Nicky and I strolled upstream leaving Neil to drop into a favoured evening swim for a dabble. The evening was warm and the clouds were lifting from the threat of a shower to a wispy backdrop across the broad horizon that the Wye offers.
The river was up a foot or so and had too much colour to spot fish, just the occasional salmon betrayed its position with a swirl or enthusiastic leap. I busied myself along a high, flood swept bank, kicking the turf to remove dangerous overhangs that may catch out our less observant visitors. It was difficult at times but Nick held my hand to stop me from joining the sods in their introduction to gravity, it was strangely satisfying too.
We returned to Neil's position where he was retying a rig having just landed his first chub. I sat beside him and watched as he attached a pva bag of boilie crumb to his lead and, with a Nottingham cast (yuk!), lobbed it back into position. It didn't take long, the rod swept back and a chub of around 4lbs came to the net. "Must be your Dad's turn then"
It shows how his attitude to his fishing has changed over the last few years. Neil said, "Next fish'll be a barbel", handed me his precious gear and, with a hidden smug grin, I Wallis cast to the baited spot. Cane, pin and touch legering, does it get any better? It may not be the most efficient way of angling but, for us, it is the most pleasurable.
I felt a pull, a tightening really. "That was a barbel" i said, the crafty so and so was checking my bait for resistance. I've played this game before.
In came the rig and I shaved the boilie down to its core. Back in position I waited, tense and expectant. There it was again, that little tester. I relayed the event to Neil who opined that it was suspicious because mine was the only bait object that was neither a whole boilie or a flake of crumb. I simply pulled a foot or two of line off the reel to give it some slack to play with. It worked.
I hit the next, more deliberate pull and the rod swept over. I'd only ever caught a modest chub on Neil's Excalibur but now it bent into what was quite obviously a barbel. What a beautiful rod, what a joy to hold and feel the lunges of a lively fish. Okay, it was only a 5 or 6 pounder but I can see why Neil is so protective of his most treasured possession.
I'd been sat there for twenty minutes, had a fish and was prepared to wait for Neil to get another but, he was tired and wanted to get home and have a glass of cider, so we left.
Another special memory.
June 22, 2011
On my last visit the lake didn't 'feel' right and I caught nothing yet here I was, sat in the same area but brimming with confidence, I just knew I'd get a result. The first call was from a bream of about 6lbs which deposited slime all over me and my gear but I knew that more was to follow.
I sat back and waited, restlessly. The trouble with hopping between rivers and lakes is the mind set that is required between bites. I see the two disciplines as the difference between driving a car and riding on a train. In the car - the river - you are constantly making decisions, changing course, reacting. Even at the traffic lights you are looking at what is coming from behind and planning your next move forwards, it is completely absorbing. On the train however, it is possible to sit back and just think about the destination. Sure there are things to see outside the window but you have little influence over them. On a train I become stupefied and just doze or read. Bored may be too strong a word for it but it can come close.
I had a visitor, a kingfisher that sat on my rod. I tried to slowly move into a better position to watch it as it fluffed its feathers and bobbed up and down, alas it spooked but I took it as a positive omen. Its been a while since one landed on my rod. The last was when I was touch legering and the surprise from both of us was transmitted through the rod and the visit was far too brief.
As dusk reluctantly fell a carp rolled over one of my baited spots, it was just a matter of time. I lay in my sleeping bag unable to get comfortable. I cannot sleep in my clothes and they came off layer by layer until I wore just a T shirt.
At 2am I was woken by a run! I hit a solid object that begrudgingly came through the weeds until it got its head down and stuck fast. I gave it line but it refused to move, I could feel it throbbing through the line. I put on some more pressure, as much as I dared and with a reluctant kick, it came free. It rolled in front of me and I smiled - job done. In the weigh sling it went 20.01, a common and a fine fish that I slipped back after a couple of snap shots.
I wonder what it thought of the half naked angler it had met?
It was cold and I was tired. I didn't even recast that rod but settled down and tried to sleep. The rain, rhythmically pattering on the bivvy sent me into a light sleep that was again disturbed by the strident demands of an alarm. This was a smaller fish, a common of about 12 or 13 lbs but I was happy to make its acquaintance.
I slept like a bird, waking and opening an eye at every splash from a turning fish or bleep from my last rod. At about 8am I met another angler on the lake, the first I have seen so far this season. Soon after he left to set up, I missed a stuttering take from what must surely have been another bream.
Tired but happy, I decided to call it a day. I had thought about staying for another night or two but I was more than satisfied and packed up straight away.
June 20, 2011
I wasn't going to even take my gear with me. The 16th is usually a disappointment and I am trying to get my back fit again so, I figured I'd sit this one out. Trouble was Neil (my son), was bursting with enthusiasm and I got caught up in it.
