Canada, small rivers and just why the hell do we bother? (Entry 218)

Did you know that the UK is on the same latitude as some places in Canada? If it wasn’t for the gulf stream we would be literally up to our necks in the white stuff. Wow. Then we would truly be cold. And there’d be precious little chub fishing to look forward to. A frightening thought.

Even though I’m fully aware of this ‘other reality’, I can’t help thinking that we are having some really horrible weather conditions at the moment. Ones even less condusive for catching fish in. Cold, strong winds, unsettled weather patterns, and for the river angler, rain, rain, and more rain. Water levels up and down like the undergarments of a certain worldly type of person. It really is testing at the moment. Still, though, we must go out and try. Even though we know, with a strange kind of certainty, that our chance of catching will be slim to nil.

My plan this week was to head to one such small river and wander between swims. The cold water that ran in a few days before put pay to that, raising the rivers level, and making fishing there pretty much a no-go. So I didn’t go. I mean, I did go to the river, just to confirm my suspicions, that little nagging doubt of ‘what if’ spurring me on to at least take a look. There was no ‘what if’. The next day I headed to a stillwater, with half a pint of red maggots, and a few worms. I fished a simple waggler set up for anything that cared to come along. I’ve never seen a commercial water with such clarity. I could see the bottom for two thirds of the way across, and in the strong wind that circulated around the venue, it made for a very cold and bite-less few hours. No amount of layers were fully impervious to its biting nature. Oh, and the sleet came, and soaked everything. It was utterly grim.

When I was sat there, freezing my unmentionables off, I’m going to be honest; I really thought that I might get a bite in the end. Even though my brain was screaming at me to pay attention to it, and leave, I just couldn’t. There was this other voice you see, weaker and more distant, coming from somewhere else within, that made any ideas of an early dash for warmth simply not an option. The most annoying and eternal conflict rattling around inside any angler. One of logic versus hope.

I really can’t wait for the day that I am no longer able to hear that little voice anymore. Though, I have a feeling it wont be for a very long time yet, however. I suppose I’m glad about that. I think. Ask me next time I can barely move my fingers enough to pour a warm drink.

See you in two weeks,

NorthwestFisherman

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Supercharged / superforgetful (Entry 190)

What a turn around the river had made; a red-brown torrent streamed. Down the centre of the river, foam from an upstream rapid section collected, a white stripe where the current flowed its most fierce. The place where I sat last week was out of view and off limits, drowning under at least three feet of extra water. In front of me, deep water eddied creating a slack section, central to the bank I stood upon and the main flow. In these types of conditions its such places I like to look for. Havens for barbel to take a few moments refuge. Chub too. I’ve caught some big chub from similar swims in the past. Today though, I’d set my sights on barbel, a safer bet in flooded conditions.

Boilies for the win!

The rig was different to last week. As was the bait choice. Heavy line and a strong hook would be paramount in helping to land a hard fighting barbel in the strong flow, and bait needed to be heavier and less round. I halved some old boilies that I’d had hanging around for months. I needed to get rid of them more than anything and this seemed an opportune time. Everything would be fed via a PVA bag, and a paste wrap around the boilie hookbait would finish everything off. Half an hour passed and in that time I made three casts, the first two were ended by debris collecting and dislodging the ledger, whilst on the third the rod hooped over. My first barbel of the day and it fought like a madman.

The first barbel of the day

The next cast and another barbel decided that my hookbait was the new must have snack. The same brute strength and ferocious speed as the first. I rested each fish I caught for at least fifteen minutes before returning them. It’s always important to make sure barbel have recovered but even more so with increased flow. Especially given how hard these particular fish were fighting. A lull in activity then ensued, giving me plenty of time to watch the wildlife; A pair of kingfishers and a grey heron. Even a little owl fleetingly made a daylight appearance. Two hours passed without any further fish. The river dropped over a foot and a half in that time, and I found that casting a little further out, chasing that ‘walking pace’ water as the flow decreased helped to get my next bite.

