Sunday, August 30, 2009

Noises off

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.

A blank saved

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.

Before

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.

After

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.

Two hooks to remove

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.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Short and not too sweet

I'd found a blank that might just turn into my ideal dropper/tree rod with a little hacksaw work and was toying with building it up yesterday evening. But there was a nagging voice in my head. Rather later than usual I was driving towards the river. I'd hedged my bets by taking a route that gave me a couple of options for tracks to follow. As soon as the first turning approached I flicked the indicator on and was pleased to see just one car parked up.

The river was up and carrying some colour. The air was warm and the sky overcast. It could be a nice muggy barbel night. I wanted to try a new swim and after lugging my gear down the bank I droppered in some pellets, using the botched rod I'd cobbled together last week, above a willow. There was a fair depth close with a good flow, so the dropper was the answer. I then took my time setting up the rods, shoving in the banksticks and finding somewhere I could get my chair reasonably level.

There was a strong breeze blowing upstream, but the willow kept it off me and it was quite a comfy peg, if a little cramped, to fish from. The plan was to leave the baits out for as long as possible. A 15mm boilie down to the tree and a 10mm boilie cast upstream. The 3oz leads were holding nicely, but after an hour I recast the upstream rod. A good job too. How long the bait had been missing is anyone's guess. Those 10mm Tuna wraps are okay, but a pellet stop makes them split. I really should have used a normal hair stop. I swapped the boilie for a drilled pellet.

The church clock chimed nine and the isotopes were already glowing brightly against the starless sky. The clouds had merged and thickened. Half an hour later the rain came. It started light at first. It wasn't long before it got heavier. Like a fool I'd left my brolly in the car so I decided to tough it out. Sitting there hunkered down with my jacket zipped up above my chin, the hood pulled low over my eyebrows and my specs steaming up my mind went back to the wettest day I have spent in a boat.

It was on Chew reservoir, and not only did it rain solidly all day but it was windy too. With both anchors down it was still like being on a switchback ride. I was sat at the front and the driving rain was so bad that my boat partner at the stern had to sit with his back to me. Not only were we wet and miserable, we couldn't even lighten our mood by chatting about surreal topics like racing-pigs as we have done on similar occasions. We were 'glad when we'd had enough' that day, but we weren't quite the last drowned rats back at the lodge!

After ten minutes of water pooling on my lap and running up my sleeves I cracked. I went for the brolly. After fiddling around for a few minutes I got it stable, the high bank behind me making the job difficult. On winding in the baits I'd noticed the drilled pellet had gone. Things were not going well. I rebaited both rods and cast out again. The rain immediately grew lighter. Then stopped altogether. I took the brolly down...

The sky now lightened and the Plough appeared. The wind was picking up, not quite creating white caps on the water, but making quite a ripple against the flow. I thought the pace of the river seemed to be increasing too. It must have been, there was certainly more weed coming down and the rod tops were pulled down further. One rig moved. Then the other. A couple of recasts and a snagged lead later it was time to break out the big leads for the first time this season. They did their job. But by eleven twenty I'd had enough and conceded defeat for only the second time on the river since June. It was due.

I'd only fished for three hours but the conditions had been changeable to say the least! The car's thermometer told me the air temperature had dropped from 19 to 13.5. Those chilly single figure, bunny suit, nights are getting closer.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

All purpose barbel rig

Recently I've mentioned upper and lower hooklinks on my barbel rigs. I thought that as there's been a lack of photos recently I'd brighten the blog up with some pics of my barbel rig and a description of how it's put together and why.

The first thing threaded on the line is a large eye swivel. This could just as easily be a small eye swivel, but the large eye's ones are cheap. This is followed by a 6mm rubber bead, and a size 8 Power Swivel is tied to the end of the line. A paperclip is attached to the free eye of the running swivel. The paperclip is a weak link should the lead or feeder snag up on the retrieve or when playing a fish.

The basis of the rig

To the free eye of the Power Swivel I tie either a length of 15lb Amnesia or 35lb Tiger Braid to form the upper hooklink. On the rare occasions I am fishing mono mainline instead of my usual 30lb Power Pro this upper link might be tied from a length of mainline. How long an upper link I use is pretty random. It's never less than three feet and can be almost six feet. The longer it is the more I can cut it back if it gets damaged. A Power Swivel completes the upper hooklink.

Rig, upper and lower hooklinks

The lower hooklinks are tied up in advance to suit the baits I'm using at the time and are stored on the rig board in my Korum Rig Manager. All bottom links terminate in a loop tied using a Sensas Easy Loop. The link material is usually 35lb Tiger Braid, sometimes 20lb Tiger Braid and occasionally 15lb Amnesia.

Lower hooklinks stored on rig board

You can use whatever lines you like for constructing either of the links. Coated braids, fluorocarbon, anything you get on well with. I just happen like braided hooklinks and have found Tiger Braid to be as abrasion resistant as any braid (the 35lb is tougher than the 20lb though) - and it sinks. It's also a damned sight cheaper than braids sold for making hooklinks!

The thinking behind the rig is simple. You get fewer line bites with long hooklinks than you do with short ones. I have found I catch more barbel using them. Most damage to hooklinks occurs close to the hook - usually within three or four inches. If you use a long one piece hooklink it's difficult to cut it back and retie if using the knotless knot to attach the hook. It soon ends up shorter than required, and this is wasteful. Having the hooklink in two sections cuts down on waste as the upper section lasts a long time. This is less so if you use mono for the links as I don't trust knots to last in mono and after losing a fish due to knot failure I recommend using a fresh upper mono link at the start of every session. If it wasn't for this I'd used Amnesia all the time for the upper link. Braid can be left on for ages without any worries. So I stick with it. If you do use Amnesia give it a stretch to take the remains of any coils out before casting out.

The swivel to which the lower hooklink is looped serves not only this purpose, but also pins the last few inches of the rig to the river bed. Although I use a sinking braid a one piece hooklink can still loop up and result in foulhooked fish. The weight of the swivel almost completely eliminates this.

