September & October Report 2019

September is usually the month when the all round quality of coarse fishing across the country picks up.  The cooler weather encourages fish to be more opportunistic and depending on species they either break shoal or shoal up, migrating to their winter lies such as deeper water or more concentrated bankside cover as the leaves fall. It’s a time when trotting allows you to really get amongst the chub and the silvers. The larger barbel go on the feed too.

What we experienced early in the month though was a low and clear river with some saying it was the lowest they’d ever seen for the time of year. It wasn’t as low as it can be in summer of course, but we did need rain. These conditions, coupled with warm daytime temperatures and bright sun, were like an extension of summer, ultimately making fishing a little tough with most barbel and chub breaking cover only to be caught early and late in the day.

The theory is high pressure is never very good for fishing as although it’s warm during the day, the nights are clear and cold. Warm days, cold nights, no wind - beautiful but so often fruitless whatever you’re fishing for! This said, catches were reported up and down the river in September, although they were also frustratingly inconsistent. Still, just about every stretch produced fish at some point. The Creel was the only real flyer of a fishery though, with numerous double figure catches of barbel – 15, 18, 25, 29, 35 reported in a day – that’s some going whatever the conditions.  Why the Creel stood out during this tricky time? Who knows?!

On the 10th September we had the first decent rainfall since early summer and as a result the fishing improved notably. Before that could happen though we had to get the first flood for a while out the way. This will always be carrying debris that’s built up in the slacks and eddies over the summer – the rising levels teasing such items as clumps of weed and still-leaf-laden branches out into the main flow. This is very tough to fish through, as was experienced by all but a handful of anglers. If you could keep a feeder in for more than a couple of minutes you were doing well! Some gave up altogether, finding it impossible to keep a line in the water for more than a few seconds without the lead or feeder dragging either off the feed line or, worse into a snag. Many cut their day short and headed home – yes that’s how bad it was!

M. Y. from Lydney 

Thursday 12 September 2019 (1 month ago)

Area:Middle Wye

Beat:Fownhope 5


No. of Anglers:1

Fished by the hut, was very enjoyable and productive, lost a big fish ( no I really mean it !!!!) but caught a wonderful barbel and a couple of chub and an eel. Had to stop around 1600 as the river turned into a motorway for branches, tree stumps, logs and meadows. Ten seconds after a cast my rod was being pulled into the river........A shame really.

Off the back of this flush-through there were some excellent captures, with regular TS from Malton the pick of the bunch. What’s interesting from this angler is the comment about a fairly fruitless session almost exactly a month before. It’s worth noting that just because a swim or fishery doesn’t produce one day, doesn’t mean it won’t the next. It also shows just how good the conditions really were during this flood.

T. S. from Malton 

Wednesday 11 September 2019 (1 month ago)

Area:Lower Wye

Beat:Middle Hill Court


No. of Anglers:2

We both had a great day on this fantastic part of the Wye ,a slight rise in river levels overnight made conditions ideal ,fished towards the top end of the beat from early afternoon onwards, occasional fish to start with but towards late afternoon the fishing improved ,fished with swimfeeders and 8 mm pellet hookbait ,lots of hemp and 4 mm pellets in feeder.Most of the Barbel were around 6-8 lbs with a few going up to around 9 lbs. Looking forward to returning to this beat. Worth noting the fact that I fished the same peg around a month ago and only caught 1 Barbel all day.

26 Barbel, 20 Chub

Other notable captures around that time were several chub just short of 6lbs, all caught as the light was fading. These will surely go over the magical 6lb mark come winter. There was a 20lb carp caught at Caradoc – some beast that. The Wye has always thrown up the odd river carp, with some anglers targeting them specifically. I tell myself I don’t have enough fishing time for them, despite the will to enter in to what’s probably one of the last pioneering adventures on this river. I’m usually a glass half full kind of angler, but the thought of river carp instantly has me thinking I need to pre-bait for weeks or months, or even years! You probably need to be there for hours on end without a rod in hand, watching the water for signs of their presence, likely enduring many a blank or without even getting the rods out at all! Actually, it sounds great now I write about it – maybe next summer…

The biggest carp I know of over the last few years is a 35lb common caught from Hereford, a surprisingly pristine beast caught on float gear I seem to remember - correct me if I’m wrong. Whatever, there’s a few other leviathans fighting the flow out there somewhere no doubt. They are well worth targeting but wow, there’s a lot of river to cover!

I had an interesting chat with a customer in the shop recently. We have both fished the Wye year in year out for many years in a similar style of adapting to the wide variety of conditions, changing species and tactics accordingly. This angler remarked on how many barbel he’d caught on bread this season - having only 5 or 6 in the previous ten years or so, he’d caught 8 or 9 this summer! Certainly barbel feeding habits have changed on the Wye, and although on reflection it’s got trickier over the last couple of seasons, this summer has really highlighted a change with meat (or worm where allowed) being the only bait they’ll take after ignoring pellets, and sometimes vice versa. Some days it’s only corn, some days only small pellets, some days only large, and some days only red pellet (Robin Red) as opposed to brown (halibut). What’s most noticeable is what have been notorious banker swims in previous years have proven dead to a static bait, sometimes for days on end, only then to produce several fish to a trundled piece of meat, and as many as 20 barbel to float tactics. Are they wising up to angling pressure? Are there less barbel and so more natural food to go around, the change in biomass meaning they’re not as eager for a static pellet? I doubt either going by historic catches on other rivers around the country, most with fewer and more pressured barbel than the Wye. I haven’t yet come up with a convincing theory as to why, but there’s definitely a change.

