Thursday, 27 October 2011

You'll have had your tea Mr Barbel?

The last couple of days have certainly brought some welcome rain to hopefully sustain our rivers over the winter months. Fishing can be difficult now, certainly if chub and barbel are your quarry. With low conditions, swift changes in both temperature and dissolved oxygen make them slightly edgy and even more difficult to catch than normal. With an autumn dollop of rain they will soon know winter is a coming in and hopefully feed like mad to build up fat reserves for the winter.

My trip last evening was certainly more difficult than the previous week where the lovely barbel you see above was one of a few caught to 9lbs 6oz along with some splendid chub and bream.

The river was slightly coloured after rain and the temperature had dropped making anything behave in an all too familiar edgy manner. Anyhow, one last trip before the clocks change would still mean an enjoyable mid-week interlude with fish or no fish.

More often than not I have this particular corner of nowhere to myself, but last night this was not to be. As I climbed the stile what greeted me brought a smile to my face and thoughts of how an incident could be averted. Two young likely lads, reclining in deck chairs sharing a bong and a beer and ledgering for anything that would care to take their bait.

"Afternoon, any good?" I say - "hello mate, nothing yet" says they. "Haven't seen you lads here before, you syndicate members?" says I. "Syndicate? We are waiting to buy a ticket when the bloke comes round" says one of them offering me the bong for a suck. "No thanks mate, but the keeper will be along shortly and it certainly isn't a day ticket water. He probably won't be too chuffed to see you here". BANG! - out of nowhere a duck shooter on the opposite bank shoots at and misses a poor unsuspecting mallard drake peppering BB shot over our heads and into the water at our feet. I decide to wend my way and so do they. I bid them farewell and as I look over my shoulder they are packing up. It's a difficult call really. I am pretty chilled out about the odd "poaching" trip, but I know others who fish here would have booted them in.

I arrive in my chosen nook to see that glorious crease in the river which tells me there might just be a fish on the prod and one that fancies a big lump of Spam for his tea. Tackled up in a jiffy, 3 swan shot is enough to just hold the river bed and a lump of fatty goodness on a size 6 hook will suffice. BANG! - my friend with the shotgun misses again and BB shot peppers me, my chosen pitch and more worryingly my prized B.James whole cane Avocet rod - that will not do. Some loud coughing on my part alerts Mr Gun that I am where I am and hopefully that's the end of it!

This short trip started to remind me of a delightful (but not for him) piece of writing by HT Sheringham entitled "A Day of Tribulation" - I can't remember which book of his it was in, but the gist of it is that everything that could go wrong does go wrong. Just as it does on certain fishing days when you feel it probably might just be best to pack up and go home. I hadn't got to that stage  just yet, I hadn't even cast a line yet when it all goes wrong again!

Two resident black swans decide to mug, rob, molest and nearly kill a lone mute swan who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The ferocity of the attack really shocked me. The sound reminiscent of a Star Wars light sabre fight and after some minutes, barely able to move, the mute swan forced itself out of the river and sat down next to me. This I was not expecting and for the next twenty minutes I stroked and caressed the neck of this bird that I am sure actually realised I was a friend. I was not expecting to be doing this either when I came here to hopefully catch a fish. 

Now, I am not a huge fan of swans - people big them up far too much in my eyes, but I don't dislike them in a Dick Walker kind of way. He detested them (see Drop Me a Line). This poor old bird needed some help and that's what I hope I did for a while. In the end it joined me, by my side, as I fished for what was now becoming a very short trip indeed.

I finally cast my bait the short distance required and settled down for two very quiet hours of nothing - nothing other than the odd chat with my new feathered friend and the odd cup of tea, which was certainly welcome on this now chilly evening.

Two more casts were left until the very last cast and I drift away with my thoughts of what the late autumn and winter will bring to the river. BANG! Mr Gun brings me back to earth and at the same time my rod arches over - the bite of a barbel never ceases to amaze me and I guess it is my form of addiction, I return for more time and time again. Very other worldly and a weird connection between my life and something unseen in a watery world.

In the gathering dusk the fish takes me everywhere and anywhere it likes whilst my Altex clutch purrs and my white feathered friend watches my every move with some suspicion. He is eventually landed, stroked and admired just like my swan.

A beautiful autumn barbel of about 7lbs, gold and stunning in every way. With hands shaking and praise be to Izaac he is photographed, recuperated and returned to his watery world. I bid farewell to the river, my swan and leave in a vapour of ecstasy.

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