And the last barbel of the dayThough I did miss it and the next one. Chub more than likely. I convinced myself they were the smallest chub in the river just to make my failure easier to stomach. Then the weather took a turn for the worse. The rain came, the wind blew, the landscape became that of slate but another two barbel made all that secondary. The last fish stripped twenty yards off the reel with ease. I thought I’d hooked a salmon. These fish are so healthy. My plan was to stay into dark and I probably should have done but with an hour to go, my flask drained, sandwiches still in the fridge at home (I’m getting so forgetful – might be time to start doing Sudoku’s), I retreated and left the barbel in peace. Happy of course. Very happy indeed. And I’d got rid of the boilies.

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

Something a little different (Entry 189)

It must be getting on for a year since I last fished a river. A staggering statistic considering they are, without doubt, my favourite type of water to fish. Big or small, low and clear or up and coloured, I just love the challenge flowing water brings. Their ever changing quality and the fact there is no way of knowing just what fish are in front of you. They are certainly intriguing places. I arrived at midday to a low, clear river, but I still felt quite confident of a bite or two. Maybe enthusiasm was masking better judgement. Fellow anglers were thin on the ground, and the ones that were there, all talking of how tricky the river was fishing. I really hoped they were wrong.

Their thoughts and opinions were not ignored however and whilst I tackled up, just one rod to make my presence less intrusive, I opted to fish fine and cautiously. Barbel would still be my target but the tactics would be less ‘heavy’ than usual. It would be interesting to see if this softly-softly approach worked and what would be tempted in amongst the barbel. I rigged up a light bomb rig, just capable of holding position in the faster water, three quarters of the way across the river. Instead of feeding with a feeder or suchlike, I would feed the small pellets with a catapult, little and often, just like I was trotting a float. My plan was to cast more frequently too, searching the swim for pockets of fish, instead of sitting idly for periods of time and simply waiting.

A barbel to start

It didn’t take long to get that first bite. Twenty minutes or so since my first pouch of bait settled, the rod tip lurched over in a most familiar way, a barbel had to be the culprit. My light rod soaked up the fishes lunges, which instead of powerful, surging runs, were moderate nods and head shakes. Dare I say, more of bream, than barbel. I calmly led the fish into the shallower margin of my own bank, and here the fish made a few runs, ones that were easily cushioned by the rod blank. At the end of one such run a moderate sized whiskery head popped above the surface. Under controlled strain I rolled the fish backwards and over the net. That will do just fine!

A 'choach' amongst the chub

After the barbel, I had a run of small chub, nothing bigger than two pound, but it was great to see so many smaller fish present. Mixed in with them I had a roach/chub hybrid that, when still a distance from the bank, had me nervous for a time as I thought I had hooked a big roach. Not so, but a beautiful fish, a little under two pounds. After a small lull in activity some very fast, hard to hit bites plagued me. A shoal of dace, attacking the bait on the drop and after one or two of them were caught, a small brown trout made an appearance. Five species and counting. I couldn’t stay until dusk today, so come early evening, I made my last cast. The reward was another bottom feeding ‘monster’ of the river; a two ounce gudgeon. Four barbules to start with and two to end.

A gudgeon to finishThanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

One thing after the other (Entry 170)

I’ll keep this one brief. Theres two reasons for this. The first being to keep you all from falling asleep as you read. It’s fair to say it wasn’t the most thrilling of weekends. Like test match cricket when the run rate is barely above one. An hour. The second reason is because although I did manage to catch a few fish, on a second shorter session, I had an unfortunate incident with my camera. To say the back end of this year has been unlucky for me, both on the bank and off it, would be an understatement.

First up, those pesky perch. The canal fished very hard again this week. The wind still gusted, making fishing with light lures really hard, especially for someone as inexperienced as me. I had one very timid take that I connected with all too briefly, the fish didn’t feel that big to be honest, but I would have liked to bank it. It would have saved the blank that eventually played itself out and would have at least been a picture of a fish; something thats becoming all too absent from these pages.

