My fishing seasons don't quite follow the ones that go by the equinoxes and solstices. September the 1st is the start of autumn for me just as March 1st is the start of spring. So it was with the first one day match against the Australians having started with 'summer' over I headed to a river I knew would be up and coloured for my first session of autumn. The most enjoyable time to fish a river that's in flood is when the rain that caused it to rise has stopped falling. It might not be the most productive time, as I think that is the period just before and as it starts to rise. But it's usually peeing down then and I hate fishing in the rain!
The river was indeed up, about a foot higher than it had been when I arrived on Monday. Judging from the dried silt on the leaves of the bankside plants it had been a good four feet higher at it's peak. I had a look at two spots that could have been worth a try. Nothing stirred me to fish them though. The swim I fished on Monday looked good, but I wanted a change. Upstream of that swim there seemed to be a nice crease with the water by the bank flowing slowly upstream. As the better fish had both come on the upstream rod last time it seemed like a good plan to fish upstream a little way too. There was one problem. Although there was the hint of a path down the steep bank it was overgrown and no 'peg' could be seen. Climbing down through the balsam I was able to beat out a space to fish from, so I dragged the gear into place.
I followed the same line of attack as last time, leading around, baiting up with the dropper and casting one rod to the feed and one upstream then settling down to fill some PVA stocking bags. Less than a week on and summer really had turned to autumn. The upstream wind was strong and bouncing the rods in the rests. There was no sitting out in a t-shirt, it was autumnal fleece wearing weather all right, even though the scudding clouds revealed a bright and low sun that made me put on my new sunglasses for the first time since June. Most of the pods having popped and scattered their seeds by now there were swarms of pollen-backed wasps making the most of the few remaining balsam flowers.
It took a while for the first barbel to arrive. It picked up a 10mm Tuna Wrap fished over the feed at twenty to five, almost an hour and half after I had set up. I had a short, sharp 'chub' bite that I thought was suspicious. A few minutes later the reel spun. The hook pulled. It was my own fault. I was using a rig tied for a drilled 8mm pellet which set the boilie too close to the hook. I swapped the bait.
Unexpectedly the other rod was away next. A typical upstream, bounce, bounce, bounce bite that didn't set the reel in motion. A seven pounder was netted and I noticed some red spots, the colour of red Biro ink, on its belly and chin. There was another lull as the river slowly dropped. I heard the plaintive mewing of a buzzard and climbed up the bank for a look. There was a pair of them wheeling overhead, spiralling down wind calling to each other. When they had passed out of sight beyond the trees on the far bank I turned to go back to my rods.
I took a step forward, then one of my feet caught under a bramble. I overbalanced and my world went into slow motion as I tumbled downwards. I did a full forward roll and as my head came up I saw the back of my chair looming towards me. Before I could do anything to fold it down my head hit its frame and I came to a halt with an ache below my left ear. I felt for blood but there was none. Then I kicked the chair! In a week when an angler had drowned on a local drain I counted myself lucky. A small bruise and a graze. It could have been much worse.
When the throbbing had subsided I was rewarded by the upstream rod bouncing again. I'd cast both baits slightly further out as the level had dropped, just as I had done on Monday - never forget a trick that works. A smaller fish this time but also with red spots on its belly. I left the fish in the net in the edge and turned to get my camera. As I did so I heard a buzzing that wasn't a wasp. Spinning round I grabbed the downstream rod and a slightly bigger fish joined the first one in the net. Then it all went very quiet. No taps or twitches.
I had been engrossed by the cricket otherwise I'd probably have moved swims before darkness arrived bringing rain. Heavy rain that pounded on the brolly and the river. The shower lasted twenty minutes or so. Five minutes after it had faired up the upstream rod pulled down savagely a couple of times and I found myself playing a big-headed fish that was quite short and lean. I thought it might have made nine pounds, but it didn't manage eight and a half. Not that I was disappointed, more surprised.
There are people who try to tell you that when fishing two rods one is always in the preferred spot and the other is a waste of time as it will be in no-man's land. That's twice on the trot that the rod fished away from the baited area, which should do the business, has produced the better fish, and/or more fish. It makes little sense. It's good justification for fishing two rods though.
By now the river was quite a bit lower, almost a foot, and I was wondering if the swim had lost it's charm for the barbel. The bright full moon that appeared when the clouds broke wasn't encouraging. Two eels to the downstream pellet made my mind up to go, although I listened to a programme on the radio for another half an hour before packing up and braving the climb to level ground.