Sunday, 6 November 2011
Otter Watch UK
Yes, the way things are going I'll have to change the name of this blog. I see otters in so many places nowadays I'm beginning to think they're following me around. I'm not one of the anti-otter brigade, I like to see them, but I have to conclude that when they put in an appearance the fishing's probably over for the day.
I had a two-day trip to a stretch of the severn this week and an otter came into my swim both days. This was a new stretch of the river to me and I researched it using the various mapping and aerial photography sites available on the net and I was intent on fishing two big wide bends I had picked out. These websites are a boon to the river angler but there's one thing they can't tell you and that's where the flow is in the river. Sometimes it's best to fish the inside of a bend but sometimes the outside is better - you can't tell until you actually see it.
I arrived at dawn on day 1, loaded up the gear onto my back and walked to the inside of the first bend. It was a very long walk and I was disappointed to find, when I got there, that this was one of the awkward bends with all the current on the inside and none on the outside of the bend. I fished for a couple of hours with a bait very close in in the slackish water close to the bank and another cast well across, keeping the rod high to keep the line off the surface. Nothing happened though and I moved on mid-morning.
I yomped back to the car where I loaded it up then drove round to the other side of the river where I bumped into a farmhand who was building a big fire. He was surprised to see me, telling me he never saw anglers on that stretch. Hmm, was that good or bad?
This bank was a much shorter walk but a very steep climb down to the river. The bank was very muddy and it was a struggle to get down with all the gear so I had to take my time, the dodgy knees protesting with each downward step. It looked worth it when I got there though, there was a big slack on my bank now and after a bit of plumbing I discovered that it was around seven feet deep - perfect! I dropped in a floatfished whole herring, propped the rod up on the marginal vegetation, switched on the baitrunner on the reel, sat back and waited.
Nothing happened, but before long I saw a splash way out across the river and spotted the telltale line of bubbles that could only mean one thing. It was a small otter, maybe a youngster and it was busy feeding on something it was finding on the riverbed. I couldn't work out just what it was eating but every time it surfaced I could see that it was chewing away on something. I don't think there are crayfish in this stretch of the river so maybe it was finding small fish or some other crustacean. It worked its way off upstream and was gone before long.
I stood up and picked up the lure rod, not worrying too much now about spooking fish close in since lack of action on the close-in rod suggested there was nothing there anyway. I clipped on a slider and flicked it out to the left, three or four twitches and the lure was hit quite hard - but the fish wasn't hooked. Two more casts with the same lure didn't provoke a strike so I changed it for a purple raider and first cast with that, I hooked a fish. It felt like a double figure pike but I never got to see it, it came unstuck halfway in!
I cursed the usual curse, reeled the lure back and checked the hooks. They weren't bad but I reckoned one of the points needed a touch-up with the hook sharpener so I started to root around in my bag to find it. Just at that moment I heard a steady buzzing sound, the float had gone, the bait had been taken! I picked up the rod, wound down hard and struck, meeting a solid resistance. Something was wrong though, there were no kicks, no head shaking and slowly I gained line until I could see I was hooked into a waterlogged branch. The fish had obviously run into a snag and somehow transferred the hook to the woodwork.
Two fish lost in as many minutes and I was really fed up. What made matters worse, the otter came back and spent quite a bit of time in the swim. I packed up after a while, hoping to get to the other bend on the stretch and have an hour's fishing before dark. The climb up the slippery slope was tough and I was well out of puff when i got back to the car. Short drive up river and I was out and yomping once more, another long walk to this swim. Halfway there my journey was interrupted, the next field had a bull in it. Now bulls are unpredictable, most of them are docile but the odd one can be a bit feisty and there's no way of knowing for sure until it turns on you. I waited at the fence for a little while and the cows that were in the field along with Mr Bull started to drift away to the far side of the field. The bull obviously thought they were far more interesting than me and he followed them, leaving my path clear.
This bend was, if anything, even more inviting than the last A big slack, 12ft deep and the river more than fifty yards across, there had to pike here. I fished deadbaits and lures but nothing happened so the day ended in a blank but I'll fish that bend again. I slept in the car but was awoken sometime after midnight by the sound of heavy rain hammering on the roof. The rain lasted until dawn and then the sky cleared but I knew it bring the river up and sure enough, when I slithered down the slope to the spot I lost the fish just after first light I could see that the river was on the rise. A rising river is often the kiss of death and so it proved to be. I fished for a few hours anyway but the only thing that happened was that another otter came into the swim. This was a larger beast, a dog otter I think and like the other one it was finding something small to eat on the riverbed.
I packed up once more and spent the rest of the day looking at swims and stretches I might fish in the future, hopefully without too much company from our furry friends.
What else did I do this week? Well I was on the telly, Sky Sports to be precise.
You can see it here, navigate to the Nov 4th episode and click on download;