I don't claim to have invented this set-up. I did arrive at it independently though, through a process of evolution. It's easy to swap from straight lead to feeder. It's almost as easy to swap lower hooklinks. If needs be I use my hair needle as a knot unpicker. I have used a snap link in place of the lower swivel, but they are more expensive. This is a consideration if fishing where tackle losses can be high. A snap link isn't as heavy as a swivel either. I suppose it could be covered in tungsten putty, but I like to keep things as simple as possible.

If you prefer to use a semi-fixed lead then there is an easy and cheap way of rigging that too. Just replace the rubber bead with a tail rubber and jam the large eye swivel over it. A convenient advantage of this arrangement is that when breaking the rod down the lead doesn't need removing. The large eye swivel is easily slid off the tail rubber so the lead slips neatly in the pocket of the quiver like a running lead does, and doesn't rattle against the blank half way up the rod like it would on a conventional semi-fixed clip.

Semi-fixed alternative


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The night of the small white slug

A last minute cancellation by the brickie saw me dashing to the river to squeeze a short session in. I had a swim in mind, and it being a Monday night was certain it would be free. It wasn't it was occupied by two Barbel Bite Alarm Billies. Never mind. The swim I'd caught from last time out on this length was vacant.

The river was still low, despite the rain earlier, and I droppered out some pellets to the channel then out with the baits. I had less than an hour of daylight with not much to watch apart from a flock of sheep on the opposite bank. And they weren't very entertaining. The two anglers downstream were for ever tweaking their alarms. I found this mildly irritating. I have nothing against using bite alarms for barbel fishing, or any other fishing, as I use them. In fact I had my rods resting on two. The difference being that mine were switched off. They'd remain that way until I started to feel sleepy, which was unlikely on this occasion as I was only fishing until midnight.

The sky was quite clear, the air temperature falling after dark and dampness accumulating on the rods and my fleece. I put my waterproof jacket on to keep the damp out. It's hard to imagine that twenty-four hours earlier I had been sweating under a cleared sky, it was definitely more like autumn. With no rain forecast until the early hours the brolly was stashed at home.

Unusually I only had one chub/eel bite before the light went, and none after. As I'd seen the anglers below me catch a couple of eels in daylight I was surprised at that. By eleven I was resigned to a blank. The eyelids were drooping and I almost switched on the alarms.

Walking to the swim through the rain soaked nettles and balsam my bait bucket gathered a couple of small white slugs. As the session wore on I found one on the butt of a rod - which was unpleasant. Finding another had crawled into a fleecy handwarmer pocket of my jacket was more unpleasant still.

I thought the flow had picked up a little, but the darkness made it hard to tell. Then I noticed that the flat rock by the water was no longer dry. I shone my head torch on it and, sure enough, the river had risen a few inches. The rigs were still holding station but that probably explained the intermittent bleeping I was hearing from down river.

Alarms or no alarms I was in no doubt when the downstream rod signalled a bite. Barbel have an amazing ability to impersonate a snag at times. They manage to hang there, apparently glued to the river bed. Keep the pressure on and they move eventually. Once they do shift they know how to pull back. This one scrapped well, but even having been hooked in six or more feet of water I managed to make it swirl on the surface. After a couple of dicey moments near the marginal rocks, and a lot of splashing around on the top, I netted a thickset fish that weighed spot on eight pounds.

Minor chaos had ensued as I unhooked and returned the fish. During which time a small white slug had slithered on to my chair. With everything back to normal I sat and relaxed again, the blank having been saved. I'm due a blank on the river, so it wouldn't have been too painful to endure. I'd only gone fishing because I could, the sole barbel of the night really had been a bonus.

It was getting on for half past eleven by now. I felt a spot of rain. Then another. Then more hissed on the river's surface. I put my hood up. There was no malice in the rain. It was hardly even drizzle and soon gone. Nonetheless when the church clock chimed twelve I packed up - discovering a small white slug on my rucksack. When I was loading the car to return home I found another small white slug. I bet the car's full of the slimy blighters now.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The night of the cow pat

My plan to do an overnighter on Saturday, returning in time to listen to the Test Match on Sunday, went out of the window when the brickie phoned to say he was coming to do some more pointing. No fishing on Saturday. Sunday dawned wet up north, but fine at the Oval. By the time England had humiliated the Aussies I had done some work and was raring to wet a line. The persistent rain had turned to showers, it being dry as I set off. Would there have been enough rain, early enough, to have coloured and raised the river? No. It was even lower and clearer than on my last visit.

Swim choice was difficult. Only the cows were on the bank and I could fish anywhere. I opted for a swim that I had only ever fished before in flood conditions. Then I had taken barbel from under the rod end, but now that was shallow and I was casting across to the tail of the gully. Deeper upstream, shallower downstream.

I took my time arranging the gear in the swim. There's a ledge that can be fished from but it's cramped. Setting up above it would raise the rods and help keep the line out of the rocks anyway. The problem was a large, crusty, cowpat in exactly the place I wanted to sit. I put my chair more or less on top of it. Two baits were out by eight. One was an S-Pellet Tuff 1, the other a 10mm Tuna Wrap - a bait I have little faith in, but seeing as I was sent four tubs of them I might as well give them a try.

It had started to drizzle. As I'd left my feeders and dry feeder-mix in the car I set to making up some PVA bags under the brolly. With the river being so clear I thought I'd tie up a mono hooklink to see if that would give me a better chance of a bite in daylight. I had a hook selected and the spool of Power Carp ready when the upstream rod was away. The Tuff 1 had been snaffled by a lively scamp that was hustled into the net. As I lifted the net from the water I heard the baitrunner on the other rod start whirring. The net was popped back in the water, arranged hastily to prevent an escape, and a second little barbel, maybe half a pound heavier, joined the first one in the net. That hadn't taken long!

With the water being so clear they were both bright looking fish, the oft mentioned coral fins complementing brass, gold and bronze scales and creamy belly. I admired the pair briefly before unhooking them both and slipping them back over the net cord. I was going to take a photo of the brace, but the battery in the Olympus compact was flat and I couldn't be bothered getting the other camera out.

