Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Return to the Magnificent Severn

We arrived at the Wingfield Arms at Montford bridge at around 6.30 pm and pitched camp right on the riverbank. The weather was typical of late; the signs of breaking clouds and the heartening glimpse of blue followed by a worsening and a thickening and the dark promise of yet more rain. I crept off for quick walk of the beat and met a guy just beyond the A5 bridge fishing two matching barbel rods pointing at the sky
. Molly shot down the bank following her nose straight to his tray of trout pellets! She learns fast.

Looking upstream from Montford Bridge

He'd had a fairly big chub that looked to be four or five pounds and three barbel approaching double figures in 4 hours which is a session worth any effort. I was genuinely pleased for him. He had that starry eyed look of someone who had had enough luck not to care over much about puppies stealing his pellets. He kindly reeled in one rod, without my asking of course, to show me the successful rig - a paternoster bolt affair made up of technologically advanced strings of various sorts joined with swivels, a modified old style watch lead in 'camo', with a single large halibut pellet on a hair hanging from a carp hook. It was too intricate to take in with a marauding pup snaffling around. Must have taken half a day to tie!

Anyways, I returned to base camp when I sensed that me and Molly had almost exhausted his patience and we all marched up to the pub to book in. The regulars we had met last trip were there and of course Molly was centre of attention, once again. All thoughts of my fishing the dusk just vanished in a misty haze of Highgate Dark Mild, probably the best pint in Britain. Cheap too, five pints for a tenner. The pub was not serving food that night so we pitched in with the regulars for a takeaway chinese and later ate it in the tent before retiring.

I woke at two thirty, groggy headed and not wanting to go outside to fish. But I forced myself. Of course I chose to fish the easy and comfortable Arch Swim having done rather well there last time. I fished a full six hours in almost imperceptible drizzle but knew by sunrise that I'd blanked the session when I fluffed and missed just the one firm bite of the night. By eight Judy had woken and put the stove on. An irresistible trail of bacon aroma drifted in the breeze, hooking me in the nose. She played me expertly back to camp.

Breakfast washed downstream in a spate of sweet brown tea, reviving my spirits and after a change of clothes I was up and at it. Of course I hung around for a while, for the sake of good manners, but had long decided to move upstream. I chose a likely swim and set up to fish but immediately I was settled down a family of swans invaded and just would not budge. I threw bread downstream which they pursued and then returned for more. I went downstream and threw a trail of bread. They disappeared round the bend and then returned. Then a bird, I think, started calling on the opposite bank. A ghastly and vastly irritating high pitched he-he-he-he whistle repeated at intervals of ten seconds. On and on it went. On and on and on. I bore all this bird trouble for half an hour and then upped sticks and walked away defeated.

The Storm Drain Swim. Molly has half-inched my seat!

Right at the end of the beat I came to a perfect looking swim on a sharpish bend where the river narrowed and the current raced through. The swim was on the inside of the bend so there was some slack water in front of me and a nice defined crease at the junction of the the two flows speeds that I just wanted to cast to. Luckily the swim has a nice concrete culvert where a small bore storm drain outflows and the flat standing it provided made for the most comfortable fishing in a very beautiful place.

Home comforts !

In to the top of the crease went the mashed bread and a handful of pellets, some falling into the faster water and disappearing downstream. Little and often is my feeding method, I don't like to make my fish too fat before I catch em! Keep them hungry, get them rooting around is the best policy in my experience. Knocks started after about five minutes, but nothing worth striking for twenty minutes or so. Then Judy turned up with some bottled ale and all was perfect and calm as we flicked bits of crust into the margins to keep the marauding minnow hordes happy.

Judy was just about to mention her supposed unlucky effect upon my efforts when the rod twitched, trembled and then hooped around hard and I pulled lightly into something solid and strong willed. It was a powerful fish and I thought barbel as it suddenly rushed sideways to cover and came perilously close to the margins Then it all went immovable and solid as the line snagged a root mid-water four feet out from the near bank. I eased off the pressure, as much as I could give, the rod tip almost flatlining, hoping to cajole the fish away by convincing it that it was free, worked! The line pinged from the root as the fish drifted down into the deeper water below and the fight was back on. Eventually, after a lot of negotiation, it came to the surface and I saw not a barbel, but a very big chub.

Its interesting how manly and forceful one can be when wrestling a fish to the surface and how fearful and delicate one becomes when faced with a personal best at the net! But I held my breath and it rolled over the lip without further argument and I hoist it into the air. It's fat belly and powerful muscular build filled the net, and with a girth of fifteen inches and a length of twenty two, brought the scales down to a hugely satisfying 5lb 9oz. Easily, and by a very long chalk, my best chub to date!

A new personal best chub

The elation was delicious. A michelin star feast of emotions. I slipped her back carefully , she rolled upright, took her bearings and then calmly wandered off upstream. The swim was dead of course. I tried half heartedly for another twenty minutes but half my heart was not in it. And besides, another fish or two could not improve things. A pint might. With a pub on the bank just half a mile away, things were just perfect.

Pride comes...

Back at camp I put my rod down on the floor and broke down the landing net. Suddenly the ratchet began to scream and Molly was running away in twists and turns. I realised she'd swallowed the hook! I caught her and wrestled her to the ground, opened her mouth and swiftly extracted the barbless hook from her gums. Then she ran off immediately in pursuit of her yellow tennis ball six feet away in the grass, tangled with the line and pulled the hook up to the bend in my left hand thumb. I could not catch her so I bit through the line and yanked the hook out.

Fish do feel the prick of the hook. Of course they do. However its really not the pain the hook causes that's the problem, its prick is no worse than that of an inoculation. Once the needle point is in, the pain vanishes. It's the unexpected loss of freedom that really hurts...

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