Things had warmed up a touch. There was no frost this morning. Not that it was warm. It still made me feel like wetting a line again and I was walking the bank eating a still-warm sausage roll by quarter to one. The river was low, as low as it gets, clear but with a greenish tinge in the deeper spots. There was a cool breeze coming off my back and ruffling the water towards the far bank. Unusual as the wind tends to funnel up or down the valley. The sky was overcast. Not bad conditions.
I selected a swim midway between the popular end pegs and cast out one rod fishing an in-line maggot feeder with two red maggots on a 14, and a cage feeder loaded with liquidised bread, Hemp and Hali Crush and a good dose of corn steep liquor with a pinch of flake on a 6. The bank was still rock hard and pushing the banksticks in was a trial. Downstream on a shingle bank there were icy puddles still. A thaw is slow in coming.
After quarter of an hour or so I decided to recast the flake rod. Winding in the feeder it came to a halt in mid river. I tried upstream and downstream pulls to free it before the weak link on the feeder snapped. Having struggled to tie four pound links with cold fingers in the dark in the past I now carry a few made up links consisting of a hooked snap-link at one end and a loop at the other to speed the process. One was attached to the swivel on the main line, a new feeder clipped on and filled, then the hook rebaited and the rig cast out again.
I'd seen a big black bird flap up into a tree on the far bank and while watching to see if I could tell what it was (crow or woody) I spied a buzzard wheeling beyond the trees. Not so long ago buzzards were unheard of in these parts, but they are a fairly common sight these days. Still a fascinating sight to watch, even so. As it wheeled it came closer and I was leaning my head further and further back to keep it in view. When my neck was straining too much I gave up and looked back at the rod tips. The quiver was straight, all tension gone, and the line hanging limp. I wound in the slack like a mad thing and connected with something that I was dragging towards me. Then it went solid in the same place the first feeder had been lost. Bugger.
Opening the bale arm some line was taken so it was a fish, and it was still hooked. More pulling from above and below failed to make any impression. I started a straight walk back. Something gave and I carried on walking back to keep it on the move, then began to take up the line while walking towards the landing net. A chub appeared. In the clear water it looked quite small at first, but as it came closer it began to look bigger, and bigger. Whether it was the cold water, 3.6c, or the fight had been taken out of it while snagged, it did nothing and was netted without hesitation.
I'm not very good at catching chub, and equally inept at guessing what they weigh. For some reason chub can look fat, but weigh light. Possibly the flabbiest fish around. This one looked plump, and apart from a slightly deformed dorsal fin, was in superb condition. I wasn't going to bother weighing it, but seeing as it was the first deliberate capture of the year I did. It weighed seven ounces more than I'd have guessed.
Losing two feeders in two casts decided me to move down a few yards so I could bring rigs, and hopefully fish, back without mishap. I could still cast upstream to the same spot but without getting into trouble. That was the plan. The maggot feeder had hardly settled after the move when the tip tap-tapped and I missed the bite. It was a promising restart though.
By now the wind had dropped and it felt quite mild. It wasn't, but we become accustomed to low temperatures after a couple of weeks of them. My feet were nice and warm in my Baffins though! Time for the third, and now decidedly cold, sausage roll and a brew.
The sky began to clear. The Evening Star shone brightly. A full moon rose. Just before five when it had got darker than I thought the isotope on the maggot rod tip signalled a bite. The fish wasn't doing much as I wound it in. Then it came on the shallows and began to turn cartwheels. A sea trout.
I had been contemplating trying for trout on the fly this spring after reading a few trouty blogs, but quite honestly these last three I've caught have put me right off the idea. I've caught trout before (browns and rainbows) and they have always struck me as daft fish. They don't fight properly. They charge all over the place, changing direction on a whim like bluebottles do when buzzing around a room. Then they start leaping. Not like pike do, with purpose, but pointlessly. I'll stick with tench and bream come April.
There was quite a covering of frost on my rods and tackle box by the time I recast. Another hour and I'd pack up. I'd started alternating between flake and cheese paste and shortly before the appointed hour I thought I spotted a bite to the paste. One more cast. A cast that sent the feeder flying unfettered by line. Damn. I was sure the line hadn't been tangled. On with a fresh link and feeder then check the line was free. This was when I discovered it to be frozen in the rings. That must have caused the crack-off. I sucked the rings to de-ice them and readied myself for the cast. Another feeder headed for a watery resting place. Feck. The line had frozen again. If it hadn't been the last cage feeder in the bag I'd have given it a third attempt, but I was scuppered now.
The grass was quite crunchy as I walked back to the car. The car white over with frost, the thermometer reading -2.0c as I fired up the engine and set the heater going while I changed my boots. A more hardy soul was still fishing as I drove away. Maybe he'd got glycerine on his rings?
There's warm, wet air forecast to move in over the weekend. I doubt the barbel will get moving for a few days though.