I'll make no excuses. The cold weather over the last two weeks has kept me indoors. I don't mind it being cold, but there are limits. This morning there was no frost and with the sun rising earlier these days my seasonal affective disorder was forgotten. I was working before nine! By half twelve I'd made some traces, packed a couple of orders, slapped some varnish on three rod repairs, taken some money off a customer, eaten an early lunch and was visiting the Post Office, picking up a loaf and filling the car's petrol tank! Back home half the loaf was liquidised, mixed with some Hemp and Hali Crush and doused in corn steep liquor. Shortly after one I was on the road hoping to have the baits in the water before the first ball was bowled in the second test match.
I could see a few remaining traces of snow on the fells so expected the river to be rather chilly. Good job I was planning to catch chub. Seeing one car in the car park I chose to go have a look see who was fishing and find out what they had caught. If anything. True to form it was one of the regulars, and he was in the process of netting a nice chub as I walked down the bank. It was his first bite since eleven o'clock!
The river was as low as it gets, or very nearly so, and like tap water. I went back to the car and got my gear, setting up about fifty yards down stream of the other angler. A single 8mm crab Pellet-O went downstream with a small bag of mixed pellets, while a cage feeder was cast upstream with a piece of flake on the hook. By now play would be well under way in the Caribbean. The covers were just coming off when I turned the radio on. Shortly afterwards play was abandoned because the bowlers' run ups were dangerous. So much for my ideal way of spending my time - fishing while listening to a test match.
The air was quite still, the river's surface almost glassy. The drumming of a woodpecker on the far bank was echoing down the quiet valley. The sky was blue with white clouds. The water was a rather cool 2.6c. It would be chub or nothing.
The thermometer began to show a steady rise in the water's temperature. Not rapid, but the trend was encouraging. While I had been recasting the feeder on a regular basis the pellet was staying put. After a couple of hours the tip of the pellet rod nudged down two or three times. Not much, just enough to get me hovering to strike. Then it stopped. I considered winding the rig in for a recast but decided against it. A good job too. A few minutes later the tip started to do its jaggy chub dance.
It wasn't a big fish, about a couple and a half pounds, but it tried its best to put up a fight. In the wintry light it looked as if it had been fitted with a coat of freshly minted scales. As I was unhooking it I found a length of thinner nylon wrapped around my rig. This turned out to be attached to a hook in the chub's throat, which I was able to remove easily with my long disgorger. On closer examination the hook had a maggot skin still attached, and the hooklink appeared to be one of mine. I can't remember being broken by a fish when fishing maggots (except when fishing a much lighter hooklink and smaller hook) and consulting my diary failed to enlighten me. Maybe it was from a rig I had lost in a snag? Whatever the case the fish was better off now.
It was around six, with the light starting to fail and the isotopes to glow, that I started to get bites to the flake rod. Although some were good slack liners I didn't connect with any of them. Typical. I fish a method dedicated to snaring a chub and the 'sleeper' pellet rod is the one that does the job... Not having taken any food with me hunger was kicking in by six thirty. Time to head for the chippy.
With time running out for the river fishing I'm already planning my springtime tench and bream fishing. Snapping up a new bedchair the other day has seen to that. Not that I needed one, but it was a secondhand bargain - and it is more comfortable than the one I've been using for the last four seasons. But before it gets put to good use I'll be back on the rivers. Especially as it's supposed to be warming up through the next week and the barbel might switch on. The only fly on the horizon (to coin a phrase!) is the impending arrival of a load of rod blanks on Monday that need turning into rods for eager customers. Tomorrow, however, while the river is still low and clear I might be back chubbing - with some maggots.