Friday, November 13, 2009

The Lancastrian Salt Circle

My morning was spent dealing with a customer and visiting the bank. When I returned home it was lunch time, after which the sun broke through and spurred me into action. I was spoiled for choice as to where to go and what to fish for. A stillwater roach session was considered. Or would it be a short pike session on a drain, river roaching or barbelling? My customer had had a few barbel on Wednesday. That decided me. There'd be colder conditions for the roach and chub later in the winter.

Yet again a silver trail led up my rod quiver to a missing pellet and a chewed boilie. It's time to get the salt out and ring the floor where the quiver stands. That'll sort the buggers. With winter on its way I have switched to my Korum Ruckbag. I don't need the extra carrying capacity of my Aqua rucksack as I'm now wearing the bunny suit and waterproof bib and brace from the off. My fleece gets folded up and stuffed into the chair which is clipped to the bag. And very nicely it all carries too.

I wasn't sure what state the river would be in. There'd been rain since Sunday, but dry spells too. At first glance it looked to have risen. But when I arrived at the swim I'd fished last it had dropped some eighteen inches. I carried on upstream, disturbing a female goosander that winged her way upstream, and fished two rods close in where the water was slower than the main push. I spent three quarters of an hour tying up bags of pellets and watching the upstream rod tip, the rig cast a little further out, gradually pulling down. The spool on the baitrunner turning ever so slowly as leaves gathered on the line. I wasn't convinced by my swim selection so the rods were moved, followed by the rest of the gear.

The move had put me on the beach, or rather up the bank from it as the river was still a good foot or more up on NSL. The willow was on dry land today though. The bank was covered in freshly deposited leaves and other vegetable debris, with a covering of silt in places. Quite a difficult surface to walk on. I was just in time to switch the radio on for the start of England's first match of the South Africa tour (a twenty-twenty evening match) - SA being two hours ahead of us. Sanity has returned and I can again fish and listen to cricket.

Almost back to normal

As the light faded so the sky clouded over. There was rain forecast to move in later. I was hoping it would be much later, but it wasn't. Up with the ancient umbrella (my broken one has not yet been replaced) to discover a new hole in the cover. Near the pole, so it won't let water drip on me directly. I was glad there was no wind as this brolly went into retirement when the loop at the top where guy ropes attach broke off. I poured myself a cup of my flask tea, I use QT instant tea with milk in my flask, and I thought how similar the colour of the tea and the river were.

Now it was dark and rainy. The wind seemed to be picking up, coming off my back for a change, putting a bit of north in it. Rain had reached the cricketers too. I poured another full cup of tea and contemplated my tactics. Hope was fading although the rigs were holding out well. With the water temperature quite low at 8c I am in winter mode and like to leave baits out as long as possible. Every so often, at least thirty minutes, I'd move the baits around the swim. Not having any clues as to where the barbel would be with the level as it was, and not being able to hold out where they usually were, that seemed like a good strategy.

With one sip taken from the cup, the radio barely audible above the pattering of rain on the taut nylon of my brolly I heard a faint whirring sound. The isotope on the downstream rod, which had been cast further downstream still, wasn't where it should have been. It was much nearer the water and the rod was arced right over. Somehow I put the cup down without spilling the tea and grabbed the rod. There was a fish on, but it wasn't a big one and was easily dragged over the net. I left it in the margin while I finished off the brew before it went cold.

With a fresh bait cast out I took shelter once more. England were handed victory courtesy of Messrs. Duckworth and Lewis, and I felt I had been too. At eight I packed up. The recently dropped silt made the usual path out of the swim rather slippy to negotiate fully laden so I took an alternative route. Here the incline up the terrace was less steep but the silt soft like snow. So I used the snow climber's technique of digging the toes of my boots in to make steps. It worked a treat and I was up on the top of the bank without mishap. The rain was easing. the wind, however was not. The further I walked from the lee of the escarpment the stronger the wind blew. What rain there was in the air was coming almost horizontally. Back at the car the wind was howling through the beech trees.

Driving up the lane, the rain stopped completely and the thermometer reading a degree warmer than when I had arrived I wondered if I had left too soon. On the motorway, as rain lashed across the carriageway and the car was buffeted I thought not. Back home and it was warmer still, rainless but windy. Maybe I had. But best not risk it. That wind was going to get worse - and it is Friday the 13th!