Floods, floods and Pike – Tony Miles

Flooded Ouse

Floods, floods and Pike – Tony Miles

At the end of my last diary piece before Christmas I said that I’ll be back on the Ouse for my first trip of the New Year with Alan after the giant chub. Well, the good old British weather put paid to that plan and no mistake. I’ve never found very high, coloured water conducive to chub fishing and it has certainly been high and coloured this week. On Monday evening, I phoned my good friend Matt Bodily who lives close to the river and he told me that it was raging, very muddy, still rising and about to burst its banks. He had attempted to fish with barbel in mind the previous evening but had been forced to abandon his attempts by the sheer volume of debris being carried downstream.

When I checked on the EA river height website, which itemises the excess river level at each weir down the Ouse valley, it appeared possible that a dry day on Tuesday could mean the river should be starting to drop on Wednesday. It would obviously still be bank high but a barbel would be a possibility in the continuing mild conditions. So, my plans were laid. I would go to a local still water for a piking trip on Tuesday and then take a chance on an Ouse barbel on Wednesday.

Just before dawn on Tuesday I cast out three deadbaits in one of my favourite swims that has given me lots of good pike in the past, to just under 25lbs. On one rod was a smelt while the other two carried whole small mackerel. I have to say I didn’t like the conditions one bit. The water is spring fed and with the spring also being swollen with the huge amount of rain we’ve had, the water was really coloured. Normally, this fishery is clear and past experience has proved that the piking is tough when the water is murky. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant morning, dry and calm for a change, and I would enjoy the fresh air whatever the outcome.

I would not have been surprised to blank under the conditions, but at 10.00am one of the mackerel was away and I struck into what felt a fair pike. Moments later, the smelt rod was away as well and for a short while I wondered whether I had caught the other line. But no, there were two pike on all right and I was worried about the second becoming deep hooked while I dealt with the one I was playing. A few minutes later, the mid double I was expecting to see proved to be an estimated eight pounder shrouded in another eight pounds of weed. It was well hooked in the scissors, so I was able to quickly chin it out, unhook and return in short order. The second fish was almost the twin of the first, thankfully hooked safely despite my delay in striking. The only other action came as the light was fading, when a very tatty fish came to net. Again I didn’t bother weighing it but I would guess at a scraper double. In retrospect, three pike in the conditions I faced was not a bad return; just a pity they weren’t bigger.

Flooded Ouse
Flooded Ouse

Yesterday I arrived at the Ouse around midday to find the river within a foot of the top of the bank, which made the river about eight feet up from normal level. There are three swims not too far from the car park that are ideal in flood conditions, the only drawback being that you are casting over flooded margins full of undergrowth. I didn’t want the terminal gear swinging in to the bank for that reason; it had to stay put on the natural river bed. So I was forced to use a heavy, flattened lead. For once, the biggest Stonze I had on me was rolling with the current.

At the moment, the Ouse barbel population is not what it was and although there are some monsters there they take a lot of finding as they are totally nomadic. The day was very much an all or nothing affair as I never for a moment expected a bonus chub. I deemed it a waste of time introducing freebies, as they would be carried far and wide by the strong flow anyway, so each of the three swims would be fished for a few hours using a large ball of paste around a Squab, together with a long stringer.

To cut a long story short, I wound in from the third swim at around 9pm last night having recorded a total blank. Two or three little taps on the tip from small fish pecking at the paste was all the action I experienced. Also, despite my precautions, on retrieving the tackle from the first two swims I had found myself totally snagged and been forced to pull for a break. Not long after I was on my way home and as I pulled on to my drive the heavens opened again. Just what we need, more bloody rain!

So, 2016 has started in similar vein to the last few weeks of 2015, with meagre catches to report. As I’ve said before though, my new perspective on life is that I’m glad to be still able to be out there with a fishing rod in my hand. Actually catching fish is a delightful bonus.

Tight lines to you all.

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