What does a modern angler look for in their fishing? Good healthy stocks of fish is the most obvious answer to this question, but with modern influences affecting fishing, many anglers want more than just a bend in their rod nowadays. The times of a humble garden shed besides the water providing all of an anglers needs is fast becoming a thing of the past. Many fisheries have evolved into providing more luxuries to their fishermen such as hot food, clean toilets, heated cabins and a good stock of tackle too. All of these amenities cost money, money that has to be generated from the fishermen using it. Day ticket fly fishing for both game and coarse species for anything below £20/30 is fast becoming a rarity because of it.
Now what if I advertised a fishery to you with flourishing natural stocks of several species; where you have all of your favourite cuisine on site, including multiple choices of accommodation. Should you need one a tackle shop is usually open nearby too. Oh and don’t worry about access either, as this fishery has ample parking and a whole array of public transport options to get you here too. How much would people be prepared to pay for such a venue? How many people would have a beaming smile on their face when I tell them they can have it all for no charge as many days as they want?
Well truth is not many. Head into your nearest town or city where a river runs through it and look over the bridge. Chances are, if the water is suitable, you will see fish. OK, this isn’t anything ground breaking here. They have good safety from predators and a constant fast food supply from willing townsfolk. But why are there no fishermen?
I needed to experience it for myself to answer this question. There had to a big negative I was missing here!
As the weekend approached I had a quick read of a book called ‘Trout In Dirty Places’ by Theo Pike. It is a great read and rivers in urban areas up and down the UK are given much needed promotion throughout the book. One of the rivers mentioned runs right through my home in the West Midlands, The Stour.
The Stour is a fantastic little river that is really starting to bloom after a hard life of pollution and neglect from it’s industrial past. A newly formed initiative dubbed, ‘Salmon In The Stour’, (backed by the EA) has already vastly improved the habitat and water quality in the river catchment. Hopefully, one day their hard work alongside the community will see salmon run the river once more. An astonishing achievement for any river in the West Midlands area that will be.
Anyway, with the tackle loaded up in the car on a hot day with wall to wall sunshine, I headed into the town. After a coffee in Costa beside the river I scanned the water running underneath one of four bridges over 100 yards of this artificially straightened stretch of the Stour. The banks here are defined either side by harsh metal sides rising a good 15 feet above the water level, making most of it inaccessible from here, let alone fishable!
Just at the end of the run there’s a small, overgrown ledge I could precariously drop down onto and cast from. The river had two, 4 feet channels divided up by a traffic cone and shopping trolley feature combination! A grotesquely fishy looking swim to say the least!
I watched and observed for a while… The water here was clear enough to see the weed beds snaking in the current on the riverbed and the fish that occupied them.
I could make out several species. Chub, roach, barbel, perch, bream, dace and trout. All of which were present in impressive sizes and numbers too.
My fishing set up reflected the variety of fish around. Out came my 9ft6 6-weight Loop Evotec tip-action rod. This rod gives me enough sensitivity in the top to hit fast takes from roach and dace but enough backbone in the lower sections to take on big chub and barbel.
A simple weight forward line accompanied by a 6lb tapered leader and tippet of 12 feet was perfect for a nymph to be hung underneath an indicator, my primary mode of attack. When fishing for coarse species I normally like to go with lighter lines but as it is a relatively un-fished area I didn’t expect the residents to by line shy.
The flies of the day consisted mainly of hares ear and pheasant tail nymphs of varying weights and sizes. I assumed that these fish were accustomed to eating just about anything that came over the bridge and so were unlikely to be very fussy towards any ‘buggy’ looking fly.
Down below the shopping centre by the river I felt something that I did not expect to feel. Peace and tranquillity. The noise of the water echoed off the steep, steel sides and all but drowned out the hustle and bustle above. Down here a different world exists. Mallards, insects and even a grey heron went about their daily business without a passing thought to the crowds watching them up on the bridge.
This felt more familiar fishing now and I was zoned in on the big chub milling around at the top of the swim. I was nervous for this first cast. These fish just weren’t used to fly line whizzing over them and could quiet easily spook and scatter everywhere before my fly even got wet.
I decided the best casting choice to start my day would be a water-load flick using the shallow riffle below me to load the rod and propel the fly forward.
With the plop of the bead came an on rush of large chub with mouths wide open. I never saw any of them actually take the fly but instinct told me to strike. Bingo. The rod arched and a good sized fish pushed upstream. The other fish around it weren’t bothered by the commotion in the slightest and carried on feeding as if nothing was going on.
A swift scoop of the net and a nice chub just over a pound bulged in the mesh. Happy with my catch I grabbed a quick few photos and slipped it back in downstream.
As I re-gathered my focus to have another go, I noticed a definitive order to the fish species in front of me. The large chub sat right up stream and charged for anything that fell in front of them coming right up to the surface to ensure first pickings. The roach and dace lay deeper underneath those chub, taking smaller crumbs and Items that dropped below the chub. At the end of the swim where it began to shallow up the barbel lay in station, hoovering up whatever made it down the the riverbed.
With thoughtful and precise angling I began to feel confident that I could profit nicely from every species of fish here. Heavy tungsten flies would hit the bottom hard and be liable to death by barbel and lighter unweighted flies would tempt those greedy chub to come up and take. Flies in between these categories would tempt the roach and dace.
With plan in place, I went back up for some more chub. Much larger specimens than my previous were present and I was keen to land a few more before my friend Ash joined me to share the spoils.
Cast number two, chub number two, another fish of similar size, real healthy looking fish. Down came Ash and within a few casts he had landed another chub and a specimen roach of around a pound in weight. Each of them as fin-perfect as the fish before them.
The fishing picked up as the afternoon turned to evening. Every two casts now produced fish for both of us has we adopted a ‘fish and swap’ order to rod sharing!
Although we didn’t keep count; together we had caught at least 20 chub, 5 roach, as many dace and a perch.
Excitedly we saved the best until last. It was Ash’s turn to cast now. With new fly ready I swapped the pheasant tail gold head for a big 4mm tungsten bead hares ear shrimp on a size 12 grub hook. The indicators buoyancy was insufficient from now on and French leader tactics came to the party.
It didn’t take another cast… as soon as the fly bumped on the shelf as the water shallowed up a big gold flank rolled in front of us and the rod hooped over behind it. We didn’t need to see it any closer to know the barbel were on the feed too.
It was a nice fish too, fin perfect and full of gold and orange. Safely sent on it’s way excitement grew as Ash handed the rod back to me. Same technique, same spot, same outcome… Thump. Off upstream in a charging run went my first barbel of the session. Similar in size to the one in the previous cast and equally as powerful!
What a day this was proving to be as the light faded and the car parking tickets began to run out the fish came to the net thick and fast right until the last cast. Red letter stuff.
Only a cheeky toast over a Big-Mac meal from the McDonalds over the bridge could top the day off as we vowed to come back here during the summer lows next year when another session would be safe to attempt on our skinny ledge.
It doesn’t need to be the most memorable and stunning scenery to produce a days fishing worthy of shouting about. Most of us have towns and cities suitable for this type of venture and I would fully recommend swapping the trees for telegraph poles at least once a season. I think you may be pleasantly surprised by the outcome.