Wednesday, 18 November 2015
It came calling in earnest, yet my mind was focused on chub, still that nagging question nudged its way into my thoughts suggesting that I should be out after barbel, yet try as I might I could not bring myself to fully commit, I found myself fixated, willing to understand this stretch of waterway and just where those elusive grey shadows might be hiding.
So a compromise was made with the inclusion of some hard hook baits should I decide to try for my first barbel from this challenging area, by 2pm I was down on the river and whilst looking at swims I mused over my last four trips targeting the chub, the best of those being my second trip that rewarded me with that nicely conditioned fish over 5lb and along with it some more understanding about this piece of river was garnered. Since then I have had a couple of trips where I have not had a fish larger than 2+ and the river had sent me another curve ball. There are so many likely looking spots for the larger more solitary chub to skulk, so during most trips I have usually covered a few swims and in doing so also rotated and revisited some of them after feeding with a light mixture of liquidised bread and krill.
Over the handful of trips that I have made I get the distinct feeling that the fish like to hold back from some swims and feed more confidently below these, rather than entering the main pressured zones which is understandable, I noticed this in the third swim that I fished it was evident that fish were skirting round swims and not very forthcoming. So a change of plan was made and a little and often feed of maggots introduced along a marginal reed line. If I have noticed one thing over the years when chub fishing is that it is at times important to get them feeding as confidently as possible, that said I can also name numerous times where the fish can be so skittish that anything more intrusive than an opportunistic, single hook bait will signal the death knell. After allowing a good amount of time for the bait to work its way across the reed bed I rolled a single lob worm tipped with maggot across the front of them, the response was almost instant, a hefty bite followed by a head first charge into some unknown snag in mid river, the snag was a firm one and most probably a tree or similar, my only option was to allow some slack and see if the fish would make its way back out,thankfully it did and I soon had a nicely proportioned fish in the net.
Not a large chub (4.7) but after some of the tougher trips I was very happy I can say that, so far each excursion has given me new ideas as well as help to build up a picture of the river, however with so many likely features dotted along this area you could almost expect a large chub to be at home in any one of these, but I also know this will not be the case as it is a fairly low stocked stretch.
By the time daylight had been replaced by a very mild evening I had tried a few other swims with just the odd half hearted pluck and these most likely from a combination of minnow and crayfish, there was one final area that I fancied but should it produce then I was most likely going to have a right game on my hands as it was choked with weed and netting would not be easy even with a long landing net pole.
A change of bait was made to a side hooked barrel along with a frugal amount of free offerings, this swim looked too good not to produce, although I will say it was not the most comfortable to perch myself in, even with my well padded rump the odd bramble made itself well known.
As I sat back and had a welcome cup of coffee I found myself pondering about a topic that regularly crosses my mind and that is how many fish we actually pass by without receiving interest from where a static approach might pay dividends with a larger and more wary chub, it is something that always pops into my head especially when roving. I was stealing a glance at my watch and wondering if it was time to give it the "just 20 minutes more" approach when the rod tip swept round in a manic manner and so the sprint began, fish tearing off downstream along the weed beds and toward the reeds, it had no plan on stopping, thankfully the feeder rod bore the brunt off the initial run and dampened each surge, allowing me time to follow the fish downstream with landing net in tow, only to eventually realise that it would be harder to land the fish from this area. After a couple of rather unorthodox attempts at landing were attempted, it rather unceremoniously rolled into the folds of the net, it was around that time that I realised my ankles were caked in mud and I was standing on what I had thought was solid bank when in reality I was actually in very boggy the margins..
My first barbel from a new bit of river (7.3) and unlike me fighting fit with a proud dorsal. Sometimes indecision pays off in funny ways and managing to come to a compromise where bait was concerned had worked out nicely, even if it did leave me looking like I had been part dipped in a pot of nutella.
Monday, 2 November 2015
I found myself afflicted, but by what? Sure enough during a previous trip targeting chevin this river had rebuffed me in an unceremonious manner and I wanted to respond, accept that challenge and the changeable moods that would come with it.
It was late afternoon with very little breeze and apart from an infrequent trail of autumn leaves the water clarity was very good, so much so that in some swims the gravel runs were most visible, I made a mental note of these areas, taking a few pictures along the way so as to keep in mind the features that would eventually be obscured should we get any heavy rainfall, during this time I had rolled the link ledger through various swims and chopped and changed between a multitude of baits, wax worm, lob worm, maggot, bread and krill cheese paste to name but a few, but barring the odd tap from minnow and crayfish the rod tip was untroubled by the chain mail, clad warriors which I sought. It's always with a great sense of enjoyment, anticipation and dare I say a hint of trepidation when fishing areas of river you have never wet a line on before, that first fish always acting as a catalyst and boosting your confidence.
Come evening time I decided to try a couple more swims, one of which I had avoided during daylight due to it being so shallow, I figured that any of the larger fish would be tight to the snags and overhanging bushes, the small gap between the opposite bank and these features provided enough room to roll some cheese through on the link ledger, by now a dense mist was slowly enveloping me and the gradual patter from its droplets collecting on my rucksack could be heard, a few minutes later and a crayfish that had mistaken my line for a new age guitar string was untangled and dispatched. I sat and contemplated whether to move swims or not, after a slight amount of dithering had taken place a few small pieces of cheese paste were fed along the swim and it was rested before another roll through was made with the same bait.
Despite the low water levels the conditions were not bad, sure there was the usual debris that one associates with this time of the year, but that aside it seemed spot on, however it was eerily quiet on the fish front and in another thirty minutes I would be packing up with a few positive ideas to take with me accompanied with one very thoughtful and dare I say wry smile. In all the years that I have fished this waterway be that either old or new stretches it has never failed to make me sit up and think or bring me down to earth and it wouldn't be the same without it.
As I waited for the isotope to spring to life I thought about how easy it would be to head back to areas of river where an angler might be more sure footed, in the past I have witnessed old friends wishing to do the same, but where is the fun in that? Or least that is what I told myself as I willed one of the better chub to relinquish itself! I was nudged out of my thought process by one of the softest chub bites I have witnessed, not the usual lunging take or even the kind that would tap away before rod tip steadily arches round, no this was clearly mouthing the bait apprehensively, its grey lips at work on the cheese paste like the dexterous hands of a master safe cracker, I slowly slid the butt of the rod across to my knee and waited, hoping that a more committed bite would follow. It certainly didn't disappoint with a more solid thud, setting the hook it felt a reasonable fish as it headed downstream and under the numerous overhangs dotted along this reach, it was a good scrap and a rather tricky one especially with the amount of reed beds that stood between myself and netting my reward, it was quite a relief to slip the net under it.
A long, blunt headed, stout fish and a welcome first chub from this area of river. It's always nice to get that first fish of a species you are targeting, especially in new surroundings, it buoys your confidence and fills you with more understanding and expectation for that next trip, after all who knows when the river might just bring you back down to earth with a bump.