Chalking it down to experience

Having unexpectedly relocated back to the area I grew up in, one of the biggest challenges I had faced was finding places to fish! I’d moved to London some 15 years ago having given up fishing as a teenager. I didn’t really get back into fishing until I was in my early 30s, but I had built up a good knowledge of places to fish in London.  I didn’t know of many places in my old/new area or if the places I remembered were still worth fishing. After the breakup my relationship, I had plenty of time on my hands and I needed to get out of the house.  

I’d done a bit of googling and found a day ticket fishery that has got 4 lakes and a section of river. It was the river that caught my eye. I felt this was a good place to start as I knew there would other anglers there and probably a bailiff to talk to. Unfortunely my old local tackle shop had just gone out of business, so no joy there. 

I booked a swim on the lake that backed onto the river (booking was essential due to the pandemic). I fished the lake for a while with a waggler using corn and maggot and had some small carp and bream and a couple of reasonable roach.  I had to chat to the bailiff and was advised that there are some reasonable sections of the river on the ticket, so I changed my float to a stick and went for a wander. I trotted a few swims and had some minnows, not the chub, dace and roach that were assured to me by the bailiff. Soon it was time to call it day.

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As I walked my bike back along the river and out of the fishery gate I looked over into the river where it crashed over a small weir and just above the weir I saw 4 hand sized roach just hovering in the current. This looked promising! Unfortunately, I had packed my gear away and it was also getting dark, so I resolved to return the following weekend.  

That week I did some googling and discovered that this small river was a somewhat neglected chalk stream and the section I had seen the roach was controlled by a local club on one bank and was uncontrolled on the other bank being a council run park. What did interest me was the write up on the club website said the stretch was seldom fished, shallow and did not contain larges numbers of coarse fish – my gut told me that was probably wrong.  

Having discovered a few small rivers in East London I had developed something of passion for roving, and trotting a float, you get the satisfaction of covering a lot of water with the excitement of never knowing what lurks round the next bend. 

It had rained in the week and when I returned the river was less clear and faster flowering than the previous week, but it was by no means unfishable, the weather had also turned cold. With conditions less than ideal I thought I’d fish light and scale right down to see what I could nab, I’m an equal opportunities angler and will take a minnow over a blank any day. I used one of my home made porcupine quills, held with 2 float rubbers down to a size 18 hook, baited with a tiny bread flake for the 1st cast. 

On the 1st trot down the float whizzed off downstream getting jostled and bumped in the eddies this was shallower and faster than I had fished in a long while. Toward the end of the run in the slightly slacker water the float just dipped, the bait was gone when I retrieved. “Minnow” I thought. On the 2nd cast the float shot off again and at almost the same spot it shot under! I struck although it was a bit hap hazard as I had just been about to mend the line for the last few meters. The fish was on, and I could tell it was small. None the less it was going mental in the flow! Jumping and flipping out of the water! I swung it in, and I was delighted to have caught, my very 1st wild brown trout! An hour later I had 2 more small trout and 4in roach the latter coming on a single white maggot. It was time for a move. 

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I headed upstream away from the weir to where I had seemed some natural reed banks, I found a likely looking spot that probably has been flattened down by dogs entering and egressing the river. The bread and white maggot had built my confidence on the lighter coloured bait in the slightly murky water. A few casts trotting downstream under a tree yielded no results so I decided to cast up stream and bring the line in as the float approached to keep contact for the strike, 1st cast up stream yielded positive bite, and I struck, this fish felt bigger and fought against the current and flashes of sliver in the sun as broke the surface told me it probably wasn’t a trout. Using my 11ft match rod I guided it round the various patches of weed and rushes and netted it! It was a cracking roach, a real beauty. I seldom carry scales as I like to minimise my gear as much as possible however on this occasion, I probably should have weighed it.  

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It was time to move and as I wandered upstream the park gave way to a thickly wooded area, there was some bank access but it was a bit of a faff fighting through the brambles, when I got to the water the banks were much steeper and higher and the channel narrower and as a result faster. I managed to squeeze into a less overgrown spot and dropped my line at my feet baited with 2 white maggots the float took off at a blistering speed, dashing toward the bend, I managed to keep sight of it through the brambles and as it shot under I struck albeit not expecting much as I has assumed it had caught a snag and gone under. I was wrong! The drag on the reel screamed as what ever I’d hooked bombed off downstream, I thought it might have been a chub favouring the darker cover of the trees but as I managed to turn fish and start to bring back upstream the tell-tale wiggling and flipping gave it away as the dark spotty flank of the trout breached the surface. It wasn’t whopper by any means but on my light gear it was brilliant fun. The next challenge was netting it, every time my net touched the water (it was extended to the maximum 8ft) the current took it tried to rip it out of my hand… I can see why fly fisherman use those very shot nets for game fish. The trout didn’t like the look off the net and shot off again. After some cajoling and managing to get the net straight and open I guided the fish in and banked it. It’s still my biggest wild trout to date.  

