NORMALLY I wait until the packed banks and general madness of the new river season have subsided before I dust off my waders and go in search of chub and barbel.
But Angling Times editor Steve Fitzpatrick had offered me his camera skills for an afternoon and promised to reveal one of his favourite swims on the Nene, so how could I refuse? After all, he is the boss!
More to the point was that I was packing one of Shimano’s new budget-priced three-piece Aero X1 13ft Float rods. And if it turned out to be even half as good as its Pellet Waggler stablemate that I threw around to great effect at Decoy Lakes a few weeks ago, I’d be happy.
Anyway, heading out from the Angling Times HQ, Steve led me to his ‘nudge-nudge, wink-wink’ secret spot. Talk about clandestine – I was half expecting to be blindfolded and led along the riverbank.
I thought Steve had broken down or run out of fuel when he pulled off the A1 and signalled me to stop not long after we’d set off. But no, apparently we were here.
Now, these days I do most of my river fishing on the Trent – it’s close to my Lincolnshire home, but that’s not why I like it so much.
I’m an Oxfordshire lad by birth, and my running water career began on small tributary rivers – the Evenlode, Cherwell and Windrush – before moving on, as indeed they do, to Old Father Thames. Anywhere from the upper reaches around Lechlade to the wider expanse of river at Reading Prom was my stamping ground, and the beautiful open meadows of Medley were my particular favourite.
The river here meanders gracefully towards Oxford’s dreaming spires, and the ghosts of angling’s great and good no doubt still stroll its pristine gravel banks.
Or at least they did until their peace was shattered by the nightmare spectacle of neoprene-clad free swimmers thrashing around. Medley has always coped with university rowing crews and an ever-growing flotilla of holiday cruisers. Anglers and boats have somehow managed to co-exist on this stretch for donkey’s years, although things are getting ever-more crowded.
Now, I’m sure that David Walliams swimming the Thames for charity was a great experience for him and others, but the knock-on effect has been a nightmare. Do these wet suited wannabes have any idea how dangerous it is to swim around boats? And don’t get me started on paddle boarders!
Unfortunately, the Nene on the day turned out to be invaded by the same neoprene nutters and assorted flotilla of river crafts that blight the Thames.
But, surprisingly, a few fish were still prepared to feed and so it proved a decent enough test bed for the Shimano Aero Float rod on test.
The ‘secret swim’ was, as you can see, very close to a bridge, which can pose problems with people chucking stuff, and themselves, over the parapet. Happily not today, although the swim itself proved quite challenging. Where the Nene narrowed by the bridge the current had gouged out the bottom, making the water very deep for such a small river.
Plumbing around, I found a slightly more manageable 12ft where I fed in a few heavy balls of groundbait carrying dead reds, casters, hemp and finely-chopped worm.
The result was instant – bleak, bleak and more bloomin’ bleak! Eventually, though, by dint of using a 3g Bolo float and a whole worm as hookbait, the rig made it down to the riverbed.
Over-shotting the float meant that I could hold it back without it riding up in the current, so I paused the rig where I felt the groundbait feed had hit the bottom. Sure enough, the float shot under and the first of several decent perch was mine.
The 13ft Aero X1 rod coped admirably with both the difficult depth and the weight of the rig, and when I allowed the float to run a little further downstream it had enough zip in the tip to whip the line from the water’s surface at the speed of a striking mamba. The action is on the tippy side of progressive, which for my money is ideal for a 13ft float rod which is expected to cast light sticks or wagglers up to around 10g.
I have no doubt that there was enough mid-section backbone to cope with chub or barbel, but these fish were apparently and unsurprisingly holidaying elsewhere.
To trot a float successfully you are constantly casting and mending the line, so the rod needs to feel comfy and light in the hand, otherwise wrist fatigue can set in.
Lighter rods tend to be built from better quality carbon, which is why many of them command such a high price. Well, I have to tell you, this beauty from Shimano will give you all you need from a 13ft float rod, at a steal of a price.
It’s as good as, if not better than, others I have used costing three times as much.
Price: £59.99, fish.shimano-eu.com