I was busy on Wednesday and couldn’t make the White Acres mid week match, by Sunday I was chomping at
We catch up with Andy Hart in the second stage of his bid to bank ten species in 24 hours on the Warwickshire Avon. In part two, we cover the final 12 hours – which didn’t pan out quite as planned…Words and Pix: Tom Legge
Still elated from the capture of a 23lb 6oz mirror carp, and with eight species in total already chalked up, Andy eases his van into Warwick’s rush hour traffic and sets off for Worcestershire.
His destination is Pershore, where he hopes to land a barbel plus any one of a clutch of smaller species – a bleak, a dace, a gudgeon, a ruffe – hell, even a humble minnow would do – to complete his mission well within the 24 hour timescale.
Overcast skies are forecast to clear by mid-morning to give a largely sunny day, so Andy is keen to get a barbel under his belt sooner rather than later. That said, there’s no hurry because he needs to stop off en-route at Stuart’s Angling Centre in Stratford’s Evesham Road to buy a Birmingham AA day ticket.
BAA tickets are not issued on the bank at any of their massive portfolio of fisheries, so advance purchase is a must. The association offers great value for money, and you can even redeem the cost of your day ticket against the annual tab if you choose to join up for adult membership. Full details on the website: www.baa.uk.com
At 9.30am Andy pulls into the car park beside Pershore’s ancient stone bridge – scene of a mighty English Civil War battle of yesteryear – and steps forth to survey the scene. The river looks spot-on, with decent flow plus a tinge of colour.
Unlike the gentle-paced Warwick reaches, this is clearly barbel country – with flecks of foam from the distant weir and beds of ‘whips’ – those dark green rushes that sway to the river’s rhythm – dotted along the margins. Let battle commence once again…
Third Quarter: 7am-1pm
9.45am: Andy selects the third swim upstream of the bridge, descending a steep and uneven bank still soft and slippery from the first big flood of summer (of course, far bigger was to come a week after this feature). Out goes a large luncheon meat bait below a string of 9SSG pinched directly onto his 20lb Calcutta braid, with a 1.75lb Fox Barbel Rod in Avon-top mode, ready to touch leger for ‘Old Whiskers’.
10.50am: A couple of small plucks on the meat rig tell Andy there are fish in the swim, but are they barbel? He runs up a second rod with a block-end feeder rig. In order to travel as light as possible over the course of the day, Andy’s second rod is a 9ft Fox Aquos Stalker. Hardly a classic ‘tip rod, but needs must!
11.05am: After a couple of chub around the 12oz-1lb mark fall to his maggot feeder rig on the reserve rod, Andy bends into a belting bite on the meat. Surely a barbel? The fish surges off downstream then kites into the near bank under a large overhanging willow, but steady pressure brings it back upstream against the flow without too much bother. Up pops a 7lb-plus pike!
12.45pm: Where are the barbel? These are reliable swims for the species, but there’s been no sign of Andy’s main target. Having seen the odd small fish flipping on the surface, he decides that it’s time to try for a bleak or a dace – or preferably both – and starts trickling in some loose fed maggots down the inside.
12.55pm: With no match rod or whip in his roving tackle collection, Andy removes the feeder rig from the 9ft Stalker rod and ties a ready-made pole rig to the end. Hardly orthodox, but after a couple of missed bites on single red maggot he eventually connects and swings in a tiny slip of silver. It’s a bleak, and its species No.9 – with six hours still remaining!
RUNNING TOTAL AFTER THIRD QUARTER
Species: Nine (New Addition: Bleak)
Total Numbers: 24 (4 Chub, 3 Roach, 3 Perch, 5 Carp, 1 Tench, 3 Eels, 2 Pike, 2 Bream, 1 Bleak)
Approx Total Weight: 76lb 4oz
Barbel Still Beckoning?
The cool showery morning was long gone and a lovely sunny afternoon lay ahead. Not too hot, and in the shade of the big tree (yes, I dropped into ‘duffers hole’ peg 1) I had contemplated nodding off more than once!
At least I’d had a few hours’ kip the previous night. Andy was running on empty, and the effects of fatigue on the human brain and body can dull the senses and make even the simplest of decisions seem like too much effort. A re-doubled effort on the barbel was Andy’s verdict – but would it backfire?
The large meat baits approach was clearly not happening in terms of barbel. I’d landed a near-4lb chub first cast on this, eventually scaling down to smaller paste baits which heralded the return of a few twitches but nothing hittable. I suspected chub, so I wound in and took a stroll upstream to see more of this lovely stretch of Avon and chat to other anglers.
