Fishing floodwater – providing you are careful – can be one of the most productive of all conditions for catching barbel, especially if the flood is as a result of heavy, warm rainfall after a cold snap. Indeed, I would go as far as to say it is my favourite of all barbel conditions – the time I simply drop everything and get out there!
Fishing in heavy frost and extreme cold – can be amongst the best of all conditions for chub and grayling – and when nothing else is having it these two species can always be relied upon to give a few bites.
However, put the two together – frost and flood – and you create the worst of all conditions, typified by a big snowmelt but very evident as I write this month’s blog with heavy frosts following on from a period of heavy and prolonged rainfall that saw all of my local rivers over their banks and in the fields.
The water is heavily coloured and pushing – perfect for barbel but the water temperatures are low and falling so they will just not be having it. As far as chub are concerned the temperature is fine but they are just not lovers of coloured water and tend to tuck themselves away in the worst of the high, coloured water – albeit they come out big style once the water starts to fine down.
There was a time, when I was young and keen, when I would get out and give it a go even when the rivers were full and frozen but these days I am a little more of a realist and tend to wait until conditions have settled before wetting a line but sometimes, when fishing opportunities are limited, you just have to get out and give it a go – even if you know it’s going to be a real struggle.
Where to fish, and what to fish for, is usually the key question. The chalkstreams are usually my first choice as the sponge-like substrate tends to absorb excess water so they don’t rise as much in the first instance and then drop very quickly indeed, ensuring they are fishable well before most other rivers.
However this year even that can’t be counted upon as, for once, the aquifers are full, the chalk saturated and the absorbing capacity of even these waterways is more limited than usual. It’s brilliant in terms of the long-term future of these all too threatened ecosystems but for a quick fishing fix it doesn’t help as even grayling can be a challenge in high, coloured water.
So, pike it is then!
I must admit after many, many years of spending a lot of the winter period in pursuit of snappers I haven’t tended to fish for them a lot in recent years and I’m just not into chasing them around the ‘circuit’ reservoirs with the rest of the circus – no matter how big they are. In fact these days I’d sooner land a big single or low double from a river on a lure, or even a fly, than I would a thirty from a ressie.
My mention of lures and flies is the key here as I have become far more impatient an angler than ever in recent years and I’d rather be a ‘hunter’, actively pursuing pike, than a ‘trapper’ sitting behind a bank of deadbait rods waiting for something to happen.
Don’t get me wrong there is still a place for deadbaiting and definitely for livebaiting – THE most productive of all pike catching methods but I have, after years of being a lure fishing sceptic, become a convert. This conversion was a little like becoming a convert to artificial baits of all types for all species – you just have to believe – and confidence catches fish.
Unlike using the likes of artificial corn, casters and maggots etc which are, very often, superior to the real deal the use of lures (and here I may just upset the purists) is not, and will never be, as productive as using a livebait – in most conditions at least. But it is a whole lot more fun – and sometimes that, more than catching fish, is what is important.