By the 20th September it had become hot again. This was our Indian Summer and a stunning time of year. I knew to soak it up because things can, and often do change so quickly. And that they did with big rains arriving on the 25th. There was again a flush through of flotsam and jetsam, but this time it brought with it some of the best fishing of the season. Stretches that had struggled all summer suddenly came back on the radar. This was exactly what we needed to turn a relatively slow season into a more typical one, with several fisheries producing 20+ barbel in a day. Contrary to the more dreary “angling professionals” who think we’re all doomed and that the chub and barbel have all been eaten by otters or poisoned by the now ubiquitous algal blooms, the anglers actually out there doing it proved there’s still plenty of fish.

The catches were also contrary to my earlier observations and not all falling to moving baits too, with most being caught on feeder and pellet. Match reports from Hereford were of barbel coming from places they never have, with fish of all sizes from 8oz upwards. The great news for the future is that recruitment is clear.

What I’ve continued to take on board this year though is to make hay while the sun shines and continuing to think the way I expressed in my Fishing Passport article - make the most of things now as nothing lasts forever. The more angling experience I get the more I understand stock levels of different species is quite transient. I’m encouraging a mindset to not rest on laurels and think that any current prolific fishing will go on and on forever. We’re seeing a wider acknowledgement, outside of fishing, that it’s all too common to leave things too late when it comes to the environment.

The turn of the month saw big flood conditions and a proper spate of 4.7m. This gave some great fishing to those who could get near the bank – SC from Leeds reporting 39 barbel from one slack at Whitehouse. There may not have been the debris of September floods, but still many anglers waved the white flag and retreated to the pub. Although this is somewhat disappointing, it was good to hear of anglers acknowledging the banks as too dangerous to fish – it’s a dangerous river, and no fish is worth a dunking in a flood.

Again during this flood, stretches that had been unproductive came to life. Warm water really does kick barbel into feeding, and if you want to be as guaranteed as you can be in catching one, then this is the time.

My monthly report wouldn’t be the same without responding to reports of overgrown swims. Even when the banks were brimming anglers still believed that no work had been done on many fisheries. It seemed not to occur to them that the swims were underwater! Also work is not carried out just to cater for the several days a year that the river is in huge flood.  The swims would overgrow within a week, which of course is what happens on most stretches all summer anyway.

Overall anglers are simply just not looking hard enough in my opinion. I have lost count of the number of complaints that I’ve attended to, only to show anglers one swim after the other, or how you don’t have to fish right at the water’s edge surrounded by a van’s worth of tackle. There’s swathes of river bank covered in willows yes, but this is because you’d be fishing into 6” of water, or into a snag, or basically where the only fish that live there are minnows. This is not the fishery’s fault, or WUF’s, it’s just the nature of the river Wye – hundreds of yards of the river are simply not conducive to good fishing. Over the years we have put dozens of swims in these areas up and down the river, only for them to become overgrown very quickly through under-use because they are unproductive. It’s simple really! As for the lower end of Middle Hill Court – I think there’s nothing wrong with it, and will set out to make a video to prove it. There’s one big pool – the Rope Pool – all this needs is the 3 swims it has! One angler proved this when the banks were spilling over, by going ahead and catching 24 barbel!

The end of October is usually good trotting time, I know this because I always fish on my birthday, and nearly always with a float rod.  This year, however, the river was cold and high, with overnight temperatures all but killing sport with frosty run off from the fields.

Unless you’ve been living on the moon you’ll know of the record floods we experienced at the end of the month. I have seen it higher but it still caused some serious disruption at 4.8m on the Ross gauge – a whopping 6.9m at Hereford. I always wonder how the fish manage what they have to endure on the Wye. Well, 2 anglers made it out at Lower Hill Court to show us - fishing in 2 feet of water in a winter wheat field, 100 yards from the main channel, they proceeded to catch 10 chub to well over 5lbs. Were they mad, or just very, very keen?

What these floods do do though is make the drought of 2018 a distant memory – all that fuss and bickering on who should be closing what, and who shouldn’t be fishing etc.

Looking forward I’m aiming for the next report in the New Year, probably with a round up before the last couple of weeks of the season. Until then, look out for another warm flood before it all gets cold and the barbel switch off. When they do I’ll be waiting with a strong 10ft rod, and a handful of sardines ready to drop into a likely looking slack. What will the pike fishing be like this winter I wonder?

Stay safe – following the floods the banks will be treacherous. Good footwear is essential, and try to fish in pairs. If not I strongly suggest you invest in a life jacket.

Whatever you’re fishing for I wish you good luck and I hope you enjoy.


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