Still, I thought as I drove home down winding roads, I should be able to wangle a few chub from the river tomorrow. A few hours presenting a lobworm into likely looking spots should see a chevin or two unable to resist. On the day the river was fining down, a little up on its usually level, and carrying a tinge of colour. It certainly looked good for a bite. Off I went to the first swim and presented the bait perilously close to a tangle of trailing branches. Two minutes later, the tell tale tapping of a inquisitive chub saw my strike meet with muscle, and a two pounder was quickly landed. A great start!

A fish at last!I got a photo too. It looks good doesn’t it? A blog with a fish picture! And more chub followed. In fact over the next two hours I caught five, of better size than the first, and all from different swims. So where are the pictures, I hear you say? Well, my lens decided to stop ‘communicating’ with my camera body. It wouldn’t focus, and even more importantly, would not allow the camera to release the shutter. Just my luck.

But I had caught some fish, whether you choose to believe me or not, and I certainly appreciated the tonic. I can still catch fish. Just not perch. Time to trawl eBay for a replacement lens or I’ll have to start presenting these updates with artist impressions and rubbish sketches.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

A great reward on a tough day (Entry 158)

I fancied a change this week, not from the venue or the species I hoped to encounter, more the style of fishing. On speaking to a few anglers on arrival, and it was now well into afternoon, the consensus was that the river was fishing hard. Still, when the bait is in the water there is always a chance. I wished them good luck and went to find a spot. Despite some rain during the week, the rivers flow was dawdling, the water was clear and I resigned myself to the fact that simply getting a bite would be a result. I was gong to try ledgering today but everything would need to be scaled down. Smaller weights, lighter lines, and finer tips. Of course, scaling down has a habit of tempting fish that are far too big for the setup, an occupational hazard when six inch fish swim alongside eight pounders.

My sights were set on a much more modestly sized fish, at least by comparison, a roach over a pound, but as I said earlier, simply getting a bite was my main priority. If no bite came then the sights and sounds of the surrounding country would be a pretty good consolation. It was time to fish, and over the next hour I cast the swim feeder every ten minutes, to introduce a little bait to an area of river the size of a car bonnet. I then eased back on the feed only part filling the feeder and casting with much less regularity.

Sensitive bite indication

By now it was difficult to see any delicate indications, as the wind had sprung up and was gusting in across the field. The only thing for it was to hoop the line over my finger and hope that the tiny plucks from cautious roach would vibrate from source to tip. My finger quite literally on the pulse of the river. Currents grating over the line, bowed softly out, keeping the feeder from being pulled out of position. There I sat in a trance. Hoping to be pulled out of it sooner rather than later. Somewhere between thinking about the first time I ever cast into a river, and wishing six o’clock would come round quickly so I could eat my chilli con carne, I found myself sweeping the the rod backward. Reflexes set into action by two solid and definitive taps. I had hooked a fish that hung in the flow. It didn’t feel like a roach and I presumed it was chub. A head shake then further motionless hanging. The fish used what little flow there was to its advantage, but with gentle pressure I coaxed the fish into the margins, where I saw just what it was. An eel, of around three pound. Not a bad fish really. And my goal of getting had bite had at least been achieved.

An unexpected guest

The river refused to send any more fish my way over the next three hours, despite scaling down even further and trying all manner of hook baits. The tip simply refused to budge. The resident swan certainly thought my bait was tasty enough, and for the second time, I had a friend for the remainder of the session once a few casters had been sent its way. As the sun approached the horizon, the quiver tip began to show a few signs of feeding fish in the swim, and I readied myself for a bite. True to form it was only when I had begun to pour a drink of tea from the flask, that the tip pulled confidently round. No need to strike, just picking the rod up was enough, and a jagging fight ensued. A roach, I had no doubt, and it felt respectable too.

