The long awaited 16th June finally arrived and I decided to fish a couple of stretches I've not fished before. The alarm clock went off at 4am and I arrived at the first stretch at 6.30am. A quick chat with another angler and off I set with a big softbait hanging from my Dave Lumb Prowler Plus X with an Abu Revo Toro Winch and 100lb braid. I fished a few open swims close to where I'd parked with nothing apart from a small knock, which was probably a jack grabbing the tail of the big lure. I continued downstream for a mile or two but only found about 5 more swims that were even remotely accessible. This stretch was never going to be easy to fish but it was disappointing that nothing was even following the lures.
After 3 hours I decided to move to another stretch which has more bank access; unfortunately this meant that most swims were taken by coarse anglers! A passing chat with a few of them revealed that they weren't catching anything which didn't bode well. Although the river was a little low it seemed in good condition but everyone was struggling. Finally found an empty swim and climbed down to the water. It looked a classic swim with a fallen tree at the downstream end that had every chance of holding a pike or two. A few casts later I cast the lure level with the fallen tree and let it swing in towards the bank when a pike came flying out and whacked it in full view, but I could see it only hit the tail. The fish followed my lure several more times without taking then disappeared. A change to a jerkbait bought her out but again she only took a half hearted swipe at the lure. Another change of lure and she came out yet again but wouldn't take! Not a monster but a low double that would have started the season off nicely.
I carried on downstream fishing wherever I could get in with only a tiny jack not much bigger than the lure showing any interest. Back on the way upstream I got in a swim that I hadn't fished and even though it looked perfect I couldn't find a fish. I noticed a small hole in the undergrowth to the right of the swim with an overhanging tree and although it was almost unfishable decided that I was desperate enough to give it a go. The swim was so overgrown that I couldn't even get an underarm swing with the lure so only managed to get it about 5ft out. Without reeling the lure swung in on a tight line and came to rest directly underneath me about 4ft down to the water when there was a huge splash as a good fish came up over the shelf and nailed it. I struck best I could but the hooks just didn't set and the fish powered off along the shelf. I'd guestimate it at a high double but knowing the build of the fish in the river it could have made 20! Gutted! I've had this happen on this river a few times before and I'm pretty sure I know why it didn't hook up.. the high banks mean that the lures come over the shelf and rest head first on the waterline directly underneath where you're stood and not having a top hook on the lure means that the strike pulls the top of the lure across it's top jaw while the hanging hooks come out of the open mouth. I could use other lures but this particular lure is deadly on this river and a top hook tends to unbalance the bait making it keel over on its side.
I fished on but it started raining and never really stopped for the rest of the day. After 12 hours of climbing up and down banks, slipping over in the mud, getting stung by nettles and eaten by insects I was exhausted so called it a day. I'd fished every swim at least once by this time so the decision wasn't a hard one.
A couple of days later decided to get the boat out and head for a stretch on a different river. It's a lovely stretch which holds plenty of pike, perch and zander. The first launch of the season often takes longer than usual and this day was no different. No matter as there weren't any other cars/trailers at the slipway so it looked as though we had free reign for the day. We slowly made our way upstream having a few casts at different spots that I've caught from before but only had one small jack to show for it, with a couple of fish missed/lost. We arrived at the top of the stretch in a dead arm which isn't a good description as it has a lot of flow coming over the sluice gates.. it's more like a weirpool and usually holds a lot of fish. Started casting surface frogs around as they love them up there in the pads but not a single take! This wasn't going to be an easy day either by the looks of it and it proved to be the case. We fished several areas, dead arms, weirpools and the open river with not much to show for it. I missed what seemed like a decent fish and lost one about 9lb or so but we only ended up with 7 jacks. It was nice to be back on the river though and summer is more about fun fishing for me rather than hunting down the big girls.... most of the time! ;-) It was nice to get one on a frog anyway.