Normally as I get towards the end of the year and look back over the preceding 12 months it seems to have flown by quicker than ever, however 2020 has been anything but a normal year and my roach fishing trips to Oxfordshire prior to lockdown seem like years not months ago.

The year got off to a great start with a 2lb 13oz roach from Linch Hill, after which I decided to try my luck at Linear. I had been intending to have a go for the roach on Brasenose for a while and with the complex re-opening after extensive flooding there had never been a better time as the lakes had been free of anglers. Not only would more swims be available, but Ian Roper told me that as a result of the lakes being closed a lot more roach were closer in as there was no carp bait to attract them to the centre where most of the carp anglers cast.

My first session proved to be the best with plenty of fish coming to my net with a brace of 2-11’s and another a little smaller. As well as the roach I had great sport from perch with five over 2lb plus a bream of 11lb. Further trips produced plenty of smaller roach and a beautiful carp that came in surprisingly easily on roach tackle.

A return to Linch Hill proved a good decision and for a brief moment I thought I’d caught a monster roach of 4lb but it proved to be a roach-rudd hybrid. A stunning fish nevertheless. Within two hours of returning it I landed a large roach which was clearly an old fish but at 3lb 8oz it was a personal best by an ounce. A 2lb 15oz roach and a couple of perch over 3lb ensured my time at Linch came to a happy ending.

I usually take a break from fishing at the end of the river season, but this year as lockdown ensured it was longer than normal. For weeks it looked like the lockdown was going to put pay to any tench fishing, but the Angling Trust represented anglers outstandingly well and by the end of May I was heading to Kent. The fishing was hard and I was delighted to catch a 10lb 4oz tench, a fish I came to know well as the following week I caught it from a different swim. Incredibly I caught it again the next week as well up in weight at 10lb 11oz. This was my fiftieth double-figure tench though reaching this landmark felt slightly underwhelming as it was a fish I’d caught repeatedly, however you can’t choose which fish takes your bait.

Summer saw a couple of social trips targeting catfish and sturgeon. The first trip was to Orchard Place Farm in Kent and after a blank first night I was woken just before dawn on the second night by a new PB catfish of 28lb 14oz, not a monster by any means but it didn’t half pull! I shall definitely be having another go for them in 2021. Closer to home I fished with my mate and TV cooking star, Adam Purnell. Adam had a 36lb catfish within an hour, whilst I had two sturgeon of 18lb and 20lb 11oz. The first put up a fair fight on catfish gear but the second caught on float-fished luncheon meat nearly tied a light Avon rod into a knot.

My main target over the summer was bream from Cop Mere where I have run the syndicate for nearly thirty years. None of the other members had shown much inclination to fish for the bream, so I decided in July to keep a swim baited and try and fish it once or twice a week. In total I fished 16 nights and caught about the same number of bream. Nearly all were doubles, three going over 13lb with a best of 13lb 11oz.

In between bream fishing I had a few trips for barbel and after a couple of doubles up to 12lb I started to struggle. By October I was on a run of about ten trips where the scales hadn’t been out of my bag, but I knew if I stuck at it that I had a good chance of beating my long-standing personal best of 14lb 2oz. I had planned a couple of nights bream fishing on Cop but on Wednesday the forecast was for 12 hours heavy rain overnight which I knew would be the kiss of death on Cop, so I decided to head to the Upper Trent which was at a perfect level, about 4 feet up with plenty of colour.

Mid-afternoon I hooked a fish that tore off and after about 20 yards shook its head and everything went slack. At least they were feeding! Two hours later, just before dark, there had been no further sings, so I decided to move swim just before dark as I thought the lost fish may have spooked any others present. I also decided to change one rod from paste covered boilie to one and a half Sonubaits Spicy Sausage pellets. Second cast in the new swim and the rod with Spicy Sausage on just tore off. Gradually it came back upstream and after a couple of minutes I had it under the rod top. I thought it would soon be ready for netting, but it was the start of a 5 minute tug of war, with first me and then the fish gaining a few yards of line. Finally the fish broke the surface and I was fairly certain it was a barbel which was a relief as I was beginning to think it could be a big carp. Oddly after such a strong fight when it came to the net after one more surging run it went straight in.

It was clearly a good fish and I was pretty sure it was going to be a new PB. I pegged my net at the edge of the river with a bank stick and sorted the mat and scales. It was only when I lifted the net that I realised how big it actually was. At 17lb 4oz it exceeded any expectations I had from the stretch I was fishing. It’s fair to say I’m still smiling at the image I have of it in my mind and will be for a long time yet.

As autumn moves to winter my thoughts turn to two species, grayling and chub. I love trotting for grayling on the River Dove and in November I was delighted to catch my second biggest ever, a fine fish of 2lb 10oz. Quiver-tipping for chub is one of my favourite forms of fishing. I take minimal tackle and fish lots of swims. I am lucky that I can easily travel to three fantastic rivers, the Severn, Trent and Dove, so can pick the one which looks to be have the most favourable conditions at the time I’m fishing. This year I have had fish of 5lb 8oz+ from all three with the best a mint conditioned fish weighing 6lb 3oz from the Dove.

The beauty of being an all-round angler is that you don’t become bored with one style of fishing as there is always something different to try. I am already thinking of what to target next year though I suspect Covid might well have a big say in that. I like to try and beat one PB each year but that is becoming harder, though I’ve got plenty of scope with catfish and zander, so 2021 might have to be a predator year. Whatever you are fishing for next year stay safe, stay healthy and be lucky!