I was trolling downstream by 0700 and straight away it became evident that there was loads of shitty drifting weed around and this was going to be a problem. Although this is hassle it is something we have gotten used to, as long as I can find some Pike, with perseverance I can usually keep the lures working long enough to catch them. I started off with a Dave Lumb’s all time favourite lure, the Super Shad Rap. This was fished on a soft rod, mounted in a holder on a short line so it runs virtually alongside the boat. Usually the Pike have no problem coming up to hit a lure fished like this and it has advantages in a weedy river; I can simply lift it up, strip the weed and get it fishing again in no time. On the rod in hand I fished a Salmo Skinner again on a fairly short line so I can keep getting it to come up in the water.
In previous autumns I could expect a take almost anywhere but with definite concentrations of fish in certain places, just like any other river I suppose? However after an hour I’d covered several hot areas without so much as a touch. I was still confident as I was approaching the area that had been productive earlier in the season. Sure enough, no sooner had I reached this stretch when the rod slammed over as a Pike nailed the Skinner. Soon the first Jack of the day was unhooked over the side of the boat.
Okay, I’d found a fish in an area where I expected there to be a few more, I decided to stop for five minutes, have a cup of tea and decide how I was going to fish from here. For once it seemed that the weather forecasters were right, the early morning mist was beginning to burn off leaving a bright, clear still day. The lack of wind wouldn’t help with the drifting weed however. With tea drunk I decided to keep on doing what I was doing but on reaching the end of the stretch with no more takes I switched the highly unfashionable Salmo for a very trendy Shallow Invader but this also failed to produce. I made another run downstream without a touch so kept on going but as I did so I found the river becoming more and more coloured. I switched the Shad Rap for a spinnerbait fished on a long line, more to boost my own confidence than any other reason. This worked well as the angle of the line seemed to help it avoid more of the drifting weed and I wished I’d changed over sooner.
The coloured water was in yet another area I expected but failed to catch fish from. I decided to keep on going and fish parts of the river I hadn’t visited in a long time. As I travelled further the water clarity began to improve and so did my confidence. The river widens at this point and I was able to avoid the worst of the weed and keep the lures fishing. Sure enough the spinnerbait was taken and Pike number two brought to the boat. A bit further down I received a sharp tap to the rod in hand but what ever it was didn’t stay hooked this time.
I decided to keep on going and eventually I reached an area from which I’d caught Zander before so I decided to put a couple of deep divers on and try to catch one on a lure. I have very little experience of catching Zeds on lures, in fact my tally stands at one and with all the drifting weed around I was soon beaten and heading back upstream for more familiar fishing. Back in the shallower water I switched one rod to a well chewed Salmo Perch and this was taken in the same area I’d caught my second fish. Number three was even smaller and conveniently unhooked itself beside the boat. I covered this area a couple of times but there were no more Pike willing to take pity on me.
I kept on back upstream through worsening conditions. The sun got brighter and warmer, the drifting weed seemed to be growing and the weather was bringing out the part time anglers and it seemed anyone registered as insane was behind the wheel of a cruiser. Despite all this I kept on trying; switching lures and thoroughly covering spots I expected to find fish. At one stage, in an effort to beat the drifting weed I cut the engine and drifted down with the current, casting as I went. This too failed to raise any interest. So my plans to have a nice confidence boosting session, catching a boat full of fish before the hard winter season came to nothing. I have never known this river to fish so badly on an autumn day such as this. Sure the weed was a problem but I should have caught a lot more fish than three!
By mid afternoon I arrived back at the slipway to find it covered with kids fishing who were a little disappointed to have to move so I could retrieve the boat. The whole area was alive with people lured from their homes by some sunny weather; fishing, walking or just watching and I had to put up with all the normal tedious questions. As I was leaving five "hooray Henry's" set sail in a small inflatable, it looked totally unsafe but some people won’t be told. I do hope there are no reports of any tragedies on the news today.
Less than a week now to the PAC annual convention at Stoneleigh, can’t wait!!!