This report comes to you after 3 months without one. My apologies for that, but we were just so busy in the shop during August and September. Despite best intentions, time slipped away and we decided to roll over to the following month. Before I knew it we were half way through October and now November! Wow time does know how to fly.

It’s been an interesting year for obvious reasons, not just within society but in the river environment too, particularly the lack of ranunculus weed this year. I think it really has affected fish behaviour in the form of things such as feeding patterns. There has still been some of the more familiar patterns, such as the fishing slowing down in low, clear conditions, then coming alive on a warm flood, the bigger specimens showing up in October, etc. Compiling this report over a 3 month period has been an opportunity to really see the changes over a longer period, instead of month by month. This has been interesting for different reasons, and although it’s not something we intend to do going forward, it’s had its positives.

The same section of the Wye this year compared to last year (above right). The ranunculus completely disappeared this year, something that was witnessed in many other places along the middle and lower reaches.

August was largely a picture of a low and clear river with lots of chub being caught. The best of the barbel fishing was early and late, and interestingly it seemed more anglers were float fishing during the day, then static fishing in the evening. This is something I’ve encouraged before many times, but it was great to hear the feedback from anglers actually putting it into practice. During the hot conditions that we experienced in August, anglers were reporting how being out in the water wading was a great way to cool down. Anglers were reporting 13, 14 and 15 barbel on the float with as many chub throughout the day, so it’s not just me saying it!

This is a great result of course, but not one that should be ‘expected’. However, I’m not sure what the expectations are for some anglers. One report came in as a “very tough day on the Wye”, yet they caught 4 barbel to 8lb 6oz and 13 chub - not sure what’s tough about that but this sort of feedback is surely a bit unhelpful for new or inexperienced Wye anglers.

During the middle of the month things got hot, very hot, with huge thunderstorms. We don’t get enough of these weather events for my liking as the power of mother nature fascinates me. However, the rain the storms they brought were not so fun. The first few days there was a small rise, the best fishing still confined to early and late. Some described this as the fishing never “really getting going”, despite catching 7 barbel and 5 chub…

Around the middle of the month we experienced Hurricane Francis, which brought gale force winds and heavy rain. It was that fierce that some anglers left the river in fear. I hope this was wanting to avoid poor driving conditions than the possibility of a tsunami style flood at any second. The Wye can rise quickly sometimes but not that fast!

Eventually this rain brought 6 to 8 foot of flood water, and being the first flood after the summer it was, as always, full of all sorts of debris. There were lots of reports of anglers arriving at the river and it just not looking good and understandably so. However, their days often ended as red letter with the highlight being two reports of 20 barbel caught by individuals in a day. The flood hung around and it only took the odd shower to lift the levels once again.

This was the story right up and into the start of September. Now I’ve always said I prefer a fining down Wye, but in the last couple of years I’ve found the fining down side of a flood actually less productive than the rise. The early part of September reassured me though as the first week threw up good fishing on just about every fishery, and it also backed up years of advice that September is probably the best fishing month. The Creel returned 23 barbel and 40 chub, How Caple Court 44 barbel, Home Fishery 10, Middle Ballingham 18, Middle Hill Court 22, Wyebank 21, Sugwas Court 18. Some great numbers of barbel after an iffy season. Unfortunately the fishing slowed as quickly as it came, and as the river fined down we ended up with a very low and very clear river. With cold nights and warm days, this is about as bad conditions as possible. By the end of the month anglers reported the river as low as they’ve ever seen it, so that gives you some idea of where we were at – September then, despite a few days of excellent fishing, was a very, very quiet month.

October is a month when the bigger barbel usually start to show, but this year we needed to get the low and clear conditions out of the way first. There was some heavy rain around eventually, and when the river rose the fishing kicked off. There was a lot of debris again but the fishing was so good that anglers’ lines weren’t getting a chance to be wiped out by the debris before they had a bite. The river rose and fell intermittently for a few days and just about everywhere fished well, with the larger fish showing just as predicted - Lower Canon Bridge returned an 11. 3, Middle Hill Court a 10.4 and an 11.6, Fownhope 5 an 11.4, The Creel an 11.9, Middle Ballingham a 10.11, Holme Lacy 4 an 11.8.

