The River Wey wends through Guildford and on to Weybridge and eventually, the Thames. Several stretches around Guildford are impassable to boats, and to accommodate the volume of river traffic, the Wey Navigation Canal was built to connect navigable lengths.
One such stretch of river and canal is at Bower’s Lock near Burpham, on the north east edge of Guildford. The river holds big chub and roach as well as smaller fish, and the canal has a good head of small roach, bleak and gudgeon, a few decent roach and a number of chub to about 2 lb (0.9kg).
Cheerful words from Les Hammond greet us on the river bank. ‘The river’s out of sorts. It’s running like a train and there’s too much colour.’ It seems the Wey can be difficult when it’s running hard, even when it’s well within its banks. However, there are plenty of swims on both river and canal that fish well in most conditions, and some that fish better when the river is in flood.
The canal ‘Well, you can see why the chub like it here, can’t you?’ Every peg along this stretch of the canal is a feature peg, with trees and bushes lining the far bank. Small bays and cutbacks a couple of metres (6 ½ -7ft) across are also common along the far bank.
This part of the canal stretches just over a quarter of a mile from Bower’s Lock, to rejoin the river just above a weir. Upstream of the weir the far bank cover disappears, making it less attractive to the chub.
Back on the canal, there’s about 45-60cm (¼-2ft) of water on the near and far bank shelves, which reach l-2m (3-7ft) out from the banks. At the end of the shelves there is a gentle drop-off to some 1.2-1.5m (4-5ft) in the central channel.
On the near shelf you can expect plenty of gudgeon, small roach and bleak. In fact you can catch these right across the canal, but close to the far bank you are really hoping for better fish.
On the far shelf you can catch bigger roach and chub to around 2 lb (0.9kg). They feed in the shallows or just on the drop-off, so you need to fish tight in to the overhanging branches if you want to catch.
They tend to patrol along these marginal shelves, so while there won’t be chub in every peg, it’s quite likely that most receive a visit at some time during the day. That’s why it’s essential to keep feed going in. Chub don’t patrol with their noses down, so they may not spot feed on the bottom, but they won’t miss a steady trickle of loosefeed.
Watch out for swims where the tree branches hang over the middle of the canal. They can make casting a waggler fairly difficult. A few sad floats caught up in the branches testify to how easy it is to do this.
The River Wey
The river is up and coloured, but at least the level is dropping. Since this morning it has fallen about 15cm (6in). It holds a good head of chub and roach to specimen size, pike to low double figures, some good-sized dace, a few small perch, minnows and gudgeon. There are a number of swims which are likely to produce when the level is high. The first of these is the pool below Bower’s Lock where the canal joins the river. When the lock is closed (as it is most of the time) there is little or no flow in this pool, since it is set back slightly from the main river. The slacker water makes it a good place to look for roach, gudgeon and bleak sheltering from the flow when the river is in flood. A chub is on the cards too. There’s about 0.9m (3ft) of water just off the canalized (private) bank on the right of the lock gate as you walk down to the river from the canal. You can fish the slack from the bank on the left of the lock. The bed slopes, giving about 1.5m (5ft) in the middle of the river. The river begins to shallow up gradually towards the far bank, opposite the lock gate, until it slopes gently into the bank. There is also slack water close in on this side, which is excellent for bits, and you may find chub in the main flow. There’s a superb chub swim about 50m (55yd) downstream of the lock. A mill stream (which is very slow flowing) joins at this point, producing a wider area of perhaps some 30m (33yd) just downstream of the junction. There is an area of slack water where they join and this is excellent for chub and better roach. The slack water at the junction houses an extensive weed bed in the summer and autumn and there are usually a good number of fish holed up in the weed. You can catch them in and just off the weed bed. Branches and other snags in and around the weed bed in the slack water mean that this swim also produces in winter after the weed has died down.
The depth in the middle of the river is about 1.5m (5ft), shallowing up to about 45cm (lM-ft) at both banks. There is slack water for the first 3-4m (10-13ft) out from the tree-lined far bank, making it a natural chub haunt. The chub, dace and roach can feed anywhere from tight up to the far bank to the edge of the flow, so it’s a question of the finding the best place on the day. The near bank is clear of all obstructions and the nearside marginal shallows are home to numerous gudgeon and minnows in the summer, though the minnows all but disappear during the colder months.
The River Wey at Bower’s Meadow is an attractive venue, offering good fishing in most conditions. In good conditions the river with its extensive far bank cover, weed beds and the junction with the dead arm, provides plenty of features which attract and hold good roach and chub.
If the level is up, as it was on the day Les visited it, you have a number of options. You can fish the canal for the small fish and better chub, try one of the slack water swims on the river, or fish a lobworm in the main flow for one or two bites, but bites which might produce a really good chub.
Les and some friends fished the canal and river to show what it is capable of, even in flood. The canal produced some small roach, bleak and gudgeon, but no chub. Club bailiff, Nick Rhodes, found a shoal of feeding roach on the river in the pool below Bower’s Lock, and Gary Dallimore found chub, dace and roach just downstream of the mill stream, on the far bank.