Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Should I stay or should I go?

Yet again I started off on my 'old' stretch of the Trent on a mild and dry afternoon, with a south westerly taking some of the warmth away. The river was in good nick, a couple of feet up and coloured with a temp of 6.8c. As my previous sessions in the usually productive swims had failed I thought I'd try downstream. There is a small, slightly slacker area I'd been meaning to try, but with the level as it was it proved to be a bit awkward to fish. Nonetheless I got a few droppers of pellets and hemp in (before losing the dropper) and set up. I fished for about three hours without a bite, the only signs of fish in the area being a chub of around three pounds feeding a couple of feet from the bank.

As the swim was a little precarious, and rather slippy, I decided to find somewhere more stable to fish into dark.

Down to the cattle drink and almost immediately the chub made their presence known. Rattling the rod tips and biting boilies in half. As it went dark the activity slowed, and then the rain started. Only a light drizzle really, but noisy on the brolly. Only one chub managed to hook itself, a fish of three pounds or so, and then a bream was found on the end of one line when I came to pack up at quarter to nine.

I can't weigh up what's happened to this stretch. I'm not the only one who has noticed it fishing poorly this season. Maybe the barbel have moved? Or perhaps it's down to the weather patterns and they haven't moved into the area in the first place. Who knows. The plan for day two was obvious. Hit the stretch that was producing.

Setting up in the dark at six thirty I wasn't 100% happy with the swim I had selected. Although I could have picked anywhere on the stretch, and my plan the night before had been to drop in the next peg downstream, something made me settle where I did. However, I snagged my downstream rod on the first chuck, losing the hooklink, and decided to have a lead around. After doing so I started to move my gear the few yards down to the next peg where the flow was less turbulent. I'd got everything in place bar the upstream rod and the landing net. As I threw the net up the bank the rod started bouncing. Fish on. A seven pounder was landed and my mind made up. Don't move off fish!

The gear was soon back in the initial choice of swim and two baits in the water. Half an hour later one of the regulars turned up and was saying how he'd been fishing the stretch for six years and never had a double. As he walked off to set up his gear the upstream rod tip pulled down and sprang back, doing this again and again as something dragged the six ounce lead downstream. The fish didn't fight particularly hard, but had weight to it. The shoulders told their own story and as matey came to have a look I had just recorded a weight of 10lb 10oz.

The day's prospects were looking good.

The rain had cleared up well before dawn and the wind had dropped. It was lovely, if grey, February day with hints of spring as the larks ascended and the tits flitted through the far bank willows. The fish, on the other hand, did a disappearing act. A small chub came along at half past eight then nothing. The water temperature was rising. the river falling slowly. Conditions seemed perfect.

I usually have a tin of Spam in the bag (although it rarely gets opened) but for once I decided to stick a lump out in the slower water. A cube was put on a hair spring, and a stringer of five our six cubes attached to the hook. I was amazed when the new 2lb Torrix fishing the meat slammed over and the Daiwa baitrunner started to spin. I was even more surprised when it turned out to be a chub that had got my adrenalin flowing! A reasonable one too, at 5lb 4oz.

That was the first decent fish I've had on the Torrix, and it proved my suspicions that it's not a barbel rod for me - but should be great for the tench and bream fishing I intend it for.

That happened at 12.45 and nothing else occurred until I wound in a small bream/roach hybrid at quarter past five. The overnight rain must have had some impact higher up the river as the level started to rise in mid afternoon. Maybe this had a negative effect on the fish. I fished until dark, fully expecting a last minute fish. It didn't happen. When it went quiet after the chub I started to get the urge to move - especially as the only other fish caught by the other two anglers there was a small barbel, but dusk has often been productive on that stretch so I stuck it out. Maybe I should have moved off fish after all?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A game of two halves...

It's been a while since my last blog, but that's a result of not enough time, and the one trip I managed to make being a bit of a failure. I had a cunning plan to work my way along a stretch of the Trent the next time I found it well up - but I chickened out as the forecast dry day turned into a wet one as soon as I set up in my first chosen swim.

Like a lazy fool I stuck it out there from 8.30 in the morning until just after 10pm. I'm pretty sure that if I had moved around I would have caught some barbel and not the three chub I did end up with. I suppose some people would have been happy with one of them, it being a five and a half pounder, and while I'm not dismissing it, it certainly wasn't what I had hoped for with the river three feet up and rising in temperature.

That was on the 16th of January, and on the 1st of February with a cold spell forecast to kick in on the evening of the 2nd I got my work out of the way first thing and was on the road by 10.30am, leaving in dull misty and damp conditions. Once over Saddleworth Moor on the M62 the sun began to break through the fog and mist and Yorkshire was bathed in bright, warm sunshine as I headed down the A1 into Nottinghamshire.

Setting up at half-one it was an hour and a half before the first chub came along. Small enough for livebait it was! The river level was down to near normal for winter allowing me to hold well out with a mere three ounces of lead, and there was about eighteen inches of visibility.

The stretch I was fishing had been good too me over the last couple of winters, rarely failing to produce a barbel. But this season they have been notable by their absence. Fishing on until eleven at night I ended up landing ten chub, all bar one under four pounds, and all falling to the upstream boilie rod fished towards mid-river. The biggest of the chub was another oddly shaped fish.

Lying in the back of the car before nodding of for a few hours sleep I mulled over events and tried to formulate a plan. While I was convinced there were still barbel in the area they were going to take some finding, but I knew another stretch that had been consistently throwing up barbel since October. With the frost on its way I had to go for it. The alarm was set for five thirty.

Day two saw a big old moon setting slowly in the west as the sun rose, my baits being in the water from 6.30. At 8.15 I was attending to my thermometer (which is playing up - serves me right for buying cheap) when I heard a baitrunner whirring, as I turned to pick up the rod
I slipped and bashed my right knee on a rock. When I did get hold of the rod the fish had snagged me. I could feel the fish on, but the lead was stuck solid. After various attempts at freeing things the fish had plainly gone so I pulled for a break - which resulted in the lead coming free of the paper clip and me getting everything back. At least it was a positive sign that there were barbel in the swim.

It was ten to eleven, in bright sunshine, the early cloud cover having moved south, when the first fish of the day (the bite again coming to the upstream rod) was landed. And it proved to be the first double of the year at 10lb 4oz. I was going to title this blog "Freak Show", as it was another Trent oddity - a parrot nosed barbel. I'm making a habit of catching weird fish!

By now the wind was picking up and the wind chill factor was considerable. But throughout the day fish came along to warm me up. The second fish was perfectly formed, and in such good condition I thought it was going to give me my first brace of doubles, but it fell a couple of ounces short of ten pounds. Still a real belter though, and also to the upstream boilie rod.

I'd been varying baits on the downstream rod, trying maggots and pellets. However, two fish to the boilies suggested a change was in order. Boilie on both, and move the downstream rod further out in line with the upstream rod. For whatever reason the next three barbel all fell to that downstream bait. One was around six pounds, one over seven and the final fish of the day, just as the light was going, had me convinced it was a real big fish. Not only did it plod upstream, but it fought like stink under the rod end. It looked every inch a double, a solid fish in tip-top condition it actually weighed 9lb 13oz. No complaints from me, though.

Often in fishing the difference between success and failure is making the right call. I could have stayed on the first stretch to try and prove to myself that the barbel were there, but what I really wanted to do was catch. And the surest way of making sure you catch is to fish where you know the fish are. If there is another favourable window of opportunity for me to get over to the Trent for a couple of days before the season ends I might try and spend the first day working that original stretch trying to locate the fish. I know they are there. Somewhere...