April 15, 2013

A river Wye monster salmon?

I am back both physically and mentally exhausted, after the best part of two hours bank work, whilst struggling with my conscience and replaying what appeared to have happened this afternoon after lunch.
Simon this morning reported filthy water on its way from the Ithon which will put paid to any fishing for days, so with 3ft of water and only one place that I know of with deep water and a fishable flow at this level I headed for Legg meadow crib and the last chance of a last fish before this water takes them all upstream.
This is the story of what happened. I should start by saying this is the first time in what I have to admit is 45 years of river keepering and occasional fishing, that I have ever fallen in, whether river, stream, lake or pond. I have always maintained this fact as rather a proud boast, and if you have ever cleaned rickety chalk stream weed racks, worked on hatch control in all weathers of flood and ice and once upon a time worked the eel traps in the pitch dark of August floods, electro fished from punts for spawning pike and walked the gunwale with loads of chalk for bank repairs, you’ll know why. Today’s experience was also the scariest thing that has happened to me in those 45 years.
I cast out my yellow belly devon minnow with a sliding weight set up I use and after a number of casts snag free, I had the sort of take which I have now experienced several times on the Wye, and particularly in this stretch when the slow retrieve of the devon just stops and everything goes solid. These aren’t aggressive takes but seem to be big fish moving to the minnow and sucking it in before closing their jaws on it. The previous two occasions when both fish were lost, the fish moved after about 15 seconds to half a minute, this time it didn’t budge and the steady side strain I applied did nothing. I was sure it wasn’t the bottom as I was fishing what I am pretty certain was mid water. For what seemed to me a good 5 minutes but was probably half that, nothing happened beyond a periodical tremor through the line and what felt like head shaking but could have been the play of the current, Although I have rewound this over and over in my mind I think I was convinced it was fish as there was none of the give and take from a snag and I think there was a subtle movement in the body of the beast.
Then it was really over,  the fish moved 4 or 5 yards or so up into the pool allowing me to exert massive, and I mean all or nothing, side strain as for once I was as convinced as I could be that my line would hold. The fish must have suddenly freaked as without any warning it turned and came towards the bank fast when I saw this monstrous shape, all black, and I have this frightful image of its eye as it turned making a huge vortex like swirl and sped into the deep water causing a huge hit to the rod which pulled me off balance, and you all know what these Wye banks are like. I slipped and went straight in to my waist on my back. With rod grasped in my right hand it was pointing straight across the river and the fish would have pulled it clear of my hand had not the line stretched giving me that sickening knowledge that it was all over, as I grasped at the roots to prevent me sliding into the depths. The line went slack and in my subconscious I’m sure I heard the line ping as it broke. You’re probably thinking what an idiot for not releasing the clutch a little!

I had tightened the clutch to allow me to keep a constant heavy strain on the fish. When it moved it came up river so that I could gain line and then I gave it stick, not expecting the fish to rush the bank. I must have then reeled some line but it was all happening so fast. I think the fish either surprised itself or saw me. I don’t think it realised it was tethered by the line until I got the side strain on, when it suddenly took fright rushing towards the bank only to realise its mistake. I in the meantime literally had no chance to lessen the clutch tension and found myself staring and I think transfixed by this beast of a fish which looked huge and black, and I saw its eye as it turned at about 2feet below the surface. The water literally opened into a hole and the next thing I knew was the rod hit by the tightening line as the fish took up the slack it had created, I slipped lost my balance and was in the water foolishly grasping for the bank as the rod pointed towards the river and it was all over.

As I crawled back up the bank, having pulled something in my leg I thought to myself what was that fish, had I hooked a sturgeon I thought. of course not. I possibly saw a streak of silver but all I can see in my mind is a big black green fish as long as my computer table that I’m now sitting at. in fact it seemed bigger than that but of course it can’t have been. Fish are reckoned to look smaller than they are in the water, well to me this one did not. It clearly was all wrong for a big pike and no way was it a pike’s head. It was a great salmon, that in Adam’s words of the other day “was to big to lift”. I cannot possibly put a weight on this fish, It really was a big one that got away. Adam Fisher has had one, I saw one the other week before Adam’s fish was caught, which looked hugely bigger than a low thirty pounder. Last year a fisherman in Legg meadow saw a huge fish “porpoise” in Legg meadow of Courtfield in late January/ early February. I believe Gilbert’s famed portmanteaux may be back in the Wye and it is now only a matter of time until one is photographed on the bank.

The sensation this fish created in me was one of pure adrenalin filled fear for the unknown, the type of fear I have experienced as a surfer committing myself to a danger filled wave carrying the banner of drowning writ in invisible writing along its pitching crest.

April 15, 2013

River Wye Courtfield, what a day for running fish

What a day yesterday proved to be. Perfect conditions except for the subtly rising river which can probably be blamed for the failure of 4 fishermen to catch anything. The ferry pool, willow run and Craig y Heul run all had fish showing. Clive between 3.30 and 4.30 never saw so many fish. I was talking to him at 3.25 at the metal steps when he said he had seen absolutely nothing all day. it was then 13 degrees, clear water and started raining lightly but not drizzle. I saw a rise and a head show and said there you go, followed by two more. Clive legged it down I got Ocean, my rising 5 yr old son from the car and went down to watch. Fish started rising regularly and head and tailing in front of us. Left Clive to it and saw him later. He saw at least 20 good fish, small springers and big, head and tail and generally show but couldn’t interest anything! Rene saw fish in the ferry pool and Craig y Heul run early morning but no takers. Clive has never experienced anything like it.
If your line is not in the water you won’t catch fish, if it is you probably won’t, if you do you are either lucky, its a perfect moment, or a falling river and fish have arrived Very recently, or you are a very clever salmon fishermen. They say salmon are free takers on the Wye. Well not always so! I am pretty convinced salmon are in there most of the time and that most of the time they will not take. Not that many years ago they would start prawn fishing about now and that was pretty deadly, we’ve moved on!

I am pretty convinced that for Courtfield we need a rise of only a few inches at 1ft of water which will bring salmon up the long shallows and through the Lydbrook rapids into the ferry pool. If the water drops rapidly they will stay there and if it drops back quickly to 6″ or less Courtfield and Craig y Heul will have a bonanza. If it stays around a foot but drops slowly I think they will move into Legg Meadow pool and rest up there as demonstrated last week.

This week I hope to finish clearing willow at the pipes and alders bottom end of Legg meadow pool but with 2ft 2″ today I doubt we shall reap the benefits of this run, that will be the luck of beats above, between us and Hereford and I think up to Glasbury miay be seeing fish by tomorrow.