Sunday, August 10, 2014

And now for something completely different.

My fishing of late has been almost exclusively in saltwater. This was something that I was keen to remedy so on Sunday I set off on another trip down south. This time it was a tour of some of England's coarse fishing venues that are known to contain some rare freshwater fish species. My chosen targets over three days were bitterling, bleak, pumpkinseed, motherless minnow, crucian and silver bream. With the exception of pumpkinseed I have never caught any of them before so the trip was a good way to add a few new species to this year's tally. Setting off early on Sunday morning I arrived at my first venue, Kingsdown Flash in Abram, just after 9:00. My target there was bitterling and I quickly found myself a peg with some nice marginal features to fish.

I was advised by other anglers who had caught bitterling to fish tight to marginal features and these reeds and lily pads fitted that bill nicely.

Single pinkie on a #22 hook fished under a very sensitive No.1 Drennan Glow Tip Antenna float shotted right down to a pimple was my chosen approach and I soon caught a few small roach as well as a couple of bigger fish that I think were rudd but may also have been roach/rudd hybrids.

I'm pretty sure this is a rudd. Hmmm.

After a while I decided to try for my target at a second peg but this only produced a few more roach and a tiny perch. With a two hour drive to Stratford upon Avon to make to try and catch bleak before a further eighty two mile drive south to my hotel I decided to gamble, fish on for an hour longer than I had originally intended and moved to a third peg that again had some nice marginal features to fish.

The view from the bottom end of Kingdown Flash, known locally as Polly's I believe.

More small roach were soon gobbling my small red maggot, with a single gudgeon eventually making a nice change.

Not the little fish I was after but one that brought a little smile to my face.

To be honest I was just about to give up on catching a bitterling and begin packing up to go when I got a huge slice of luck and caught one.

A very pretty little fish with a nice purple sheen to its back and an almost neon stripe on its tail root. 

Over the moon but now behind schedule I quickly packed up and headed off to try and catch my second target, bleak. After driving down the road, parking the car and walking a short distance I arrived at a very nice little stretch of the River Avon just below a weir opposite an old mill that had been replaced with some expensive looking flats.

A lovely spot to fish with a bit of current. Ideal for catching bleak hopefully. 

I decided to use my centrepin reel in conjunction with an Avon float to trot my pinkies down the river. I like using the centrepin although my casting is still very poor but luckily distance wasn't required and by holding my float back, causing my bait to lift up in the current I found that I was soon getting bites. Hitting them was another matter and I soon discovered the difference between a dace and a bleak is a fraction of a second but I managed to connect with a few of both. 

Bleak look similar to dace but have a much bigger anal fin. They also have a nice bright shine to their flanks that looks lovely when you tilt them back and forth in the sunlight.

Spending a few relaxing hours catching a few dozen fast biting silvers was very nice. Some much needed centrepin casting practice was had before I headed down the road to a hotel near Congresbury where I'd be targeting colourful pumpkinseed the following morning.

Up early and breakfast eaten, I checked out of the hotel and made the short drive down to the next venue on my itinerary. The roads leading to Silver Springs Fishery were not great and my Sat Nav took me down a very uneven one before I eventually found my way there. If you want to visit the venue head west along Silver Street and follow the dirt track at the end of it. 

A nice fishery on a lovely day.

Speaking to the owners I was assured that there were plenty of pumpkinseeds present but was saddened to hear that they were trying to remove them. Fishing with the same end tackle I employed for bitterling in a shallow area with lily pads and reeds either side of me I soon caught a few dozen small roach. Thinking that I was going to have to keep plugging away until I caught my target I suddenly spotted a few fish at very close range in about a foot of water amongst the rocks and weed on the bottom that I thought I could make out a gill plate spot on. Reeling in I didn't bother adjusting my float and instead slowly lowered my pinkie in amongst them. They quickly attacked it and I lifted out a pumpkinseed. Quite surprised by their very aggressive nature and their close proximity I adjusted my float depth to about six inches and before I knew it I had caught a dozen of the pretty little fish.

Some were more brightly coloured than others. Perhaps male and female but I'm not sure which is which?

Happy enough I decided to head to my next destination, Viaduct Fisheries, earlier than I had planned to spend the rest of the day trying to catch a motherless minnow. Speaking to the lads in the fishery shop when I arrived I was assured I would easily catch one if I fished my pinkie about a foot under my float and could strike their very fast bites quickly enough. Well I was soon catching plenty of tiny roach again but by late afternoon and having fished a few different pegs the only other species I had caught were a couple of rudd and a perch so I moved to another pond that had a nice view of the viaduct that the fishery gets its name from.

