Monday, September 08, 2008

Timing is everything

One of the places I had to go to this weekend involved driving back via the river Trent - which can be handy. I was expecting the river to be carrying extra water. I hadn't honestly expected the fields and roads to be carrying it too!

The Trent in all its might

The photo above was taken after I had stopped to let a car turn round at a flood in the road. Cunningly I let the Discovery following me go past - and as the water wasn't too deep I followed. My expectation was that the rest of the road would be high enough to have stayed dry. Oops. The second flood was no deeper so I carried on. Then the 4x4 turned off the road right before what I knew would be the final inundation. So I pulled over and took some photos. A Volvo made it through the puddle so I risked it and survived.

It seemed pointless looking for a fishing spot in that area so I carried on upstream to some water I knew better. The level was obviously subsiding, but the only half fishable spot I could find was the one shown below. I didn't fancy spending my time there when I could carry on northwards and find somewhere more easily fished on the Ribble. While the fast rising nature of a spate river can be a pain, it can fall just as quickly. It would be in better nick than the Trent.

I'd need a snorkel to sit where I usually do!

A couple of hours later I had my baits out in the same good looking spot that I started my previous Ribble session in. The water had been well up over the grass, probably a full seven or eight feet up on NSL*, but was falling slowly. It was now about the same level, or a little higher, than when I'd set up two days before. The sun was shining, it was a grand afternoon to be on the river. With the amount of colour in the water I was confident of a fish before dark. It was not to be. I had a few sharp chub raps, but nothing more conclusive.

I was back on the PVA bags as it wasn't raining, and with one bait fishing steady water a yard from the bank I trickled in loose pellets every now and then to see if they would help draw fish upstream. The second rod was cast upstream and out to slightly more pacey water on a crease. Not as far out as I'd fish at normal level, but the flow there would be a bit much - not to mention the debris that might be encountered.

Over the years I have seen cormorants eating, and trying to eat, all sorts of fish. I've seen an eel writhing down one's throat, watched one repeatedly catching bream too wide for it to swallow, and another deal with a small pike. I was surprised to see one drifting downstream struggling with a barbel of a pound or more. Obviously cormorants don't require still, crystal clear, water to feed. More comical was watching a moorhen in a far bank alder. They are not the most agile perching birds. It spent more time flapping to retain its balance than making progress along the branches!

A couple of showers made their presence felt. They weren't torrential and soon blew over giving way to a pleasant night even when the sky cleared and the stars came out. After dark I was still fishless. The stick I had been keeping my eye on to gauge the level was now getting shorter. The river was rising again. Unlike last time it was rising slowly. This made the swim eminently fishable and for much longer.

I'd just recast the upstream rod when the baitrunner creaked on the other one. In the flow it was a bit of a struggle to get the fish to the net, even though it was only a small one. I'd conclusively proved to myself the swim was worth fishing. About an hour later the same rod tapped a couple of times in chubby fashion. I leapt like a panther and stood poised to strike at the slightest tremor. The rod tapped again and kept tapping. I struck, fully expecting a chub, not the heavy weight I was trying to pull against the flow. Then it moved. It felt like a barbel. And it was plodding. When within netting distance it woke up. On the surface it had a good length. In the net it felt heavy. A deep flanked, but rather empty fish, it still made my day.

Another bloomin' barbel picture...

To counter the increasing flow and rubbish (I had landed one carrier bag) the upstream bait was moved in a little closer. The rod tip wasn't under much tension and I feared the bait was not in a good position. However, something eventually dislodged the lead and I was soon unhooking another small barbel in the margins.

I slipped it back over the net cord and began sorting the hook out when it was almost driven into my finger! It seemed as if the barbel had swum into my main line and got tangled. Once I was free from danger of being hooked I pulled on the line but no fish appeared even though I could feel it. Then I noticed another piece of line leading from my own. Pulling on this brought the barbel's dorsal into view - with a hook attached to it - above the muddy water. At some point the fish must have got foul-hooked and broken the angler's line. I freed the hook and the fish swam off. The hooklink was a substantial braid and the remains of the mono were about 12lb. As the fish was only about five pounds it should have been possible to land the fish on that tackle - even hooked where it was.

Not that I wish to cast nasturtiums, the set up for attaching the bait to the hook has definite carping overtones. I ask you, who else would use a rig ring sliding on the hook shank, retained by being tied to a hair, with a pellet band for threading through the bait attached to the ring? Why make things simple when you can make them complicated and spend more money on useless rig bits?

Had the barbel been going mad I'd have stopped longer, but I'm not greedy. Three fish were enough for me so I called it a night at eleven.

* Normal Summer Level