Sunday, November 16, 2008

Extremes of sweet and sour

Come January 5th 2009 the Specialist Anglers' Alliance will be no more. It will have become part of the Angling Trust - the great hope for a unified voice for angling. I'm sure most anglers couldn't care less, but some do. It was the last ever SAA meeting today. I attended the meeting as I have been doing on a regular basis for nigh on nine years now, and as usually the PAC was well represented. Pike anglers have historically faced more threats to their sport than other specialist, which is probably why they are more politicised. There are two benefits I have gained from attending these meetings. One is the free lunch (which isn't free as I have to pay for my fuel to get to the meetings), but as they have been held the other side of Loughborough and finish around two o'clock I can manage to call in somwhere on my way home for a few hours fishing! That was my plan today.

Driving along side the Trent it looked good. About three feet up and well coloured. I headed for the spot I last fished in July. The floods that I had driven through back in September had made a few changes, and anglers had made a few more. There were now about four new pegs in the area I like to fish. One looked enticing, but more recent floods and rain had made it a bit slippy-slidey at the water's edge. I went back to the car to get my fishing gear on and discovered I had done it again. I'd forgotten to throw my blasted boots in the car...

Not fancying sliding around near deep water in my street boots I jumped back in the car and headed elsewhere. The lion's den would be equally muddy and probably packed out on a pleasant sunny Sunday afternoon. Sure enough the car park was brimful, the next access point would have let me fish from less trampled and grassy banks but there were two more cars there than I would have liked to see. The third spot was far less busy, but borderline muddy. There was one peg I could fish from in comfort, only I'd have to chance the mud near the water if I hooked a fish and especially if I had to return one. The grass was wet though and my street boots were already getting damp. Undeterred I got my tackle and set up in the swim. A swim that had a nice pace, a willow at the downstream end and a crease above.

A wintry sunset

With the baits out it was time to take preventative action to stop my feet getting too cold. I have taken to keeping a few cheap carrier bags in my rucksack. They come in handy for putting rubbish or damp slings and sacks in. Amongst other uses. This time they made boot liners! I won't pretend my feet were toasty warm, but at least they didn't feel cold and damp.

Who needs Thinsulate?

The air temperature soon started to drop when the daylight began to fade. The sky was clear. The weather men and women were forecasting a frost. The water, however, was much warmer than I expected at almost 9C. Despite the lack of heavy colour at this venue I wasn't despondent. I'd have been really confident if I'd had my fishing boots and more up for a move or two. I'd stick it in the one swim until eight or nine - or when my feet got cold.

After dark a fish crashed out on the far side of the river and downstream. This buoyed my hopes. What the fish was I haven't a clue, but it sounded to be a reasonable size. I'd been watching The Plough slowly falling behind an almost leafless alder since darkness fell when I noticed clouds extinguishing the stars. The air seemed a tad warmer too. The two baits had been in for almost two hours at this point when the upstream rod tip sprang straight, then slowly pulled down a touch. I picked the rod up and took up the slack to feel a fish charging downstream. When I got my act together and applied some pressure it thrashed on the surface in midstream and carried on down with the flow. I was gingerly making my way down the bank, keeping just enough pressure on the fish when I felt a discernible 'ping' as the weight went from the line and the bend from the rod.

The hooklink had parted, seemingly at the knot. I have no explanation for this. The rig was tied the same way as always. The braid has landed me two PB's this season. It must have been a poorly tied knot, unless it was a cut-off. Either way I reckoned that was it. I'd blown it.

An hour later the tip of the downstream rod pulled down a little, bounced, bounced again. At first I thought it was a small barbel. Then it gave up and I knew it was a chub. A long and lean specimen that I weighed out of curiosity. An ounce short of four pounds I'm sure it could have weighed nearer five had it been as chubby (pun intended) as some I have caught.

Consolation prize

When I pulled my forceps from the rubber band I secure them under on my net float to unhook the fish there was something wrong. I had one finger in a handle ring but the thumb was groping vainly about. When I looked it was because the damned thing had snapped! I had my 'lucky' forceps (which must be 30 years old and have been lost, and found, twice in their time) in a side pocket of my rucksack so I didn't struggle to unhook the fish. One more item for the shopping list, though.

Buy cheap, buy twice.

I'd forgotten my boots, lost a fish through tackle failure and my forceps had snapped. What more could go wrong? Only the batteries in my radio dying before I could listen to The Archers!

Inspired by the arrival of the chub I fished on until the church clock struck nine. Then I packed up and headed to the car where I removed my improvised boot liners and looked forward to the heater blasting my feet with warm air on the drive home - which it did while the thermometer reading fell from 6 to 3.

There's probably still going to be chance of barbel early in the week before the frosts arrive. Unfortunately for me I don't think I can get to a river before Wednesday. That smelly cheesepaste I concocted last week might be getting an outing.