Sherston Avon, Malmesbury
Thursday 21st October 2010
A few weeks of chronic man-flu put paid to a return to the Frome, and I spent the time whilst moping around with a head like a pudding making a few alloy stemmed stick floats and some dinky little feeders as my thoughts turned to roach fishing. With this in mind, as soon as I was up and about once more, I headed off to the Amalgamated Fisheries stretch of the upper Bristol Avon at Malmesbury.
I had intended to park at the upstream end and work my way downstream but the car park in front of the barn was roped off and full of cars. Doing an abrupt about-turn I headed back to the downstream end before unloading the car and setting off up the river, checking out a few swims along the way that looked like they may hold a fish or two. The state of the river didn't give me a great deal of confidence being very low and clear, and with bright sunshine and a cloudless sky, I suspected that I was in for a tough day as far as roach were concerned.
Arriving at the top end of the fishable stretch I set up a light link ledger with a couple of swan-shot and a small piece of flake pinched on the hook. A small ball of liquidized bread squeezed around the shot added a bit more casting weight and a tempting puff of particles around the hookbait as it hit bottom tight to a sunken reedbed in a slack area just off the main flow. Setting the rod low I was soon getting little taps and nibbles, but nothing I could hit, eventually moving on in frustration as bites dried up. With the day so bright I reasoned that the fish would be holed up under cover and there were several leafy overhanging trees that I tried before I got to the weirpool. I'd assumed the top car park was full because of a match, and hadn't expected to get into one of the plum weirpool swims, but there wasn't another angler in sight so the reason for the full car park remains a mystery to me. Settling in I replaced the swan shots with a little home-made feeder and cast over to the edge of the main flow on the far bank, with each successive cast landing a few yards further down in an attempt to explore the swim and find the fish. Unfortunately all I seemed to find were tackle-robbing snags but plugged away none the less, confidence waning as I went.
To my left was an overhanging alder that had caught my eye as I got there as a perchy looking spot, but I ignored it in my single-minded determination to catch the roach I'd been dreaming of for the last couple of weeks. Beginning to suspect I was wasting my time my actions became mechanical and clumsy, until I finally took the hint from a much better fisherman than myself.
The kingfisher arrived with a shrill whistle, alighting on a low branch inside the overhanging canopy fifteen yards opposite. Patiently scanning the water two feet below a sudden plunge was rewarded with a minnow, and once the fish had regained their confidence in the security of the tree the process was repeated. The bobbing of the little bird's head as it finished each meal looked like a nod of admonishment, appearing to be dangerously close to a chuckle at my lack of fish-catching prowess. Enough was enough and I reeled in.
Luckily I'd picked up a small tub of lobworms at the tackle shop on my way to the river, mainly just because they never have any, not because I'd intended to use anything other than bread or red maggots... The feeder was swapped for a single swan-shot and a proper snake of a lob impaled on the hook, the tackle cast as tight as I dared to the nearside alder and settling in a deeper channel where the riverbed dropped off from the marginal shelf, followed by a few fragments of worm and a small pouch of maggots.
Almost immediately the soft quivertip tapped round and after a jagging, plunging scrap a bristling perch of just over a pound was gracing the net. In a stroke the frustrating day I was having took on a whole new positive light, rapidly switching my narrow-minded pursuit of roach under the least favourable conditions to becoming a perch angler for the day instead. After all, the perch go to over three pounds here too.........
Four or five more perch all smaller than the first came in quick succession, and giving the worm a twitch after a missed nibble resulted in a no-nonsense take on more than one occasion. After an hour bites started to dry up and with the size reducing instead of increasing I upped sticks and headed off downstream with a spring in my step, catching perch between 8oz and a pound from almost every swim, some to the ledger and some on the float. As dusk began to fall I found myself in a deeper glide where a small sidestream entered the main river. Now that the sun had dipped behind the trees my thoughts turned back towards roach, and an occasional rolling fish producing a heavy boil re-fired my enthusiasm. Sadly one of these grandmothers was not interested in my bait, the only roach of the day being a small (but perfectly formed) fish of about 6oz.
I set off home shortly after dark musing on the day's events. By removing the roach blinkers I'd ended up with a great day's sport and all it took was a simple change of approach.
Maybe the most important thing to take fishing with you is an open mind.....