Angling at Radnor Gardens on the tidal Thames

The heavy knock of hardwood echoes through the gardens as wood hits jack -propelled along a crew-cut green by elderly folk in lightweight fawn blazers. Beyond the green’s low hedge a strip of lawn slopes past a pagoda, through colourful flowerbeds down to a riverside path. At the downstream end of the path a fence separates the gardens from a convent school, and a large willow tree overhangs the River Thames.

Radnor Gardens has its fair share of joggers and dog walkers but never seems to be too crowded with visitors. It’s a pleasant spot to fish, with enjoyable scenery and views of the river. On the other hand, in summer the river heaves with boat traffic. It can be so heavy during the day that it becomes virtually impossible to fish. You can still have good sport though, if you restrict your fishing to the early morning and evening—or if you’re prepared to fish in the winter season. Bill Rushmer certainly is prepared to, because he knows he has a good chance of building up a bag of bream, with one or two decent carp and the possibility of a number of tidal Thames species turning up for good measure.

Holiday season

There is access to the river along the edge of the gardens from the moored boats down to a fence which marks the end of the fishery. Any point along the bank has possibilities, but without doubt the lower end or downstream section has the best potential. It’s an interesting swim overlooking Twickenham Deeps with Eel Pie Island clearly visible in the distance. ‘A lot depends on the clarity of the water, but if you get the feeder out right on top of the bream and get them feeding- especially on bread -you can have fine catches,’ says Bill. Cabbage patch Close in to the bank a luscious growth of weed, often referred to as cabbage, offers good cover for predators such as pike and perch — as they wait to ambush their prey.

In this jungle perch run to well over 2Y2h (1.1kg), while there are many double figure pike in the area. It’s always worth trying a livebait, deadbait or spinning for these fish since the rewards can be superb. Bill holds the record for the largest Thames pike — a broad-headed brute of 33 lb 6oz (15.1kg). That was an exceptional specimen, but you never know when a big fish might settle in Radnor’s underwater shrubbery.

In the early morning when conditions are calm, look for signs of carp close in next to the cabbage, which provides a source of food for them. Mirrors, commons and even perfect leathers can turn up in the tidal Thames. Most of the carp are in the 10-15 lb

The swim is really a large eddy at the point where the river widens in a V-shaped cutaway in the bank. This is where an inflowing stream used to pass through the gardens but it’s now failed in. The river has a silty bottom here, running out to a maximum depth of 3.6m (12ft) at low tide. Full force The swim is packed with fishy potential. Fish are forced into the shelter of the eddy by the fierce flow of the river. Even in summer the river can belt down — especially when the tide is going out.

The prime zone for feeding fish is at the crease between eddy and flow where they can avoid the full force. This is where Bill Rushmer concentrates his efforts. You can catch the fish using most methods but feeder tactics with either bread or maggot baits score particularly well. Which fish? Over the silt bed or close in to the bank it’s heaven for bootlaces. They don’t mind exploring the snaggy weed or burying in the silt. Thames eels can really help make up a bag of fish, but they can be a great nuisance at times.

Bream make a more satisfying target. The swim is well known for fish averaging about 2 lb (0.9kg) with some better specimens mnningto well over 5 lb (2.3kg).

These bream, along with roach, can be caught at all stages of the tide although they appear to feed best when an extra high (4.5-6.8kg) class, with the odd much bigger specimen up to 30 lb (13.6kg) always a possibility in among the weeds. Wander a while In summer the middle of the fishery is very productive for roach and dace. At low tide you can wade out on to the gravel bottom to fish with either traditional stick float or waggler. Bill Rushmer recommends a particularly enjoyable method of tapping in to fish on these middle swims. He works a stick float a couple of rod lengths out in about 2m (6½ ft) of water using maggots as bait. This method often produces very good results of bags of roach and dace.

Calm and cold

Winter is a superb time for anglers fishing the Radnor swims. For a start much of the boat traffic disappears. There’s plenty of opportunity to get a bait in the water with only the odd police boat or hardy rowing eight disturbing the water.

The bottom swims can really produce in the winter when boats have stopped churning up the river. The deeper end swims are often very productive in a winter flood since they provide some of the few areas in the whole length which are protected from the full force of the terrific flow. Because of this you can still locate bream and roach at the edge of the eddy, carp, pike and perch near the cabbage and eels all over. Don’t forget the Thames is tidal up to Teddington so there’s always a chance of catching a small flounder or some other sea stray.

Often the best results come when the river is running fast and starting to fine off after reaching its maximum colour. At times the bream fishing can be excellent, but don’t be surprised to end up with a mixed bag of bream, perch, roach and dace with a big carp for good measure – it’s quite possible on the right day.

A sudden frost can be the kiss of death, although fish will start feeding again after a run of frosty nights.