The drizzle turned to rain. It was dark by now, still warm despite the wind rustling the leaves of the trees making a sound barely distinguishable from that of the water tumbling over the rapids downstream. Not a good night for bats, but one or two came out to feed. There were plenty of midges about for them. Midges that feasted on me every time I flicked on the Petzl.

I'd swapped the rods round and replaced the Tuff 1 with a 15mm Mussel and Oyster boilie. The boilie I had positioned close in. There had been a few fish swirling there when I arrived. Although shallow, it appeared to be a little deeper near the bank than a rod length out. Some pellets had been scattered there in preparation.

When setting out my little camp I hadn't placed the chair quite right. Every time I stood up my feet went through the crust of the cowpat and I'd slip. Breaking the skin on the dung also released it's aroma. Enough was enough and I moved brolly back a touch and the rest of the gear was dragged into position to keep it dry. Much better.

At ten, to my surprise, the 10mm Tuna Wrap that had been cast upstream tore off. This barbel was a little bit larger. Maybe six, maybe seven pounds. Somewhere in that range. Fifteen minutes later the margin rod hooped over. At first I thought it was a small barbel, but it was chub. A pristine fish of four pounds or so.

I gave up on the margins and cast out across the river. Almost straight away the bait was taken and I leaned into a barbel that cut me off half way up the three foot hooklink. I've not been cut off like that for ages and was a little bit annoyed. A 15lb Amnesia upper hooklink was tied on and the 12lb Power Carp lower link I'd tied up earlier added to see how it performed. I never found out. After a decent wait I went to wind in for a recast and the rig was snagged solid. The Power Carp snapped, and the Amnesia was frayed. I trimmed the frayed section and attached a braided lower link. At eleven the new rig did the job and I weighed a belligerent eight pounder that refused to come to the net. It even looked angry on the bank and swam of contemptuously when I released it upstream. That fish had an attitude problem!

After an hour of inactivity, the sky having cleared to reveal the constellations beyond a few wispy clouds, I got an urge to move upstream a few yards. Hardly had the Tuna Wrap settled in the new spot when it was taken. A funny take. The rod tip dipped and the baitrunner spun, then nothing. A repeat and I grabbed the rod and pulled into the fish. Then it was gone. Cut off again, this time near the hook. I couldn't believe it. It only took five minutes for the fresh bait and rig to work their magic. Another six pound barbel which proved to be my fiftieth of the season.

That was enough for me. I'd had to get a session in before I went doolally as I'm not sure when my next chance to fish will be. I reckon it's time to start looking for some bigger fish when I get that chance.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tackle 'essentials' - 1

There are some simple and effective items of tackle that really do make fishing easier and more efficient. But Maggot Tweezers?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Retail therapy

I'm having the gable end that faces the prevailing wind repointed. The guy who's doing the work is doing it of an evening. Which has messed up my fishing this week. Wednesday threatened rain, so he called it off - when I had made plans not to fish. Yesterday was fine and he got some work done, but with the nights drawing in I reckon there's still two more days to go. So today I decided to cheer myself up with a trip to Ted Carters. Those Torrixes were looking lonely...

More cardboard for the recycling plant

Yes, I went for the XTEAs. After a bit of internet research I determined that all four sizes differ only in the spool size. The weight difference being negligible it seemed obvious to go for the largest size. If I don't like them for bream fishing I can use them for pike, zander, eel or catfishing (if I get the chance) - or should I lose my marbles all together, carping.

Initial impressions are that they are more solidly built than my older Aero Baitrunners, smoother too. It's hard to tell if they are as robust as the Baitrunner Bs. Time will be the judge of that - or a few barbel sessions using the big leads.

I was hoping to load the reels with Nash Bullet XT in 12lb (the ten pound having served me well for the limited amount of tench fishing I did this spring), but Carter's were out of it. Not to worry I had a spool of 12lb ESP Crystal Carp at home. Why do they have to put that horrible word in the product name? Are carp anglers so dumb they have to use a line that has the fish's name attached? Having worked in a tackle shop I can tell you the answer is often 'Yes'. Irrespective of what it's called I've got on well with the stuff. I used it for breaming earlier in the year and have caught a few barbel, and even a carp, on the stuff. It spools up nicely and is limp. I imagine it would make pretty good hooklinks for barbelling if I was that way inclined, what with it being a 'clear' mono and all.

Well, I didn't have enough of the ESP line to fill all three reels. I did have a bulk spool of fifteen pound Ultima Power, though, which I had bought to put on my spodding reel after having trouble with my braid snapping. This would do to partly fill the spools - they are quite capacious! While loading the line I thought it might be quite nice for fishing with, but a bit thick for my purposes in 15lb. I had to nip out while the cricketers were at lunch so I called in at my local tackle shop to pick up a spool in 12lb. They had none. A shame as it's a grey colour that would have matched the reels nicely. I've gone off Daiwa Sensor so lashed out a few extra quid on 1000m of Ultima Power Carp (that word again...). I've not used a fluorocarbon coated copolymer before, so it will be interesting to see how it performs. It certainly spooled up reasonably enough.

After all this it looks like I'll be having a stillwater session soon so I can sit looking at my new set up. Where, and when, will depend on how soon the gable end is finished. I bought a tub of lobworms as I had some cash spare after paying for the reels, so there might be an overnighter for eels in the offing.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Geeksville

I know most of you couldn't care less (if at all), but I've added some code to the blog so that the photo-link to my DLST website changes randomly each time a page of this blog is loaded. It was something to do while listening to England's changing fortunes on the first day of the final Ashes Test. I'm not telling you how many different pics there are though!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Déjà vu

It was back to the home of the killer ducks to conclude the dodgy deal of last week. Coming through the farm my way was blocked by machinery - again! This time there was a horny handed son of toil mending a trailer and he happily moved the vehicle. After concluding business at the riverside I plodded upstream and had a look around. There was a spot where there was some faster water pushing across to the far bank that I fancied, but the swim was occupied by a grazing cow that wasn't for mooving (sic)...

