Christmas on the Teme (chub article)

The last time I fished the River Teme was on an extremely hot and sticky evening in the early part of June. I had received an e-mail from Radio Four who were looking to do a programme on the Teme and wanted to do an interview with me whilst barbel fishing. Unfortunately it was still a week or so before the coarse season began, and due to deadlines, we had to compromise the situation by going fly fishing instead!

Hence I met up with Open Country’s Helen Mark (pictured below) and Gabbi Fisher in the Worcestershire countryside armed with my fly gear. They conducted the actual interview whilst I cast a fly across the river. We chose a spot near some rapids and the noise of the cascading water made a lovely back drop to the interview. Needless to say, the bright sun combined with a very low river and our bank activity meant that I wasn’t able to produce any fish for the interview.

However, it went well and I was able to defend the cause of the angler. In this day and age, with an ever growing aggressive anti lobby determined to undermine our pastime, we need to make the most of every opportunity to show angling in a positive light. Hence I was very grateful for the platform from which to talk about the sport that I love so much.

Ironically enough, after I said farewell to Helen and Gabbi, I continued fishing – and had several fish on, landing a solitary grayling. But that’s the way it often goes! Still, I wasn’t under any pressure to produce whilst the interview was going on, but it would have been nice to put some icing on the cake!

But that was then, this is now and here I was again ready to fish the Teme. This time, the weather was the total opposite of the last visit; the day was cold and as the afternoon wore on, a mist descended. On this occasion I had headed into Shropshire and was tackling a stretch of the river that I have fished previously.

With a water temperature of just four degrees, I was hedging my bets slightly, because as well as targeting chub, I was hoping that should they fail to show, at least a grayling or two would make my journey worthwhile.

However, during the hours of daylight, the rod tip remained motionless. The stretch I fished is very picturesque and remote, and I was happy to catch the glimpse of a dipper as it flew past me on its way downstream. I also caught sight of a mink that was working its way along the far bank undergrowth.

They are well established in the Teme valley and are responsible for the decimation of much of the indigenous wildlife. Certainly the way it scaled an ivy covered tree directly in front of me, it proved that it would give even a squirrel a run for its money in its own environment.

As darkness fell my bait started to get attention from hordes of minnows that suddenly descended into the swim. I didn’t necessarily consider this a nuisance, as I was fishing a big bunch of maggots. Nevertheless I did find it quite surprising as it’s usually just the summer time when minnows are so prolific on the Teme.

Still, small fish activity can often attract larger ones into the swim, and that’s what happened. A slight tap on the rod and I was into what was obviously not a minnow! After a short, but spirited fight, I was weighing a chub that topped the scale at 2lb 2oz. Not massive, but very welcome indeed, particularly as I’ve been struggling on the chub front lately.

Exactly three hours later, following continual attention from minnows (I actually caught three of them!) I had a good pull round which saw me connect with a fish. After my initial assumption that I was playing a chub, I quickly realised that I was actually doing business with a small barbel.

Although it was only a small one at 3lb 15oz, nevertheless it was a very pleasant surprise. And there I was, having ruled barbel totally out of the question due to the water temperature being just four degrees. It just goes to show doesn’t it! No more fish followed, but taking into account the conditions, it was a happy angler that drove home that night.

Determined to get another session in before Christmas, I headed once more for the Shropshire Teme, on December 23. It has become a regular habit of mine to get that last trip in before Christmas on that particular day, and heading for the River Teme brought back memories of one such session in 1996. Fishing with maggots, I ended the session with two grayling and a salmon! To this day, that remains the only time that I have landed the King of the River. It was only a small one however, weighing in at exactly 2 lb.

Setting up on the riverbank, my mind instinctively went back seven years to that session. Would history repeat itself? Well, the odds would be pretty high, and on this occasion if I had gambled on another salmon, the bookies would be the winner. I did manage a grayling though. It was a small one, just about making 4 oz on the scales!

Still, I enjoyed the session, even if rain the day before meant that I was sitting in mud at the water’s edge. Although the river wasn’t exactly in flood, it was up a little and had more pace than normal. Prior to fishing, I walked a couple of meadows looking for a high water mark. Unfortunately the only one I found was in a place that was inaccessible for an angler to reach.

However, the far bank had eddies and slacks galore. That’s the way it goes sometimes! As it was, I had to settle for my usual peg, although fishing down the side eliminated a lot of the debris problem, and as the water level steadied, leaves around the line ceased to be an issue anyway.

I caught the grayling while it was still light, and even though I stayed for a couple of hours into dark, I wasn’t intending to fish too late. It was Christmas after all, and I was looking forward to getting back home to be with the family!

(Article 24, originally published December 2003)