IRONBRIDGE ANGLING SOCIETY

Fishing The Severn

The River Severn in the Ironbridge Gorge has produced many great catches of fish & many great anglers too!

After leaving its birthplace near Llangurig,in the heart of the Mid-Wales mountains,the Severn tumbles its way through the stunning Powys countryside between Newtown & Welshpool,before beginning to widen out & gradually meander across the borderlands on the Western edge of Shropshire,as it approaches Shrewsbury.

In the Country of its birth, the River Severn is called, in modern Welsh, "Afon Hafren". In old Welsh, "Hafren" becomes "Habren", which when Latinised, becomes "Sabrina". Legend has it, according to Geoffrey Of Monmouth, in his pseudo-history, "Historia Regum Britanniae", that King Locrinus fell in love with Princess Estrildis Of The Huns, who invaded Britain under Chief Humber, following the death of Brutus Of Troy. The relationship was not straightforward however, because Locrine was already engaged to Princess Gwendoline, Daughter of the King of Cornwall. Although Locrine eventually Fathered an Heir called Madan with his Queen Gwendoline, he could not give up his love for the Hun Princess Estrildis and he also Fathered a Daughter with her, called Hafren. After Cornwall died, Locrine left his Queen to live with his Mistress, Estrildis and their Daughter, Hafren. Enraged at this slight, Gwendoline raised a Cornish Army against Locrine and pursued him and his followers towards the mountain lands of Mid-Wales, eventually killing him in a savage battle. Fleeing from the scene of the massacre and still being remorselessly chased by Gwendoline's Soldiers, Estrildis and Hafren were drowned attempting to cross the River Severn to safety. Following the tragedy, in Welsh Folklore, Hafren's Ghostly figure took to roaming the banks of the River, especially during periods of dense fog, preventing any unwary travellers approaching the dangerous waters, from suffering her own sad fate. Frequently seen down the centuries and easily recognised by her beautiful features, she has become well known all along the length of the River by her Latinised name, "Sabrina, Goddess Of The Severn".

Returning again to the Geographical history of this mighty waterway, which is, in fact, the longest River in the United Kingdom, we must look even further back in time.

Once,the area between Shrewsbury & the Ironbridge Gorge was a great lake,but eventually the vast weight of water forced a way through the unstable clay & shale around Buildwas,& the waters of the great lake poured through the breach,carving a channel between the glacial deposits on the edge of the South Shropshire coalfield & the limestone rock of Benthall Edge.

Over thousands of years the waters of the Severn carved their way through the soft topsoils of middle England,finally emptying into the great natural estuary of the Bristol Channel.

Realising the ready availability of Coal,Clay,Timber & the waterway itself within the area of the Gorge,the forefathers of modern industry were quick to establish this part of the World as the epicentre of the Industrial Revolution.

For three centuries at the end of the last millennium,the area flourished & the River was the key to its success.Severn Trows plied their way up & down its course from Ironbridge to Bristol,& communities grew up along its banks to cater for the hundreds of people involved in transporting the products manufactured by Abraham Darby & his successors from Coalbrookdale,Ironbridge,Jackfield & Coalport to the World at large.

But progress brought change,& well before the end of the 20th century the area,& the River itself,were in decline.The advent of the railways,improved road networks,& the growth of vast urban connurbations requiring goods to be manufactured more locally,brought an end to the heyday of manufacturing in the Ironbridge Gorge.

The River began to return to its natural state.Man-made structures along its banks,wharfs,warehouses,factories,homes,began to fall into disrepair.Nature began to take back what man had abandoned.By the late 1960's,the Ironbridge Gorge had begun to be forgotten,& the area was in serious decline.

The decision to locate the Telford New Town on the Northern edge of the Gorge,& the subsequent investment in the area,coupled with the elevation of the former starting-point of the industrial revolution to a World heritage site,brought about a massive improvement to all aspects of life in & around Ironbridge.

So what of angling? well,for certain people have been fishing the River Severn for many centuries.the Ironbridge Angling Society itself has connections back to the days of the Cope-Darby family & their lands along the banks of the River.Before the advent of commercial fisheries,the River was the place where generations of Anglers learned their craft.On almost any Sunday,whatever the weather,from Much Wenlock bridge to Coalport bridge,it would be a struggle to find a vacant peg,as dozens of anglers from the many local clubs & societies,competed in matches to see who could catch the most,or the largest,fish.

