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Running Waters

Our stretches of the Blackwater are as follows:

Upstream of the car park at Station Road Wickham Bishops (through the farm gate on the other side of the road) upstream for about 1/4 mile, passing under the trestle bridge and as far as the golf course (there is a small pool at the point where our stretch ends).

Downstream from the car park, again about 1/4 mile, to the double bend at the end of the meadow. The Wickham Hall stretch starts here, but access to it from the meadow is blocked(ish), so most anglers will access the stretch from the Wickham Hall car park.

From the Wickham Hall car park (signposted), walk down the track to the river.  IMPORTANT – for the 2011/12 season onwards our access route has been revised, please refer to the following Wickham Hall Farm River Revised Access Map. You are roughly in the middle of the stretch when you arrive at the river. Upstream it extends for about 3/4 mile to meet the stretch above. Downstream is about 1/2 mile and ends at a right hand bend where there is a dead tree on our bank. A deepish ditch runs in by the tree and the river widens slightly thereafter.

No other club has access and we don’t do day tickets on the river.

Angling trends in recent years have shown a decline in the number of people fishing in rivers and canals. Heavily stocked, easily accessible still waters have an obvious attraction but the fishing offered on MAS running water fisheries has much to offer in terms of both fishing quality and the natural beauty of the environment. 

River Blackwater 

I am an enthusiastic chub angler and the most effective way I know to catch them is to roam over a long stretch of river, trying a number of likely spots. The MAS stretch of the river Blackwater is well suited to this style of fishing, offering some two miles of uninterrupted bank with undercut bends, overhanging branches and the sort of floating mats beneath which chub seem to love to lie. Depths vary from a few inches over fast gravel runs to about 7 feet on some of the bends.

In summer, the banks abound with nettles and you may have to clear them for a swim, but they offer cover for the stalking angler. In winter, the river is much more exposed but the lack of cover makes a cautious approach essential.

For most of the season the river runs low and clear. I know that conventional wisdom says that rivers fish best when fining down after rain, but most of my fish have been taken in low and clear conditions (including my best effort of 7 fish between 3.5 and 4.5 lbs, taken at the end of February).

For methods, I will always try either freelining or a very light ledger first, with a large lump of bread flake, as this seems to select the larger fish. Maggots I find will produce dace and the smaller chub. I never seem to have much success with worms, but I know that others have. I have tried stick float fishing on occasion, but the widely varying depths make suitable swims rather rare.

It’s often worth trying a floating bait as the chub will come up to the top in bright conditions, or in the evenings.

The 2007 Environment Agency survey result for the Blackwater list species present as chub, bream, dace, gudgeon, perch, pike, roach and rudd.

A 3lb+ chub landed by Kelvin Willis from our new stretch of the River Blackwater.

Chelmer and Blackwater Canal 

This superb fishery offers around 12 miles of varied sport for both novice and experienced anglers, extending from the gasworks in Chelmsford to Heybridge. It is the only MAS river fishing on which day tickets can be obtained and is shared with Chelmsford AA and Kelvedon DAA.

The towpath running along its length (though changing sides here and there) is a well-maintained footpath which offers easy access to the whole fishery. There is a down side, of course and the canal is popular with walkers, cyclists and boaters. There are relatively few parking places, unfortunately, with the main areas being Hoe Mill, Paper Mill and Boreham Bridge. Most anglers seem to congregate where there is parking, but for those prepared to walk a couple of hundred yards quiet spots are easy to find.

The canal does seem to fish better after rain when the colour improves (although flow remains fairly constant when not in actual flood). 

The canal lends itself to float fishing – it is more open than the river and has much more uniform depth and I see many anglers using the pole (watch out for cyclists on the towpath behind you!). Indeed for the matchmen this seems a universal method.

Ledgering works too – especially casting to far bank overhangs for the chub.
Maggots will tempt most species, of course, with better roach falling to sweetcorn.
I’m also told that a worm/corn cocktail will take the larger perch.
The canal has a large head of pike and spinning is a popular method. 

The Environment Agency survey fish populations on the canal. This is done every three years and offers invaluable data regarding trends. It shows that the fishery is in good health and has maintained its improvement since the survey began in 1986. In particular tench perch and pike have increased in weight and numbers, as have chub. The lower reaches are excellent for chub and dace with the upper stretches good for roach. Carp were noted at the A12 Bridge, as well as a large shoal of bream. The only species showing a decline is dace (though plenty are still being caught). 

We are sometimes asked why the Chelmer and Blackwater Canal is subject to the same close season as rivers, when other canals are not. Close seasons are imposed on us by the Environment Agency, who characterise the Chelmer and Blackwater as a “canalised river”, rather than a true canal and therefore apply river rules. 

I will be happy to respond via the web site to specific queries. 

Tight Lines 


River Blackwater Photos