It’s funny how certain rivers keep drawing us back, even after endless struggles and disappointments. When I first moved to Reading nearly 35 years ago the Loddon was regarded as very much the poor relation of the nearby Kennet. This was in the days before the opening of the canal and the spread of the cursed signal crayfish, when the Kennet was, as a friend of mine once wrote, as close to ‘fishing heaven’ as any river could be. It gave me five two pound roach on a memorable winter’s afternoon and twice I landed over 30 barbel in a days float fishing. For eight years my house backed onto the renowned ‘Jam Factory’ stretch on the outskirts of the town and it was possible to stand on my garden landing stage and get the roach boiling on hemp on a summer’s evening before casting a lead down for a barbel as the light faded. Small wonder then the Loddon didn’t get much of a look in.
Times have changed and so have the rivers. The Kennet is sadly a shadow of its former self while the water quality has improved dramatically in the Loddon, to the extent that it now hosts an occasional seatrout run. That said the Loddon is no easy river to fish and although it it now contains some seriously big chub and barbel they are usually in low stocked stretches where blanks can be more common than good days. This season I decided to go all out to improve my personal best barbel and my goodness was it a struggle. I went seven sessions with just a couple of chub and an eel to show for my efforts. Friends fared much better and I got to photograph some fine fish. Apart from a handful of modest Wye fish early on, by the time mid October came around it was shaping up to be my worst barbel season ever.
Despite near perfect conditions I nearly didn’t go out that evening but these Loddon blanks were irritating the hell out of me and I knew of a swim with a bit of form that had been left alone for a while. Three hours after making my first cast at dusk all the blanks were forgotten as the rod tip carted round and, after a powerful tussle, a big beautiful barbel of 12.11 rolled over the net. Job done and a PB as well.
For those that are interested in the technicals – I got the big one on two 10mm fish meal boilies over a light bed of hemp and pellets on a combi-rig comprising 2 foot of flourocarbon and 5inches of braid to a size 11 Drennan barbel hook and a short hair. The whole lot was pinned to the bottom and backleaded to avoid spooking the fish. I baited, waited an hour and made only four casts all evening with little pva bags on the lead.These Loddon barbel are big old wary fish that spook off tight lines and have learnt to avoid of large beds of bait. It was hugely satisfying to finally get one and the Loddon love affair looks set to continue.
Big Roach 2 by Mark Wintle
Now if there’s one species that doesn’t thrive in the Loddon it’s the roach – I’ve no idea why but they just don’t do well and are scarcely seen in there above a few ounces. Ironic then that the venue for the launch of the latest book on big redfins is a pub on the banks of Loddon at Charvil. However, landlord Steve Collier has made the Land’s End Pub a home from home for fisherman with a fine collection of stuffed fish and angling portraits and in recent years it has become the place to launch a new angling book. http://www.thelandsend.co.uk/index.html
The respected roach angler Mark Wintle has written a follow-up book to his acclaimed Big Roach and very kindly invited me to contribute a chapter. Feel free to come along and meet Mark and some of the other well-known roach anglers at the book launch at The Land’s End on Saturday 8th November, starting at noon.
Having written one book on big roach, Mark had the challenge of putting an entirely new book together to complement his first one. It was clear that this new volume would need a different focus; new waters, anglers, methods, bait and tackle. With a wealth of research material to hand and plentiful assistance from many other equally keen roach anglers there’s no doubt that he has once again succeeded.
The stories of the waters include the Hampshire Avon, Dorset Stour, Frome, the Taw, the Test, the Tweed and Tay, the Cork Blackwater, the Ebro, the Trent, and the Thames, together with the exploits of Kevin Ashurst, Vic Beyer, Geoffrey Bucknall, Fred Buller, Pete Burrell, Colin Dyson, Colin Graham, Bryan Hewitt, Dave Howes, Luke Jennings, Mick Lomas, Ivan Marks, Graham Marsden, Dave Moody, Dan Sales, Pete Shadick, Dave Steuart, Wayne Thomas, Mike Townsend and Jonathan Webb.
This book costs £25 (plus p&p). There are 40 special cloth-bound numbered first-editions only available on the day of the book launch, one per customer, at £45. If you can’t make it on Saturday you can contact the Calm Productions hotline on 0845 408 2606 or visit www.calmproductions.com to obtain a copy.
A word of warning – this big river roach thing is a dangerous obsession. Think carefully before taking the plunge!
A Keepnet Full of Dreams by Kevin Grozier
The Fish Inn at Ringwood, appropriately located on the banks of the famous Hampshire Avon was the venue for the launch of Kevin Grozier’s follow up book to his widely acclaimed Avon Days and Stour Ways. I’ve known Kev since the 1970s and happily agreed to his request to come and say a few words at the gathering. Kevin has never fallen out of love with either the Avon or the Dorset Stour and describes these rivers as his spiritual home. And it’s this passion for these iconic streams, for their environment and their wildlife, that flows through every page of this, his second book. For sure there are tales of monster barbel, chub, perch and roach, with plenty of fine colour pictures to match, but there is also another side to Kevin’s writing. He attempts some fictional stories, some of which paint a nightmare vision of the future for the rivers of England unless we start taking our stewardship of the natural environment a good deal more seriously. These fictional elements might not be to everyone’s taste but they make this more than just another fishing book.
I particularly liked the descriptions of the amusing, but usually unwelcome, encounters with some of the strange individuals that stalk the banks of our rivers. We’ve all met them – the ‘local expert’, ‘the curiously oblivious to requests for silence’, the mad, the bad and the sad – they all make a beeline for an angler with a willing ear and no visible means of escape. I guess there must be something about Kevin Grozier that attracts these characters and it is no surprise that they get more than an honourable mention.
Like it’s predecessor this a beautifully presented book that will enhance any anglers collection and which can be dipped into on days when either the weather or other irritants keep us away from our favourite pastime. I can thoroughly recommend A Keepnet Full of Dreams to anyone with a love of running water and a penchant for some of the more quirky tales from the riverbank.
Copies can ordered from: http://www.keepnetfullofdreams.com/