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

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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

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

Swings and roundabouts and barbel (Entry 151)

The first of two sessions this week took place early in the morning. Very early in fact, arriving before dawn, but only just. Time to rain a good amount of bait into an area of the river I thought looked best for a bite. Such a commotion would surely unnerve any fish present, at least for a while, so over the next hour to give the swim time to settle, I ate a tea cake, had two cups of tea and generally took in the ambience of the place. Peaceful, cool and hazy. The landscape tinged in blue. Without a breathe of wind. Nothing dared to move. The river itself only doing so begrudgingly.

Unfortunately, the rod tip followed suit, sitting motionless for around two hours, before eventually giving in. The bite was a spectacular one, rod tip hooping over and jagging ferociously, and it appeared my target species had been hooked. The hard fighting barbel. Upon picking up the rod however, I was met with little resistance, a little head nodding but nothing more. A small chub then, the greedy little thing certainly had its eye on a good meal, in the form of the big halibut pellet I had on as bait. I casually reeled the fish in and netted it, but upon peeling away the layers of mesh, I was shocked to see it was in fact a baby barbel, perfectly formed and fresh from the mould. Quite how it managed to take that pellet I’ll never know.

First fish of the new season

After it’s picture, the fish swam strongly away, the rivers future for a second literally in my hands, and its a good sign to see smaller fish present. For the rest of the session though, it appeared as if the river was devoid of fish, save that one baby barbel. Dinner time soon came and with the sun now very high, it was time to leave, the drive home giving me time enough to plan a return trip for the next evening.

The next day passed quickly and I soon found myself bank on the riverbank. A session of opposites about to begin. For starters it was evening instead of morning. No longer was the air still, an angry wind gusted from all directions, and the sun that forced me to retreat the day before was hidden from view behind dark grey clouds. Ones who’s bark, I hoped, would turn out to be much worse than their bite. The only thing remotely similar to the first session was the level of the river and its lack of flow. Despite this I decided to fish positively, so in went a few feeders full of pellets, casters and of course, some hemp. Much smaller baits would be used this time, my hookbait changed from pellet to caster, at least until darkness fell.

My new best friend

I ate a tasty pie, had three cups of tea, and set up my camera equipment in readiness. Just in case, and certainly not a show of confidence, but if I was to catch a fish I wanted to keep it out of the water for as little time as possible. An hour soon passed, in fact it was nearer two hours, and I’d still not made a cast. My hay fever played up big style, my eyes itched and I couldn’t stop sneezing. Probably not the wisest move to be sat in the countryside but what was I to do? I also became sidetracked feeding a trumpeter swan some casters. I’d never seen one before and they are huge! On occasions the swan looked lovely, yet on others seemed to have a sinister look in its eye, as if it now knew where my secret bait stash was and would seize it the very moment my back was turned. Unsurprisingly, I now had a companion for the rest of the evening, but I didn’t mind.

My rig was cast into place a little after nine o’clock and remained there until well after eleven. From nowhere the rod tip sprang to life. I sharply picked the rod up and leant into a powerful fish. In the darkness it was a fantastic fight, accompanied by hisses from an unimpressed swan, a long and sleek barbel gave me a real run around. In the end the fish was beaten, and rested for a few minutes before I even contemplating unhooking, which I could do in the margins. It was then up to the mat for a super quick picture, a maximum of thirty seconds later the fish was back in the margins and allowed to fully recover. It took a further five minutes before I was happy enough the drop the rim and let her swim off. Which she did strongly, illuminated in the clear water by my head torch, an impressive sight indeed.

A good sized summer barbel

And that was it for the rest of the evening but I left the river a very happy angler, walking back across the field amongst a huge hatch of mayflies, and the sound of ravenous trout taking advantage of this bounty. A perfect end to a fantastic evenings fishing.

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.

Click here to go to the NorthwestFisherman Facebook page

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

The tea that got away (Entry 132)

The dim head torch supplied just enough light to pack away. I must remember to change the batteries. A triple check was observed to make sure I had not forgotten anything. Although later it turned out I had indeed forgotten something. I began the walk back to the car. A time to reflect on the day. It had certainly been a memorable session. One that I might have played out in my head before starting fishing. It would probably go something like this.

A perfect backdropI made my way to the area of the river I fished last week. Thoughts of chunky chub still firmly rooted in my mind. I hoped I might encounter another fat bellied chevin before the end of the season. The water was fairly clear and the level lower than my last visit. I was sheltered from a moderate wind by the high bank in front of me and the temperatures were on the up. On the whole then pretty favourable conditions. Once more I would use pellets. They’ve served me well so far on this river and there is always the chance of picking up a bonus fish too. I didn’t mess about this week. Straight away I fed two bait droppers of mixed pellets. I now had plenty of time to set the rods up, tie the rigs, and have a ritualistic cup of good luck tea.

The morning gave way to afternoon and although I had not had any visits from the chub, time had not dragged. I cast every hour and fed small helpings of pellets via the catapult on a more regular basis. There was plenty of wildlife to warrant my otherwise fixed gaze be shifted. For a few moments at least. Geese, mallards and a pair of swans drifted by on the current. Plenty of gulls and a maligned cormorant flew overhead. A kingfisher darted past twice and I even saw my first swallow of the year. Of course, it’s presence doesn’t guarantee summer but it is certainly a step in the right direction. By late afternoon a few clouds rolled in and the sun began to bow ever closer to the horizon. I recast the rods again and poured another cup of tea, holding onto the notion that the next hour might present me with a reward for my efforts. Secretly though, I resigned myself to simply enjoying the last moments of a fulfilling day spent in beautiful location. Cue the right hand rod hooping over. And the spilling of my tea.