On the 10th October it went cold and the rain was cold too.  Although the river looked good, the fishing was definitely slow – myself and two others as good as blanked over two days. Not deterred by this I changed my approach a few days later and went over to maggot feeder – the results were instant and 6 barbel later I was kicking myself for not ringing the changes sooner. The river rose again though, and it was warm. This time I went back to the groundbait feeder but the results over 4 consecutive days show how tricky it can be to get it right – on day 1 I had a barbel and a chub, day 2 7 barbel, day 3 6 barbel and on day 4 I blanked! All in the same swim and pretty identical conditions each day. I wish I could tell you what changed but I can’t, and it’s got me scratching my head still now. In the second half of the month the fishing really slowed and many anglers only had one or two barbel if any at all. This it seemed was the start of the winter barbel fishing, when unless we have a warm flood it’s really only the odd fish you’re fishing for.

The salmon season ended brilliantly, after a very slow start, so it wasn’t just coarse fishing that experienced the patchy season. Up to the end of August, the Wye was on 339 salmon for the season but luckily, with the good water levels and some fish around to catch, in September and October another 265 were added, most from the upper river. This gives us a Wye salmon catch of 604 with still a few beats to register their catches, a disappointing total perhaps but certainly much better than 2019 and maybe unsurprising considering all the interruptions to this year’s fishing calendar.

I always fish around my birthday, and with a good mate we moved around a fair bit over 3 days. We didn’t catch many fish but the changing colours in the leaves and plenty of banter made it as good a birthday as I can remember - thanks Rich if you’re reading this. There were a couple of cracking fish caught and the photos speak for themselves. Right up to the end of the month the weather remained mild, and actually catches picked up a touch, only to 3 or 4 barbel on average per day but still it was an improvement.

November is when the pike fishing should start, and the targeted chub fishing, but it needs to go really cold to shut the barbel off entirely. As the month turns my barbel rods are still out and with reports of 10+ barbel in a day to some anglers, then there’s still plenty to go at.

If pike is your thing, please take a look at the following film from Fishing Wales. Dreams do still come true even if the pike fishing is not quite what it once was…

The one thing I would urge you all to do is take what you read with a pinch of salt. There’s always all sorts of bullying and poisonous comment on social media, but when it reaches the feedback on The Fishing Passport website then it’s here we can comment and counter some of the more vexatious claims. An angler fishing Foy left a report of “No water, no fish, waste of time. Avoid – go elsewhere.” Now whilst everyone’s entitled to their opinion, this sort of feedback must be ignored. I’ve been fortunate enough to work on numerous magazine and TV features, where catching fish is a must otherwise there’s no content. I can tell you now, if I had to pick one spot on the whole river where I could be guaranteed chub and silvers on the float it would be Foy Bridge. Yes it’s a short fishery, yes it’s tough to fish in high water, but it is rammed with fish and if approached correctly then there’s plenty of barbel too. What’s more, this fishery has likely been in the owner’s family for generations, and for an angler to turn up and suggest that everyone should avoid it and go elsewhere is potentially quite insulting. Opinion is one thing, damaging comment is another. Hey look, this is not a rant, this is a just a plea not to believe everything you read or hear, especially when it has a negative spin. Whenever you see such a report (or perhaps even an over the top positive one), it’s always worth scrolling back through a few other returns. This will nearly always give you a much truer reflection of the fishery.

Thanks again for your patience in the lateness of this report, and please don’t be put off by the lack of one for a while – your feedback is fascinating and we read each and every report you put in. Yes, I’ve been out fishing a lot, but we really were taken by surprise with how busy things got this year. Your feedback is essential information to keeping the Passport and the work of the Foundation going, and conveying back to the owners on how their fishery is doing, so please do keep the reports coming in.

Good luck for the rest of the autumn, and get out there before it gets too cold if you’re after a barbel. Beats have started to open for bookings in 2021, and with the Wye being the premier coarse fishing river in the UK, meaning so much to so many, venues will get booked up quickly (have a look at the below film for an insight into what it means to me). Hopefully things will be back to some sort of normality soon, but what’s always reassuring is the fish don’t know what’s going on, and they’ll be waiting and hungry for sure.


Adam Fisher is a coarse and game fishing instructor and guide with a wealth of experience fishing the Wye. He also writes for magazines such as 'Improve Your Coarse Fishing.' For more information can be found here.

Please note that the views within this report are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of the Wye & Usk Foundation.