John Bailey: Here comes the river season so it’s time to start plotting

PUBLISHED: 06:30 30 May 2018

Leo and dad, Russ, show even jam jar fish can be fun. Picture: John Bailey

Leo and dad, Russ, show even jam jar fish can be fun. Picture: John Bailey


Figure this one out, if you can.

Not long to wait before the river fun begins. Picture: John BaileyNot long to wait before the river fun begins. Picture: John Bailey

Last Thursday, out with a couple of guided clients, we managed one bite and a single four pound tench all day long.

The next day, with the same guys, on the same lakes and the same swims, we achieved 50 bites and some 30-odd tench.

We used the same baits, the same tactics and fished the same length of session but the results were astoundingly different.

How on earth do you make sense of this extraordinary swing in our fortunes?

River bream? How majestic are they? Picture: John BaileyRiver bream? How majestic are they? Picture: John Bailey

On the Thursday, the three lakes that we tackled were completely dead, lifeless, with no flies hatching, no terns or seagulls swooping and certainly no fish bubbling or rolling. On Friday, it was absolutely the reverse. On all lakes, there was spasmodic mayfly hatch and the birds this time were making whoopee.

It had to be all down to the weather. On the Thursday, there was a sneaky easterly wind and an approaching low.

On Thursday night into Friday morning, it bucketed it down but, come dawn, the rain had pretty well ceased, the barometer had to be rising and the wind was virtually down to zero. Suddenly, in a 10-hour window, everything in all our stillwaters went comparatively berserk.

We certainly capitalised. As the insects hatched and as the tench and the terns fed, so our floats dipped again and again. Interestingly, by 2pm, the easterly had come back and within 15 minutes, all the activity had wound down once more.

River bream? How majestic are they? Picture: John BaileyRiver bream? How majestic are they? Picture: John Bailey

From literally a bite a cast, we waited the last three hours with a single, solitary fish.

I suppose we live lives so cocooned from the natural world these days, it is hard to identify with wild creatures who are so at the mercy of the elements.

The river season doesn’t begin yet for a couple of weeks but now is the time to be on running water, watching, plotting and preparing for the ‘off’.

I’ve managed to squeeze in just a few trips to both the Wensum and the Bure, always when the sun is shining and your Polaroids let you gaze unflinchingly into the depths.

As always, on our rivers these days, it’s good news and bad.

The bad has to be that there is such an undeniable decline in our small fish that it makes me weep. It’s not that long ago on a river walk in late May that you would see shoals of roach and dace crisscrossing the gravels.

On all my walks on both these rivers, I saw a handful of roach and perhaps four or five scatterings of the silver dace. It’s a tragedy that we can’t seem to address.

On the plus side, I did locate some huge river bream on the Bure, fish that I had guessed long since dead and buried.

The lead fish had to have been 11, if not 12, pounds in weight and my little brain is already hatching a plot for the first week of the season.

Back home on the Wensum, two stunning barbel came into view at 4pm on Saturday afternoon.

They really were majestic, they really reminded me why we love barbel to the degree that we do. So compact, so streamlined, so vibrant.

Then, on a wander up towards Fakenham, I stumbled across an equally majestic wild brown trout, perhaps five pounds in weight, idling its life away under a small road bridge.

I cursed that I’d left the fly gear back in the vermin-ridden garage that I own but, anyway, that wise, long-lived trout sensed my presence and in no apparent hurry, dawdled its way off upstream. It’s way ahead of me that fish as so many wild ones are.

Today, I’m looking forward to travelling to Poringland to attend the Family Fishing Day that starts at 10am and it would be lovely to see any of you there.

It is organised by the Poringland Conservation and Fishing Lakes Association, guided by secretary Rod Witham.

I’m constantly in awe of guys like Rod and his team who spend so much time, unpaid, uncomplaining helping to get children into fishing.

It’s one thing to write about the sport and to float around enjoying yourself but it is another thing entirely to roll up your shirt sleeves and actually do something positive for the future of our sport.

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