A new river beckoned…..
So how did I end up here? It’s a question I often ask myself whilst staring at a motionless tip but as I’ve said before I enjoy angling and it’s more than just catching fish, for me it’s about getting out into the open countryside to enjoy the surroundings and unwind from the weekly grind so how did I end up fishing the river Dove? In order to answer that question I’ll take a brief look back at the autumn of 2014 and also recall my first session on the river Dove that I wrote about in my Blog at the time.
Towards the end of 2014 I decided I needed a change from the weekly sessions on my local river Dane, when I say local it’s still a seventy mile round trip however as it’s mostly all motorway it only takes around thirty five minutes door to door. I’d spent most of my weekly sessions for the past three years on one particular beat called Daisybank and had plenty of chub and the odd barbel but as the season moved on I started to struggle, familiar swims which previously almost guaranteed results stopped producing or would make me feel grateful for a solitary 3lb chub after twelve hours of walking it’s banks. I was going through what I call a ‘dry’ period and there was nothing drier than my landing net.
As we all tend to do I analysed the situation in an effort to find out why it had suddenly ‘dropped off’ my tactics (rightly or wrongly) remained consistent, I was using a 10′ Hardy Avon rod and either my trusty centre pin or an equally reliable Mitchell 300, 6lb line straight through to a six 6 hook with either Laguna ‘Posh’ cheese paste or a lump of meat for bait. Occasionally, if conditions allowed, I’d trott bread flake through a tempting swim and very occasionally it would oblige with a nicely conditioned chub but during the autumn months of 2014 I started a series a blank sessions that drove me to start looking else where. Whether it was the resident tarka, the occasional sighting of the black winged death, the cheeky mink or just bad angling I needed a break and a new challenge.
The river Dove is twice as far again and takes me around an hour and a half to travel the eighty miles or so each way but I needed a change of scenery as well as change of luck. Looking around I found a number of clubs offering various beats but after some sound advice from Congleton based Rob Swindells I joined Burton Mutual AA who control 9 miles of the Dove on both banks from Tutbury to its confluence with the river Trent and then a few miles downstream of the Trent giving me more than enough to get my chevin chasing underway in earnest. So at the end of November I took advantage of a half year membership and joined the club. Soon after I was sitting on the uppermost beat of the clubs stretch, the weir further upstream denoting the boundary and I must say I was very impressed, with Tutbury castle as a backdrop who wouldn’t be!!
I headed upstream and found a very tempting swim with a smooth glide. Dropping in I sat back for five minutes and just observed my new surroundings. The sheep in the field bounded around in between munching grass, bullocks turned up to have a nosey at the new bloke and flocks of geese performed aerial manoeuvres overhead.
Another angler wading upstream of me flicked his fly with rhythmic precision and although I did consider walking up to have a chat my eagerness to cast was too great so I set about it with a ceremoniously overhead flick, my fishing on the Dove had begun.
A fresh cheese paste was made the night before and felt just right as a first offering to the chub, it hit the crease with a ‘plop’ however I’d under estimated the pace of the river and was soon dragged into the nearside bank. I reeled in and stepped up to a 30g black cap feeder filled with hemp and as I recast to the same spot, it stayed in position allowing for a slight bend in the tip.
A reassuring pluck was registered and like a gun fighter in the wild west my hand hovered over the rod ready to strike, it pulled around and I lifted into a fish. It lept almost immediately from the water and I could see it wasn’t a chub but it still fought well and within a few seconds was in the net. I’d been fishing less than fifteen minutes and had my first Dove fish, I wasn’t use to that kind of start and thinking back I should have guessed the trout were in residence after all the clue was staring me in the face fifty yards upstream.
I probably stayed too long in the swim but I wasn’t in a rush and had the rest of the day ahead of me but after a further half hour I went in search of the weir.
The weir marks the upper limit of the beat and also the start of nine miles of Derbyshire countryside for me to explore. I wanted to fully appreciate the river from start to finish, I knew that wasn’t achievable in a day but I have all the time in the world for this kind of river, wider than the Dane overall but of a similar depth and a complete unknown which is why I’m fishing it.
