Winter can be challenging - and cruel - for anglers

An angler on the River Rother
An angler on the River Rother

It’s often said it’s easier to write about something than to be a successful participant, and angling is right at the top of my list, writes Roger Poole of Petworth and Bognor Angling Club.

Every week I get reports of good-sized fish being caught here and there, whether from the rivers or our club’s still waters; smiling faces holding a barbel, chub or a keep net full of thriving fish.

How do they manage to extract so many fish when in my experience the waters I gaze at seem devoid of any life?

Roger Poole

I’m sometimes jealous – who wouldn’t be, especially when a blank day in the rain in January was followed the next morning by an email from a fellow angler proudly thrusting a 12lb barbel.

I spent a wet day at our stretch of the Rother at Coultershaw. The water was low, as was my spirit, and time passed without even a shudder from my rod tip.

Time slipped by and just as the light started to fade I was quite surprised to find another angler fishing above my swim. He had decided at the last moment to try his luck.

Too much festive spirit had caught up with him, so to Coultershaw he came, more in hope than expectation and a friendly nod and chat as I headed back to the car park with a ‘good luck’ message – the least I could offer.

The email the next day told how, when I departed, he moved into the swim I had laboriously been slowly ground-baiting throughout the day and as dusk fell his rod swung round and he was into the largest barbel he had the good fortune to catch in his many years of targeting these wonderful fish.

He was there for only ten minutes, he added – and just to rub salt into the wound, he even thanked me.

Of course I retain a sense of good humour and goodwill to all men, so ‘well done, fantastic and thanks for the photo’ was my reply.

Winter fishing can be challenging. I don’t buy into all the praise that fills the various angling magazines that have pictures of anglers landing lots of roach and dace from snow-covered backgrounds, flooded rivers and half-frozen ponds and lakes.

Perhaps these anglers represent the hardy experts, possibly paid to endure the misery of an English winter. How do they manage to extract so many fish when in my experience the waters I gaze at seem devoid of any life?

I turned to an angler I know well who loves winter fishing for an answer.

You have to be patient, change your method of how you fish, your bait, its presentation and most importantly think where the fish will be, find a suitable swim and target a particular species.

For him it was roach, and roach feed well in the winter. Find one and there will be a shoal of them enticed by some heavy ground-baiting.

I spent a day with him on the Arun at Watersfield. I watched, I followed, we caught. I then caught a cold!

Tight lines.

Roger Poole

* See more at www.sussexangling.co.uk

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