My plan to do an overnighter on Saturday, returning in time to listen to the Test Match on Sunday, went out of the window when the brickie phoned to say he was coming to do some more pointing. No fishing on Saturday. Sunday dawned wet up north, but fine at the Oval. By the time England had humiliated the Aussies I had done some work and was raring to wet a line. The persistent rain had turned to showers, it being dry as I set off. Would there have been enough rain, early enough, to have coloured and raised the river? No. It was even lower and clearer than on my last visit.
Swim choice was difficult. Only the cows were on the bank and I could fish anywhere. I opted for a swim that I had only ever fished before in flood conditions. Then I had taken barbel from under the rod end, but now that was shallow and I was casting across to the tail of the gully. Deeper upstream, shallower downstream.
I took my time arranging the gear in the swim. There's a ledge that can be fished from but it's cramped. Setting up above it would raise the rods and help keep the line out of the rocks anyway. The problem was a large, crusty, cowpat in exactly the place I wanted to sit. I put my chair more or less on top of it. Two baits were out by eight. One was an S-Pellet Tuff 1, the other a 10mm Tuna Wrap - a bait I have little faith in, but seeing as I was sent four tubs of them I might as well give them a try.
It had started to drizzle. As I'd left my feeders and dry feeder-mix in the car I set to making up some PVA bags under the brolly. With the river being so clear I thought I'd tie up a mono hooklink to see if that would give me a better chance of a bite in daylight. I had a hook selected and the spool of Power Carp ready when the upstream rod was away. The Tuff 1 had been snaffled by a lively scamp that was hustled into the net. As I lifted the net from the water I heard the baitrunner on the other rod start whirring. The net was popped back in the water, arranged hastily to prevent an escape, and a second little barbel, maybe half a pound heavier, joined the first one in the net. That hadn't taken long!
With the water being so clear they were both bright looking fish, the oft mentioned coral fins complementing brass, gold and bronze scales and creamy belly. I admired the pair briefly before unhooking them both and slipping them back over the net cord. I was going to take a photo of the brace, but the battery in the Olympus compact was flat and I couldn't be bothered getting the other camera out.
The drizzle turned to rain. It was dark by now, still warm despite the wind rustling the leaves of the trees making a sound barely distinguishable from that of the water tumbling over the rapids downstream. Not a good night for bats, but one or two came out to feed. There were plenty of midges about for them. Midges that feasted on me every time I flicked on the Petzl.
I'd swapped the rods round and replaced the Tuff 1 with a 15mm Mussel and Oyster boilie. The boilie I had positioned close in. There had been a few fish swirling there when I arrived. Although shallow, it appeared to be a little deeper near the bank than a rod length out. Some pellets had been scattered there in preparation.
When setting out my little camp I hadn't placed the chair quite right. Every time I stood up my feet went through the crust of the cowpat and I'd slip. Breaking the skin on the dung also released it's aroma. Enough was enough and I moved brolly back a touch and the rest of the gear was dragged into position to keep it dry. Much better.
At ten, to my surprise, the 10mm Tuna Wrap that had been cast upstream tore off. This barbel was a little bit larger. Maybe six, maybe seven pounds. Somewhere in that range. Fifteen minutes later the margin rod hooped over. At first I thought it was a small barbel, but it was chub. A pristine fish of four pounds or so.
I gave up on the margins and cast out across the river. Almost straight away the bait was taken and I leaned into a barbel that cut me off half way up the three foot hooklink. I've not been cut off like that for ages and was a little bit annoyed. A 15lb Amnesia upper hooklink was tied on and the 12lb Power Carp lower link I'd tied up earlier added to see how it performed. I never found out. After a decent wait I went to wind in for a recast and the rig was snagged solid. The Power Carp snapped, and the Amnesia was frayed. I trimmed the frayed section and attached a braided lower link. At eleven the new rig did the job and I weighed a belligerent eight pounder that refused to come to the net. It even looked angry on the bank and swam of contemptuously when I released it upstream. That fish had an attitude problem!
After an hour of inactivity, the sky having cleared to reveal the constellations beyond a few wispy clouds, I got an urge to move upstream a few yards. Hardly had the Tuna Wrap settled in the new spot when it was taken. A funny take. The rod tip dipped and the baitrunner spun, then nothing. A repeat and I grabbed the rod and pulled into the fish. Then it was gone. Cut off again, this time near the hook. I couldn't believe it. It only took five minutes for the fresh bait and rig to work their magic. Another six pound barbel which proved to be my fiftieth of the season.
That was enough for me. I'd had to get a session in before I went doolally as I'm not sure when my next chance to fish will be. I reckon it's time to start looking for some bigger fish when I get that chance.