Saturday evening saw me doing something I hadn't done for a long time. Twisting up some pike traces. That done I removed my bait tubs and barbel box from my rucksack and replaced them with my cooking gear, drop-back alarms and pike box. Then I checked over my pike quiver and rods before going to bed early. All I'd have to do would be fill water bottle, throw the bacon and bread in the rucksack and get some deadbaits out of the freezer. I was going to have a day on a stillwater taking it easy. I must have been full of anticipation because I woke just before the alarm on Sunday morning. Then I turned the alarm off and considered my next move. Back to sleep. I knew the barbel were feeding on Friday. The river would have risen a touch with Friday night's rain but would be dropping back again. The leaves should have flushed through. An afternoon session might be productive.
The morning passed quickly with a little work then I swapped out the pike gear for the barbel stuff. Piking can wait until the barbel are hibernating. Lunch was the bacon I'd intended taking fishing. There wasn't much in the way of pack-up so it was honey sandwiches to accompany the flask. I was on my way on a still and warm afternoon. But with no idea where to head for. Somehow I ended up on the bleak stretch, another car following me into the muddy car park. I managed to park on firm ground. The other guys struggled a bit. After a chat we went our separate ways. I headed downstream to a spot I fancy when the river is up as much as it was. The level was falling steadily, hard to tell by how much when you haven't seen a stretch recently.
My baits were out as the church clock struck two. They held nicely on the crease and very little rubbish was collecting on the lines. Tiny fish were topping in the slack, with occasional larger swirls that could have been made by bigger fish feeding on them. Further down the river and angler was catching steadily on the float. I wished I'd picked up some maggots on Saturday as I'd half planned to do.
About an hour before dark I heard a wader calling as it flew upriver. As I spotted it I saw it jink and hit the water, disappearing. Most unusual for a wader. A split second later I saw the sparrowhawk that had been chasing it veer across the river and up into the trees behind me. Then the wader reappeared and flew back whence it came calling in continued alarm. I'm not great on identifying waders, especially at distance in the gloom against a dark river bank, but I think it was redshank.
That was all the action there was before dark. The clock struck five and a move was called for. My original plan was to walk upstream of the car park and have a try there. Back at the car my plan changed. The river higher up still would have fallen more, the leaves that had been an irritation on Friday should be non-existent, I might be able to hold out further across if I fished the same swim again. How to get there? I chose the scenic route for no particular reason other than it was easier, if longer.
It seems odd turning up to fish an evening session in the dark. But arriving at six o'clock is actually a fair bit earlier than I get to the river during the summer. It's not without its drawbacks though. You don't have time to get your casting muscle memory tuned so you can hit the same place reasonably accurately like you can when fishing an hour or two in a swim in daylight. You can't always read the flow too well either. So long as you know the swims it's not too bad though.
The sky was clear, no rain forecast until I'd be long tucked up in bed, no cars parked up meaning my swim would be free so I left the brolly in the car to lighten the load. The level had indeed fallen. I wanted to position myself further downstream than Friday. The bank, though, was deep in leaves. Even with the legs of my chair at full extension I was sat too low. The silt was also a mess. In the end I put the chair well back on almost firm ground, but had to sit with my feet in mud. An hour after packing up downstream I was cast out again. Not without trouble.
Winding in my downstream rig it had found the rock pile I was hoping held a fish rather too well. The hook had parted company with the line. That needed replacing. More annoyingly the other rig, which I'd hoped to cast straight out, maybe with a fresh bait on, had got tangled up on the walk to the swim. Try as I might it would not untangle. Sweat was running down my forehead when I arrived at the swim, I was hot and bothered, my specs steaming up making it impossible to see the knotted line. I had to cut and start again. With two baits cast out it was time to cool down and have a brew.
Again the rigs were holding easily. Again nothing much was happening. No chub or eel bites to make me leap up in anticipation. England got hammered by the South Africans and I was beginning to feel the river was going to hammer me too. The night was particualrly black. There wasn't much I could make out in the woods. But it was mild and windless. Not unpleasant. I'd give it three hours or so. I was leaving the baits out for almost an hour at a time. Nothing of note was collecting on the lines and even three ounces was holding well enough.
At ten to nine the downstream rod, with the Oyster and Mussel boilie, began doing a chub dance. The fish felt more like an eel, but was indeed a chub of a pound and a half, or thereabouts. I rebaited, put on a fresh pellet bag, recast and sat back down. This cast I chanced a little closer to the snags. It only took five minutes for the tip to pull down and stay down. Then the ight and sound show started. Immediately I pulled into the fish I got the feeling it was decent. Certainly no chub. As it rolled ready for the net the size of it's mouth suggested a scales job would be called for. With the net laying in the edge I got the sling and scales. As I stepped forward to dunk the sling my left foot sank through what had looked to be leaves on the bank but turned out to be quickleaves. Like quicksand but leaves. My foot was damp and cold.
Although the fish looked, and felt, heavier she only just scraped over the ten pound mark. Rather lean of belly she was. The fish was popped back in the net rather than messing around with the sack while I got hot and bothered again finding somewhere solid enough for the bulb release to work. The fish felt really cold as I held her for the camera. A few snaps and back she went. Out went a new bait to the same spot and time for a brew.
There wasn't much tea left. Surprisingly my wet foot wasn't cold so I wasn't miserable, but the honey sandwiches hadn't been too filling and hunger was setting in. I clung on for an hour more. The boilie rod tip had pulled down and sprung back shortly after being recast. I had a nagging feeling I knew why nothing more had materialised. Sure enough it was snagged solid when I came to wind in. Oh well. It hadn't been a bad session. I'd put some effort in and caught.
A nice run of settled weather wouldn't go amiss right now, even if it means the river going low and clear. I could get that stillwater pike session in, or do some serious chubbing. But the weather is predicted to be unsettled this coming week, so it's looking like barbel fishing will have to be slotted in when the time is right. If that fits in with work commitments.