Saturday, 30 June 2012

New Venture

Phil Cheriton
I have been fishing a southern tidal river on and off for a few years now, and I have been quite successful.Like any fishery it becomes a bit stale after a while, so I started looking for somewhere else. I have a few pits that I can fish, some on a membership and some otherwise.
But I like to have a river to fish as well. There is one about sixty miles from where I live so that was in reach for a day’s pike fishing.
I used to fish this place years ago and had a few good fish out of it, so I thought I would make a few enquiries to see if it was worth spending some time there again. It just so happens that I know the bailiff Roger. I have known him for a few years now as he bass fishes from a boat moored in the same marina as I go out from. Over the course of the summer I picked his brains about the river and it sounded worth a go again. The trouble is there are not a lot of areas that you could fish effectively from the bank. So it would have to be boat fishing or nothing.

This was about August when I decided to commit to fishing there, so I had to join the club and also had to find a boat, as my one is sitting on a trailer on the shores of Lough Allen in Ireland.

I managed to find a pretty new 5hp Mercury outboard, but the boat was proving more difficult and I couldn’t find a mooring either, I found out who owned four of the marinas and approached them, but they had no spare ones. Everyone that I asked said they were like gold dust, and I would be extremely lucky to find one especially at such short notice. I found out one marina owners address and went and knocked on his door, but i was met with the usual reply and I was put on a waiting list. It was going to be like deadmans shoes. Some of the boats I had seen in the marinas looked like they had not been moved for years, they were right old buckets. But as long as they were keeping up with their fee’s there was not much I could do.

It was now the end of September, and I hadn’t found a boat or a mooring, things were not looking good. I then spoke to Roger again to see if any had come up for sale, but there was no luck. However, Roger had a think about it and he said that there were a couple of old boats laying round the back of the clubhouse, so why didn’t I have a look at them. Although they were in need of work as they were a bit rough.

He did think the guy that owned one of them would let me have it cheap as it was in need of repair and it had been laying there for a long while.

So one day in the week I drove down and had a look. Well they were both hidden in long grass and by the look of them they had definitely been there a while. One of them was an old speedboat so was discounted straight away, but the other one looked promising, if I looked past all the mud and grass that were clinging to it.

It was 12 feet long and double skinned, but appeared pretty tatty. We got the Land rover and dragged it out of its resting place so we could turn it over to have a better look. The inside was a strange design; in fact I have never seen one like that before.

It had about a four feet beam but there was a shelf one foot wide on each side so that only left a centre walkway of two feet. The main keel and the smaller ones each side of it had been worn away to the wood, so they would need glassing and there were some holes inside that needed doing as well. There was also some work on the drain plug on the transom. As it was double skinned, and I wanted to leave it on the river I decided to take away the plug and glass over it, so it would not get water between the skins.

But at least it was a boat. Well, more of a sieve as it was, but it could be made into a boat. It was a proper bucket so would not look out of place amongst the others.

It only took me a couple of days to glass it and it was a bit of a bodge job, but I was more than happy with it.

Whilst I was working on the boat, Roger had asked the guy that owned it how much he wanted for it. I was more than happy to pay the £25 he asked for it.

Roger said he had found me somewhere to moor it as well so things were looking up.

It was now the middle of October and I was about to launch into miles of tidal river, I was buzzing.

Roger had arranged to meet me further down the river, so off I went, looking at all the promising areas as I went along.

The boat was great apart from feeling a bit unstable. Probably due to the narrow walkway down the center, you couldn’t spread your feet apart, so you felt a bit unsteady. Thinking about it now, it was probably not un stable at all, but more a bad design.

 I passed a couple of marinas that looked good and I would certainly give them a go. After about 45 minutes motoring, I arrived at the mooring, well someone else’s mooring to be precise. Roger said that the owners of the two boats he had squeezed me between didn’t come down in the winter, so no one would know. He just dragged the front of the boat onto the mud, and said if anyone asks tell them it was his boat and to phone him.

With that he left me to get on with it.

Well on the first few trips I managed a few doubles and was really enjoying getting to know the river and its moods. I would catch live baits easily, and some trips I would go right upstream where it became non tidal. The fishing was simplicity itself, one rod trotting live bait ten yards downstream of the boat as it drifted with the flow with me keeping control on the oars.

One day I took a bucket of about twenty live baits and by lunchtime I had used them all up, but the pike were only up to low double, so I didn’t persevere with it.

Then we had a load of rain and the pike became a bit harder to find as the water was well up and heaving through, with a clay colouring.

A few miles upriver was an area of water that I was sure the pike would get into in times like this. I had done a bit of homework on the internet and found out that back in 1952 there had been a big flood on the river and it had burst its banks and flooded the fields. Well this area had remained under water and the banks were never repaired so it became a wildlife reserve. It is just over forty acres and is a haven for the local wildlife. Sometimes there can be hundreds of swans and coots on it. It is at the top end of the tidal range and would vary from a couple of feet on a spring tide, but in the summer it would almost dry out exposing the silt , but when the river is carrying extra water the fish liked to get in there.

