Geoff, Kevin and I decided to take a break from blanking, er I mean barbel fishing and spent some quality time with my coarse fishing tackle for whatever came along. We were hoping for some decent grayling but would be happy with a few decent dace or chub. So it was that we headed to Barton Courton the upper Kennet near Hungerford.
This is a day ticket venue and was once renowned for the quality of its fishing. It regularly produced very big dace, roach and grayling. Today it’s a mere shadow of its former self. The big roach seem to have vanished and the big dace are less in numbers. Grayling still show and its rumoured there are still a few big fish in there. Quite where, is another matter.
It a stunning venue though. A mixture of the old river and numerous off-shoots and carriers. There is a lot of water to fish. Some areas are fast runs, others deeper and slower. Numerous small weirs and pools offer enticing opportunities for a stick float fished with maggots. There was little weed to speak of, which is handy when trotting. Sadly though, the river is desperately low. In fact one of the locals said they had lived in the area for nearly 20 years and this was the lowest she had ever seen it. Quite worrying. It did at least have a touch of colour, although that doesn’t suit grayling generally.
Still we set about trying to catch a few fish. I set-up one of my favourite fishing rods a Drennan Matchpro 3.2lb mainline, 2.6lb hooklink and 16 hook. The float was a small 5bb stick float. It was just right for the conditions: windy and with a pacey flow. I could easily swap hook sizes depending on bait choice. To start with I opted for the old favourite, a couple of red maggots. I had wandered down to a particularly well-known spot by the arched bridge. There was a nice deep run on the right hand side, which then swept towards and under the beautiful stone bridge. Almost immediately I hooked into a decent fish. Sadly it came adrift. A few more trots through and the float buried. A nice dace of about 7oz. This was followed by several small dace and a grayling of around 7-8oz. Then the minnows appeared. After about half an hour of catching them, I decided it was time to move.
I wandered along the bank admiring the sights and sounds of the countryside. I watched a couple of Red Kites for a few minutes and then a buzzard, before finding a nice deep run on a bend. First trot through gave me a decent grayling of about a pound. Then several nice perch and a few dace, shortly followed by another grayling. Then, yet again, the minnows moved in. By now it was almost lunchtime. At this point I heard a wonderful choo, choo sound coming from the direction of the rail line. I then heard the chuff-chuff of a steam engine. Suddenly, a magnificent steam engine burst into sight, with white puffs of smoke billowing out of the funnel. It was the Orient Express, with numerous luxurious Pullman Coaches behind. What a grand sight, so terribly nostalgic (said of course, with my best Noel Coward voice!)
By now it was lunchtime. Some hot soup and sandwiches filled a hole and a coffee to finish. By God, this fishing lark ain’t too bad really. Geoff and Kev had done reasonably well and it wasn’t long before we were off again. This time I decided to head off below the stone bridge. The river widens a little here. It’s a bit weedier and generally fairly shallow. We managed to find a couple of nice spots and I managed a few roach. Kevin found a lovely pool right at the end of the fishery boundary. Each cast produced a bite. Pretty much all dace, with one or two half decent ones. Kevin also had the fish of the day. A big dace going 12oz+, but we all caught a few decent dace throughout the day.
We kept moving and trying different spots. The pools provided us with a few decent brownies up to about 3.8lbs. The grayling were a little scarce. I think we ended up with about a dozen between us. Overall we caught a lot of fish. I think Kevin said all in all he had about 70. Not a bad days fishing. As the sun started to sink down below the horizon, we heard that evocative choo, choo again. A few seconds later the steam engine puffed into view and flew past at an incredible speed. Pretty much made the day for me.
We finished the day with loads of nice fish. A really mixed bag of dace, roach, grayling, perch and gudgeon. A wonderful day in beautiful surroundings where the wildlife is abundant and very distracting and that’s how it should be.