The next swim down was more comfortable to fish from anyway, and as I was thinking of stopping until the early hours for a change that had played some part in my choice. This time I baited the downstream rod with an S-Pellet - as much for a change as anything, the upstream continuing to fish a small crab Pellet-O. Although it was breezy the spot I was in was sheltered. There was cloud cover and the car's thermometer had read 22 when I parked up. It could be a muggy night ahead.

The first visitors to my swim were the ducks. Milling around in front of me and murmuring to each other softly. Next to show up was a barbel. It only took forty minutes for the S-Pellet to steam off downstream while I was in the middle of tying up some fresh hooklinks. A bit of a better scrap than had been the case in this area ensued, the fish proving to be only six pounds or thereabouts. Even with the river low and clear fish can be caught in daylight.

Darkness is arriving at nine thirty now, the cloud cover speeding its approach. At five to ten, with the headtorch most definitely needed, the S-Pellet tore off again. This one was obviously a bigger fish, and again scrapping harder than the barbel had been previously. Looking in the net I couldn't believe it was another double. Sure enough it was. Now it was time to fight with the self-timer on the camera. I'd had a dry run at home as the bulb release I had ordered over the net had yet to arrive, so I knew what to do. The timer on my Canon can be set to take a number of photos in sequence - so should be ideal for fish photography.

Anyone who tries to tell you that a self timer is suitable for taking good trophy shots of fish either holds dead fish up to their camera or is an idiot! I managed more photos of flying fish and my knees than decent pics.

Take 1

Take 2

I also notice that because the camera focuses when the shutter button is pressed the balsam is perfectly sharp - the fish not. Self timers? Pah! Nonetheless, despite a little more messing around than is usual it didn't take long and the fish swam away strongly when I slipped her back in the shallows. I hope that bulb release turns up soon.

After sorting myself out again I put a fresh S-Pellet on the hair, a fresh bag on the hook, and recast. The brew had just been poured when the bait was taken. This time it was my kinky friend visiting my net for the fourth time this season. Barbel are intelligent? Ok. Whatever.

In the past the feathery fiends have left me alone after dark. I assumed the swam off somewhere to roost out on the river away from predators, but this night they came begging like shadowy spectres. I threw them some more pellets, but down from where my rods where to try and stop them invading again.

For no other reason than to see what would happen I swapped the S-Pellet for a boilie. It took about three quarters of an hour for that to get picked up by another fish in the six to seven pound bracket. The wind had dropped and the clouds were breaking up. A few stars shining, but not enough for me to make out the constellations. An occasional breeze would spring up momentarily making me wonder if this was a lunar effect that is rumoured to occur. The clouds closed up again. It was, indeed, a muggy night.

By midnight I was getting the feeling that the action was over. Bed seemed a better prospect than the riverside so I left it to the cows, the bats and the owls. The car thermometer read 18 as I pulled away along the track.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sunday driving

Glue was setting, the day was dry, I had a plan. It didn't work out. The way to the stretch I had in my sights was blocked by a tractor and a laughing farmer. They seem to take perverse pleasure in barring your way down narrow lanes. I formulated another plan.

It was only seven thirty but with the threatening cloud cover was dark enough to require the side lights. I'd have to get a move on to be settled in before dark. Joy! There were no cars parked up. My new plan was to fish away from my usual haunt on the outside of a bend. I stumbled down the bank, pitted with hoof marks and littered with partly grassed over rocks, to see an angler on the far bank, his rods pointing towards the channel I had hoped to fish. I suppose I could have been belligerent and claimed the 'half way rule', but I don't like fishing opposite other anglers even if they are out of casting range. There was plenty of vacant river to go at.

I wandered up and downstream a ways. The river looked inviting, but the bank somewhat treacherous and the water rather a long way down. Given time I could have worked out a way to fish safely and to net fish. That was time which was running out. For some reason I didn't feel like dropping in a well known swim. The recaptures and fishing by numbers has got a bit tedious despite catching plenty of fish. Back in the car with a third plan and upstream to the length I'd fished on Thursday.

Just in case there was anyone else there I had a quick walk to the swim I fancied, one up from the previous session, and found it vacant. The entire length was free in fact. I was soon back and tackling up. Following the failure of the rod I had last used for the bait dropper I had cobbled something together from some aborted rod conversions I'd tried over the years. It had come out at eight feet, in two very unequal sections. It chucked the dropper okay though. What I'm trying to achieve is a shortish rod that will lob out a dropper while still being suitable for barbel fishing under trees and in tight spots. That would allow me to carry the one rod for the two jobs on another river I fish. I might be getting close.

Anyway, the pellets were duly deposited slightly downstream, out from the rocks, in the channel. The level was down from the previous session here and the marginal rocks in the first swim I'd fished were even more exposed. This swim looked less hairy for playing fish. Good enough reason to fish it.

The boilie rod went over the feed, four or five droppers full, with as big a bag of pellets it was possible to make attached to the hook. I'd leave that out until it was taken, or dragged out of position by weed. The pellet rod was cast upstream and further out with a more reasonably sized bag of pellets on the hook.

The first thing that drew my attention to the sand martins was their chattering. They were sweeping over the far side of the river seemingly without flapping their wings as if they were rocket powered. The ease and speed with which they fly must make their long migrations pass quickly for them. Straining my eyes in the failing light I could see that they were flying to the nest holes in the far bank sand-cliff. I doubt they have broods to feed, so I'm assuming they use the burrows to roost. They'll soon be gone, being one of the first summer migrants to arrive and the first to leave. No doubt the winter floods will inundate their deserted nests, maybe even crumble the entire bank.

Despite the commotion the dropper caused it was only ten or fifteen minutes before the rod tips started tapping. At five past nine the boilie rod hooped over even though it was set low. Barbel really do scrap well when hooked close in. This fish really had me fooled as it took line with the rod arched into a near semi-circle. I couldn't believe it was 'only' a seven pounder. Much more fun that pumping in fish from distance.