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A few more roach and small trout were had that afternoon and it was soon time to return to my bike, and cycle home. I knew that I had found something special with chalk stream and was already plotting my next campaign. It just goes to show; don’t always assume the paid stretches of river are best and that the clubs know exactly what they look after. It’s always well worth fighting through the undergrowth to get to a less fished swim! This adventure and many other can be found on my YouTube just search “the budget angler”. 


Budget Angler – Friday Night Out

4pm on a Friday used to mean ‘Put the laptop in the pannier, and leave the office and head to the pub.’ Now since covid closed the office, 4pm on a Friday means leave it on the dining room table, jump on my bike and do some fishing. Which is exactly what I did on Friday.

I like to think of myself as an equal opportunities all round angler, I don’t discriminate fish species or size, and I try not to spend a fortune. So living so close to some of East London’s fishable water gives me the opportunity for any kind of fishing I fancy. Friday’s session took me to the iconic Isle of dogs, it’s just 18 minutes door to swim by bike so if I get organised I can be fishing by 4:30 giving me time for a really good session in these light summer evenings.

I arrived at my favourite swim on one of the deepest parts of the docks I’ve plumbed it at 26ft 2 rod lengths out which is where I tend to fish. My chosen method for this depth is the slider float, it’s a newish method for me having previously fished the feeder. While it can be a bit of a faff, I have really enjoyed it this summer and set up properly the lift bites from the roach and bream have been brilliant. I have some rigs ready made up using floats I made myself during lockdown. (I had to get my fix with fishing being banned and have made over 200 floats).

My chosen bait was good old white sliced bread, and it was often a bait I overlooked, until recently, and this summer it has accounted for all my best roach from various locations. It didn’t disappoint either, and after a few minutes my balsa and kebab skewer float shot under. With the water so deep and clear it’s almost unbelievable to see the thing sliding into the depths. I gave a good positive strike and could feel I was into a good fish, it instantly put a good bend on my springy budget 11ft float rod, and as I played it up, at about 10ft deep I could see the quick flashes of silver meant that this was not one of the usual skimmers. As it neared the surface the red fins gave it away as an absolutely stunning roach.
I suspect readers will want a weight, but I tend not to weigh my fish as I’d hate to be disappointed in a really good fish if it was 1oz off my PB. Apologies.

The 1st hour brought another 3 good roach and some skimmers, things went off the boil then and one of the challenges in such a massive body of water is holding the shoals. I was feeding with a heavy sticky mix of breadcrumbs, micro trout pellets mixed with a branded silvers ground bait that I can’t remember. (What ever is left from other sessions goes in the freezer and comes out on these little after work sessions)

As the sun began to slide behind the sky scrapers, a few more bubbles appeared in the swim, although as they taken 20 seconds to reach the surface if they’re coming up under your float you may be too late!

The next bite was a cracking lifter, it’s so positive and sudden to see the 1st 5inches of the float shoot straight up with onion on the surface. Again a good positive strike and again I felt I was into a good fish although, the tell tale docile flip flopping told me it was a bream, as I brought it to the surface, I could see it wasn’t one of the monsters that live in there but a decent fish and brilliant fun on the float set up.

Things continued in that vein for a while, I had some worms from the garden with me so I thought I’d put one on, on the 1st cast the float didn’t cock properly in the usual time, which is usually about 30 seconds for the shot to settle. I thought This was a bit weird and I’d probably lost a weight. It also occurred to me that something had grabbed the bait on the way down, so I quickly took up the slack and gave a tug, and low and behold, the feisty head shaking began, and of course as the fish neared the surface it was ckear the garden worm had nabbed the obligatory perch! An absolute beauty and a great ened to a Friday night out in the city!

Thank’s to Bailey for asking me to guest on this blog, I share most of my catch reports through YouTube, and Facebook, so if you want to see more of my urban adventures just Google The Budget Angler and you’ll find me.

Cheers Guys Fish On!