Big Fish Column: River season gets underway

Steve Sorrell.


The start of the river season rarely delivers great fishing and despite some much–needed rainfall, which really perked up our local venues, this year was no exception. 

Busy banks

A weekend start often results in crowded banks and some beats were certainly very busy on opening morning and after three months of peace and quiet lots of fish were suddenly shocked by anglers clumping along the bank and then bombarded by leads and feeders! It‘s perhaps little wonder that there were no headline fish reported from the most popular stretches of the smaller rivers.

Away from the crowds, those anglers who found a little peace and quiet were greeted by reasonable water conditions, but the fishing was generally tough.

Giant early barbel

Opening week barbel appeared to be few and far between but there were a couple of reports of fish to just shy of double figures from Lower St. Patrick‘s Stream but the highlight of the week was an absolute beast of a fish to well–respected local barbel angler, Steve Sorrell, who bagged a new personal best from the River Loddon of, wait for it…16lb 15oz!

Steve was trying out a little–fished beat of a new club water this season and had the monster second time out on the section. Steve started fishing at 3pm with a single cut down boilie on a size 12 hook to a stripped down coated hook link,  he used no free offerings and hooked the fish just 30 minutes into his session and netted it after what he described as, ‘a really solid fight.‘

Steve told me the fish was in lovely condition, but asked me to pass on the fact that it took a long time to recover in the margins before it was ready to go back, so if you are fortunate to catch a barbel over the coming weeks do take time to ensure it has recovered fully before you release it. Even now, early season and following heavy rainfall with low water temperatures, it can take time. Supporting the fish upright, facing upstream in the fastest water you can find is the way to go.

Steve is pictured here with the cracking fish, which could well be pushing 18lb plus at the back end of the season.

Steady chub fishing

Chub were a little more forthcoming and Shiplake‘s Dennis Lowe bagged a nice brace from the Kennet by presenting a spicy paste bait on Reading and District‘s Burghfield River beat. Dennis hair–rigged his offering moulded around a trout pellet on a size 8 hook and presented it in conjunction with a PVA bag of mixed pellets to fool fish of 4lb 4oz and 4lb 14oz.

Thames bream and chub

My opening morning walk along the Thames revealed that bream were the main species feeding during the first few hours of the season, although they were not the target species of any of the anglers I spoke to. No change there then!

The trend appears to have continued throughout the first week with most anglers targeting Thames carp and barbel ending up with numbers of bream, some of them good ones, with plenty of fish estimated at 5lb plus.

There was however some better news for Thames anglers fishing Windsor‘s Romney Island, where chub to 5lb were reported.

Trout returns

Away from the rivers it was a busy week for local trout fishers, with lots of anglers catching lots of fish.

Jonno Randall tells me that he topped up the stock in Haywards Farm Lake last week with a nice shipment of fish to 6lb and there were a couple of standout catches. These included G. Beaumont who had rainbows of 3lb, 5lb and 9lb on a damsel and D. Reeds who took 16 rainbows to 8lb.

Buzzers are still taking the lion‘s share of fish but damsels, cat‘s whiskers and diawl bachs are all scoring well and a few fishers have also taken on dries off the top. If you are heading down this weekend, there are lots of sedges showing at the moment, so be prepared!

The week ahead

High pressure is back on the weather map for what seems like the first time in weeks. The consequence should be settled, warm conditions and the indifferent start to the river season should begin to improve and settle down. Stillwater anglers, on the other hand, may find sport slowing a little.

Any anglers wishing to report catches may contact me at

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