Bozza's published his eagerly-awaited "roadmap" now, so there's light at the end of the tunnel for us all. At the risk of putting the mockers on it, we can possibly even contemplate organising a much-needed holiday at some point (I've been missing the sea!). However, for now the message is that we still stay local and that will certainly apply to my fishing for the rest of the river season.
Really have to struggle to remember the last time I went a whole month without fishing. Had planned to have a few trips in between Christmas and New Year, but that went out the window when I did my back in on Christmas Eve. I've had a weakness in my lower back ever since I put it out lifting sugar beet by hand whilst doing crop trials as a student with the Ministry of Agriculture. Whilst I try to be careful, there are occasions when just minor, random movements are enough to leave me contorted and hobbling for days - luckily a good physio lives down at the end of our road!
I suppose it was in the early ‘90s that I first started thinking of myself as a “specimen” angler, having become an avid reader of authors such as Phil Smith, Tony Miles and Peter Stone. However, my first proper “big fish” campaign wasn't on the River Ouse or a big Midlands gravel pit, but on the tiny River Mease on the Leicestershire/Staffordshire border. I’d just started work as an Assistant Biologist with the National Rivers Authority, based at Fradley near Lichfield. At the time my commute back home to Nottingham saw me cutting across country from the A38 to the M42 through the numerous villages along the Mease valley. One late summer’s day, just out of curiosity, I happened to stop and stick my head over a bridge and instantly spotted a massive (well, to me anyway!) chub drifting through the cabbages. A sign nailed to a tree indicated that day tickets for the stretch were available from the local pub, so I had a venue and a target! The first few trips in daylight that Autumn resulted in very little, so I decided to change tactics and fish into dark, thinking that the fish would be more confident.
At the business end, a simple link leger and a size 6 hook to accommodate a big lump of garlic sausage. At the start of each session a few freebies were flicked into suitably chubby-looking spots, which were then fished in rotation. With no isotopes or head torch, bite detection was achieved by keeping the rod high and propping up a torch at an angle on the ground to illuminate the white quiver tip.
That capture is still particularly memorable as I’d arrived to find a chap and his son, who was sat in a swim that I was intending to pre-bait, already fishing. After a quick chat and some subtle intelligence gathering I therefore headed further upstream. Much later, after catching just a couple of small fish, I wandered back downstream in the dark to find that they’d gone.
Two more 5lbers followed before the end of the year. However, my association with the River Mease ended abruptly after the section was taken over by a small club from Birmingham.
By all accounts the fishing went rapidly downhill, possibly due in part to issues with water quality, but the angling pressure wouldn’t have helped. However, that might not be the end of the story. Mid-pandemic, but under the more relaxed circumstances of the summer, I found myself travelling along the River Mease valley once more. Again, out of curiosity, I stopped at a bridge and peered over into the water below. The river was clear and weed-filled with a clean gravel bottom and, whilst I didn’t spot any monsters this time, there were a few small fish dimpling on the surface further downstream. Enough to re-kindle some interest? We’ll see what the rest of lockdown brings!