Once you travel north of the Midlands, the west has few large, clean rivers capable of staging big Open matches. The Severn in the medieval town of Shrewsbury is a notable exception. Situated within reasonable driving distance of Wolverhampton and Stoke-on-Trent (around 35 miles in both cases), it has for a long time been a great favourite of pleasure anglers and match anglers from the Midlands and the north-west. The only problem with this characterful, deep venue is that extra water can make fishing difficult. Choosing the right swim is vitally important.
A winter venue
The match length comprises two separate stretches. Pegs 1-44 upstream of Welsh Bridge are known as the ‘County Ground’ and pegs 45-113 below the bridge are known as The Quarry. (Although the stretch in front of the Frankwell car park could be regarded as another section in its own right, it is generally thought of by anglers as a part of the County Ground.)
Pleasure anglers do fish Shrewsbury in the summer, but there are two good reasons why it is a much better winter venue. In peg then he would pick one in an area which had framed in a recent match. In fact, conditions today aren’t ideal for the peg he has chosen but it’s usually a good winter swim and has already produced several good weights this season.
Increased flow The river is quite low for the time of the year and very clear. The first heavy rain usually falls in September or October and, according to Dave, it is after the river has fined down a bit that a peg like 35 fishes well.
From a matchman’s point of view, Dave is interested in roach – simply because they consistently dominate match results – and it’s the extra flow and colour that appear to make the roach respond. However, many swims flow a bit too hard and, often being deep, they can be difficult to tackle.
The beauty of 35 is that upstream – to the left – there’s a sweeping 90° bend. This takes most of the flow over to the far side. As the river straightens out in front of the tea rooms and passes the angler it is still flowing faster on the far side. The middle of the river is much steadier and the inside quite slack, giving the angler a choice of lines to fish.
Smoothness Many pegs at Shrewsbury are very snaggy on the inside and Dave fishes a little farther out than he might on other rivers in order to avoid them. A third to half of the way across is typical. But apart from the odd branch or two on the inside, peg 35 isn’t as bad as some. Flowing over a smooth sandy bottom, the flow is uninterrupted by boils – making it good for the stick.
Deep and long A concrete ramp for launching canoes has been installed on what would be the next peg immediately downstream, so the swim is no longer used in matches. This means that peg 35 is about twice as long as it used to be.
Many swims at Shrewsbury are deep, and at around 5m (16ft) peg 35 is no exception. Though deep swims often hold plenty of fish they can present a problem in that loose feed may not reach the river bed until it has travelled almost out of the angler’s swim – taking the fish with it. But because peg 35 is so long there is no worry on this score. Of course there’s the further advantage of simply having more water to explore and – everyone hopes – more fish to catch!
A mixed bag
Dave says that Shrewsbury has never been a massive-weight venue. A bag of 15-20 lb (6.8-9kg) would probably put you in the frame, if not win the match. The bag may be made up of a variety of species. Roach are the ‘bread and butter’ species and a catch offpeg 35 would mostly be made up of 3-10oz (85-280g) fish. One pounders (0.45kg) are fairly common but when there’s extra colour – late in the season -you sometimes catch two pounders (0.9kg). Perch aren’t a major consideration but the 1990-1991 season saw something of a resurgence of this species. Fish caught tended to be around the 1lb (0.45kg) mark. Chub at Shrewsbury are notoriously big and seem to start at around ¾-4 lb (1.6-1.8kg)! They can go to 6 lb (2.7kg) and could turn up anywhere.
Barbel are another bonus species and although pegs around the suspension footbridge are favourite, individuals can be caught anywhere in front of the car park and as far as slightly upstream of The Veranda. Dave caught a 9 lb 6oz (4.25kg) fish from peg 38 – in front of the car park. Dace aren’t prolific on peg 35 since the water is too deep and slow for them. Dave says that if he was after a good net of dace he’d head for the livelier, shallower pegs (in the mid 20s) upstream — opposite the concrete wall.
Pike are spread throughout the venue and, considering their numbers, Dave finds it odd that you see so few people pleasure fishing for them. He recalls an occasion when one angler had been so plagued by pike during a match that he stayed on afterwards and finished the day with a 31 lb (14kg) fish.
If you prefer to sit it out and wait for big fish rather than work for a mixed bag, Dave recommends pegs 41,42, and 43 around either side of the suspension footbridge. You can actually loosefeed a carpet of hemp very accurately from the bridge itself! Luncheon meat fished on heavy tackle should give you a good chance of contacting one of those large barbel or a big chub.