Catch Fish with
For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over several years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff).
Three short sessions.
We've just been on a trip to visit our third son and his family in Portugal. The fishing over there was quiet (see the latest Saltwater web page) so I was keen to try a spot of fishing when I returned. At the beginning of last week I decided to have a look at the river with a view to catching a seatrout. We are allowed to spin after mid-May so I picked up my spinning (=bass) rod, the bag of lures and the net and set off for an hour's dabbling.
The first surprise was the conditions. Let me explain. When I first fished my local stretch fifty-odd years ago, in the summer months it was always fairly choked with water buttercup. In fact the 'streamer weed' tended to back-up the water, flooding out gauging weirs, and was often cut and removed by the Environment Agency on one or even more occasions each season. Since the late 1980s the weed growth in the faster flowing shallows has diminished to such an extent that it has been possible to fish the entire width, bank-to-bank almost anywhere. Anyway, the big surprise was that the streamer weed has returned in force, at least on the stretch I intended to fish.
I started at the upstream end and had a cast with my little lure, wherever there was a big enough gap in the weed to plonk it in (not many places). I walked downstream for perhaps a kilometre, having a chuck wherever I could. I only had one tentative pluck from (I guessed) a small fish on a shallow cattle-crossing point which was still relatively weed free. The next downstream reach was still fairly open so I continued fishing for perhaps twenty minutes without another sniff.
Two days later I decided to have another go for the seatrout, but this time I missed out the weedy stretch and started at the top of the more open water. Again I struggled to get a bite with only a single missed pluck until, at about 20:30hr, I was almost at the downstream limit. It was the run-off from a pool, not much more than 50cm deep, with a strong flow and a fair amount of streamer weed. After I cast across, my little balsa lure wriggled back as it traversed the flow and looked (to me at least) very tempting. On about the third or fourth cast, in mid-river there was a snatch, the rod hooped over, and I was into something decent. The fish immediately crashed, thrashed and splashed at the surface in the shallow water, but the clutch was tight so it didn't take much line and I was able to stop it being swept downstream through an impassable (for me) stretch of tree-lined bank. After half-a-minute of frantic writhing the fish began to swim uspstream against the flow, so I swung the rod tip to my left to follow its progress into deeper, slower water - much less nerve wracking.
The fact that the taking fish, clearly a good size, had thrashed rather than jumped suggested immediately to me that it was not the desired seatrout but a salmon. The water was pretty clear so, when it swam past where I stood on the bank, I was able to confirm that it was exactly what I expected. A fresh-run, silver salmon of perhaps 7kg Not exactly what I was after but a fine fish. Now I settled down for the long haul. For some time the fish moved back and forth, sometimes swimming up into the pool and then switching round and going back down towards where it had been hooked. I could see that the lure was more or less in the scissors, and the fact that it was still attached suggested that the hold was pretty secure. After about five minutes of this back and forth swimming I was beginning to get a little edgy about the possibility of a hook straightening or working its way out, so I moved up to where I had laid the net and picked it up in my left hand. Was it about time to slip the net under my fish? Probably not, I thought, as it set off once again into the pool.
On the salmon's next downstream pass I though it looked a bit tired and I decided to try and net it out. I switched the rod into my left hand, which I'm afraid is just an ornament, and taking the net in my more reliable right, placed it in the water. I drew the fish towards the rim but it flicked its tail and slid across without going into the mesh bag. Phew! Try again Mike. Now I had most of the long body over the hoop of the net, I began to lift but again it slid out over the rim and as it did so a hook caught in the mesh. The salmon did a half twist, the hook-hold gave and away swam the fish.. I consoled myself with the thought that I would only have unhooked and returned it, but it would have been good to have a picture. I fished on for a little while and managed to land a tiny brown trout - not much of a substitute for the fish I'd lost.
My titchy trout - not much bigger than the plug..
The following day, encouraged by my lost fish, I went again. This time I switched to a lighter rod because my shoulder was aching a bit. The end tackle was identical to the previous day. I started fishing at roughly the same time and on the same stretch as the previous day. As I worked my way downstream I had a missed pluck, then I disturbed a large fish of some description which shot away with a splash and a massive swirl. Nothing else until I reached a place where the river widened and shallowed up. I made a long cast down and across to just short of the far bank. I could feel the plug throbbing in the current as it swung across - and I was in. The reaction of the hooked fish was almost identical to the one I'd lost. At first there was a lot of surface commotion then it settled down to a long slog. On three occasions the salmon (it was another one) tore off line as it swam upstream under the overhanging grass and sedges on the near bank. Each time I stuck the rod tip under the water and slowly eased the fish back down as eventually it swam out away from the bank.
Eventually I had it close to where I stood, swimming near the surface in an area of slower flow. This time, conscious of my previous fiasco, I waited to make sure that the salmon was not going to make a bid for freedom as it felt the net. Slide it over the rim, lift, and I had it. Quickly remove the hook. A click or two with the the camera and back it went. Fantastic. Not quite as big as the one I'd lost but still an excellent specimen. A few spots on the gill cover suggested that this was not its first return trip to the river.
A selfie as I prepare to put it back.
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