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Big Fish Column: Things can only get better for anglers after opening day


I can remember most of the opening days that I have fished over the years but three of them stand out above all others.

The first of them was back in the days when a close season was enforced on the stillwaters as well as on the rivers – remember that?

I had been pre-baiting a swim on one of the Twyford gravel pits for weeks and arrived on the evening of the 15th to find my chosen swim alive with tench. There were tench rolling and fizzing everywhere, the entire small bay I had chosen to fish was just alive with fish. I had hit the big time and was going to empty it!

The tench kept rolling and thrashing and bubbling for the next 48 hours and I sat amongst them with my float dithering and dipping as fish hit against it and my indicators jigging and dancing all night as the tench battered my lines – but I never had a single bite.

It was the first time I had seen tench spawn in such huge numbers and I was right, smack bang, in the middle of it. Tench everywhere but not a chance of catching one. Of course, these days we all know that tench fishing – at least for the biggest fish – is all over by June and May is the month to target them but back then the glorious 16th was the first opportunity we had, and I had been ‘done’ by a couple of days.



The second occasion was essentially similar in that I had been baiting a tench swim for a month before the off, albeit this time on one of the Marlow gravel pits. I arrived at first light to find something that was, in my mind at least, a lot worse than spawning tench – there was somebody else already set up in ‘my’ swim!

It was totally heart breaking, all the effort to get to the pit every day, all the lovingly made groundbait and boilies, all the sweetcorn and hemp I had prepared – and someone else was going to take advantage of it.

I approached the chap hesitantly and bade him a ‘happy 16th’ through gritted teeth, he replied saying that he thought he was in for a good day as he had been baiting the swim for over a month…

To cut a long story short we ended up laughing, sharing the swim, catching lots of great tench and, some 30 years later, are still best mates.



The third occasion was a barbel session on the River Kennet. I had been trickling a little bait in during the run-in to the start, not concentrating on any one area just getting the fish used to a flavour and a new bait and come the off I was confident the fish were feeding on it.

The week before the start the weather began to warm up and by opening weekend it was a real scorcher with air temperatures in the 30s and a water temperature above 20 Centigrade.

Arriving on the evening of the 15th I set up below a weir as I thought it might offer the best chance of a bite in a heatwave as it offered well-mixed, oxygenated water. I sat there in the sun for two days without so much as a single pull on my quiver tip and returned home with sunstroke and no barbel – as indeed did almost everyone who wet a line that weekend.



I mention these mostly disastrous opening days because this year’s opening weekend was essentially the same for most anglers who made the effort to get out on the rivers – it was a killer!

The hottest weekend of the year to date brought with it: bright sunshine, high water temperatures, low oxygen concentrations, weekend admirals, children paddling, dogs swimming, riverside picnics and barbecues, floating discos, skinny dippers, canoeists – and no fish!

Things, as they say, can only get better.

Any anglers wishing to report catches may contact me at


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