Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Monday night is barbel night

The rain let up but I still took the brolly with me just in case the forecast was wrong. A week on and the river had risen and fallen, almost back to summer level, and was fairly clear with a hint of a peat stain. The wind was minimal and the flow likewise but without the stagnant feel it had during the heatwave. Walking through the field, the grass growing lush again after being mown earlier in the summer, wet feet reminded me that I need new boots. I had, however, put on my waterproof overtrousers which proved a good move when I reached the bend. I had the river to myself again and fancied a shot at the beach. I doubt anyone has fished it all season as there was not a path to be found through the balsam.

When the jungle warfare was over and I reached my destination I found it had changed dramatically since the last day of the season. All the pebbles were now covered in sandy silt and there was amphibious bistort growing near the water's edge and balsam encroaching from the landward side. The more vegetation sprouts, the more silt is deposited and sticks. And so the land builds up on the inside of bends.

With the changes it was hard to get my bearings and I set up in the 'wrong' place. When I noticed the willow sapling that I used to fish by I moved my gear and my confidence level rose. With the water clear I wasn't expecting any action until dusk, though.

Around eight I heard a noise in the balsam behind be and a sea trout angler materialised. It must be great carrying just a rod and a folding net for your fishing. Lugging a heavy rucksack and rod quiver a long way is getting too much like a chore for me. It's a case of loading up, looking at the ground and not stopping for a breather these days. It's the only way to get there without feeling liek it's an endless trudge.

Like me, the sea trout angler wasn't expecting much to happen before dusk so we had a chat while we waited. I'd just said it would be half an hour, at least, before I got a bite when the downstream rod arched over and the baitrunner did it's angry wasp impression! At first the fish felt small, then felt bigger but looked small in the clear water. A nicely conditioned fish that weighed in between my initial guess of nine pounds when netted and eight when lifted in the sling.

Like a fool I had only got my five ounce cage feeders with me. I was half expecting rain so left the PVA and pellets in the car. The feeder mix I'd thrown together was a bit better this time, not too sloppy, not to claggy. Just right with the pellets in it not turning to mush. The feeders were way to heavy for the conditions. I rummaged in my lead bag and found some blockend feeders still there from my end of season chubbing. I attacked two with my trusty penknife. The oval Drennan was easiest to chop the end off, the Korum required more work. I even tried melting the end with the flame from my cigarette lighter. Needless to say I lost the Korum in a snag on the first cast. I couldn't be bothered modifying another and went back to the heavy artillery on the upstream rod with the two S-Pellets.

A kingfisher blazed it's blue way downstream, wrens sang loudly in from the wood opposite in the still air, and the unmistakable song of a grasshopper warbler could be heard as the light began to fail. I was surprised to hear the warbler's incessant trilling this late in the season.

Around ten the downstream rod pulled over with a short zuzz from the baitrunner, followed by another dip of the tip. I pulled into a dead weight and thought I was dragging a branch upstream. Only the branch kept going upstream when I got it close. Then it woke up and I realised I'd either hooked a really big barbel, or a smaller one that was hooked in a fin. It turned out to be the latter, a fish of some seven pounds.

By now the first sea trout angler had been joined by another. The sound of their lines hissing through the rings carrying through the night. One was getting a bit close, not too close for comfort, but close enough when the boilie rod lurched into action. A good scrap ensued and a fish of six or more pounds was netted and released without leaving the water. I turned to re-bait only to be disturbed by the sound of line being pulled from a fly reel. A lot of line. I spun round and grabbed the upstream rod. It had been a baitrunner all along! This fish also fought well and suffered the ignominy of the weighsling. The scales made it a couple of ounces heavier than the first fish of the session.

I sorted out the chaos and settled back. The night was warm enough for me to leave the fleece in the rucksack and just pull on a sweatshirt. The cloud cover began to break up and a lone star shone. After an hour of inactivity, with both sea trout chasers already gone, I packed it in for the night. Somehow I managed to find the path I had made through the balsam and followed it without tripping or stumbling. Then I got my head down again for the slog back to the car.