. The chub might not be as big or prolific as some rivers but it is a wild river where I feel every chub caught is a success. I baited four swims as I worked downstream with a mixture of mashed bread and small cubes of luncheon meat. I tend to change hook bait each cast and like using meat as it increases the chances of a bonus barbel. At the downstream swim I put mash in and left it for a few minutes as I tackled up. First cast I missed a good bite but next cast the strike met resistance and a chub headed for cover but strong pressure turned it into mid river and soon it was in the net. It looked at least as big as the Wye fish but the scales recorded 5-8.
The other swims were unproductive so I headed upstream repeating the process. After trying three more swims I settled into one I hadn't caught from before but it looked perfect with a lovely crease and slow, deep water under a willow. I was just giving up hope of anything and planning a move to a different stretch to fish into dark when the tip pulled round and I struck but there was nothing there. Anybody who has fished for chub will be able to relate to what followed. The next three casts exactly the same thing happened - perfect bite followed by a seemingly perfectly timed strike, but nothing. I then put a bobbin on and it rose with the next bite and just as I was about to strike it stopped! When the tip pulled round again I finally struck into a fish which proceeded to swim into a sunken snag and shed the hook. Sometimes I hate chub!
The reason for the move was partly to fish new swims but also it was to a stretch which I know well. This was important as the recent big flood had left the banks coated in the slippiest mud known to man and for safety reasons I wanted to be on familiar territory where I knew the lie of the land. Just before dark I had a 4-8 chub but I had nothing from the next five swims other than finding the small tackle box dropped on my previous visit, which gives a good idea of the level of angling pressure on the Upper Severn! On some rivers it would have been picked up within hours if not minutes! At 10pm I settled into my final swim and with the moon rising behind a line of trees I was looking behind me when the rod nearly took off! I hoped I was attached to a huge chub but I knew it was far more likely to be a rare Upper Severn barbel. This was confirmed a couple of minutes later when I could make out the shape of a barbel deep in the water. At the second attempt it went into the net and I felt all the effort of the previous three days covering miles of river and fishing more than 30 swims had been rewarded. The barbel weighed 10lb 1oz and was my first Severn double - definitely vindication of using meat as well as bread and a great end to the season.