Why anglers should expect the unexpected

Stephen Gray with his 8lb 8oz common carp
Stephen Gray with his 8lb 8oz common carp

There’s nothing quite like the unexpected when you go fishing, writes Roger Poole of Petworth and Bognor Angling Club.

Club member Stephen Gray visited the Rother for some float trotting for dace and roach – both provide good fun especially on light tackle.

I think the Arun is one of the best fishing rivers in the south of England – I know of no other river that holds such a wide variety of coarse fish.

Roger Poole

So he was surprised to catch not only a barbel and a jack pike but an 8lb 8oz common carp. These roam the river appearing every so often when least expected, and certainly a challenge to any angler. I

Those red letter days are one of the reasons we go fishing. I recall a day on the lower stretches of the Rother at Fittleworth when I was enjoying catching small roach and dace with some perch, all happy to take maggot with my bait tripping the bottom, when regular ground bait attracted the attention of some large chub further downstream.

Chub can often be loners but on this occasion there were several and within a half hour I had caught five with an average weight of three to four pounds.

A couple of bream turned up to complete what was my red letter day on the Rother. Have I been back? You bet – same swim, same bait, same tactics, same result? Sadly no.

Despite the relative July heatwave, the water levels on both rivers and ponds remained relatively high, which has led to excellent catches from the club’s waters.

Our catch report books indicate most anglers are enjoying good sport and it’s good to see more roach, especially in the rivers. Roach have been in decline for some years and get targeted by mink.

They are a shoaling fish and easy prey to mink who were abandoned by some mink farms to roam the countryside and rivers in particular when the fur trade collapsed many years ago.

A spirited attempt to combat the number of mink in rivers by the South Downs National Park will shortly get under way in co-operation with landowners who themselves undertake mink control.

Like mink, otters live and survive on a diet of mainly fish – and fish stocks, despite a slow recovery, are the lifeblood of rivers, ponds and lakes and of course anglers who pay for their pastime.

Mink are a no-no but otters have a rightful place provided they inhabit naturally in rivers with sufficient fish to sustain them. What is wrong is when mankind decide to introduce them without realising the damage to valuable fish stocks and the harm the otters themselves suffer through a lack of food. They then start moving into other areas including private ponds in people’s gardens.

I think the Arun is one of the best fishing rivers in the south of England – I know of no other river that holds such a wide variety of coarse fish, plus the migratory sea trout that find their way into the Rother at Hardham.

The sea trout find their way up so many tributaries on both rivers and this year we have had record catches with all fish being returned. The Arun may be tidal and best fished on a rising or falling tide but its bream are worth it. Best caught on a maggot feeder, these bream shoal in large numbers and are unlike lake bream.

They can put up quite a fight but perhaps are wiser then we imagine. Having charged downstream they decide to flop over, happy to go in the landing net knowing full well once unhooked they go straight back in the river.

For full information on club matches, venues and all activities please see www.sussexangling.co.uk

Roger Poole.

Petworth & Bognor Angling Club

Read Roger’s What’s the Catch? column on this website and in the Observer every month

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