I’ve been with Gardner Tackle for well over a year now. Before I joined GT, I had already decided to fish for more species other than my normal four in the coming year.

The backend of the season was a bit of a disaster on my local rivers as they were in flood like most other river’s around the country. I did fish a bit on the rivers, but it was no fun, and it was extremely dangerous walking the flooded riverbanks after dark in chest waders. I ended up spending the majority of my time Pike fishing the local gravel pits.

I usually make notes on my mobile phone of the fish I’ve caught; however, I had an accident with my phone and have lost all this year’s fishing notes… so I had to refer to my photo’s as a reference because my memory is not as good as it was. Plus, I’ve caught a lot of fish and I’m struggling to remember them all!

At the end of the river season, I decided to fish a local gravel pit of 20+ acres for Catfish before I started my Tench fishing campaign. I did a couple of nights and was getting a feel for the place even though it was still very cold.

Then Covid19 arrived as did a nationwide ‘lockdown’, you really couldn’t make it up, straight out of a science fiction novel!

When we finally got out of lockdown, I was still on furlough for a while, but so was every other angler and the still waters were rammed. I made the decision not to travel to my three big pits where I had so much success the year before. I decided to stay local and I did ok but was finding it difficult with so many anglers on the bank. However, I did catch a few Tench weighing up to 8lb 5oz using my favourite method of hand raking the margins and lowering the bait in with a baiting spoon.

Having never seen the venue so busy, I was encouraged by a friend to move on to the big pits I fished last year as they had been catching some big fish. So, I made the journey for two three-night sessions, but I struggled to get a swim and struggled to get anywhere near fish. Only managing to catch one Tench, but it was great chilling out time if nothing else. Although, after that session I reluctantly decided to pull the plug on my Tench fishing as I really did not have a water where I wouldn’t be faced with issues getting a swim.

So on to the next species, ‘Catfish’… A very busy water, but I felt that any swim would give me a good chance on this 20-acre gravel pit. It was very local to me and I promised the wife I would only do single nights.

Getting down there late one Thursday afternoon I got the only free swim on the lake. Fortunately for me I have the support of Gardner Tackle and I was well equipped with all the right tackle – 3 GT Application rods with big pit reels spooled up with 20lb Hydro Tuff main line. Spodding out a big bed of 2mm pellet soaked in oil and a 20mm bottom bait over the top on a size 4 Covert Dark Wide Gape Talon Tip hook.

I managed 3 Catfish that night, the biggest two were 26.12 and 29.14. I really should have had a second night, but a promise is a promise, so I packed up in the morning and I carried on doing one night a week after that throughout the summer. Managing a few more 20’s along the way. It was an enjoyable lake to fish, with a nice, friendly bunch of anglers down there. Next season I will be chasing a monster Cat, that’s for sure.

On to the rivers… The Dorset Stour was far too busy for me and I decided on the Hampshire Avon, walking and watching, it too was busy with lots of new Covid anglers.

What I did notice was, most anglers were fishing the same areas. No doubt this was due to the locals who were using the river for swimming and paddle boarding. However, by watching closely, I observed that the swimmers seem to bother the anglers more than the fish! The fish seemed to be liking their new paddling friends… Who were stirring up the bottom all day, for the fish to then clear up the natural’s in the dark after everyone had gone.

With this noted, I hatched a plan. I would get down the river as the swimmers were leaving and fish where they had been paddling and making a right commotion throughout the day. With no anglers in sight, getting down late had another advantage. It meant I wasn’t being seen by the other anglers and I made sure I was off before any anglers returned.

I tried my best to avoid the Barbel I spotted and just concentrated on the Chub. I felt this was my only option of some good fishing. As I said earlier, I have lost all my notes, but looking through my photo’s I had chub into the hundreds. 60 being over 5lb and 14 or 15 over 6lb which was fantastic fun. The biggest being 6.13 all in a period of a month just fishing two hours most evenings.

I was back at work on short days by the end of August, early September. So, I made it my duty to keep a close eye on the big Barbel, watching them slowly get bigger. Moving back to the other stretches, the swimmers had gone and so had nearly all the anglers. I won’t go into too much detail on my barbel fishing as I’m planning to write about this in more detail another time.

I started walking the banks and baiting up particular areas where I had seen some very big fish and then the heavy rain came so I made my move as the conditions were perfect and over four evening sessions, I caught 3 x 6lb Chub and two Barbel and both absolute monsters at 17.1 and 17.3! I then moved to another stretch and carried on catching lots of Barbel.

Then something different for me, ‘river piking’. I’m now back on long days at work, Monday to Thursday and get Fridays off. I normally use Fridays as a trotting day for Chub, however, this year I decided to pike fish in my limited daylight fishing time. I know my local rivers very well but not from a pike anglers’ viewpoint. So, I did miles of leg work and walked stretches after stretches of river trying likely areas. So far, I’m on over 30 pike, the biggest being a 23.1 and hopefully many more to come. I’ve just started using the Gardner Tackle 10ft Continental carp rods which have 40mm butt rings which have turned out to be perfect for pike fishing, especially when spooled up with 30lb Kinetic braided main line.

That’s takes me to where we are now, I’m still catching Barbel which I fish for after work in the dark.

Have a good one
Rob Young