So, there I am, waders on, stalking rod in hand and trundling a bait through a shallow swim that was going to give me a bite or two. But it didn't. It felt like the swim had been fished already and try as I might, I couldn't find a fish in what is usually considered a banker. Mind you I only fished for 35 minutes. My back ached and I knew it was time to stop, so I did. I wanted to try another spot but it was occupied and I went home.
I don't mind blanking especially on such a fleeting visit but I was left with a yearning. I'd been touch legering, feeling my way through the swim and waiting, expectantly, for that contact through my finger tips with a wild creature. Fishing is all about the 'bite' and I needed that sensation of life like a drug.
Next day I was back. The river had come up a few inches and felt cold, not ideal but I needed my fix. Again I fished for just half an hour (why I didn't find a swim to sit in I don't know) before I knew that the fish were not in residence (its a very immediate swim this one ;-) ) and I needed to sit down. I left Neil to go exploring and retired.
Yesterday the old back was giving me jip but the call of the river was too great. Neil and I shared a few hours in the evening (sitting in my comfy chair this time) and it was just what I needed. First because it was a beautiful evening on the stunning river Wye, second and most important, I was sat, sharing a swim with my lad with no competition, just two guys enjoying the moment - a real Father's Day treat. Last, because I got my fix. I held the rod and felt all those twitches and pulls as well as the urgent tug of a taking fish. For the record I had four chub and a small barbel, Neil had just the one chub but the result was immaterial (especially as I caught most), the only reason I had more being that I could cast that little bit farther with a fixed spool to his 'pin'.
It cooled down at dusk, both the bites and the temperature, so we stopped off at the pub before returning home and a night cap. A perfect evening.
June 13, 2011
I fished an open swim with a platform that made casting and hopefully, landing fish easier due to bankside reeds and trees. I was happy with my lot and settled back for the evening full of anticipation.
The only thing that disturbed me during the night was Buddy, my dog, who leapt up the bank to investigate every single sound in the undergrowth. At first light he saw off a magpie which later returned only to be seen off again. The amount of arguing from the bird showed it was not used to being bossed about.
A shaft of dawn sunlight burns off the mist
I had a stalk around the lake and saw plenty of fish but they were totally disinterested in food. I assumed that they were about to spawn and felt I'd gain some Brownie points by going home early and doing some gardening.
The next day I removed three elder trees that were a problem in the garden, physical work but I felt no after effects - until the morning when my back started to stiffen. Nicky drove us towards Gloucester where we had things to do. We stopped half way for a coffee and I could hardly get out of the car! My back has been a problem for years but, over the last year or so, it has 'gone' a few times, getting steadily worse. This time was the big one. I was completely crippled with it and have been walking with a stick for over a week. Ah well, the Osteopath is doing well out of it.
So, its been an inactive, boring sort of week but at least I've been able to sit and give the new issue of Riffle my full attention. As I type this, there's only an editorial to write and it will go out in a day or two. This edition will only be displayed on the Association of Barbel Fishers site, so if you want a peak - join :-)
When you are under the weather its always nice to get something in the post. So, I was very pleased when my brother Chris, who had been sorting out his spare room, sent me some of the stuff he's unearthed. With a postcard of Ron and Nancy Reagan (the last card he sent me had King Kong on it along with a badge, now on my fishing hat), was a photograph that I'd wanted to see for years. It's of me and my brother, both looking very guilty, having apparently damaged windows with our air guns. It was taken for an open day at Taunton police station back in the mid-60's. I'm the little fella' with the pistol. I wanted to hold the rifle but my brother is bigger than me.
The other items were some of my first rod licenses. I was certain that they had been stolen, along with a load of other documents, during a burglary but, it would seem that they were at my parent's house and had been given to Chris to sort out.
I can't tell you how pleased I was to get those licenses, well, the first one anyway. As an angler I'm a bit of a hoarder and I'm also quite a sentimentalist when it comes to my fishing past. I can recall my first fishing trip with crystal clarity as I set off with Bob Boyland who was five years my senior (I was 8), on the 1 mile cycle ride to French Weir on the river Tone. We tried a couple of spots but, eventually, by leaning over the top of a fence and lowering my maggot baited size 14 hook into clear water just below the weir sluice, I watched as the minnows surrounded it. I caught 6 of the little brown and black fish, winching them up the side of the high wall and fence with my 2" Bakelite reel - cane and pin don't you know. It was a magical day that I shall remember as long as I hold breath and it was the first step on a very long road.
That first licence cost 6d or 2.5 pence in modern money. It had the sizes on the back of all the fish that you could take home but it took me another year before that was even a consideration as minnows dominated that first summer. I never did find anybody that measured a bream at 14 inches and thought "Mmmm, yummy yummy".