More taps and twitches were seen. Mostly to the pellet rod. I suspected eels and sure enough one finally hung itself. Then a chub took the boilie and tried to drag the rod in. It fought pretty well on the heavy gear, convincing me I had hooked another barbel for a while. I made a pig's ear of netting it. The first attempt being a complete failure. I was sure the fish was in the mesh when I lifted it. My eye's aren't what they used to be! Second time round I got it right.

It was gone ten thirty by now and there was a light drizzle falling. I had my waterproofs on and erected the brolly to keep the rucksack dry. Five minutes before eleven the boilie rod was off again. The fish was away at speed. I picked the rod up and was trying to stop the fish with finger pressure on the spool's skirt before engaging the gears. My baitrunners are set pretty tight, almost as tight as the drag, but I made no impression. Probably a good thing as this allowed the fish to get well out and away from the boulders in the edge. It slowed and I flicked the lever to the off position and began to apply some proper pressure.

All through the fight the rod was at its limit, the fish took some line, made a few serious lunges and at one point I felt the line pinging off something. It was quite nerve racking not knowing exactly where the fish was in relation to the potentially line cutting rocks. As soon as I had the fish on the surface I bullied it into the net. No mistakes this time.

The ritual of staking out the net was gone through and the scales readied. This time my guesstimate was optimistic, but not my too much. A long fish that I wouldn't mind meeting again later in the season. I slipped her back in the net to rest while I set up the camera. The swim was a bomb-site by now. I'd collapsed the brolly and slung it in the balsam after the landing net pole got tangled in its ribs. It had stopped drizzling by now. My jacket had been removed and hurled on the back of my chair, the pellet bucket on the seat. The rod was chucked next to the umbrella. I calmed myself down and took my time.

Chaos

Tripod and mat in place I was sorted. Or so I thought. First press on the bulb release which I had repaired with Aquasure after it split, and used successfully last week, failed. I checked it over and there was a hole in the repair. I tried to remember how the self timer worked, and failed. Two snaps of the fish on the mat and I slipped down the now treacherous rocks to the water's edge and released her. She was raring to go and quite a sight to watch gracefully working her way through the jumble of stones back into the channel. Daft as it seems I'm sure it is the moment of release that we often enjoy most.

Bulb release required

Another shower came in on the wind forcing me to put the brolly back up. The rods were unmoved. I contemplated leaving for home at the next break in the rain. That came at midnight. It lasted until the umbrella was back in the quiver. Back on with my jacket and the rain stopped. It had been an eventful outing that hadn't gone entirely to plan, although the outcome couldn't have been scripted any better - a nice fish from another new-to-me swim. If only it was always so easy.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Field testing

Looking at my newly built Torrixes got too much for me to bear. Two of them had reels fitted and were slung in the quiver. Despite the rain earlier in the day the river was still very low, lower than it had been two days earlier, but only the usual angler in his usual swim when I arrived. Unbelievable on a Saturday evening. I took my time tackling up the new rods and had two baits in the water by eight thirty. Although I built them for stillwater fishing I know some people rate them as barbel rods and I'd have a good chance to put a bend in them with a fish on the end.

I should really have rigged them up with braid for a fair comparison with my Chimeras, but my spare reels were loaded with mono and I'm lazy. They cast the three ounce leads well enough. The tips deflect more than the Chimeras do. I didn't chance a bigger lead. I suspect that the mono may have accounted for the slightly spongy feeling on the cast. The real test would be playing a fish or two.

There was a slight chill in the brisk westerly, a hint of autumn on its way, the sky clear. It was only half an hour in when the upstream rod started bouncing rapidly. This was caused by a cheeky little chub of two or three pounds. Not the most arduous test fro the new rod. The next bite, to the same rod, was far more positive. The baitrunner spinning slow and steady. The rod took on more of a curve. Again, it could have been the mono, but things felt springy. The fish wasn't big, in fact it was the third visit to my net for The Kinky One.

Hello again

Ten minutes after recasting the rod was away again. A slightly bigger fish that I slipped back fifteen yards downstream where the margin was slighlt deeper. Where I had set up the margin was so shallow that I had to paddle out to net fish with the pole at full stretch. The barbel hadn't powered off, it sat in the edge either resting or bemused.

I'm fairly sure that this fish was a recapture as it had some raw marks near it's tail. I've had a few fish in this size range bearing these marks, and I'm pretty sure they are the same few fish. Earlier in the season I had put these marks down to spawning injuries. I'd have expected them to have healed by now. So I'm not sure what the cause might be. The fish are feeding well enough and filling out though.

Mystery marks

Another ten minute break and the 'runner was turning again. Another pea-in-a-pod fish that I unhooked in the net and pushed out into deeper water. The next fish took half an hour to take the bait. I think this might have been because I had run out of tied up pellet bags. With more tied up I'd wound in and rebaited. The bite came quickly after that. I weighed this one at a shade over seven pounds to keep my guessing eye in. With the fish in the sling I carried it to the deeper spot.

I was a little surprised to see the second barbel of the night was still where I'd left it. Lying quietly fanning it's gills. This isn't unusual. Quite a few times I've slipped a fish into shallow water and it has stayed there for some time. They come to no harm, so long as they can maintain their balance and remain upright, and eventually waddle off. The fish I was releasing was a real live wire and thrashed its way out of the sling. As it regained its freedom it brushed against the other fish. This must have stimulated something in it's fishy brain and it swam off following it's boisterous shoalmate. It was quite a sight watching the the pair of them swimming over the shallows heading upstream and slowly fading from view.

As I was playing each fish I looked up at the curve the rod was taking on. More tippy than the Chimeras, and I feel a little lighter in test curve - despite what it says on the tin. I'll be doing some comparative deflection tests in due course. The rods are definitely lighter in weight than the Chimeras and I think will be perfect for their intended purpose of hurling method feeders towards the bream.