The River had always been a mecca for those in search of Chub,Roach,Pike,Dace,Eels etc,but in the late 1960's,a new species became the talk of every fishing club meeting from Shrewsbury to Worcester.The Barbel.

Not an indigenous species of this River system,Barbel were introduced to the Severn by the Fisheries Board as was back then,& what uproar the stocking caused! Barbel were billed as the enemy of almost every other species currently living in the River!

Barbel,so it was claimed in certain circles,would destroy the population of all other types of fish because they would literally "Hoover up" all the fish spawn & so kill off everything else in the water.It seemed for a while that the harbingers of doom might be correct,because the population of Chub certainly did begin to decline,but over time they have returned,which shows that the introduction of the Barbel didn't upset things too much after all.

The fact is that Barbel have thrived in the Severn,as they have in many other River systems.Today,the very real possibility of catching a double-figure specimen from the Ironbridge Gorge section of the River brings hundreds of Anglers to the area every year.

So, How do we catch one?? Well.The first thing to be sure of is that they are there.Due to the way nature has carved out the shape & contours of the Gorge,we are incredible fortunate to find virtually all the types of water & fishing swim that any River angler could wish for within this stretch of the Severn,from the Much Wenlock bridge,at the upstream end of the Gorge,downstream to the Coalport bridge.There are fast shallows,long,smooth glides,rock infested canyons,deep silent backwaters,& swirling feeder stream confluences aplenty throughout the 5 or so miles of fishing within this stretch.

And lots of Barbel as well.

How should we fish for them?? Firstly,with strong tackle.The Barbel here are big.The average size of fish caught over the last few season's is around 6lb,& there are plenty over 10lb,so its necessary to anticipate hooking into a big fish.Having hooked into it,there are few fish that can match the fight of a River Severn Barbel.Their take is sometimes almost unstoppable,& under no circumstances should any angler leave their tackle un-attended,because in a flash,even a medium sized Barbel will have the lot in the River.Although predominantly a bottom-feeding fish,the Barbel will often take a bait presented on float tackle,especially in the faster moving,shallower swims.Generally though,over recent seasons,it has been the angler who ledgers or swim-feeders a bait who catches the most big fish.Halibut pellets have to be one of the most successful baits of the moment,but Luncheon Meat also works very well,& often accounts for a quality catch of the huge Chub which also inhabit this wonderful stretch of the River.

Also,never underestimate the catching potential of a large juicy lobworm,&,if you can get hold of some,Wasp Maggots can be absolutely deadly.

Of course,there are other species present here in the River Severn.Anglers fishing maggots with traditional stick float tactics,often bag up on the shoals of Roach,Dace,Bleak & Gudgeon which abound throughout the stretch.Also,anglers ledgering maggots or worms occasionally encounter large Perch,Bream,Carp,Eels & Ruffe.You just never quite know what sort of fish will take your bait next!

One species which must be mentioned when discussing our River is Pike.This stretch of the Severn is renowned for its Pike.They thrive on the shoals of silver fish,&,in the summer months,will attack a well presented lure with startling ferocity.In the winter,a medium-sized deadbait carefully lowered into one of the deep,silent backwaters,or under some over-hanging tree branches,will often produce a quality double-figure specimen,& the odd 20lb plus fish will be reported during the course of most season's.

So,there you have it.A very brief overview of fishing here in the River Severn at Ironbridge.

We in the Ironbridge Angling Society look forward to welcoming you onto the banks of our River,& we hope that this website helps you to get the maximum enjoyment from your visit.We welcome any comments regarding your angling experiences with us,& we ask you to please remember the following:

  • Always ensure the safety of yourself & others with you when on the Riverbank.
  • Always make sure you take your litter home with you.
  • Always close all gates at access points to,& anywhere along,the Riverbank.
  • Always use barbless hooks.
  • Always return the fish you catch straight away.Do not use keepnets.
  • Always treat the fish you catch with the utmost care.Others would like to enjoy catching them in the future.
  • Always observe the rules of the clubs upon who's water you fish.
  • Always respect the rights of others who use & enjoy the River & the Riverbanks.

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