The opening of the river season unfortuntaely didn't go quite as I had planned, the family car being stolen from our drive five days prior to the start of the river season, a few days prior another house in the road had their car stolen in daylight and to top this all off, a few days later a stolen jcb digger ram raided the cash machine at the local BP petrol station just round the corner from me. Never a dull moment in Berkshire.. Ram raid three mile cross
No thanks to the legalised crime that is car insurance, a car was eventually sorted out and I was off down the Loddon, armed with the new baits in hope of a Barbus. On arrival the river looked simply stunning and was looking in very fine fettle, dragonflies darting about before perching on stinging nettles as tall as me, although being as short and rotund as I am that really does not take much.
It was a reasonable day, sunny and mild with a blustery south westerly taking the edge off. I decided to place one rod out on the home made boilie recipe, which I have aptly named " red anchovy", due to the inclusion of anchovy and robin red as part of the ingredients. The other rod was placed out on a 12mm hinders crab and krill pellet, both rods to marginal features inbetween the jungle of streamer weeds. My first inquisitive bite was a rap tap affair on the pellet rod, which fell silent for a time, I pondered a while and began to change lens on my camera.
This is always the best possible way to promote a bite and I swear the fish know you can't possibly make it to strike the rod in time, sure enough with camera in one hand and lens in the other, the fish took this as the cue to wrap the rod round, camera placed down as fast as I possibly could, I was soon met by a thud followed by that weightless empty feeling of a fish that had now departed rod and line. Although left feeling a tad empty I was not disheartened, as I find a bite so early on can be a good sign on this river. The crayfish were proving a pain in the derrière as I found out during late afternoon when two were reeled in on the boilie, both armed with claws the size of small lobsters. The afternoon past quietly and any activity that I previously had was duly killed by a cormorant that appeared right in front of me and commenced its underwater foray, a look of loathing was firmly etched on my face. The mosquitoes were proving to have an insatiable appetite as well, despite making sure to have eaten a good helping of garlic a few days prior, this did nothing to keep them at bay, an armada of dive bombers repeatedly tried to invade and bite me, succeeding no less than 25 times and I'm itching like mad as I write this.
As the portal between daylight and sunset was nearing, I decided to switch to the other freezer boilies I had made, these are the base mix from essential baits, known as the black snail, a lovely subtle meaty, snail aroma, but not overpowering.
Night time ensconced angler and river as they became one and the barn owls began their calls in earnest, they are one bird I would dearly love to manage a good quality photograph of, but as of yet have not been lucky enough to. As the night grew long my boilie rod gave only the faintest indication,twitching once before nearly launching itself from the rod rest. I was into a solid and powerful fish, my rod arched over as the fish made regular runs into mid-water, the reels drag ticking away steadily as I allowed it to run. After a few more powerful surges the fish was sat resting in the net, the golden flank giving its identity away, the first barbus of the new season. A healthy looking fish of 11.6.
I was very happy to have my first barbel of the new season under my belt, after a giving her a good amount of time to recuperate, she powered off back to her watery home. On picking up the bag of bait to trickle some more into the swim I was greeted by that soft, slimy, wet feeling of a slug, which actually turned out to be numerous slugs of various shapes and sizes, I don't recollect ever seeing so many of them, their silver trails covering my bait bags, rucksack and flask, from the miniscule in size to the giant, there was lots of them and they were literally everywhere, the first thought that popped into my head was "mmm perfect chub baits".
The time was getting on for 4am and I had sluggishly (oh dear) packed one rod up, leaving only the boilie rod out, as I was sat back listening to the birds awaken, giving a wonderful early chorus a bolting take occurred and the rod was bent downward, line being taken downstream. The resistance and power from this fish felt great as it made numerous attempts to get its head down into the cabbage patch further downstream, the line pinging in and out of the streamer weed beds, after a lively fight a feisty Barbel of 8.5 was sat glistening in the net.
This was the last fish of a very enjoyable trip and as I made my way home, thoughts of the Loddon and its other inhabitants swirled back and forth in my mind, the voice of the Thames was also calling to me, contented but undecided where my line will be wetted on my next trip, but happy to have such a choice.