A nice view to fish in front of. 

This produced a few more roach but after an hour or so I decided to have a break, plumbed up a rod length out and fished the bottom for a while. This produced more roach, a lot of bream, a couple of F1 carp and a lovely little tench.

Little slimy bream.
F1 carp gave a good little scrap.
They lack or have tiny residual barbules.
The smallest tench I've ever caught. How cute. 

Before too long I was ready to try again for a motherless minnow and headed to a third pond. By now time was starting to run out, one of the guys from the shop I had talked to earlier popped over to see if I had caught my target and was surprised to hear I hadn't. Just after he left however I finally got a couple of them in quick succession.

Somerset has small populations of these little fish. Also known as Sunbleak they can be easily mistaken for other species at first glance but their partial lateral line is a key distinguishing feature. It only runs 7-10 scales from the gill cover.

My efforts rewarded I quickly packed up and headed east to Godalming in Surrey where I'd be spending the next two nights.

Up early on Tuesday morning I headed to Marsh Farm Fishery to target crucian, the species it's famous for in its purest form and to record proportions. Again seeking advice from the lads in the tackle shop on site I headed up to Richardson Lake and picked a peg.

Lucky number seven?

I took my time setting up and after making up some groundbait and plumbing the swim to find the bottom of the marginal shelf I tossed in a few balls and cast out. There was a slight breeze blowing and this made it tricky to see the tip of my float and any tiny movements that crucians might cause. After a short time I could see bubbles breaking the surface, an obvious sign that some fish had entered my swim and I soon caught a small bream. After landing three more my float dipped under again and I struck into a fish that was a bit better, fought for longer than a few seconds, putting up a decent little scrap. A golden flash when the fish first showed itself had my heart pounding but after a minute or two my first crucian was in the net.

A pure crucian. A lovely fish indeed. 

Keen to catch more crucian I fished on into the early afternoon and hooked a couple of other fish that fought well until disappointingly my hook pulled. Plenty of bream kept me busy however and after twenty five of them and their accompanying thick mucus I decided to head off to try and catch my final target of the trip, silver bream.

Another small bream comes to the net. Their slime was starting to get everywhere. Not pleasant.

About an hour south of Marsh Farm is Mill Farm, a fishery renowned for record silver bream. Arriving there I sought shelter from the wind and started fishing on the bottom into a depression I found whilst exploring the swim with my plummet about two thirds of the way between my chosen peg and an island. I fired out a few maggots and cast in. My float hadn't settled for long when I got a lift bite and struck into a small fish. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was my target species.

Silver bream may be rare but I would discover they are not shy. 
They have a relatively large eye. 
A black edge to their fins is another distinguishing feature. Overall a nice looking fish with the added bonus of being slime free!

Next cast I caught another and this continued with the odd roach also hitting my maggot on the drop. Almost a fish a cast I had soon caught over fifty silver bream!

I then decided to try another pond to see if a bigger bait would produce a carp. Firing in a load of maggots and some corn I fished double maggot or corn on the hook. This produced more silver bream and roach with my baits rarely being on the bottom for any length of time at all. 

All of the fish were in lovely condition.

Fishing to an island feature my float finally shot away so quickly that I knew a carp had taken my bait and feeling the hook had charged off. Luckily the rod was in my hand otherwise it would have probably been out of the rest and heading towards the water. My rod immediately had a nice bend in it and I just took my time playing the fish letting the rod sap its strength whilst my drag allowed it to run when it wanted. 

My soft float rod cushioned the lunges of the fish beautifully. 

It stayed deep, made a few short but powerful runs and took almost fifteen minutes to finally come to the surface and show itself. It wasn't done yet though and it took another five minutes or so before it was ready for the net.

A common carp in lovely condition. Great fun on my float rod too.

I carried on fishing for an hour or so and caught a few more silver bream and roach. Heading back to the hotel I reflected on a very successful trip which couldn't have gone any better really. I caught all of my targets and some other really nice fish too. I really enjoyed myself, overall it was quite relaxing and thinking about it I wasn't sure why I had done so little freshwater fishing lately. I've had some superb saltwater sessions though so can't complain but I am planning on doing more freshwater sessions though. In particular I've been told about a diamond backed sturgeon that has been donated to a Scottish fishery so I plan on having a go for that soon and I also have a spot of lure fishing for pike in the pipeline for next week with my mate Nick.

Tight lines, Scott.

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