Looking downstream from my swim
- Venue: Bickerley Mill Stream, Ringwood
- Swim: Roving downstream from Hampshire Hatches Lane
- Time: 07:30 to 09.30
- Weather: Sunny, still and hot – I was sweating just sitting still fishing by nine o’clock!
To briefly recap, based on a series of 1963 articles being reproduced on the Ringwood forum by John, an eminent club member, I’ve set myself three targets:
- a dace caught by trotting along the river bed,
- a roach caught on a ledgered bait in deep flowing water, and
- a summer chub caught by roving/stalking.
Despite failing on my last trip to nab a dace whilst trotting deeper than is my norm when targeting dace, I decided to aim my next attempt at the roach part of the challenge. The reason being that I think this is the most time critical part of the challenge as in his 1963 article for ‘Modern Angler’ Ron Lewis suggests roach are to be found in deeper water after spawning where they will take a static bait more readily than a moving bait. Quite how long this window exists for before the roach move back to the shallows I’m not sure and it is presumably variable year by year.
One of the pluses about being a member of the Ringwood club is that it gives access to mile upon mile of river bank. Of all these miles I probably made a poor choice for early season roach and headed to the Bickerley Mill Stream. Bickerley is a side stream of the Hampshire Avon that leaves the main river just to the north west of Ringwood, meanders around the town for about a mile and a half and rejoins the main river between Ringwood and the village of Kingston. It is noted as a good winter fishery especially when the main river is in flood. Whilst it isn’t devoid of fish in the summer, it isn’t targeted by many of the club’s crack anglers in the summer months, but I like it as a venue. Let’s face it I didn’t just randomly dream up the nom de peche of ‘Sidestream Bob’. Admittedly the wordplay on The Simpsons character ‘Sideshow Bob is a trifle left field even for me!
The forecasters had promised us the hottest day of the year and it was already warm when I arrived at the car park by the Hampshire Hatches Ford. A few dog walkers were about, but I couldn’t see any sign of other anglers. My intention had been to fish upstream of the ford, but the left hand pool just below the weir caught my eye so with the ledger rod made up from my last trip to Mudeford I simply swapped the cage feeder for a small bomb and cast out:
- Tackle: The 10’ Ledger Rod with 6lb line to a size 12 on a 4lb link
- Method: Running ledger rig with an Arseley Bomb
- Bait: Bread flake and cheese paste
- Ground Bait: mainly loose fed hemp and some Sensas Black River ground bait
On the first cast the tip twitched and I hooked a dace on bread flake. After a pattern of last cast fish saving me from numerous blanks this year, it seems strange that for two sessions in a row a blank has been avoided on the first cast. Neither this fish, nor the first one of my preceding session, were of any great size, but this one was at least big enough to be allocated to a species! A few more bites followed, a combination of faint twitches of fry attacking the bread and some lightening fast bites that were no doubt dace. At 64 and with no badminton during lock down to keep my reflexes sharp dace bites can be a bit too quick for me . As can my son’s bowling in the back garden cricket games we’ve regressed back to during lock down after a gap of 15 years or so.
It had always been my attention to rove and look for some more deeper swims and the arrival of a family of three and their dog, who all started swimming in the ford just above where I was fishing set me of on a wander. First though I mixed up a small amount of ground bait and fed the swim as it struck me as likely I would return to this swim.
Heading downstream although I tried my luck in a couple of spots I didn’t really come across the sort of swim I was looking for, which basically was a deeper pool either side of shallower water. The most likely looking swim had a very low overhanging tree and although I could have tried there, I decided against it as tackle losses would have been inevitable and playing a fish would have been near impossible. So I found myself back in my original swim sooner than I intended. A few more bites, including some on cheese paste, resulted in a second dace of the session and having, almost unbelievably, worked up a sweat whilst fishing I decided to call it a day at about half past nine.
A dace of no great size, but at least I’m adding to my list of species for 2020
The journey home was uneventful until I crossed the coast road at the Cat and Fiddle where the traffic headed to the sea was horrendous and later in the day Bournemouth declared a major incident as they struggled to cope with the crowds. Social distancing is so last month!
Lessons learnt; on my last session I tried trotting for dace and the only (almost) worthwhile fish was a roach caught stret pegging, this time I tried ledgering for roach and caught dace. As Eric Morecambe might have said ‘I’m catching all the right fish, just not necessarily in the right order’. However, these old magazine articles may have some truth in them; the roach came to a static bait and the dace were caught on the bottom. Using bread flake did avoid the micro fish, so maggots are definitely on hold. When I get out and about to the shops I will follow up on the suggestion ‘Wheatnotcasters’ has made that I should try wheat as a bait. I guess the other learning is that on a sunny day in lock down people will swim anywhere!
Next steps; This swim might be a candidate for a trotting session in the near future , although for my next river trip I will look for a likely deep hole in the hope that post-spawning roach are indeed lurking in such spots. My home made still water floats remain untested, so a trip to Mudeford Woods is also on the cards. On a more general note if I continue to fish with this regularity I need to identify the river sections I am going to concentrate on. With so much bank available I need to avoid the temptation to go hither and thither, but instead try and learn a limited number of venues. Last year I said something similar and had the club’s Parley stretch of the Stour in mind, but I rather lost my way last summer and only went there once! The free bank opposite Parley attracts a lot of escapees from lock down added to which with no exams to invigilate, I’m not going to pass Parley on my way to and from Waterloo Road for the foreseeable. Therefore I’m not sure Parley makes the cut for this summer. Now that the club has a new car park at Blackwater perhaps that stretch of Throop is a more logical and nearer choice for the non-tidal Stour. About 10 to 15 years ago I had a magic touch on the Tidal Stour, or as near as I ever get to a magic touch, so the Tidal makes the list. As to the Avon, however illogical it is, I do like Bickerley and perhaps I should re-think my attitude to the Royalty and maybe come Autumn and the weed dying back, heading up to Breamore is worth a shout. However, I’ve made lists like this before and not followed through …