Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Getting away from the crowds

A few days after the session last blogged I had another go on the stretch I had blanked on, picking a swim that I fancied which had been occupied the first time. The level was down a bit, although still up and slightly coloured. One nice thing about the swim was the nice flat ledge to jump down on to should I need to net a fish. Pellets and hemp were loose fed and droppered above the overhanging bush and a bait swung out into position and I sat back to wait.

The usual knocks were had, but by dark nothing positive had happened. I had my radio in the top pocket of my fleece, and an earpiece in one ear to keep me awake. But just after eleven the old eyelids drooped. Almost immediately they shut the Baitrunner stirred me from my torpor and I was bent into a fish that was determined to get under the downstream bush. I leapt nimbly onto the little ledge, landing with a surprising splash. The level had risen about five inches and I hadn't noticed!

The fish was soon landed, a rather lean nine pounder, and quickly returned. The strange thing was that although I had the earpiece in and the radio on as I played the fish, I didn't notice! Goes to show how focused you get in the heat of the moment. Having got in a bit of a tangle with the hawthorn I was sat under as I brought the fish and rod up the bank I called it a day.

The weekend saw a change in the weather and summer finally arrived. I had to get another session in before the river got low and clear. My first chance was yesterday, and it was a scorcher (compared to what has passed for summer so far at any rate). I decided to seek out some of the other access points first, and maybe fish a different stretch. This proved easier said than done. After an hour of being stuck behind a flock of sheep being herded by a man on a bicycle, driving down farm tracks that seemed to lead nowhere, and going round in circles without even seeing the river I gave up and headed back to the length where I had caught my last fish.

In my head there were three swims I wanted to try, but my timing was out by minutes and they were all occupied by anglers starting to tackle up. Dumping my gear behind one of them I went for a look around. One swim looked fairly promising, a nice crease close in, so I moved my gear into it and threw in a few handfuls of pellets. But I wasn't over confident. My itchy feet took me off downstream and eventually I found four nice looking swims well away from the popular pegs. One in particular was especially inviting. A gap between two bushes at the tail of a shallow run with a crease on the near bank with deeper water under the rod end.

Despite the heat and the fact that I had walked up and down half the stretch twice I went back to gather my tackle and make the move. I had a fair old sweat on by the time I made it, so after feeding a few pellets into the first two swims I settled back for a drink and a rest. Slowly I got tackled up, retying the mainline knot and putting on fresh bait. More loose pellets plus a few droppers of hemp and pellets went into both swims before I put a bait out with a nice bag of assorted pellets on the hook. I know that a lot of people swear by tight baiting patterns, but I'm not so sure. Maybe if your casting is accurate enough to drop the hookbait right on the money. However, I like to think that a controlled scatter-gun approach to baiting has some merit in that it might get fish moving around more. That's my excuse anyway... By now it was almost five pm. Time for food and a brew.

I was sat on the top of the bank soaking up the sun slowly dehydrating, screened from the water by nettles and balsam, with a cut out ledge above the water level. Odd knocks, raps and taps were showing on the rod top. Some being those savage chub pulls that make you think are the start of a barbel bite, one or two being definite liners. Something was down there in the slacker water on the inside of the crease. I'd been baiting close in, with the rig directly in front of me, as the downstream willow had submerged branches and roots in evidence. The plan was to draw fish upstream and keep them out of trouble when they bolted back with the flow.

Just after seven as the heat was going out of the sun the rod top stabbed sharply down twice and sprang back then slammed over and stayed there. I had hold of the rod before the Baitrunner came alive and hung on. Then it all went solid and that horrible grating sensation could be felt through the rod. It was in the willow. I tried all the usual tricks, changing the angle of pull, feeding slack line. Leaving the Baitrunner on very slack while I had a cup of tea. All to no avail. Eventually it became clear that the fish had gone, feeding slack line only resulting in slack line, and I had no option but to pull for a break.

More in hope than expectation I fed more pellets, then sat down to get tackled back up. The shredded line was stripped off, about six yards of it, and a fresh rig set up. The hooklength hadn't seen water since last March, so I touched up the hook point with a diamond file before baiting up, attaching a PVA bag of pellets, and casting back out. Amazingly I got movement on the tip almost immediately. In fact it was hardly still for a minute!

As I sat watching the rod I got to thinking how that fish had found the snag as I hadn't given it more than a few inches of line. Then it dawned on me that the act of stepping forward and down onto the ledge must have allowed it to drift down and kite into the bank on the tight line. If I got another take I'd adopt a different strategy. Haul into the fish from the top of the bank until I had it in front of me then, and only then, would I move towards the ledge. Within half an hour the plan was in operation as I gave another fish some serious stick. The plan worked and it came kicking and (figuratively) screaming over the net. Phew! A lean fish that went over ten, but what a dorsal. I've never seen one like it, like an enormous great sail it was!

After returning the fish the swim went quiet. The taps and raps all but dried up. Then out of the blue an hour or so after dark the rod slammed over again. This one came in easily enough as it was only a baby. Time to get back to the car, drain the remains of my flask and hit the road. It was nice to catch a couple from a swim away from, and out of sight of, the crowds.