Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fish, chips and cheese paste

Losing a fish always spurs me on to try again as soon as possible. For once I managed to resist my natural urge to do this in the face of excellent conditions early in the week. There was work that needed completing, which took longer than anticipated. It was Thursday before I headed back to the river on a severely blustery day. It was quite warm for November - the car's thermometer reading an almost tropical 11C. Once outside the wind made it feel much cooler. This meant that I wrapped up warm to roam the banks for an hour or more, and worked up quite a sweat in the process.

The lion wasn't in his den, nor were any of his pride, so I decided to fish the same swim I had fished a week previously. There had been next to no rain since I was last there and the once muddy bank was firm and dry. The river was a little lower and maybe a bit clearer, but a couple of degrees warmer. Ideal. I put the brolly up to keep the wind off me and it was nice to relax as the day faded to night.

By eight o'clock my confidence was waning. The swim wasn't giving me good vibes. I packed up and drove to the spot where I had lost that fish on the Sunday. Things felt much better there. I was sheltered from the worst of the wind by the remains of the nettle beds, and the river looked right. Not boiling or swirly, but steady. With the baits out, I sat back and relaxed. It would only be a matter of time. It was not to be. Two or three savage drop backs to the upstream rod - chub in all likelihood - and that was it.

By eleven I was getting tired, but wishing I'd planned things better and packed my cooking gear and sleeping bag. The thought of driving back the following day in an increasingly strong wind held no appeal for me. With the weather set to turn cold the Friday would probably be my last good chance of a barbel. I'd have to pass.

Friday was spent pottering on some small jobs. It was indeed windy again and I was glad not to be fishing. Strong winds sap my enthusiasm when I'm fishing, even if they are warm. It's the relentless battering that wears me down. When today (Saturday) came around all that was forgotten.

During last week I bought myself a reel to use on my quiver tip rod. Not that there was anything wrong with the Epix Pro I'd had it teamed up with. It's just that I like to have reels dedicated to rods and that one belonged elsewhere. Besides, boys like shiny new toys! Playing with them at home isn't nearly as satisfying as playing with them on the bank. There was only one thing to do.

Off to the tackle shop for some maggots. The guy who served me thought I was mad going fishing. The temperature was down to about 6 and the wind hadn't abated. I was the fifth customer he'd had by ten o'clock. He was anticipating a slow day.

It was no surprise to see just one vehicle in the car park. Even less of a surprise that it belonged to the only other idiot who would be daft enough to be fishing on such a day! EH was in his usual swim, and catching fish as usual. I would have set up further away from him, but the wind was less strong in the lee of the bend. One good thing about these last few days of strong winds is that the trees are almost completely bare now. Leaves should be less of a problem in the river for the rest of the season.

Although my primary aim was to catch chub I still chucked a pellet out for the barbel. With my thermometer reading 6c in the river, which was warmer than the air temperature, there was a chance of one. The chub rod was rigged up with a maggot feeder and two reds on a 16. After an hour the tip hadn't moved and the maggots hadn't been sucked. I'd recast a fair few times but to no avail. EH had caught a couple of nice chub on bread flake. Taking up his offer of a few slices of Warburton's finest and some liquidised bread for the feeder after swapping the blockend to a cage feeder and the 16 to a 10 I eventually got a bite.

Around three o'clock a small herd of roe deer strolled through the wood on the far bank, their hooves rustling the dry leaves as they went. Similar noises can be heard in the woods during the summer, but the green leaves hides the animals causing the disturbance. I've seen deer by the river before and always wonder where they lie up during the day.

The bread flake wasn't working wonders so I put on a knob of cheese and garlic paste I had concocted the other week and stuck in the freezer. Some forward planning on Friday had seen this removed from it's icy resting place to thaw out in readiness. Week old Danish Blue, mixed into frozen pastry mix, with a sprinkling of garlic salt. Yummy!

First chuck with the paste and I get a bite. A typical short stab of the tip bringing back all those bad memories of my earlier attempts at chub fishing. I persevered and kept getting bites into darkness. The temperature was starting to fall but the wind showed no signs of joining it. I'd been draining my flask rapidly and as I had only intended fishing until six I had no food with me.

As six o'clock arrived the wind dropped. It was still chilly, but no longer unpleasantly so. Another half hour wouldn't hurt. A few more unhittable bites later I started to pack my gear shortly before half six. With just the rods and net to clear away I noticed the isotope on the quiver bouncing merrily. I picked the rod up and felt a fish thumping and heading downstream. I got the net ready in the water's edge and took my time with the fish. I was pretty sure it was a decent chub. Then the line went slack... As with the lost barbel almost a week ago it could have been knot failure, but this time I think it was a cut-off. Ho hum. Back in the car the thermometer read a positively Arctic 3c - which sank to 1.5c before I reached the chippy.

On the bright side I know my paste works, and the reel seems to be just what I was looking for. On the gloomy side I don't think I can get back to the river until Thursday at the earliest. I expect to be ratty and irritable until then.

Of course things might pan out differently.