Thursday, September 04, 2008

Beating the retreat

It had been a funny day, showery, turning dry in late afternoon. The rain of the preceding twenty-four hours would be in the river and I was hopeful. The idea was to arrive earlier than usual so I could check out what the river looked like with extra water in. Floodwater can provided good barbel fishing - so long as you either know the stretch well or can see what the flow does. If you are new to a stretch that means having a good nose around to find likely looking spots to cast a bait or two.

The level was certainly up on last time, about a foot and a half, and carrying a touch of 'mud'. As it was only six inches up on the first couple of times I'd fished the stretch I knew I'd be okay with the three ounce leads to fish the same spots. With there being slower water between me and the baits that would keep too much debris from fouling the line and dragging the rigs into snags.

Rods high, but within easy reach

While I was baiting my second rod another angler arrived and asked how I was doing. I explained that I was just setting up. "Are you stopping long?" he asked. This is code-speak for, "You're in my swim you ****. When are you going to **** off?" I know this, because I have asked the same question for the same reason myself! Although if the angler is setting up an hour before dark, with isotopes on his rod tips, it's usually a sign that he'll be there until after dark... I gave my reply in code too, "Until I've had enough." This means, "Ha, ha! Beat you to the swim and I'll be here until you've gone home."

It wasn't long before the downstream rod snagged up. I'd planned ahead and taken three rods with me so I was able to bait up the third rod and recast without wasting any time, then retackle the original rod. By now a shower had moved in. Leaves were collecting on the lines pulling the rod tips over a little. A bit of stick in the margins was beginning to disappear. The river was still on the rise, but not too rapidly it seemed.

I wasn't surprised when the downstream rod tip tap-tapped and I pulled into a fish. Under seven pounds it gave a decent account of itself. More would be along soon. The rain eased and it started to go dark. Then I saw a bright flash out of the corner of my eye. A few seconds later I heard thunder crack in the distance. Sitting behind two carbon rods pointing at the sky on an exposed river bank didn't seem like a good idea. The thunder moved away in the distance and I relaxed.

One's better than none

Leaves continued to be a minor irritation, but the rigs were holding for long enough to be effective and I only lost one rig. Standing by the rods to stretch my legs I heard a hissing sound down-river. Looking round it was as if a grey curtain had descended. The hissing grew louder. I felt a couple of spots of rain and dived under the brolly as the stair rods arrived. Boy was it heavy rain! The downpour soon passed, but the rain didn't stop.

It was then I noticed the river was flowing much faster in the margin than when I had set up, and it was getting closer to my boots. That explained why the rod tips were pulling over more than when I first cast out. I tried dropping the baits closer in.

I like fishing a rising river for barbel. I think it gets them on the move and feeding. However, the changing flow patterns are a problem. A good swim can become useless or unfishable with only a few inches of extra water. On an unfamiliar stretch of river you really need daylight to find fresh spots to try. Had it still been light I could have wound the rods in and gone to seek out other swims, but in the dark it was difficult. The rain didn't encourage me to move anywhere other than home either.

The sky lit up with a bright flash, thunder cracking soon after. The other angler was on his way home. There was more lightning and thunder. Ten o'clock or a break in the rain, whichever arrived first, and I'd pack up. The rain continued to fall. Nights like these keep the bats in their roosts and the owls remain silent. I don't blame them. Once out from under the brolly the rain didn't seem so bad. I still got wet tidying the gear away and retreating to the car, not quite beaten and certainly unbowed.

I'd hoped for more than one fish given the state of the river. Given a better knowledge of the stretch of river I would have moved swims - I've done so successfully in the past on a rising river at night where I have known places to move to. I need to walk the length in daylight when it's up to get some ideas for the future.

Not only has the final one day match of the South Africans' tour been washed out, there was a definite autumnal chill to the wind last night. Summer is definitely over.