Big Fish Column: Little Christmas cheer as anglers find it tough going

The Christmas and New Year break is traditionally one of the more popular times of year for all country pursuits, not just fishing, but this year the shooters, horse riders and walkers all had a more productive break than most of us fishers. It was tough going!


The state of our rivers

The current state of the majority of our local rivers has been the main cause of concern for most local rods, with the majority not quite back in shape following the pre–Christmas deluge.

At the time of writing, the smaller rivers are just beginning to get back some sort of condition and the Thames is not too far behind. There are certainly fishable areas to be found on both the large and smaller venues alike but they are few and far between and there is still a lot of debris washing through, which always makes fishing challenging. Speaking from bitter experience there really is no joy in getting your bait positioning perfect, only to have it swept away a few minutes later by a branch.

On a positive note, all the rivers are continuing to improve and by this weekend they may just be back on course.

Search the canals

The flowing waters that are in the best shape of all are the canals, and canalised sections of rivers, and much of the Kennet and Avon is fishable below its confluence with the River Kennet as well as those sections further upstream that have no riverine impact.

On the upstream sections there were a few nice mixed bags reported during the festive season with the best of the bunch a good net of seven perch over a pound to a top weight of exactly 2lb to Maidenhead rod Jim Anderson. Jim presented a worm hook bait tight to far bank snags on one of the Reading and District beats to snare the fish, all of which came in the late afternoon after he had steadily baited the spot with a trickle of bait for most of the morning. Jim brought the fish to the net with a size 10 hook to a 3lb 8oz hook length and 4lb main line. Jim tells me that he spoke to a couple of other anglers on the day who reported catching perch, bream and a few small roach too and pike anglers should note that everyone fishing also reported being troubled by marauding predators, some of them into double figures, throughout the day.

There are perch, and indeed a few chub, showing on the flowing sections of the Kennet and Avon too and although I have had no direct reports my spies tell me that some of the lower Reading beats are worth a look.

On the stillwaters

Anglers targeting the stillwaters fared a little better than those on the rivers and the relatively mild conditions should see the trend continuing with carp feeding on many waters, albeit with typical winter temperamentality.

I have had no reports through from Finch or New Farm, or indeed from the Royal Berkshire Fishery, although I am aware that all have continued to produce the occasional fish. The one solid venue report I did have early in the New Year was of a nice Island Lake mirror carp of 21lb 4oz that fell to the bunch of maggots offered by Windsor angler Jeremy Davies who fished an overnight session. Jez used a pop–up ball of some dozen red maggots on a size 10 hook in conjunction with a PVA stick of fine groundbait and maggots to fool the fish and he banked it with a 20lb braided hook length to 12lb main line and a 3oz lead.

Anglers wishing to report catches may contact me at

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