Out and about on Saturday morning I spotted some surface feeding chub on a little river. I picked up a pint of maggots with the intention of having a dabble for them, the day being warm and dry. The attraction soon wore off, and even though I very nearly put the quiver tip rod in the sling and the maggots in the rucksack the lure of barbel was too much to resist.
Fancying a change of scenery I thought I'd head for a stretch I've yet to fish. This meant driving past a length that I have fished before. When I got close to it the car seemed to turn down the track of its own accord. This is a bleak stretch at the best of times. Once tucked down the bank all there is to stare at is the opposite bank and the sky. Occasional cows, dog walkers and anglers break the skyline, but that's about it. There's a lack of interesting looking swims too. But it's a challenge.
After parking up I walked downstream where there were five anglers enjoying mixed success. Mostly with smallish fish on the float and some better roach on the tip. I was beginning to wish I'd put those maggots in the bag. Given the choice of ten pounds of bits or one ten pound barbel there was only one winner. The swim I fancied was vacant, but with the other anglers around I didn't want to drop in between them. I turned round and headed back upstream.
While it was warm there was a chilling wind so the bunny suit was welcome. Walking to the upstream limit got me warmed up though. Nowhere appealed. Well, nowhere I could see that was fishable. Heading back to the car to wrestle with my recalcitrant flask top and pour a brew a flock of goldfinches flew ahead of me along the hedge line. I was in two minds as to jumping in the car and setting off further upstream. That niggle was there, keeping me where I was. Doing my Sherpa impression I clambered over the fence and braved two large tups in the field. I saw that one angler had gone and another was packing up leaving me plenty of space.
The swim I had in mind had slack water below it so one bait would go to its crease and the other I'd chance out in the main flow. The level was as low as you could expect and the colour well dropped out, but there were leaves coming down on the surface. Once set up on level and firm ground, rather than a mud-slimed surface that surrounded me, the baits were cast out. It soon became apparent that the leaves were forming a lane near the bank as they came round the sweeping bend - and my upstream line was in it. This didn't prove too much of a problem in practice. Leaves were collecting and shifting the lead but it would settle on the gravel and hold.
The upstream wind was cool enough for me to put the fleece mittens on. A few spots of rain threatened that the brolly would be needed, but the wind blew them over. Right on dark as I was tidying up ready to move the uptream rod tip jagged down twice and the baitrunner spun. I really wasn't expecting that! Hooking a fish close in in deepish water is always fun. Even so I soon had the fish sliding over the net. A real minter. Golden scaled, with a full dorsal spine and a full belly. With the river so clear I was pleased to catch anything from this reputedly difficult length.
I carried the fish in the sling to the next peg where I could get close to the water, slipping and sliding on the deposited silt-mud and tripping over a tussock of grass, managing to avoid joining the fish in the river. The boilie went back out while I finished tidying the gear then I set off upstream. By the time I reached my new swim the wind had died away to nothing and I was sweating cobs.
The surface in this pitch was sheltered from the dreaded leaves. Both baits would hold out without problems. Small fish were topping regularly on the calm water. Bigger fish were crashing out too. It was warm enough to do without the mittens. The only action though was the upstream rod tip pulling right over and staying there. The baitrunner didn't complain. The rig was snagged solid. I could feel the lead bumping up and down when I pulled on the line. The hook must have been stuck in something. When I pulled for the break the hook was indeed gone. A bit of a mystery.
Ten o'clock seemed like a good time to leave. Then half past. I couldn't be bothered to pack up. It was nice to be there with no mist on the water for a change. At eleven I eventually wound the rods in and left.