A heavy weight hung across the river. In the deep water, it felt particularly chub-like, prompting me to take my time. Steady pressure saw the fish ease to mid river. Then into slightly shallower water but this was not to the fishes liking. A screaming clutch ended any belief that this fish was a chub. With a little pressure on the spool, the run was thwarted but not before the fish was pretty much back where it had started. I went through the process again. Steady pressure and deliberate movements of the rod. Coaxing the as yet unseen fish into the margins. Another devastating run. Pace and power. Unstoppable. Gradually the runs became shorter and I began to gain the upper hand. Energy sapped, a bronze and brassy flank revealed itself as a good sized barbel turned on its side, allowing me to carefully draw it over the outstretched landing net.

An immaculate near double figure barbelA beautiful, sleek looking barbel. Perfectly conditioned and full of fight. It was not the intended chub but I was not complaining one bit. My first barbel from the river. Certainly a fish to remember. Time for some quick pictures. It was then a case of resting the fish and sharing a few moments before watching it swim strongly back into its magnificent home. The sun had now dipped below the horizon. I recast the rod and waited for darkness, and maybe for the first time ever, I didn’t want to catch anything else at all. I just wanted to take in the moment under the burning orange sky.

Safely resting on the unhooking matThanks 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

Zig zag wandering (Entry 110)

I imagined the car would be understandably bemused when I didn’t take the usual exit on the motorway this week. It was time to head for somewhere a little further afield. Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band were keeping me company on the journey and I simply couldn’t wait to get to my chosen location. It has been a good few months since I last ventured onto a river and it felt like it too! Much, much too long. The conditions haven’t been great for weeks though, and from talking to friends and reading reports online, the rivers are in desperate need of some rain and a good flush through. Today however, the expected low conditions and warm, bright sunny day did not bother me one bit. Neither did the idea of catching. I was simply looking forward to once more being sat by moving water. Fishing for the unknown amongst the currently subdued currents. Even if that ‘unknown’ meant not catching. It really didn’t concern me one bit.

I didn't see a soul all dayI settled into an inviting swim, positioning my chair on a small mound, that ordinarily would be a foot or more underwater. A chance to walk the stretch and look for features not usually obvious in normal or flooded conditions? You bet, and thats exactly what I did, straight after I had a quick lead around the swim. In doing so I found an interesting depression in the river bed and deposited a few bait dropper loads of bait. I was in no hurry to fish just yet. Time to give any willing fish plenty of time to settle. I was already finding the place absolutely stunning. It’s funny how we become immune to places we visit often. Sometimes it takes a jolt to make us realise that just because they become familiar they shouldn’t be allowed to lose their charm. I once read a book by a famous architect who said that if you find your journey to work boring then you aren’t using your eyes. What a very fitting observation and one that I find myself taking stock of when I feel a place doesn’t have the ‘magic’ it once did. Anyway, enough philosophical rambling, back to the fishing.

Take a closer look when out on the bank

I left the majority of the tackle in the swim and I had a wander around the stretch. Up the bank, down the bank, up the bank and down once more. I took with me my rod, landing net, unhooking mat and a few pieces of meat. Should the opportunity arise for some freelining in amongst the fronds of ranunculus. Although I was looking for any features, I wanted to be prepared for the chance of catching my first fish from the river. I found lovely looking shallow glides and areas where the river was noticeably deeper and slower. I noted a few obstructions worth remembering for when the river returns back to its usual level. I didn’t see any fish on my travels but I did have a few exploratory ‘blind’ casts in some likely looking areas none the less. Nothing fancied my offering so I returned to the swim I had baited an hour or so ago. When I returned I set up a light running rig with a fairly long hooklength and smallish hook. Bait would be a small pellet or whittled down boilie and for an hour I watched a motionless rod tip. I also watched a vast amount of wildlife coming and going. Still an abundant amount of insect life zooming about, trying to evade the attention of the hungry birds. As the light began to fade I could hear small mammals making their way through the undergrowth. No way to see them but I found it strangely comforting to be surrounded by a place so alive. Time for one final top up of the swim with the bait dropper. Then it was a case of waiting for darkness to set it. Slowly the isotope became more apparent until this tiny dot of fluorescent light was the most obvious thing in the landscape. The sky had clouded over and became a deep Prussian blue which in turn transformed the bank side trees to a dense blackness.

I watched the isotope for a further three hours. It remained more or less stationary the whole time, apart from a few tiny plucks made by small fish. Well, thats what I’m telling myself. The river conditions were against me and I didn’t manage a fish, but as I said in the opening, I wasn’t really expecting anything. It’s an easy thing to say but I really wasn’t. For me, like all of my fishing, the wild water of a river is about so much more than simply catching. But fishing a river seems to heighten this somehow. Maybe its because they are ever changing. From day to day, season to season, and year to year. A place where you don’t need to use your ‘fresh eyes’ to find something different.

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 tight lines

NorthwestFisherman