What a refreshing change it makes for the England cricket team's tail to wag. Okay, it shouldn't have needed to wag, but for once they didn't do their domino trick and collapse one after an other. Another refreshing change was made to the river by the heavy rain on Saturday night. The water was quite heavily coloured, up about a foot but obviously on its way down, and still flowing at a manageable pace where the barbel live. The sky was blue with clouds, it wasn't hot but pleasantly warm and no more rain was forecast. Great!
I was setting up, having had the pick of the pegs, around eight brimful of confidence of a fish before dark. The usual rods were back in play, reels filled with the usual 30lb Power Pro. The downstream rod fished a single 8mm crab Pellet-O as a banker bait, the upstream rod had an 11mm S-Pellet Tuff-1 as a change bait. So far it's been the crab all the way this season, but it's early days.
An angler and his daughter had come own the river for a walk and we were chatting and watching the cheeky ducklings when he told me the upstream rod was away. The tip was doing the upstream-drop-back dance and I pulled into a fish of about six pounds with red sores on its left side near the tail root. Not a bad start. A fresh S-Pellet was attached to the hair and another scruffy bag of mixed pellets twisted onto the hook. It had been in place for less than a quarter of an hour when the process was repeated. This second fish fought a bit harder and had me fooled until it slipped into the net. A similar sized fish also with red sores near its tail. There were two that looked like bite marks. Was it the same fish? I hadn't paid too much attention to the marks on the first fish so I wasn't certain.
On winding in the downstream rod for a recast to get some more bait out I found the rig to be snagged. A walk downstream and some heaving got it free. Unfortunately the hook was slightly opened up. Not having a rig that was a direct replacement I put on one that took two 12mm Pellet-Os and cast that out.
The young lass was getting cold and bored so my companions headed for home and I had the river to myself. The lowering sun was shining gold on the tops of the far bank trees, the day falling quiet. A few minutes after nine the upstream rod signalled a chub bite. I picked the rod up and felt a tapping but the fish was going nowhere. I 'struck', felt the fish then it went solid. Damn. Steady pressure and something pinged free, then something else and I was in. No chub either. A heavy weight was pulled across the river until it hit shallower water and woke up. Maybe it's the warm water or low oxygen levels but the barbel aren't pulling hard, just holding station or cruising slowly. When the big head and broad shoulders came into sight as I drew her over the net I knew the scales would be needed. As I was arranging the net in such a way the fish was okay and unable to escape I saw the downstream rod come alive. As soon as I connected with the culprit I realised it was an eel. It had taken the two Pellet-Os and was neatly lip hooked so easily released.
With the scales zeroed on the wet sling the net was lifted ashore and felt satisfyingly heavy. A quick lift of the Avons showed I'd landed my third largest Ribble barbel. Hastily sacked I set up the camera after ensuring the fish was upright. Back on the bank I unzipped the sack and was surprised to see a length of braid coming out of the fish's mouth. Closer inspection revealed the braid was attached to a swivel and some mono. Forceps wouldn't reach the hook, nor would my large disgorger, so I cut the braid as short as I could. My guess is that rig had been lost and the fish had swallowed the bait rather than having been hooked and lost. Barbel don't usually take baits that deep. As usual the fish needed no nursing on returning to her natural habitat. Time to rebait both rods and get back at them.
It was now that I realised all three fish had been hooked, and landed, on a size 8 Korum S5 hook. The pattern I had cursed last time out. Oh well. Half an hour later the same hook landed another smallish barbel which again had red marks near the tail on the left flank. This definitely wasn't a recapture of the second fish of the session as I'd looked carefully at the marks on that one and one appeared to be an incision, but was it the first one? I'll never know. Nor will I know what had caused the marks.
Ten minutes later my trusty Owner C-4 on the downstream rod hooked a barbel that was taking some getting upstream - when it came adrift. Four fish on the 'dodgy' hook and one lost on the 'never-fail' pattern? There's no making sense of it - if they are going to fall off, they'll fall off!
Nearly an hour later, by now well into darkness, the downstream rod was away again. A five-ish pounder being swiftly unhooked in the edge, likewise a similar sized fish just before eleven. Odd that the daylight fish had come to the upstream rod, those after dark to the downstreamer. The next hour was undisturbed by fish so I packed up at midnight, the grass and my gear damp with dew under the clear and starry sky.