Yet again I hadn't intended to fish, but customers had come and gone and rod repairs were drying. I was hoping the river would be dropping after the rain of Thursday and Friday and that if I headed upstream the weed problem might be less than it was on Thursday evening. That much I got right. Swim selection was more like a lottery. With the level only about 18 inches up, not much colour or extra flow nothing looked obvious. So I picked a swim on the off chance.
The air temperature was okay, around 16, but the wind had visited the north before heading south and was quite cooling. As usual I took my time making the swim comfortable. Once the baits were out I even set up the brolly to keep the worst of the wind off me. When the other two anglers on the stretch left I had it to myself. For some reason I wasn't too confident. Daylight faded and it was already crossing my mind that a move might be a good idea. The time I set for the move was nine. That was when the upstream rod, fishing a semi-fixed lead simply because I had changed it to take that photo I posted earlier, started bouncing as the lead got dragged downstream.
With the barbel in the net I played the guessing game again. I wasn't far out. The fish weighed just four ounces more than I'd thought at 7-12. It had some sought of sore, or ulcer, on it's 'chin'. Not a fish I recognised.
This was when the woods opposite woke up. Something barked for a few minutes. I wish I was more of a countryman and could tell you what it was. I know it wasn't a dog. My guess is a deer. Whatever it was stirred the owls into action. Twitting and screeching. A heron squawked down river. A farm dog barked. It was like visiting a zoo at feeding time.
I'd started out with the six ounce leads that were still on my rigs from last time. It was soon obvious they were overkill. I'd moulded a 3oz square pear lead when I last had the melting pot going and thought I'd try it out, despite the scales telling me it's a few grammes lighter than my 3oz grip pears. It worked okay. Until the next take came. The rod tip bounced, I pulled into a fish then it all went solid. I put the rod back in the rests with the baitrunner on for a few minutes. Nothing moved. I walked downstream and heaved. Nothing happened. I walked upstream and heaved. Nothing happened. I got opposite the rig and pulled. And pulled. Something gave.
The lead was gone, but there was a twig attached. The braid had done it's job of opening up the hook and the paperclip had released the bomb. The large eye on the large eye swivel was deformed. Having had one break in the past when pulling out of a snag I don't trust them for using with hooklinks attached. I checked the line over while attaching a new lower hooklink and both the mainline and the upper link near the swivel were frayed. I cut back the damaged line and retied. I'd snagged up on a previous cast to that spot, so this one went a little further downstream, more directly across from me.
On a whim I swapped my previously productive Mussel and Oyster boilie for one in Spicy Shrimp and Prawn. I'd half-heartedly tried these before and not had a bite. Nothing ventured. At ten past ten the baitrunner on the downstream rod started slowly ticking as it was picked up. A better fish than the first by a pound. I think I try different baits to relieve the monotony more than anything. Whatever I chuck at barbel seems to get eaten!
Ten minutes later the upstream rod was in action. A smaller fish of 6-10 that had two hooks in it's bottom lip. One was mine. I did my good deed for the day and removed them both. Looking at the mono (about 6 or 8lb [it measured o.28mm, so probably 8lb]) attached to the hook it appeared that the knot had failed rather than the line had been cut, it having a curly end.
At bang on eleven the Spicy Shrimp was off again. A dogged fight ensued and another eight pounder was landed. It also started to spit with rain. By the time I had the bait back out it had turned to proper rain. With it hissing on the river and pattering on the brolly it drowned out the Round Britain Quiz on my radio. So not all bad!
After half an hour the rain had blown over. The wind seemed lighter, or had maybe swung round so I was more sheltered from it. Although it was now pleasant to be out again the feeling that another bite might materialise waned. I stayed on until after midnight hoping the packing up process might encourage a fish to pick one of my baits up. It didn't.