Work plans went out the window today. But as one window closes another opens. The sun was shining with heavy rain predicted to be on the way. The chance was too good to turn down. After lunch I was on my way, dazzled by the low sun. Yet again I was spoiled for choice and couldn't decide where to go. In the end I parked in an empty car park well up river. Taking advantage of the deserted bank I went for a walk to suss out a floodwater swim I'd been told about.
On my way along the river I passed a sad and sodden pink teddy bear, face down in mud, lost and forlorn. I can understand how footballs end up in rivers, but some of the other stuff (there's a broken toy keyboard on another stretch) make you think alien abduction is involved. The swim looked inviting, but maybe needed a bit more water. The level was still up about eighteen inches, probably having risen a tad since Sunday, but dropping slowly with a nice touch of colour still.
Half an hour after arriving I was setting up in a favoured swim at the top of the bend. I liked the look of the flow patterns. A boilie was cast out downstream on the crease line while I tackled up the other rod from scratch. It had started to rain so the brolly went up. Another reason for choosing this swim was that it felt more sheltered from the strong, and chilling, westerly. Lacking an ability to peg the brolly down that was a consideration. The tip of the first rod bounced back then pulled down as the lead shifted. I'd chance leaving it. The hook wasn't even tied on the second rod when the first tip began a merry dance. Then the rod hooped over and the reel started spinning. That hadn't taken long. It was only a tiny barbel but it meant I hadn't blanked and my run of luck was continuing. The rain even stopped!
With two baits in the water I settled down to the customary bag filling exercise. A few were filled when the bucket lid blew off the rucksack and rolled along the bank towards the water. I ran after it and picked it up. As I turned round my brolly tumbled past me. And into the river. It was only in the edge, in an eddy that I thought was shallow. It was on its side. It would be easy enough to retrieve. I walked towards the umbrella to see it roll, the pole rising like Excalibur held aloft. Then it sank gracefully from sight. The eddy was deeper than I thought.
Now I had to try and get the blasted thing back. I wound in one of the rods and started casting around the slack. Ten minutes of fruitless casting and retrieving later I gave up. At least I now knew a bit about the slack. It might be worth fishing at certain levels. The bait was recast to mid river on the crease and I sat back to consider that my bad luck with umbrellas this season must be my punishment for catching too many barbel. I wasn't too bothered about losing the brolly. It was old and the cover was past its prime, pulling away from the rib ends and looking papery thin. The Gardner screw in pole was more heartfelt a loss. More rain fell and I zipped up the pockets on my ruckbag then tightened the cord round my jacket hood. It pulled right out. Now it would blow off my head and I'd get no shelter at all from the rain.
As I pondered which brolly to risk next time out - the amazing collapsing one (which lead me to buy two new ones, of which there is still no sign of a replacement for the exploding one) or the brand new heavyweight 45 incher - the downstream rod tip pulled over. The reel spun again and as soon as I felt the weight I knew this was no baby. The power was incredible. Line ticked off the spool with the rod hooped to its limit. Either someone had stocked mahseer or I'd hooked my brolly. I tried to get below the brolly (I'm sure that's what it was) to alter the angle of pull. As I did so the line grated and parted. The day was not going well. Another rig lost.
With a fresh rig tied and a bait out again I was restless. I don't know why because the swim looked good. It just felt wrong. The level had dropped an inch or two and I fancied a different swim. I moved the rods downstream. There were no leaves coming down to speak of, just a bit of slimy grass-like stuff. I reckoned a six ounce lead would hold well out. The rain had ceased and the sky looked clearer upwind. It only took ten minutes for a bite to materialise. True to the form of the day the rig was irretrievably snagged. Once more I retackled.
At ten to five, as the light was going, the same rod bounced. This time all went well and a small barbel was unhooked at the edge. Ten minutes after recasting the boilie rod was away again. This felt a better fish, but there was something not quite right. It was dark now so hard to see the line, the rod tip suggested that the line was entering the water rather closer than it should have been. Then everything went solid. The line was round something. I walked downstream and pulled to no avail. Back to the swim and put the rod back in the rests. Baitrunner on and line was taken. I took the slack back up and had a brew. A little line was taken then nothing. The brew finished I picked the rod up and felt for the fish. Nothing. I pointed the rod at the snag and took a step backwards. Movement. Another step. More movement. It seemed as if I was pulling the snag towards me. I began to pump line back on the reel and the snag kicked a little. The fish, as they often do after being left to find their way out of a snag, didn't fight. Not a massive fish but bigger than the other two put together.
By now I was considering when to fish until. If it started raining I'd pack up immediately, if not then I'd listen to the Archers before packing up. The upstream rod was fishing closer in than the downstream rod that had produced all the bites. I swapped them round and cast the upstream rod further out. At six twenty the upstream rod gave the inimitable performance of pulling down and springing back repeatedly as the lead was dragged downstream by a fish. Only a little one this time. After recasting the boilie I put a bigger lead on the downstream rod and cast that further across too. All was quiet. The Archers closing theme tune faded away. I began to wind in the downstream pellet rod. The rig was half way back when I caught sight of the other isotope performing it's upstream-bite performance. The rod I was holding was put in its rests and I wound down on the other rod. It took a while to take up all the slack but the fish was on. A second seven pounder.
I was tempted to chuck out again, but didn't. No sooner was I on the road home than I wished I had done. For the middle of November it's unseasonably mild. When I arrived the thermometer read 12, when I left it said 11. The river's in good nick, still eight degrees plus and nicely coloured. The barbel are feeding. Like my good fortune the weather can't last much longer.