I’d researched my surroundings and felt acquainted with their form, I had my bearings and Google earth is a powerful tool but you have to be careful not to make any assumptions particularly when it comes to boundaries and barbed wire fences!!
The shingle beach provided a stable footing for my chair but I stood near the edge and rolled a piece of free lined meat around in the turbulent water hoping to get a quick take from an unsuspecting barbel. Eventually my lack of sleep caught up with me so I attached a 2oz grippa and cast it forty yards or so into the heart of the weir, propping the rod on the rest I tucked the long cork handle under my arm hooked my finger around the line and drifted off into a much-needed sleep. An hour later I was woken by the sound of panting just behind my right ear, disoriented for a moment I turned and came face to face with drooling dog who’d come over to inspect this strange man sat in the middle of his patch. The beat is popular with dog walkers who nod knowingly if you catch their eye and seem to be a friendly enough bunch.
I reeled in only to find the meat had long gone, perhaps it had been plucked carefully away by a giant chub who managed to avoid the hook, if it had I wouldn’t have known a thing.
Walking back to the car I stayed close to the river’s edge scanning potential swims for my next visit, every twenty yards I could see a ‘chubby’ looking spot, the Dove was quickly getting my seal of approval.
I decided to use the last hour of light to find a second car park downstream and set off in the general direction but it was soon apparent that the sat nav didn’t know where it was going either and I ending up driving around in circles until eventually it was pitch black.
Heading back to just below the road bridge I dropped onto the next beat. It too screamed chub and had a bit more pace judging by the occasional procession of foam. Mid way was as good as any and within a couple of minutes I was casting a rod length out and letting the flow take the feeder to a natural resting place. I poured a coffee and watched the starlite, it flickered slightly and then pulled steadily around a nicely conditioned chub of 3lb 12oz was the result.
Pleased with the chub I decided the far bank needed a run through so I punched the feeder across and this time held onto the rod. The cheese paste had barely come to a halt when I felt a familiar tingling through the line. I didn’t hesitate and stuck firmly to my right but no resistance was forthcoming and I reeled in quickly to recast. Just under the rod tip I caught a glimpse of a fish and much to my surprise my second chub was banked. At only eight inches in length it was a chublet but it was the first chublet I’d seen since Bicton on the river Severn back in September and it signified a healthy river with a growing population, result!!
My final couple of hours were spent wandering downstream where eventually I came across another angler, a brief chat confirmed my location and he said there were a couple of anglers beyond him so I gathered my tackle and headed off to find a vacant peg. My first session ended without a further fish but I knew at that point I’d made the right decision.
Since the end of November I’ve been back to the river Dove almost every week and although I’ve explored another beat called Horseshoe Meadow there is still miles of river to wet my eager line in. I often pour over the maps mid-week planning where to go next so on the 3rd of January I decided to revisit the section I first fished at the end of November.
Although the weather was less than ideal I set up under my brolly and as usually flicked a lump of paste out into the steady flow, the bank was higher than I’d had liked so I kept the rod tip low and and left the bail arm off allowing the bait to free line through the swim. Just after I snapped the bail arm shut the tip gave a little tug and as I struck the familiar thump thump was felt and I was in on only my second cast of the session.
The Avon rod hooped over but always felt in control and as I’d upgraded to 8lb line straight through I wasted no time in playing the fish into the waiting net. On the bank I gave a loud shout of “Oh yes!!” as I realised I could have my first chub of over 5lb, it looked ever inch a five and it’s girth was bigger than anything I’d handled before. It had taken the bait right down the back of it’s throat and I needed to use the forceps to reach the hook, clearly an opportunist that had taken the Laguna ‘Posh’ cheese paste on the move mid-water.
I resisted the temptation to weigh it immediately and instead rested it in the margins, it didn’t take long before it was thrashing about impatiently so I lifted up the scales and let out another shout of delight as they settled on 5lb 4oz, a new PB and a significant milestone in my chub fishing to date.
So how far do you go? For me the enjoyment I get from fishing somewhere as scenic as the river Dove can’t be measured in miles and I’ll continue to do so for the foreseeable future!!