A great reward for sticking it out

And so it turned out to be, a big river roach, just a few ounces short of the magical two pound barrier. This did not make it any less welcomed, a beautiful example of the species, one that glistened in the warm, late evening sun. It was not the last of the action either, although it was the dreaded ‘occupational hazard’ that reared its head, twice in two casts. Both fish much too powerful to turn and probably two of the rivers barbel. An hour into dark and with the rod tip now back to absolute stillness, I decided to call it a day, and head home. Targets achieved and several hours thoroughly enjoyed.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Ninety seconds of crazy (Entry 154)

One

It got quite cool once the sun dropped. I’d been sat on the riverbank for five hours now. In that time I’d been soaked by a torrential downpour (that wasn’t helping the temperature situation now), lost several rigs in snags, and had 90% of casts thwarted by weed being washed down in the floodwater. Oh, and my shoes had decided to start leaking. A pretty dire situation and yet here I sat. Still watching the rod top nodding. Still hopeful that in a fraction of a second my mood would be lifted, soaked clothes and soggy feet forgotten about, as a barbel hooped the rod round. I poured some tea but even this didn’t induce a bite. I sat back and looked up at the sky now free from any clouds. Starting in my peripheral vision, bottom left and exiting top-centre, a sharp streak of feint light. I furrowed my brow. Was that shooting star? Too fast to focus on but too unusual not to notice. I sat for a second or two and accepted that it had to have been a shooting star. What a great thing to see. A point in favour for still being sat here. Feet now feeling less soggy indeed. I drank my cup dry and reached down to put the cup back on my flask. Thats when I became aware of the presence at my feet.

When it rained, it rained

Two

I tilted my head down sharpish. So caught up in astronomical decision making, I’d failed to notice something within touching distance, inches from my outstretched legs, head poking out of the shallow, flooded margins. It was an otter. Large flat head, short, rounded nose and long whiskers. It’s hard not to be appreciative of this animal when so close. The otter bobbed his head then disappeared under the surface, only for a second before re-surfacing again, this time the other side of my feet, and now even closer. I cursed the rain for forcing me to keep my camera stashed in my bag, How I would have loved a picture of this close encounter of an otter kind. It seemed like he was getting the measure of me. The otter, now pretty sure I was nothing special, dived into deeper water and out of sight, a line of bubbles the only clue to its direction. No wonder I wasn’t catching any fish, I mused. At least I now felt much warmer in my damp raincoat.

Waiting

Three

I scanned the water upstream once more before accepting the otter had vanished. Turning my head left I looked back at the rod tip as it started to shake and pull over. Surely not a bite? What was happening! I picked up the rod, hands trembling slightly, and was met by solid weight. Solid, moving weigh. Then a violent head shake and deliberate power. I simply couldn’t believe how events had just unfolded. If I’d have had a third arm I would most certainly would have pinched myself. Five hours of redundant actions then ninety seconds of madness. This wasn’t the time to reflect though. I had to concentrate. Already the fish, definitely a barbel, had made several yards on me and was heading for the main flow. I didn’t want it reaching that. I tightened the clutch, the pinging sensation from last week still fresh in my mind. This time, thankfully, the hooklength held and the fish was stopped. I kept the rod high, in an attempt to stop the line grating on any rocks between me and the fish, as the barbel dived into deep water.

A message from the universe

Almost

I managed to lead the fish in close, inch by inch coaxing it to the surface, praying the line would hold, grimacing at the thought of unseen snags close in, made accessible by the extra water. As the fish surfaced I could see it was a good size, the net was flung in its general direction, and just in time too. The barbel lunged down and found sanctuary. Thankfully, in the mesh of my net. I rested the fish in the margins and readied the scales. A deep breath and a chance to take it all in. The universe had just treated me to an amazing skyward spectacle, a very close encounter with a beautiful (if controversial) mammal, but as it turned out decided to withhold one ounce from making this fish my first double figure barbel. A wry smile upon a beaming one. Once more rested the fish, another cup of tea, whilst the minutes passing by. Just what else was going to happen? A Sasquatch casually walking out of the field and joining me for a quick brew? I packed the rod away. The barbel, still in the net, was kicking strongly now. Time to let her go.