At five to eleven, under a starry, but mild and mistless, sky I wound in the downstream rod which had remained undisturbed by fish. There was something on the end in addition to the boilie. Whatever it was was small. I expected an eeel, but it turned out to be a barbel of a pound, maybe less! Over my shoulder a band of cloud was moving in. I thought I might need the brolly, but it soon blew over without depositing anything wet on me.

Small and greedy!

That was it for the night. I stopped on until twelve thirty when the flask ran dry. Bites having dried up I guessed there'd been a feeding spell and it was over.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

New reels required

The Torrix blanks are now completed rods. In the end I went with MNSG SiC rings (six plus tip, 30mm to 10mm, Rover Ringing pattern), NPS reel seat with stainless collars, keeper ring and just a rubber Fuji butt cap to finish the handle off - although this may change later as I'm not sure about it. I've kept the lettering to a minimum (DLST as shown, and 12/2.5 underneath at the rear of the reel seat), and added a discreet metallic tipping to the tyings on the handle.

Functional but smart

The rods look so good I simply can't put my cheap Aero Baitrunners on them. It's a pity the XTEAs have double handles and I do wish I hadn't been told about the Baitrunner D series...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Now, then, forever

Driving across the flatlands I turned one of the many ninety degree bends and ran straight into a wave of overwhelming nostalgia. On my left was field of half-dried hay being turned in the late summer sun. The grass lying like a loosely thrown duvet over the ground. The next sharp bend turned right before I could change up a gear and there was a wheat field, motionless. The early evening light throwing the Naples Yellow ears into chequerplate relief.

Nostalgia for England is not Bob Cratchet in the snow or Heathcliff on the rain-lashed moor, it's Constable, Housman and larks ascending in the brief, nameless period of low sun and still air between summer and autumn. I don't remember which route I took to the river. I was lost somewhere in the past that was also the now.

The river was flowing peacefully when I arrived to fish a spot EH had shown me on Tuesday. It had the vibe and I wanted to try it out. After struggling through the vegetation I took my time getting set up. A quick lead around and I knew it would be snaggy. Big rocks in the margins and cobbles on the river bed. With the flow pushing through under the rod ends I droppered out some pellets. I was trying a different rod for this. I was hoping that the nine footer would double as a rod for tight swims. It was a bit lacking for the dropper. Back to the drawing board - or I should say the blank pile.

Even while I was baiting up the mallards arrived. Not my friends from downriver, a more bolshy bunch. I chucked a couple of broken boilies in and the ducks dived for them. Bang went that idea. With the baits in place I sat down for the inevitable PVA bag tying session. The warm evening made this a piece of cake. Although not hot I was able to sit out in shirtsleeve order until gone eight. By which time the rod tips had already started twitching to the attentions of chub. I didn't expect any real action until the light had gone.

The swim was a comfortable one, and as I was sat a few feet above the waterline, fishing close in, I was able to keep the rods low. This positioned the tips at eye level, preventing neck ache, and the isotopes glowed brightly against the silhouette of the opposite bank as dusk turned to night proper. When the bite came I wasn't expecting it.

The downstream reel buzzed wildly and I found myself playing the fish before I knew what was going on. The marginal boulders made for a tense, interesting fight. I managed to clamber down to the water's edge and with the fish beaten drew it safely over the rocky jumble into the net. A fish of six or seven pounds was unhooked in the river and swam slowly back over the ledge to deeper water.

More taps and twitches were coming to both rods. It was almost an hour later when the upstream rod slack-lined repeatedly. This was no barbel, no chub either, but an eel. It was flicked off the hook into the water.

A clear blue evening sky heralded a starry night. And a starry night would mean a drop in air temperature that would allow a river mist to form. I was surveying the river for mist - a killer of sport - which was light and sparse, when I glanced upstream and saw the moon's orangey glow through the leaves of an ash, I think it was an ash, on the far bank. Not quite a half moon, not quite a crescent. A Samuel Palmer moment and the nostalgia swirled round me. The polythene wrapped silage bales opposite seemed as timeless as standing stones.

By eleven thirty the mist was thickening. For the first time this season my toes were feeling chilly. I tidied my gear away without interruption, climbed the grassy bank and loaded the car.

One good turn

I haven't read any of his work, so don't blame me if you don't like it, but Simon Crump is an angler who sends me e-mails saying nice things about this blog. So here's a link to his new book on Amazon.

Neverland: the unreal Michael Jackson stories

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

First blood

For a change, and a challenge, I thought it a good idea to fish a different stretch of river. It's often hard to leave the comfort zone when you've had a good session or two but then again you can try to ride your luck elsewhere.

I'd checked the weather forecast on the BBC website and rain was predicted to arrive after dark. I put the brolly in, just in case they were right. As I got out of the car on arriving at the river to meet a customer at five the rain arrived. Just a light shower that soon passed. After doing the dodgy deal I got back in the car and set off to look at another stretch I had yet to fish. Half a mile along the road the rain came back. Heavier and more persistent this time. Knowing that a walk would be involved I carried on to the stretch I'd walked on Sunday. I could fish closer to the car there.

Getting the gear out of the car I realised that I had no PVA bags of pellets tied up, and trying to tie them under a brolly would be almost impossible. I left the rucksack and rods in the rain and jumped in the back of the car with my pellet bucket. I spent fifteen minutes or so making up pellet bags and eating my butties before trotting (more like limping!) off upstream.

The rain eased as I walked past the only other angler on the bank. I dropped my tackle by the first swim I fancied, but I was compelled to have a look at the next swim along. There was definitely something about it. Maybe the flow patterns appealed subconsciously. The gear was moved and carried gingerly down the bank.

The first task was to cast a lead around to get a feel for the swim. Then I droppered out some pellets upstream and about a third of the way across the river. Some more pellets were thrown downstream (I forgot my catty) about a rod length out. An 8mm crab Pellet-O went upstream and an Oyster and Mussel boilie downstream. By six thirty I was settled in with the brolly up - rather pointlessly as it turned out. The high bank at my back made it difficult to get the brolly angled to get any real shelter from the light rain, especially with the upstream wind that was blowing. Still, it wasn't cold and the rain was more of a drizzle.

