Roving The Thames - Garth Ethelston

I often have a little dabble with species other than carp at this time of year and with my winter carp ticket not starting until early November I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to spend a day or two fishing the upper Thames near my home.

I had decided to start by grabbing an hours Perch fishing after work and with the sunset getting earlier I was praying the traffic was ok. Why is it that when you are going fishing every other driver seems determined to slow your progress?

After a short walk I had an hour before the sun dropped, so I wasted no time in catching a few bleak for bait and setting up a simple float rig consisting of 4lb Drag line, a 2 swan Loafer and a size 10 Wide Gape. All was going well until I set up my landing net and promptly broke the net from the handle – fantastic! The suns starting to drop, I'm 10 miles from home and don’t have a spare. I had a quick look around and spotted a bit of the bank that was lower than the rest and figured that I would be able to net anything by holding the net head.

I quickly flicked out a bait into a slacker piece of water along the tree line to my right where I have caught a few decent fish before and sat back to watch the sun set. Just as the float started to work along the slack the float stopped. Thinking it may have been caught on the bottom I gave it a little ‘flick’ and a second later it buried. Big Perch always surprise me by how hard they fight and this was no different. It immediately took line and I had to hold on for dear life, to stop it making the tree roots. Just when I thought it was going to end in disaster, the fish rolled and the line caught around its dorsal, and the fish just started coming in on its side. I held out the net head as far as I could, but as soon as he touched it, he rolled over, freeing himself from the line and shot straight into a snag to my left. The Drag line was grating away as I applied more pressure and luckily everything held and I soon had her in the net. A new PB of 3lb 14oz, a stunning fish and I was blown away. I really hadn’t expected anything of that size.

Whilst this was going on I had seen a few carp jumping down stream slightly, so before leaving I decided to bait up with a kilo of Mainlines Activ 8 response pellet and come back in the morning for an hour or two.

I was soon back at the river, this time was watching the sun rise. I had two rods on the area I had seen the carp, both fished with simple running 1oz Grippa leads to a 9in 25lb Supernatural hook length and a size 8 Wide Gape. Both had on Bait Tech’s Marine Halibut Pellet hook baits and fished with little PVA bags of Response Pellets.

It wasn’t long before the first rod was away, and whilst the explosiveness of the take made me think ‘CARP’ a Tench of around 5lb was the culprit. It wasn’t long before I was away again and this time I was in no doubt what I had on the end. Whilst many of the carp in the Thames are small, as soon as they get in the flow they fight like demons. This was a lovely little linear of around 12lb, probably an escapee from the floods two years ago, and most welcome.

With the little mirror slipped back I suddenly thought I should pack up and go and try for a Thames barbel. Why this thought crossed my mind I have no idea, as the Upper Thames Barbel are hard to come by and my short flirtations in the past had resulted only in frustrations and chub. My mind was made up though, and after a quick stop off at home to swap the gear over I was soon on my way to another stretch of the river.

Again the two rods were fished on simple running leads to Supernatural hook lengths, this time 18lb and size 10 Wide Gapes. I had an Activ 8 boilie on one and a Bait Works Atlantic Heat on the other. With both rods flicked out with little bags I started to flick in the odd boilie and bit of paste to try and keep a scent trail running down stream.

The rods tips would immediately start knocking whenever I flicked some bait out as the chub moved across the river trying to intercept it. Although the chub were plucking the hook bait as well, I didn’t strike as often a hooked chub results in spooking any barbel present. Sometimes however there is nothing you can do and a suicidal chub was soon coming to the net.

After about an hour the rod suddenly hooped over again and I was attached to something much angrier. I could see the line cutting through the water as the fish turned and started to swim upstream. Holding its own in the flow it was a slow and ponderous fight, interrupted with sudden surges of power. Begrudgingly she came closer to me and I was able to net her at the first opportunity. I was chuffed to bits, and whilst weighing only 6-7lb, she was stunning and in perfect condition. She certainly meant as much to me as any barbel I have ever caught. A lovely end to 24 hours roving the Thames.

Garth Ethelston