Thanks for reading this update. You might like to head over to my Facebook page. Once there if you ‘like’ the page, you will get all the blog, twitter and Facebook updates in one place! You can click the link at the end or hit like to the top right of the home page. Don’t forget to share this with anyone you know might appreciate it using the social media buttons below.

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Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Fuel (Entry 153)

To the river it was, another evening session where I hoped to meet up with some of its  fighting fit barbel, no doubt still hiding themselves away from the afternoon sun. The river was still painfully low and clear, even more so than last time, but I felt that a bite or two would be possible if I fished into darkness. The thing I am learning to appreciate about barbel fishing in these conditions is that time seems to tick away a lot slower than usual. This is not to say that it drags, not at all, but the session can be planned and executed with an almost Germanic precision. A bit like bream fishing.

Nature provide if only you look

Bait can be mixed properly and allowed plenty of time to rest. The perfect constancy achieved. This can then be casually fed, a bed of bait laid down in readiness for a few hungry fish to be mesmerised by, then once more simply left to fester for an hour or two. Plenty of time for the rods to be tackled up, rigs tied carefully, and of course, a cup or three of tea consumed. Its quite incredible how much more you can notice when given this extra time. The flora and fauna, the nuances of the river itself, and the the setting it is a part of. How I tried to unsuccessfully blend in, on numerous occasions trout spooking from the shallow margins, alerted by tiny movements from an angler sticking out like a sore thumb.

I made my first cast around eight o’clock, a running rig, light ledger weight, and very long hook length sent two thirds of the way across the river. I’d started fishing with a few casters hoping that I may pick up a chub or two while waiting for the barbel. The fish had other ideas and not a tap registered on the tip.

A change of bait

With the light blue sky starting to darken, dusk was not far away, so the rig was reeled in and the hookbait changed to pellets. Still presented on a short hair in case any big chevins fancied some supper. The swim was topped up with regular helpings of small pellets and it was simply a case of sitting patiently and awaiting the gloom. The sun had been below the horizon for twenty minutes and the sky held on to what was left if its blueness. The rod was yanked savagely. Line began to melt from the spool. The first barbel had been hooked and was heading, turbo charged, up river. Thankfully this direction was away from any visible snags and once I had made up the line, the barbel came in quite placidly, waking up only when in the net. Resting in the margins recovering, was a very healthy looking barbel, a respectably sized one too. What a great result.

A great looking barbel on dusk

It must have been ten minutes before I recast, having made sure that the fish swam away strongly, but no sooner had the lead touched down than the rod was heading upstream once more. The fish lunged more aggressively than the last but fought less frantic, and at the point where the other fish turned, this one kept going. Faster and faster, clutch spinning, heart rate increasing. I managed to turn the fish, gaining several yards of line in the process, before another surging run pulled the rod over. In seconds, twenty yards were lost. Raw power. Heavy weight. I tightened the clutch a tiny amount and ping.

The fish was lost. It was a lot heavier than the first and I feared it may have been a big barbel. The feeling in the pit of my stomach one every angler experiences. One of complete hollow disappointment, fuel for the future though, I tried to convince myself. I had a consolation barbel an hour later. A smaller example but a lovely looking fish. Rested, cared for and returned healthy to this magnificent river. One that obviously holds big fish. Boy, I would loved to have seen what I lost, and maybe I one day will.

A late, little barbel

Thanks for reading this update. You might like to head over to my Facebook page. Once there if you ‘like’ the page, you will get all the blog, twitter and Facebook updates in one place! You can click the link at the end or hit like to the top right of the home page. Don’t forget to share this with anyone you know might appreciate it using the social media buttons below.

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Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman