Now at the back end of the month, and going into February we have had mild weather alright. But accompanied by gale force winds and torrential rain. OK - we needed the rain, and hopefully when these first floods have settled down we might get a few mild days. I did venture forth in pursuit of roach on Saturday. The forecast was terrible, but I didn't believe it could possibly be as bad as they had said it would. Recently I've cancelled trips due to forecasts of inclement weather, only to have the day turn out fine. So I set off down to M's river, which does fish well when the water is coloured.

I wasn't daunted by the wind and lashing rain I encountered for most of the 90 mile drive, and this attitude seemed to be vindicated when I pulled into the fishery car park to find the rain had stopped, and little more than a breeze blowing. I soon got set up on the river under my big umbrella, and put out 2 quiver-tips. Twenty minutes later I had a lovely roach of 1lb 6oz. By now the rain had started so I kept the fish in my landing net, intending to take a photograph when the rain had stopped. An hour later and the rain was still coming down. Not just coming down - that is really an understatement. In fact, the day from hell had arrived. The wind was so strong it sounded like jet-planes flying low overhead. In fact so noisy was it I had to lean out from under the umbrella to check that the local flight-paths hadn't changed. And the rain! At one point it looked for all the world as if someone was just emptying millions of buckets of water from the sky.

All the while the river was rising, and though I wasn't unduly worried by that, being the first real flood of winter, all sorts of muck was coming down the river and catching on the lines. Some of the things I had to clear from the line looked highly dubious too.. in the form of strands of white toilet paper with suspicious brown markings! By 3pm I'd had enough. I couldn't keep a bait out for more than a minute without the lines becoming completely clogged. I tried float-fishing, but that became more like flying a kite. I did actually catch something… a brown trout of about 3lbs… the same brown trout… 3 times! For once, I left the river early. As I write the storm still rages… but in a couple of days it might just be better. We'll see…

The forecast for Saturday was again for gale force winds, but not continuous rain, just the odd shower. So I made for the Hampshire Avon after checking with the bailiff that it was fishable. At least if there was to be rain about, the sky should be overcast, which might just encourage the roach to feed. I didn't rush to get there, arriving about 8 a.m. No-one was there at all, not an angler to be seen. That always worries me. What do they know that I didn't? The water looked OK, a bit coloured, but not too high. I started in a favourite swim, where my mate Billy had taken 2 roach both close to 2lbs in two casts. I've not seen a roach come out of there since, but I always try. It's really, or so the bailiff tells me, a float fishing swim, but it's a long, long cast for a centrepin, and the wind has to be right. You can't fish it from the other side. Today the wind was in my face, so I set up a quiver tip, and fished feedered bread. After half an hour the bailiff came by. We started chatting and he told me that the swim had produced quite a few roach and chub earlier in the week and I should have been there then (hmmm… heard that before somewhere). Apparently one angler had fished it for 3 days running. No wonder I couldn't get a bite. Never mind, I had another swim in mind, one that had produced some big roach recently. I packed my gear and set off across the fields only to see, as I rounded the bend in the river, that the only other angler there that day was fishing right where I was heading. And what's more, he was playing a fish. As I drew closer he netted out what looked to be a nice roach. He hadn't seen me coming and started as I remarked what a nice fish it was.
"Might be 2 pounds" he said, worryingly with a rather casual air.
To me, starved as I was of the sight of big roach, it looked all of that, but after a quick weigh in the net he settled for 1.14. He had taken the fish first cast, on the float.

I moved downstream from him, at a respectable distance, but try as I might, could get no bites, neither on float nor quiver tip. I kept casting furtive glances upstream, but no more fish were caught there either. I moved on, trying various swims, but without much confidence. If you don't know a stretch of river well, it can be hard to stay for long in swims that you are not familiar with and have never caught from. Once you have had a fish from a swim, no matter how slow the sport, you always have that experience to relate to, the day you did catch. But until that happens, I find untried swims very hard to concentrate on. There's an ongoing argument here I know, which goes along the lines that if you never stay in swim long enough to catch a fish, then you'll never have confidence to fish it. Well I like swims where I catch a fish in the first ten minutes - and that's especially true when I'm trotting. There may not be many of them, but there are a few. Usually I can't find them!

After much swim hopping I decided I would stay in a particularly good looking swim, and that I wouldn't move whatever. There were signs of bank wear, so obviously I wasn't the only one who thought it worthwhile. It was early afternoon by now, and I was intending to leave around 4 p.m., so I had about 3 hours. I would stick it out whatever happened - or didn't happen, as the case may be. I put out one quiver tip on feedered bread, and set up another with a small maggot feeder. Within ten minutes (you see, I told you!) I'd had a few taps. Although the fish weren't confident enough to pull the tip right round, this was encouraging. And while these tentative bites were continuing I could always convince myself that they were big roach, being cagey. In fact , they weren't. I eventually hooked one… a 2lb chub. Chub of that size can sometimes give a fair impression of a big roach, but usually it isn't long before the gaping while maw appears just under the surface. I was a little disappointed, but then, or so it seems, any fish is a result here… Over the next 2 hours the bites continued, I missed several, and landed 3 more chub, all around the 2lb mark. It might have been the same fish, but I doubt it. Maybe the roach would come on later, but then I suspected that would be around 5.30. If they did, I'll never know - I left at 4pm, as I'd already arranged something for the evening. No regrets there though… I had a wonderful evening… next time.