I enjoyed watching local matchman ‘Hoggie’ trot a Bolo float through a swim he’d patiently built up in classic fashion with loose fed maggots. But the bleak had beaten him, and despite some better roach and dace lurking below he packed up and returned around 6lb of silvers where he’d hoped for at least twice as much.
At the junction of a side-stream I saw another angler bent into what was clearly a barbel. Sadly, it had charged into a large sedge bed and couldn’t be persuaded out, despite him trying every trick in the book – changing angle of pull, slackening off and waiting – you name it!
However, the fact that a decent barbel had been hooked in the afternoon heat send me scuttling back to Andy filled with fresh hope…
Final Quarter: 1pm-7pm
1.45pm: Despite repeatedly deepening and shallowing his rig, trying double maggot in a bid to attract a dace, the bleak seem to form a carpet across the river’s surface layers. Amid missed bites galore on the makeshift rig, Andy lands several more – while his legered meat leger remains resolutely ignored by barbel and chub alike.
2.30pm: Andy decides to wind in the leger rod and move a few swims upstream in search of a dace.
2.55pm: Cameraman goes walkabout.
3.30pm. Cameraman returns with news of a lost barbel further upstream, to find Andy engaged in a dramatic hunt for a personal best perch! “A couple of really big perch, including one that must go 3lb-plus, hit into bleak that I’d returned. I caught a few more for livebaits, stuck them in my landing net in the margin then re-rigged the short rod to freeline one on a size 10. They keep striking, but I’ve not connected yet,” he grimaced.
4pm. The perch strikes are getting fewer and further between, and Andy’s baits are almost all used up. He’s managed to bank a stripy pair between 1lb 4oz and 1lb 12oz. Exciting sport – but of no value to his ultimate mission.
4.30pm: The unwelcome prospect of falling one species short has become a real possibility. Andy downs an energising can of Red Bull, munches on an onion bhaji – then declares that a hike up to the weir will be his final roll of the dice.
5.05pm: After a hot slog across sheep-grazed meadows with ‘roving tackle’ (which, as ever, seems to weigh as much as full session kit), we arrive at the thundering, foaming Pershore Weir. What a sight! It looks good enough to swim in – and Andy damn near does, rolling up his strides and wading out to cast around and scout depths.
5.45pm: Nothing doing on the meat – not a pluck. There’s no more than 2ft of water in most of the pool, with a fierce flow that bounces rigs around despite his fine diameter braid. What to do? Perhaps a dace or two will be lurking in quieter corners?
6.15pm: You little beauty! Scaling down to a barbless size 18 match hook with single maggot in response to taps and knocks on larger paste baits in a small yet 4ft deep pool at the run-off, Andy connects with the fish which ends his quest. Although only around 2oz, it’s definitely a dace and well worth a quick kiss!
7pm: With the pressure off, another species inevitably falls! Not the elusive barbel but a 4oz silver bream. Big eyes, pinky fins and bleak-like sheen to its scales confirm this is no baby bronze bream. As for a photo, the gaffer is by now too busy wading out and fishing himself. Not to worry, it’s ‘in the can’ as they say. Time for a celebratory pint, then home for some serious sleep!
Species: 11 (New Additions: Dace and Silver Bream)
Total Numbers: 52 (4 Chub, 3 Roach, 5 Perch, 5 Carp, 1 Tench, 3 Eels, 2 Pike, 2 Bream, 25 Bleak, 1 Dace, 1 Silver Bream)
Approx Total Weight: 77lb 4oz
Although disappointed not to bank a barbel on his way to achieving his ten species goal, Andy Hart’s self-imposed challenge was a success on just about every other front.
Firstly, a total of 11 species came to the net – and at least four others went uncaught. This demonstrates an excellent biodiversity. In layman’s terms, the river is alive with fish of all shapes and sizes!
Secondly, from a non-prebaited swim, Andy landed several hard-fighting carp including a 20lb-plus specimen which many stillwater anglers would strive to catch over many days, weeks, or even months and years. The recent floods will only hasten the progress of carp to an important part of the river fishing scene – so a bit of pioneering could reap handsome rewards.
Finally, Andy’s challenge may serve to inspire Avon regulars to try something a bit different. A 24 hour species hunt is a gruelling exercise, but if you’re not keen on overnight sessions then why not try a shorter version of perhaps six to ten hours and see how you fare?