Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Ducking and diving

With the only other angler in sight some fifty yards away from me on the far bank I was looking forward to a quiet evening. Despite rain during the day it was sunny as I started setting up. One rod was out when I heard someone behind me. Expecting to see another late arriving fisherman I was somewhat taken aback to see an old gentleman (a little older than me that is!) with a shotgun broken over his arm. He had come to warn me that if I heard shots from downstream it would be him. Which was thoughtful of him. I wasn't aware of it, but the first day of September is the start of duck season. To think there was a well grown brood of friendly mallards that I had been feeding pellets on the stretch who were now in danger of lead poisoning.

With two baits in place it took forty minutes for the first bite to come. Not without hearing the first shots echoing up the valley and seeing a few ducks and goosanders heading upstream at high speed. This was a real barbel bite with the rod hooped over and the baitrunner protesting loudly. The fight was a good one too and lead me to believe the culprit might have made double figures, but it didn't quite manage nine. The river was a foot down on my last session and running clear. I wonder if that was why the fish made off at speed and fought well? It could see where it was going!

There was big black cloud over in the south-west and blowing rapidly towards me. Sure enough the raindrops started to patter on the calm surface of the river. Then all hell let loose. There must have been a group of wildfowlers out of sight because the fusillade that broke out sounded like the troops were going over the top. When the sound of the guns faded it gave way to the honking of many geese. They flew over head, going downstream, to be met with yet another barrage from more guns. The geese turned tail and the guns fell silent again. I decided to keep my head down below the top of the floodbank!

Ready and waiting

The peace didn't last long. "How big was that one?" I feigned deafness. "How big mate?" I hoped a reply might shut the idiot up and shouted him a rough estimate. A few more shots were heard just on dark. At last I hoped for some respite from the assorted cacophony and was pleased to listen to only the owls - and the baitrunners.

Around nine thirty I heard matey on the far bank landing a fish. Following some flashing of his head torch the cry went up, "Five and a quarter pounds!" "Well done, " I responded. Muttering something quite different to myself... He then tried to engage me in conversation, yelling something about the shooting. Ye gods!

As well as getting some rod building out of the way over the weekend I had moulded up a dozen and a half more three ounce leads and slipped a few in my lead bag. Just as well because the tackle losses continued where they left off last time out.

How long will this lot last?

Mishaps of other sorts materialised too. Having pulled for a break on the upstream rod I was winding the limp line in between my fingers feeling for the frayed end when the downstream rod was away. I leaned into the fish which kicked a couple of times then fell off. The size four C-4 had opened up. I've no idea how, as they take some opening on a snag. Hey ho. I attached a ready baited snake and chucked back out again before re-tackling the upstream rod.

I was fishing the swim I'd had my eye on previously and was moving baits around to get a feel for it. Again it felt shallower on a very long cast with a channel two thirds of the way across. Casts to the shallows produced chub bites. The barbel bites, and the four fish I landed, coming from the channel. At least that's the way I read the swim so far. As with the first fish the other three all screamed off with the bait and fought hard for their weight. A lone chub even tried to drag the rod in. It didn't fight hard though and after the initial two wags of its tail gave up the ghost.

I saw much shining of a head torch on the far bank. "He's packing up at last," I thought. "You still there mate?" 'Mate'? 'Mate'?!! Like a fool I replied in the affirmative. "I'm away now. Good luck." I shouted something non-committal back, poured myself a cup of flask-tea and began to relax. The great thing about fishing at night is the way the world quietens down. traffic noise fades, people go home to watch the telly - even annoying birds shut their beaks. I can do without people intent on carrying out shouted conversations. I suppose I should be thankful for small mercies - he didn't put a Tilley lamp on and light a fire to keep the bogey man away...

As well as moving baits around I tried change baits too. When there are numbers of barbel in an area bait choice never seems to be too critical to me, as well as the snake producing again (including the chub) I had one fish on a Hali-Hooker Tuff 1 and another on one and a half Oyster and Mussel boilies (which I thought had hardened up since I opened the packet last March). Not having enough spare rigs tied up I even landed two fish on a mono hooklength I had kicking around. I do prefer the limpness of braid for hooklengths, but I'm not convinced it matters too much to the barbel.

Unlike last week the air turned cool after dark, with a light mist up the valley when the rain cleared. After the chub bites dried up, so I packed up before midnight and trudged through the damp grass to the car, the windows matted with dew. It won't be long before the bunny suit is required for evening sessions.