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Oh my god it’s been a looonnnng closed season! It seemed like forever before 16th June came round! The first day of the river season has become so special to me. I used to be a puddle chucker but for the last 5 years or so I’ve fallen in love with the river. Sure I still fish lakes but like many I am particularly fond of my local river, which in my case sees me fishing the River Lea. The last couple of years I’ve tried to do ‘the treble’ on the first day – that is to catch three decent specimens of three different species. Last year I managed it with a specimen Perch, a Barbel and finishing with a stunning Carp on the river in Ware. It’s always a huge challenge and typically involves me in various swims on completely different sections of the river using a range of tactics. Here’s how my opening day went on June 16th 2018 fishing the River Lea.

I woke up at 4am. It was just getting light as I approached a very familiar part of the river. The water was pushing through nicely and it looked really good for a bite! I decided to start the river season targeting one of my favourite species – the perch. It feels good to get the lure rod out after such a long break and I start to drop shot along the far margin.

After only a few casts my EcoGear BugAnt was grabbed by a small perch. Then 10 minutes later another. Unfortunately it then went quiet for the next hour and so I moved around a few swims but without any success. I’ve only a few hours available before I need to head home and to do a few jobs. I eventually go back to the original swim for a few last casts.

river lea perch fishing

A couple of small ones to get the party started!

I decide to do something quite unusual that has worked for me on previous occasions. I mount two heavy 7g dropshots weights to ensure that I’m pinned quite heavily to a single spot on the far margin. I edge up to the trees on the far margin. I use my line clip to get really tight and to prevent me going into the branches and making sure that I get right under them. I then simply keep the dropshot lure in that perfect kill zone. I’m give the lure a reasonable amount of movement but I made sure that I’m allowing it to drop slowly. It’s all about the drop. Don’t over jig the lure. Sure enough after one of the drops the rod hoops over and I’m connected to a decent fish. Immediately the fish rolls near the surface and I can see that it’s exactly what I was after- a big perch! The fish fought really well moving up and down the river at pace. After some powerful lunges I slipped the net under what looks like good 3 pounder.

perch fishing

Above: The first 3 pounder of the season – on the opening day too!!!

perch fishing river lea

3lb 5oz of perch perfection on the opening morning of the season.

After slipping the fish back I decided to extend my morning session, in case a few other decent perch had moved in. About 30 minutes later I get another very powerful hit. It goes completely crazy and I’m obviously connected to something decent but I suspect that it’s not a perch. Suddenly a large brown trout clears the surface of the water by over a foot and then continues to run riot around every inch of the swim. Eventually it’s drawn across the landing net.

river lea brown trout

A decent female brown trout when fishing the River Lea.

It was now definitely time to pack up. I’m sure that brown trout has spooked every fish for a mile or so up and down stream! Time to get on with my jobs and look forward to my late afternoon session later today.

So with my chores completed I hit the river for a couple of hours before the football starts. It’s the World Cup and England are due to kick off in just a few hours. So, as always, I am limited for time and have to make things happen rather quickly. I have two species under my belt and now I want to go for gold with a carp, just like I did last year. It’s a nice warm day and if they’re along the river I should be able to find them. I walked miles up and down the lea in Ware but failed to spot one carp. Unbelievably I don’t spot any at all! Conditions are perfect but without anything to go on I simply cannot fish. I’ve not got time to bait and wait. If I can’t find something to fish for then I need to move on.

world cup 2018

Above: Balancing fishing with football and beer!

So Plan B is to target a chub from the Old Lea loop near Tumbling Bay. I put pellets in about 5 different spots before then fishing them in rotation. I might not get round them all depending on how the first couple of swims fish. I’m quite quickly in swim number 3 before I get my first take. I’m fishing pellets and bread and I’m connected to what is clearly a very good fish. If it’s a chub then it’s a really decent one! Suddenly the rod pings back and I’ve lost whatever had picked up the bait. I cast back out to the same spot straight away – still confused as to exactly what I had just hooked. It just didn’t feel like a chub and I wondered if I’d somehow hooked a pike. Less than a minute later the rod hooped back round again and I’m hooked into what I am sure is the same fish! It feels the same size and is fighting in a similar way. The mystery is solved when a fierce looking brown trout jumps clear of the water. It’s large (even bigger than the one this morning). It’s extremely powerful and after a tough fight I draw it over the net.

fishing the river lea

Another big brownie from the River Lea Loop.

It turned out to be an old friend! I caught this exact same fish from the same spot in winter 18 months previous. It’s a large, fully grown male fish that is absolutely awesome in appearance. Its large head and hook jaw makes it resemble a mean looking salmon. This time round I got even better photographs due to better light levels and a new camera.

fishing the river lea

Above: The very same fish caught in the winter 18 months earlier. 

Last time I caught this fish it was 4 lb 6 oz and this time it looked a bit bigger however I didn’t weigh it. Maybe I should have but I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to catching trout. Catching them on hair rigged pellets doesn’t really feel quite right to me. I want my PB trout to be caught on a fly, on a day when I’m roaming a river targeting trout. Having said that it’s an impressive specimen nevertheless. I hung on for about another hour but I had arranged to meet in the pub to watch the football.

So, I unfortunately failed the treble this year. Somehow I’d caught two specimen trout from completely different parts of the river! I was still really pleased with my result given that I only managed a few hours on the bank. Besides, it was just really good to be out on the river bank again! Every close season I miss the river more and more and it was so good to be near running water again.

fishing the river lea

Thanks for reading my post about the opening day 2018 fishing the River Lea. I hope you had a good one yourself and I hope you all have a fantastic river season.

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