Friday, September 18, 2009

I was hoping it would rain

At long last my two new brollies had arrived at the tackle shop. I went to collect them last week, but the suppliers had sent the wrong ones. For some time I've been using a 45" umbrella to save on weight on long riverbank hikes and a 50" job for shorter walks and day sessions after other species when I haven't fancied carting the Aqua brolly around. The 45 incher was starting to fall apart. I'd repaired two of the rib hinges with bent wire and the screw in bit of the pole had a habit of pulling out the brass insert it fits in. The 50 incher just annoyed me as the cover isn't tight and in a wind it flaps irritatingly.

The two I had ordered were a replacement 45 incher and a 50 inch glassfibre ribbed camo patterned one. The idea was to have the small one for the river where swims can be tight and walks long, and the Fibre-lite for lengthy sessions while still keeping the weight down. I'd have preferred the flat back version but it's a grey colour with garish orange writing on it. Okay for matchmen in their fancy dress suits but not my cup of tea.

With the brollies finally back home I thought I'd weigh them, mainly because the new 50 incher felt lighter than the smaller one. It was. A whole pound lighter. I weighed my old 45 inch brolly and found that weighed the same as the new Fibre-lite. Anyone want to buy a heavy 45 inch brolly? Out of curiosity I weighed the old 50 inch umbrella to find that was the heaviest of the lot. Oh well.

Despite no rain being forecast I slipped the new umbrella in the quiver thinking it might keep the damp off me later as I was planning to stop longer than usual. I also threw the bunny suit in the back of the car as the last few sessions had been getting a little cooler. After Monday's blank I was off to a banker stretch and thought I'd have another play with my Torrixes and this time try out my shiny XTE-A reels. I didn't buy them for barbel fishing but was itching to see what they were like in action.

I rolled into the car park before seven to find a load of vehicles parked up and what looked to me like two anglers packing up. I took my time getting the tackle out of the car when I realised they were getting ready to fish.

Back in the 80's when I fished a few really popular pike lakes in the north west it was imperative to arrive early to get the best swims. Even then you might find someone was there before you. My mates and I used to be so organised we could be out of the car, loaded up and away in seconds. We'd drive to the venue wearing our fishing clobber, everything else would be stripped to a minimum so all we had to do was jump out of the car, put rucksack on back, rods over shoulder, lock the car and go. And we'd walk fast. Nobody stood a chance!

Old habits die hard. The car door was locked, the bunny suit left behind (I could go back for it later) and I was off. Once in the meadow I got my bearings and was in the swim I fancied (I knew a couple were likely to be taken already) before the other blokes had reached the water. Job done. I put my gear down and went for a wander to see if I fancied somewhere else! When it turned out I knew the guys I'd beaten to the river I must admit I felt a bit guilty. But those old habits are deeply ingrained. Worms get caught by the early birds.

The Torrixes needed rigging up. I used a length of the mainline for the upper hooklink, and was contemplating using some for the lower too with the river being clear, but time was pressing so I put braided links on. The first rod cast out had a five pellet snake for the first time this season and was cast downstream. I was still tacking up the second rod when I heard a quiet purring sound and looked round to see the rod arched over. This is becoming a habit, a take on the first cast.

Not a big fish but one of the reels christened. The second rod was cast upstream with a 15mm boilie on the hair. At eight fifteen that rod tip indicated a dithery bite. Not like a chub bite, and hard to describe. When I picked the rod up there was nothing to be felt but the lead. When I swung the rig in the lower link and swivel were gone. It looked like knot failure, the line having a curly end. Mysterious.

It was quiet. No chub raps or anything. It was mild though, nay it was warm. The air was still the cloud cover heavy and I didn't need to put my fleece on until nine. Twenty minutes later the downstream XTEA purred again. Everything about these reels is quiet and smooth. The baitrunner lever doesn't click positively into place (which made me uncertain it was engaged), the baitrunner clicker and drag are almost inaudible, the handle turns as if on ice, and the drag is silky. I don't like them! The clicker is so quiet it would never wake you. Perhaps it's people who use these reels who always use bite alarms? You'd need them if you were going to nod off. They'll be ideal for bream fishing though, which is what I bought them for. I prefer something more workmanlike for barbel and pike fishing.

Nice - but not naughty enough for me

I took the opportunity to appraise the Torrixes a little more this time too. They definitely have a suggestion of lock-up in the lower butt. Again not what I like for barbel fishing but ideal for breaming. They'll be put away now until spring I think.

After that second fish, which had been a real baby of a couple of pounds, I started to feel restless. I wanted to move down a swim but the water there was so shallow with the ever dropping riveer level that I'd have had to wade out to net a fish. The peg below it was deeper but more awkward to fish from and a bit further down than I wanted to go. After much staring at the swims I chose to set up in between the two pegs.

I put the landing net at the water's edge in the second swim where netting fish would be easy and put the banksticks on top of the bank. The downstream rod was cast below the landing net, and the upstream one well above it. If I got a fish I would have plenty of room for manoeuvre to walk to the net. Having used my last two mesh bags of pellets I sat down and opened the pellet bucket, got out the bag filler and heard that now familiar purring. The boilie cast downstream had done the business. Another moderately sized barbel was in the net and I was reaching for the forceps. Was that a kitten? No. It was an XTEA! The snake had been taken by a slightly bigger barbel. Yet again takes coming within minutes of casting into new spots.

Twenty minutes later there was a funny indication to the boilie rod. It was a tremulous pulling down of the tip then nothing. This was repeated a time or two before I risked picking the rod up half expecting an eel. It turned out to be the biggest barbel of the night. Around the seven pound mark.

The next bite was an hour in coming and was a typical chub bite that resulted in a typical chub, followed half an hour later by its twin. It had gone midnight but I still hadn't needed to put on my bib and brace for warmth. I gave it until quarter to one then gave up. More barbel might have come along later, but when the chub switch on late it's usually an omen that the barbel have switched off.

The car's thermometer showed the temperature had only dropped three degrees. Still, 12.5 had felt cold on other nights. I can only think that it was the cloud cover and lack of wind that had helped it feel so warm. However, there had been no dampness forming on the rods or tackle box lid. The car was free of dew and the grass quite dry. I must look into the factors that govern the 'dew point'* as it affects mist/fog and I think that has some bearing on catches, so there might be a correlation.

* I've looked. I'm none the wiser!