Monday, January 12, 2009

Down, up. Up, down.

At long last the air temperature had reached double figures. So I was surprised to find the river deserted yesterday (Sunday) afternoon. The water temperature, however, had dropped a touch from Friday. The level, if anything was lower too. The river really was showing its bones. The rise in air temperature was due to a strong south westerly that was due to bring heavy rain down from Scotland later.

I set up in a sheltered swim to fish a slack, hoping for a chub or two. I didn't fancy trying to spot bites on a quiver tip bouncing around in the wind. The tip rod fished a cage feeder and flake on the crease, the maggot feeder rod was cast into the slack and fished using a bobbin for indication. It made a pleasant change not to be bundled up to keep warm.

It was almost half past two when I got set up. Around three I heard a bird, a wagtail as it turned out, making a commotion over on the far sand bank and looked over in time to see a sparrowhawk glide low over the river and up into a tree downstream on my bank. A while later it reappeared, this time it swooped low again right under my rods. It's amazing how close wildlife comes when you sit still. A cheeky little wren, and it did look small even for a wren, perched on my landing net, fidgeting for a few seconds before flitting away into the dead grass at the water's edge.

The chub weren't as active as the bird life. I thought I'd move downstream to brave a windier spot before it went dark. When I had both rods cast across the river, easily holding with 30g in the sluggish flow, both tips started pulling down as the wind blew on the lines with some considerable force. Spotting bites might be problematic.

As it turned out the one bite I did get was simple to spot. As on the previous session it was a massive slack-liner. The tip going straight and the line dropping in a bow. This was to a lump of flake that the chub had wolfed well back. When I felt a few light spots of rain I started to pack up. I didn't fancy getting caught in the forecast deluge!

The rain didn't arrive until well into the night, and can't have lasted long as it was fine when I woke this morning. I hadn't planned on fishing, but it was still warm but forecast to turn cold again from Wednesday. Today or Tuesday might be the best chance of a barbel. I got held up by a customer calling round so set off after two o'clock.

As soon as I saw the river it was obvious it was well up. Closer inspection suggested it was carrying at least five, possibly seven, feet but already falling. The thermometer read 6.1c - up almost three degrees on yesterday. Such is the pace of change on a spate river. While walking the bank looking for a fishable spot I spied a salmon doing its best to keep out of the flow in it's weakened post-spawn state.

A spawned out salmon

The spot I chose to fish was slower water on the inside of the bend. Given the strength of the flow, and the leaves and weed coming down, I only cast my baits about a rod length out. One rod fished a couple of S-Pellets in conjunction with the ubiquitous mesh bag of mixed pellets. For the upstream rod I opted for a change. Something I used to do quite often in winter a few years back was to hair rig a lump of paste around a paste coil. So the upstream rod fished that.

I'd put the banksticks right at the edge of the water so I could check on the speed the level was dropping. The photo below was taken after just three quarters of an hour. I'd guess the river was falling at least two inches per hour. From as low as it gets to six feet up and dropping back in less than twenty four hours!

On its way down

There wasn't much in the way of major debris coming down the river, but a loud splash on the far side was the result of a bankside collapse dumping a large lump of wood in the water. It's no wonder the topography changes year on year.

The sky was overcast, small but close together clouds scudding north eastwards, the light starting to fade when the downstream rod tip pulled over in a more assertive manner than the leaves had been causing. Then, to my amazement, the baitrunner quietly creaked into life. The heavy flow made the fish pull harder than its weight. A fish of about six pounds. Really solid and in lovely condition. The first barbel of the year, the first in almost two months, the seventy fifth of the season. A better result than this time last year when the barbel famine ran from October until the final day of the season!

First of the year

I gave it another hour before heading for home. The sky had cleared. The air temperature was on the way down and dew was forming on the rods. Tomorrow might be good. Pity I have places to go and things to do. Then again!