The bream were known to get in there in big numbers, probably to browse on the silt which must have been rich in Bloodworm and the like. The Lagoon (that is what it’s officially called) is owned by a guy that doesn’t want anyone on there, and has erected six no access signs hammered into the riverbed across the entrance to the lagoon.

I phoned Roger and asked whether it was possible to sneak in there. He said he knew the guy (Richard) and if he did find me in there just tell him Roger said it would be alright.

So in I went.

It was four to five feet deep all over and completely surrounded by reeds.

I had fished it as low as three feet and as high as six depending on the height of the tide and flood water. So, I pulled into the reed and tied up.

It felt really peaceful being out of the flood water, just taking in the mood of the place. I saw a pair of Marsh Harriers working above the reserve looking for food. Something I had not seen before, in fact I now see them every time I fished in there.

And the Pike were certainly in there:

I used three rods, all float ledgered deadbaits, and I moved along the reeds about every half an hour. It was about lunchtime before I had the first of a few takes and I finished the day with a 14lb, two 17lb and a 22lb. luckily for me the rains continued and the river remained in flood.

Each trip I had more doubles, and it was on one of these mornings whilst tied I up in the reeds, and in pouring rain, I heard someone splashing along behind me. It was Richard paddling along in a six feet sniper boat. Picture this, he was about 70 years old, about five feet tall, and he was standing up paddling along with one oar, looked in danger of sinking, as the boat had quite a bad leak. He was standing up to his ankles in water. At the back of this tiny boat sat a very wet miserable looking black lab. He arrived at my boat red faced with rage and demanded my license and club card. I thought I was going to be ok so showed him.

He wanted to know what I was doing there and why I had ignored the no entry signs.

I said Roger had said it would be ok. Well he was having none of that, and tried to phone Roger, but couldn’t get a signal. So he said I could not come in there again as he owned it and didn’t want anglers scaring his ducks, as he liked to shoot them. So I left knowing I would be back. Pompous git. 

A couple of days later I sneaked in again and continued to go in, when the river was in flood. I had some nice fish too, with the best going 23 pounds.

Well he must have seen me or been told I was still fishing it, because the next thing I knew I had Roger phoning me, and he gave me Richards number and told me to ring him. I wondered what he was going to say and was fairly certain that there was going to be threats of the police being involved as I was trespassing on his property.

I am pretty sure, if I had, had the funds’, I could have put up a fair case against him as it was tidal. So I rang him ready for an argument. Richard wanted to meet me at his home and to cut the story short I ended up with permission to fish the lagoon as long as I phoned the day before to tell him I was going in there. He said he would never say no it was just so he knew.
Well the river had gone down, so the lagoon was too shallow, so I left it alone for the rest of the season.

The next season I got a mooring for the winter and was looking forward to fishing the lagoon again, but opportunities were few and far between with the river hardly ever up enough to get in there.
Finally it was in flood so I phoned Richard only to be told I couldn’t fish that week as they had a shoot on. And so it went on, the next time I asked he said I could go in but only up to fifty yards from the entrance, as there were some rare ducks in there.
Anyone who claims a hundred yard casts with half a mackerel knows we anglers are crap at distances. So I fished where I wanted. It was just one excuse after the other.
The river was only in flood for a couple of weeks, so conditions were far from perfect for the lagoon anyway. I should have just poached it, I had better results before he gave me permission anyway.

I did have a couple of other twenties from the main river, but I had lost interest so it was time to move on. Especially as the moorings were going to cost me £300 the next year, so I had a word with Roger to see if he wanted my boat. If he didn’t, I was going to set it adrift. It didn’t exactly owe me anything and I think I had had my £25.worth from it.
But he said he would just pull it out again and put it behind the clubhouse.
So it is laying there a couple of year’s later right back to where I found it.
It is probably buried in the grass again.
At least it will be in better condition for the next guy.

I still keep an eye on the river reports for the state of the river, and this year I have not seen one day when the river has been high enough to get in the lagoon, as we have had a very dry winter up until now.
The river was always famous for the bags of large roach and hybrids that used to over winter in the two main areas of the river, but they seem to have gone now, and for good reason.
Every trip I did, I would see a dozen or more cormorants as I motored up or down river.
It’s only a few miles upriver from the estuary and there are reports of lots of seals as well, and they have being sighted as far up river as twenty miles. Basically they have decimated the place, in fact the local anglers say that it is now hard to find a double figure pike.

I am glad I left it when I did, but if anyone of the locals fancy a go on the lagoon get in touch with Roger, he knows where you can find a nice little boat.

Phil Cheriton

No comments:

Post a Comment