Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reasons to be cheerful

Was it desperation to reach 100 barbel for the season, a day that had started wet and chilly but turned warm and windy, or having got my work boxed off early that sent me to the river again? Only one way to find out.

I must have had the intention to fish at the back of my mind because in between jobs I'd spooled up some more Tiger Braid. I decant this from the large spools it comes on to smaller ones. Usually I do this by hand but I had the brainwave of sticking the small spool on a spindle clamped in my lathe. This worked well until the spool was almost full at which stage I stopped the lathe forgetting that it spins on for quite some time. There was braid wrapped everywhere along the spindle and spilling from both spools. Another good idea in theory. I spend as long untangling the mess as it would have taken me to wind the line by hand.

What rain there had been had made no impression on the river. It was still painfully low and as clear as it gets. Not even a peaty stain in the margins. I'd just managed to avoid the rush hour traffic and ate a sandwich before setting up. As I'd expected the boss peg was occupied but this didn't worry me. I set up at the start of the run and cast into the channel.

I thought I'd heard a swift calling as I left the car park, but couldn't see any. Sitting down and looking across the river I realised I hadn't seen any martins or swallows for a while. One or two usually linger until October or later. With the leaves dry and already building up on pavements, and the equinox past, winter will be on us before we know it. By February it will seem to have been here forever.

The wind was chilling, even though the day was warm, so I put the bunny suit on - without being disturbed by a fish. The sky was blue with broken cloud, but after dark the clouds built up, the wind keeping any rain at bay. At half past six a chub saved a blank when I brought in the boilie rod for a recast. It was just there, pretending to be an eel as I wound it in.

Side hooked plastic pellet

With the river so clear I altered my usual pellet rig over to a mono hooklink with a size 12 C-5X and side hooked a 6mm Enterprise Plastic pellet. I've shied away from fake baits on the river solely because of tackle losses. This time I was in the mood to take the chance. At six thirty five, just after a recast, it was taken. The Kinkster made another visit to the bank. Looking chunky and weighing six and a quarter pounds. The next cast with the plastic pellet saw it lost to a snag. By now it was almost dark so I reverted to the usual tactics.

It works!

It was two hours later that the upstream rod was in action. This was a lovely solid fish of nine pounds four. Yet another with marks near its tail. Marks which it's been suggested could have been caused by lamprey. It only seems to be fish on this particular length that are affected though. Or maybe I've not caught enough elsewhere?

The downstream rod was fishing two 8mm crab pellets now, rather than the single pellet I had been favouring most of the season. Not for any well thought out reason but because I'd tied the hairs on a bunch of rigs to suit 10mm boilies - and using a pellet stop extended them just enough to get two 8mm predrilled pellets on with enough of a gap to the bend of the hook. At nine o'clock the double pellets were taken. This felt like a good fish. Number 99 was in the bag. It took line and plodded. Then everything wend solid. No matter what I did I couldn't free the fish. I couldn't even feel it when I fed slack line. The rig came back with a straightened hook. That'll teach me to count my barbel before they're landed.

Twenty minutes later I was shaking an eel free from the same rig. After clearing eel slime from the hooklink I recast and almost straight away was playing a six pounder. I was getting that old wanderlust again. The snagged fish, and lack of much action to the upstream rod, had set me thinking that I might be better off moving down a few yards so what would then be the upstream rod could fish where the downstream rod was now, with a better chance of keeping fish away from whatever the snag was. The other rod could then be cast downstream, possibly to where more fish were holed up. As I considered this the pellets were away again. This was almost a repeat of the first fish that snagged me, except that I could feel the line gradually plucking over things before it all seized up. The difference was that I could feel the fish when I gave it slack. What to do?

Putting the rod on the rest and slacking the baitrunner I started to move the rest of my gear downstream. At one point the fish took some line. I played it back to the snag and moved the rest of my stuff. Returning to the snagged fish there was no sign of life. The rod was picked up, I pulled, fully expecting that locked up feeling, yet something gave. I pulled again. It moved again. Had the hook become attached to the snag and I was dragging it out? The snag pulled back a bit. Could the fish be free? I took it easy, not knowing what state the line might be in. When the fish wanted to take line I let it. However it didn't want to take much and the fight was unspectacular. As soon as I netted the fish I knew I'd reached my century with a top edged six over the slips!

After stripping off my fleece from under the bunny suit, it was warmer now even when not rushing around setting up the camera, I photographed and returned the fish. Then baits were cast out in the new swim and a refreshing brew drunk.

The only time I get the logo in the shot!

A done deal

After half an hour the upstream rod, which had been the downstream rod, was off. Despite my cunning plan I felt the line pinging off something snaggy. Then the fish fell off. So much for that idea. I moved again, to the banker swim, realising that if I had only gone fishing to hit my arbitrary target I'd have packed up there and then rather than move twice in an effort to catch more barbel. The night was a real peach. Overcast, a few stars showing, warm, dry (no precipitation or condensation), and barbel on the feed. It would have been a good night to stop until dawn. The downstream rod was on the boilie now, and one bag of pellets left in the bucket. Off went the boilie. Yet another nicely conditioned fish that I weighed, at 6-14, out of curiosity.

Out with the last PVA mesh bag and give it until midnight. The rods were still, apart from a savage pull to the boilie rod that looked for all the world like it was going to carry on but didn't. When I wound in the pellet rod I saw why it hadn't been moving. The pellets were gone. The boilie rod was snagged - probably after that take - and all the rig was lost. A wasted last half hour. Not to worry though, it had been a good and very enjoyable session. I felt satisfied that I'd made the most of this Indian Summer that has seen the river low and the ground hard and dusty, that I wan't fishing just to attain targets but because I enjoy it and all that being by the water brings. It really is a magnificent obsession.