Even with the rain there were swallows wheeling around and twittering. They will be feeding up ready for their long journey south. There was certainly a good hatch of some sort of flies on the river so they should be well fuelled.

It wasn't long before something showed an interest in the pellet. The rod shook and the line fell slack, but there was nothing attached when I wound down. Then there was a really sharp chub knock on the boilie rod. I thought I might be in with a chance of a fish of some description.

As the light was starting to fade, early with the heavy cloud cover, there was another shake of the pellet rod and this time the line fell slack, and slacker, eventually moving downstream and into the wind. That had to be a hooked fish. Sure enough there was a fish kicking when I got a tight line. Eel. Fortunately lip-hooked and not wrapped up the line it was easily flicked from the hook.

Half an hour later the boilie rod started dancing and a feisty chub of some four pounds was netted. That would do me for a first session on the stretch. I hadn't blanked. I'd fish until ten come what may. I'd seen enough of the stretch to want to return.

At half nine I started to tidy the gear away. I'd put the rods on my short sticks with the alarms attached. While I was sorting the gear out I switched the alarms on. There not being anyone around to disturb should one go off. The rucksack, chair and bucket were carried up the bank and I was stood watching the rods for the final few minutes when the tip of the pellet rod tapped. I was watching it for further movement when the other alarm sounded out a one-toner. The rod was pivoted round on the rest and the butt off the deck!

I grabbed the rod and applied finger pressure to the spool as the fish continued taking line against the baitrunner. I flicked the 'runner off and started to make some impression. Not being too sure what the river bed was like in front of me I leaned into the fish and it came upstream. When it passed me and carried on upstream I was beginning to wonder what it might be. As I stopped its powerful run out to mid-river it rolled over on the surface and soon after was in the net. Nice! I staked the net and scrabbled up the bank for the scales - the sling was in my quiver still by the rods.

A starter for ten

The fish looked a 'nine', but felt heavier. The Avon's needle removed any doubt by spinning round more than 360 degrees. Back in the net for a rest while I sorted the camera out. There was more of that damp stuff falling now, so I threw my towel over the camera while I carried the fish up the bank. A few snaps then back to the water. As soon as the mesh was submerged the barbel was trying to swim away. I dropped the net cord and helped her over it. Away she went, swimming strongly out of the beam of my head torch. I finished packing the rods and net away. I ate a Nutrigrain bar before trudging back to the car damp, but satisfied that a combination of instinct and watercraft had put a fish on the bank.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sitting by a river throwing in pellets*

Although England managed to bat for longer than I thought they would the collapse still arrived before I'd finished whipping all my rods. Nonetheless, despite the day turning cloudy and threatening rain, I stuffed an early tea down my neck, left the brolly at home and headed for the river.

First stop was to look at a new-to-me length and have a walk. Even with the overcast I worked up quite a sweat. Then headed off to visit my feathery friends. It wasn't long after I'd set out my stall that they arrived, milling around in the edge waiting for the pellets they knew were coming. They were the only companions I had as the river was deserted. It looked as if the stretch had seen a bit of stick over the weekend though, with trampled grass in a few places.

With the baits out I sat back to relax with a brew. I was idly watching the rod tips when I heard rustling and a quiet 'peeping' sound in the grass to my right. The feathery horde wasn't satisfied and wanted more. There are two missing from the brood since I first made their acquaintance but the remainder are almost fully grown now. Even so, mum still keeps a watchful eye out for them.

video

Beware - ducks!

It took me by surprise when the downstream rod sprang into life. It only felt like a small fish but was proving difficult to get under control. When I saw the boilie hanging from a pectoral I knew why - it was foulhooked. With the river low and, more importantly, clear it was vividly coloured. Bright coral fins and deeply brassy scales. A fish for the future.

Dusk still lingers with hatches of flies coming off the river, but the long shadows come earlier. Summer is showing signs of drawing to a close now. Swallows were flying high, far above the wood on the far bank, leaves now turned dark shades of green with hints of autumnal browns in places.

I had pulled the upstream rod out of a snag, fraying the hooklink, and was tying up a second spare one after recasting when that rod was away. A decent fish by the feel of it. A well filled out none pounder as it turned out. Fifteen minutes later the same rod jagged down a few times and I lifted into a fish that felt equally good. Then it fell off. I'm still not convinced by the S5 hooks in smaller sizes for barbel fishing.

Half an hour went by when a sharp take to the downstream rod stopped suddenly, then the tip jabbed again. I expected an eel, so a small chub was a pleasant surprise. A fresh bait was attached to the hair and recast. Barely had I sat down again and the same rod was in action again. No chub this one. Immediately I picked up the rod and bent into the fish it took line. Always a good sign.

Sure enough, it was a cracker. Another solid and chunky fish. The bigger fish have lost their early season flabbiness and with the clear water are looking good.

Throw pellets out, wind barbel in...

When I was returning the fish I noticed that it had a slightly deformed barbel. I'll have to check back through my photos to see if it's a fish I've caught before. [Yes I have and at the same weight. Which is odd as it's on the web at over a pound heavier... Must buy some new scales!]

A closer look

There were some strange noises coming from the far bank woods after dark. The first was a rather loud bark. Just one. Then later there were sounds of things crashing through the undergrowth. This didn't sound like deer, which can sometimes crack a twig or two. Maybe badgers, they can be less than subtle at times. One thing I doubt was causing the noise was the big black cat that I have heard is prowling the valley. It's strange how talk of big cats sometimes spooks you. Last time out I packed up early because I couldn't get the animal out of my mind and kept looking over my shoulder! This time it didn't bother me. Even though I'd had an unexpected feline encounter as I approached the river.

Coming down the bank I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of something stalking in the long grass by the river. It's long tail twitching in anticipation. How amazing that I had only heard of the 'panther' a few days before and there I was, face to tail with..

...a small white kitten that bounded off in fear as soon as it became aware of me!

