During early September I found my head turned yet again by the Blackwater and the barbel that inhabit this river, although I must admit these fish do come with their own set of head scratching conundrums, nomadic as they are and can invariably throw a spanner in the works even when you think you have it figured out. During this particular week we had received some welcome rain and the river was fining down nicely (not been able to say that much during this season!), I planned to keep proceedings as simple as possible, after all it can be easy to disappear into a labyrinth of rig adjustments and confidence questioning, I've been there before and torturing your soul over a tactic that you know works well is not wise, that said at times I still manage to do it!
This season I have found link ledgering to pay dividends, I am able to cover a few swims and this helps build up a mental image of the topography of the river, as well as picking up a few bonus fish of other species along the way. By late afternoon a single rod was lowered into a narrower area of the river, this particular swim is a bit of a bottleneck with a steady, walking pace current, the river was still tinged with colour but had dropped a good 10 inches and it looked good for a bite.
During the afternoon I was kept company by the aerobatics of a kestrel as it hunted the land behind me, a few pictures were attempted and as twitchers law would dictate it was not the easiest to grab a photo of, in fact if it had kindly perched for a little longer on one of the posts I may have got a better image but instead made do with a few rapidly fired shots.
Anyone who knows me will know that I am just as happy having some tranquillity and being kept company by nature regardless of catching during fishing trips, natures primeval instinct always makes me ponder a few things about us humans and how we sully so much that we come across, be that the environment or other people.
As afternoon merged into evening I started to receive a few heavy knocks in a stop start fashion, not the usual pull and hold crayfish experience, no these were definitely enquiring knocks and nearly had me reaching for the rod in anticipation, however it fell silent for the next thirty minutes, I usually find such moments the calm before the storm and the full blooded bite that followed did not disappoint as the rod tip wrapped round and I found myself trying to slow down a fish that was making its way for the exit of the bottleneck and head toward a mean looking set of sunken branches.
A little side strain applied and after a few heart in mouth moments it was coaxed back upstream, as it slipped into the net a quick glance at the healthy golden flank and strong paddles told me it was in fighting fit condition.
|A perfectly conditioned Blackwater Barbel (9.14)|
Another perfectly formed gem from this waterway, I was pretty happy to say the least and went home with a spring in my step.
|The snug an appropriate name, sleeps four and comes with heater and fridge|
The morning of our arrival Robert was not feeling well so we took it steady and I decided to take a good look at the river and pick us some nice looking swims for the following evenings fishing, the plan being to fish late evening (7pm onward) to minimise any boat traffic and pack up around 1am. On reaching the river it was clear that much like my own waterways in Berkshire they had not seen much rain, the river was low and gin clear, in fact the clarity was that good I could have probably mistaken it for any of my local chalk streams and it was fairly evident from the outset that it was going to be challenging due to the combination of high pressure weather conditions and water clarity being crystal clear.
I must say I fell in love with the river instantly, it's hard to explain how different waterways bring out different emotions in an angler but this one made me feel right at home and I was looking forward to us wetting a line together, however there were more areas of this stretch to look at before finally deciding on swims.
After spending the morning and best part of the afternoon looking around I eventually picked us out a couple of areas which offered us a combination of better depth and some coverage in the shape of dense yet tired looking weed beds, these particular swims had a mixture of sandy bottom giving way to gravel runs, areas interspersed with larger rocks, in fact it reminded me a lot of some areas of the Thames, I must admit some of the areas I had looked at simply cried carp and barbel, not to mention other species.
The following evening after enjoying a family barbecue I set about mixing up a light groundbait mixture, as I had not been able to bring any prepared birdseed with me, it was to be hemp a very light scattering of scolded pellet and liquidised vitalin, mixed with some crumb and krill.
We planned to fish a single rod each for barbel and carp and I also planned to do a spot of fishing on the quiver tip and isotope into darkness. Our first evening didn't go quite as I had planned for us, sods law the primary spot I had chosen was taken by another angler, who then packed up an hour after we had set up further downstream. Chopping and changing between worm and maggot fished over the groundbait mix I had a few lovely conditioned roach, not massive fish the largest perhaps 10/12 oz but they were spotless and with that lovely silver sheen, this along with a solitary bream (5lb) as well as a chub over 3lb on the quiver, just before packing up at midnight I heard some pattering coming down the path which lead to the river and sure enough an overly confident otter ran past me before diving into the river, nice to witness them but that enjoyment is always tinged with a slight sense of bemusement with regard to the way their reintroduction to our waterways has been handled.
|A nicely conditioned chevin and a rather odd look to myself haha|
That first evening it was safe to say that neither of us were troubled by any barbel or carp and part of me was dearly hoping dad would catch his first barbel in a long time. Odd how time changes everything, I can remember as a youngster looking at dad and asking him what his thoughts were on spots and where we planned to fish, learning so much from our trips together, watercraft, patience and humility from his angling guidance, that's something you can't put a price on, however it now felt like role reversal and I was hoping that I wouldn't let him down.
The weather for October was simply beautiful, not an anglers ideal conditions, but boy it was very settled, cool nights and very pleasant days. The following evening the first choice area was available and we made a beeline for it. The first hour was quiet apart from having a barge pass by which was being filmed by a film crew on board a separate boat, however as daylight faded so the river came alive with the sound of chub and bream topping. It was a windless night, calm but with a chill in the air, both myself and Robert were hopeful, I had decided to stay on the quiver tip, the only change made was to a larger hook and a side hooked boilie barrel.
Two hours later I received a very delicate tap, the isotope arching round confidently, what followed was a fish that headed off to the far bank margins at breakneck speed before attempting to continue its journey downstream, followed by me repeatedly saying "this feels a better fish" "I think can bloody see that!" came the reply. It was evident from the power and pace that this might be a carp and it was testing my metal.
After a lengthy scrap Robert slipped the net under a very frisky ghostie (14lb), apart from a small amount of fin damage it was in cracking condition and had certainly given me a challenging tussle.
Before I could even get this fish on to the landing mat Robert's rod was away and he was soon playing an energetic looking fish, as its flank broke the surface between each surging run I could see that it was indeed a barbel, after a lively scrap it finally nestled in the landing net, a broad smile was etched on my face, a mixture of elation for dad and a palpable sense of relief.
|Happy days and proof your angling heart never dies (9.1)|
We fished on for two more hours, during this time Robert hooked into another one of the carp and to say it put up a good fight would be an understatement, unfortunately just as it looked beaten it made a headlong dash for the marginal weed and the hook pulled, despite this slight anti climax it was evident that the old guy was overjoyed.
On the final morning as we had breakfast he said to me "thank you", a reply from myself was hard to come by, not from being impolite or ungracious but from the multitude of different emotions that were welling up, after all what do you say to the person that invested their time, kindled the fire and opened a doorway into what has become an integral part of my life and dare I say well being, you never need say thank you dad, that you were happy again was more than enough.