Thursday, 18 December 2014

Flu is company & freeze a crowd

The usual winter bugs abound and everyone in the family has had a dose of flu, it really has been the gift that has kept on giving!

Earlier in the month I had a chat with a chap whom I have come to know via the youtube bloggers match and we decided to arrange a day spent together on one of my local waterways, the plan being to rove about on a crisp morning and see if we could pick up a few fish into the bargain preferably some chub.

Early the following morning my father mentioned to me  " it's a really hard frost out there mate and should make for an interesting days fishing".

That's the thing though, some little rivers feed very well all year round for the angler that is prepared to root about in search of his quarry and the Blackwater is no exception.

Michael pulled up the drive at 9am, stopping in for a cup of tea and a slice of brioche courtesy of mum, we had a good chat for about half hour before heading off to the river. On reaching the waterway it was as I expected, running lower than the loddon and with a tinge of colour, spot on for a bit of chub worrying. It was a crisp day and we slowly made our way to the upstream reaches, taking time to stop, pointing out swims at frequent intervals. There are so many wonderful little swims dotted along this river, which range from long runs that are perfect for trotting, to those typical debris swims where broken branches lay sunken and covered in flotsam, perfect for rolling a bait under, the choice of where to wet a line is at times quite staggering and you can find yourself skipping swims in order to cram others in during the day's fishing.

Michael targeting some marginal eddies

Not long after setting up, a dog walker who had passed by half an hour earlier with what I must say was a fine pair of ear muffs, no that is not code, I really do mean ear muffs and a vibrant pink pair at that, stopped to ask if we had perhaps lost an item of tackle and produced a top section of what turned out to be Michael's  Daiwa float rod, we was very thankful as this could have been a rather dire start to the trip.

It was a slowish start and took a while before we began to receive a few raps and taps, the first couple of fish being scale perfect chublets, however it was apparent that some of the better chub certainly weren't reading the script yet.

Further upstream fishing a marginal undercut I received some very delicate plucks, certainly not the kind of bites I would normally associate with a chub and at one point I did wonder if it was a perch toying with the lobworm. A light strike and I was into a better stamp of fish which tried to find sanctuary under the flotsam on the opposite bank, Michael kindly did the honours with the netting and a quick picture.

Lean, quite hollow and most welcome, I was a happy chap, if not more so to show Michael a tiny glimpse of the fish that inhabit this river.

On the way back downstream we stopped off in a handful of swims, one of those being a lovely long glide with a marginal bay, a perfect swim for a spot of trotting too, although that said we were both link legering, here I decided to have a sit down next to Michael and watch him fish a bit, not long after the bait was in the water he received a suitably confident bite as the quiver tip lunged round, it soon became evident that he was connected to a much better fish which got its head down in a bullish manner and steamed off downstream taking line as it went, I was overjoyed and soon standing ready with net in hand, then it happened a sight no angler enjoys, a hook pull, words were muttered by both of us some of which  sounded like "bar stewards"  or rhymed with rolex.

Despite this Michael was suitably buoyed to have been connected to one of the larger fish and after some careful consideration decided to feed the swim and give it another try. Ten minutes later and the scenario replayed itself, another very unlucky hook pull and after this no more bites were forthcoming.

By now daylight had faded but the air temperature was milder if tempered by a gnawing breeze, so we made our way back downstream to some of the swims I knew had produced in the past and was dearly hoping that Michael might get another bite at the apple. A few handfuls of mashed bread and maggot were placed into one such swim and it was left to settle before a nice juicey lob worm was presented under the opposite margin, just out of reach of the main flow. About thirty minutes passed before the first inquisitive tap was forthcoming, followed by another rattle and shake, more knocks followed in a more aggressive fashion and Michael was soon connected to a rather determined chub that tried to head off upstream under the near margin, giving a great account of itself as it did so. A few moments later the net was slipped under it and there was some happy words shared between us.


This was a brilliant way to end the trip and as we made our way back to the car it was safe to say we were both a bit knackered but content.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Swollen rivers - It's all gravy

It was a very late afternoon in November, a gloomy day and rather waterlogged affair, each footstep accompanied by muddy slurps and the constant search for balance as I slid my way to the riverbank.

The river swollen, a multitude of currents, debris dancing back and forth as if possessed, forced to dance a savage ballet before disappearing downstream. Swims that were once visible are now submerged and almost unrecognizable save for the landmarks an angler stores at the back of his mind.

Every so often I stop to fixate upon the river and ruminate a while, in some swims this is more protracted than others, I begin to talk to myself, thought processes tumbling from my lips as I reason with choice, taking time to debate my options almost to the point of argument.

Further downstream I find the area I'm looking for, a bottleneck with numerous bits of debris clinging to a tired looking tree, the current weakened by one of natures natural barriers. I slowly take my time to settle in the swim and despite trying to be as silent as possible, I'm still a bit too bearish for my liking. Eventually I'm at peace, listening to the rush of water on a rising river in the darkness, as time passes my mind begins to fill with colourful thoughts of barbel snuggling up under the tree roots in front of me, I savour this thought, lingering on each vivid
detail, for those roots are where my bait is placed and along with it a modicum of hope.

Late evening the rain finally abates, clouds melting away to reveal a blue canvas dappled by numerous stars, my breath now visible, thick plumes rising up, every exhalation illuminated by the light of a lopsided moon. A warming is called for, a short rummage around and the pungent smell of  stewed coffee is wafting invitingly under my nose, I'm soon heated from the core outward.

An owl appears out of nowhere and attempts to land in the tree next to me, pulling up in close proximity above my head, we startle one and other, eventually settling in a tree on the opposite bank. It's safe to say our feathers are equally ruffled, it stays for a while, perhaps to look across enquiringly at the rotund intruder into its world and then vanishes, leaving only the sound of wing-beats in its wake.

By now the rod tip is rocking back and forth in slow agreement almost admitting that it has become something akin to a washing line, debris strewn along its length, another nod soon follows, but this one does not exhibit the same repetition, it lurches forward and springs back into position, my digits twitch uncontrollably, urging me to ready myself, my more verbal half muttering to remain calm and reign in the building adrenaline. The moments that follow all melt into one as the hook is set and that intense connection between angler and fish is made. Powerful runs follow, each one aided by the swollen waterway, I find myself trying to swallow, a few hasty gulps are taken but no saliva is forthcoming. I move further down the bank to gain a better angle, palpitations follow as vibrations from unseen obstacles travel along the rod length, a swirl mid-water reveals a good fish and all types of possible disaster scenarios begin toying with my mind.

After what feels like far too long she slips into the waiting net, my nervous energy is all but expended and I find myself fighting back a rising urge to retch. After much recuperation, needed more for this angler than the fish, I calm myself and peer into the net, it's an old friend, a visitor I had during summer and in fine fettle she looks too.

15.6 personal best
An autumn gift, admittedly a recapture, but such things are quite immaterial, for such is the joy that has been imparted from fish to angler, to see her once again in fighting fit health and up in weight was reward enough. One powerful sweep of the tail and she soon disappears into the murky depths, I smile contentedly wishing her a safe journey.

As I pack up the river is still rising, the colour becoming thicker and like something you might pour over a sunday roast, not to matter though for here it is all gravy.