I was too lazy to fill any more pva bags of pellets, so when the last one was used up I started to tidy the gear away at eleven thirty. Five minutes into this process the upstream rod was off again! Just a small one, but nice to finish the session off. Why low and clear conditions put people off I really don't know. Barbel can be caught, and in daylight too. Okay, the biggest fish of the session came after dark, but I'd had a couple before the headtorch was required. Still, I'm not grumbling.

* With apologies to John Gierach


Friday, August 07, 2009

Harrison Torrix blanks

There's been a lot of speculation about a three piece fifteen foot barbel rod from Harrison's. It's been announced on the web in a few guises by at least two rod builders. I've had enquiries about this blank myself.

Yes, there is a blank. One Torrix lay-up blank. One test curve. One tip. As of my latest visit to the factory earlier this week that's it. If you read anything to the contrary it might well be rubbish! From what I hear there is not much chance of any progress before October.

There is a new production blank available now though. A 12ft Torrix in 1.5lb with an eleven foot version to follow. I've not seen one yet so don't know how it compares to the 1.75lb - which I think is nicer than the 2lb. Less tippy.

At last I have got my hands on a 2.5lb Torrix blank (three of them to be accurate) and having taped some rings on it and run some line through them I think I have found my long range bream blank. If anything it's a 'light' 2.5lb. In a side by side comparison the overall power seemed pretty similar to my beloved Chimera 3s. The action a little more tippy. Not as stiff in the butt as the 2.5lb Balllistas I recently got rid off, and softer in the tip than the Chimera 3. It had that 'something' that immediately felt right - it may well become a Dave's Fave.

I'm pretty sure it's just what I've been looking for. The Ballista tip on the Chimera butt was close, and the Torrix is similar - and lighter too. I can imagine it being okay for barbel fishing, but there is something about the way those Chimera 3s bend, and bend, and bend that is perfect for the way I fish!

All I have to do now is decide on a build. At the moment I'm thinking Alconite guides and that's about as far as I've got. Or maybe SiCs? A 30mm butt ring seems likely, but how many more, and what size tip ring I can't decide. It'll probably be six plus tip - 30mm to 10mm. Cork handles, abbreviated Duplon, full or split Japanese shrink? So many options!

I chucked some pellets in the river on Wednesday night. Then reeled in some barbel. Not much more to it than that. A trained monkey could have done it.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Better than a blank - just!

The rivers would be carrying extra water, the barbel would be feeding, but I quite fancied sitting behind three matched rods on a stillwater. So the sunny morning was spent in deliberation. Time was when I'd have done what I thought I ought to, but eventually I chose to do what I wanted to do. Three rods were put in the quiver along with the plumbing rod. It was a late decision. I had Test Match Special on the wireless as I made some sandwiches. Two Aussie wickets down with the first two balls of the day. Should I stay home and listen? Nah. I can just about get long wave reception with my fishing radio on the dashboard.

The journey was slow. Not stop-start, but slow. The cricket made it bearable as more wickets tumbled. I arrived at the lake later than planned, even with the late start. Although there was a strong south-westerly blowing I chose to fish with the wind off my back. There was one other angler fishing the same bank - the only other angler on the lake, and he'd caught a decent bream in the morning. I felt like I was in with a chance.

I mixed up some groundbait and fired out a dozen and a half balls to the marker float which was over 12 feet of water with a fairly clean bottom. Then two method feeders were cast out temporarily while I rigged the third rod with a simple running leger and shot hooklink, and baited the rig with two 9mm Tutti Fruti bolie pellets. The method feeders were then swapped to cage feeders on simple helicopter rigs. The clouds started to gather but it remained bright.

Ever since I spent a year on a 'massage the dole figures' scheme working three days a week on a nature reserve I have disliked them. They are totalitarian. The argument that anglers disturb wildlife and damage the flora is a nonsense. The path was alive with butterflies as I walked to my swim. Small brown ones, small blue ones, larger white and speckled ones, all feeding on the masses of flowers.

Butterfly heaven

The baits had been out nearly an hour. Time for a recast then put the kettle on. I was screwing the gas bottle to the stove when I was disturbed by the sound of an alarm. The middle bobbin was up at the top, the line bowstring taut and the alarm still sounding. I lifted into the fish and felt not the thump of a bream, but the pull of something else. My first thought was that I'd hooked a carp, but it didn't feel too heavy, maybe a tench - of which there are supposed to be a few in the pit. It kept pulling to my right and kited in. Now this could be a problem as the water was a good two feet higher than normal. Sure enough the fish ended up in the marginal reeds that should have been stood in inches of water.

I'd almost put my wellies on, but there I was paddling out in my boots. I soon went over the top of the left one. I backed out and walked down the bank to see if a change of direction would free the fish. It didn't. What I could see of the fish wasn't much, just a vaguely dark back and some ripples on the surface. It looked like a decent tench. I put the rod down, removed my boots and socks then tried to roll up my trouser legs that were already damp around the ankles. Rod in one hand landing net in the other I soon realised that wellies wouldn't have been much use anyway. With the water up to my knees (and my trousers soaked to the same depth) the fish rolled on its side. It was a carp. I'd got soaked for a small carp!

Small carp & wet trousers

I left the fish in the margin while I took my trousers off and hung them on the back of my chair, covering my pale legs with my bib and brace. I put my boots back on my bare feet - Gortex lined boots don't feel clammy against skin when damp so I was quite comfortable. It would have been a different story in winter, though.

Luckily it was a good drying wind. Two hours later the trousers were dry enough to put back on. The clouds had coalesced to one grey sky. Bad light stopped play at Edgbaston. Then the rain arrived. Intermittent spots at first, falling lightly now the wind had dropped to a mere zephyr. Then getting heavier, but not heavy, and steady. I sheltered under the Aqua Rover.

What I wanted to do, not what I thought I ought to be doing

With the cloud cover, and the shortening days, dusk came around nine. I hoped to see the dark backs of bream rolling, but none showed themselves. Although it wasn't cold my feet were turning chilly. I packed up early, in the dark and rain, at half past nine. It could have been a better session, but it had been eventful in its way!