Last week started well, the fish fed and it was almost easy, then my life-long fishing buddy Paddy arrived. Oh how things changed!
Thursday evening and unable to contain his excitement, I took him down to the river for a couple of hours fishing in one of those dead cert swims that you love to put your mates in just to see them catch a fish. Well, that didn't work. Paddy hooked something but it came adrift after a couple of seconds. Not to worry, plenty of time yet.
Friday - we found stacks of barbel but none that would feed. I had some chub but poor old Paddy managed just one fish - a gudgeon, taken on a size 6 hook and two pellets. Not to worry, plenty of time yet.
Saturday - new day, new ideas. Paddy fished a good low-water swim whilst I went for a mooch. I started getting some nice chub and, eventually, Paddy moved in next to me. I kept catching but..... well, I'm sure you've guessed. It was about then that the first of a flotilla of canoes passed. I don't mind canoeists that slip quietly through your swim but these (and there were lots) were all in fancy dress and out for a jolly. What would people say if you walked through a golf course dressed as Marge Simpson and making a complete racket?
During a lull in the armada I went for a walk and found a good fish in a difficult position off a high bank. Paddy - who caught a chub at long last, came along and, despite the difficulties, got his first cast exactly right and we sat, expectant.
Enter phase two of the happy boaters and the fish responded by departing.
Back at the swim, I tried for another chub but a canoe upturned just ten yards above me and the occupants made a big disturbance getting themselves sorted out. It was only as they passed me that they even acknowledged my presence.
Earlier, we had seen a canoe go into the bank up where Paddy had left some of his tackle. On our return to collect his gear he found that they had stolen his rod rest! Charming!
We moved down river and again, I sat Paddy in a really productive summer swim whilst I went farther to a spot in which I had yet to catch a barbel. I soon had a nice chub not far off of 5lbs and, just as the sun dipped, a barbel of just over eight. Convinced that Paddy would be next, I packed and went up to him, he'd just had two bites but missed them both. He was getting a little down hearted but, plenty of time yet.
Sunday and the rain, that would have improved the river, hadn't arrived - ah well, at least we were dry. We set up in a swim that I thought ......................... It didn't. It also didn't help that another canoe tipped over right in the middle of that swim and that the accompanying canoeists all stopped to 'help', then had an impromptu and very noisy gathering.
So, off I went again, bag of bait and my polarised glasses on, searching. I found some big chub and, as Paddy was comfortable, got my rod. On return to the swim I saw a barbel on the gravel. Twenty minutes later it was in my landing net. After all the effort of the last few days and this capture was as simple as you like.
After resting the swim for a while we returned, this time it was Paddy's go. The simple 'lowering the bait, and feeding the fish to it' routine worked again and, after just ten minutes, Paddy's rod hooped over. Of course, being Paddy, nothing is simple and he found his line snagged just in front of us. The fish was still there and he had no option other than to go 'in' after it. Well, the other option was for me to go in but that wasn't going to happen now was it?
Off came the boots and trousers, in went Paddy and out came the camera - well you do don't you? I managed to record him hand-lining the fish away from the snag, the fight and get some fine images of my good friend's spindly white legs as well. At last, a barbel - I felt enormous relief.
He later took a chub from a nearby swim but the barbel didn't want to come out and play any more. What a gruelling few days but, at least everybody else seems to have been struggling in the same way, we actually did quite well by comparison.
It was great to catch up with Paddy and the banter was, as always, constant and unprintable. Despite the somewhat challenging conditions, its been a good weekend.