Saturday, 1 November 2008

Appointments, and disappointments...

Todays arrangements were completely determined by Judy and her appointments. She would, drop me at Bretford, on the way to Nuneaton, for the optician, and then, pick me up after, drive across to Evesham, drop me off at Anchor Lane, and then, get back to Stratford, for 2.30pm, for a hairdo
. It all sounded a bit breathless and wired, but it was OK by me. I had two very different stretches of the same river to fish in the same day. Whether or not she would actually time it right was another matter. I decided to fish for chub at Bretford and Barbel at Evesham, and so I prepared bait for all eventualities, sorted out the tackle and slung it all in the back of the car.

At Bretford I wanted to try just the one swim; time was of the essence, and I would only have an hour or two to bait up and hopefully catch one of the wary chub. The swim was one that I'd fished before and though I'd had no fish from it, had had bites from the pool at the bottom of a glide. The Avon at Bretford does not seem to hold a large head of fish and as I had learned, bites are hard to come by if the bait is not in just the right place. I baited two areas, the pool directly opposite and a patch forty yards downstream alongside a bed of reeds, planning to cast alternately to each.

A bait placed well downstream, bobbin waiting

First cast involved a walk down the bank to the reeds and a simple drop from the rod top. I walked the rod back and because the line was straight downstream and subject to little force from the flow, I set it up with a dough bobbin. This tactic proved itself last time I was here and because it worked so well, I do intend to use it whenever, and wherever, I can. After twenty minutes or so the bobbin twitched, lifted a few inches and stopped. A few minutes later the same thing happened. The weather was freezing cold, grey and windy. It had actually snowed and settled a few days ago, a very rare event in October and overnight frosts had occurred every day since. I thought that the extra cold water in the river might put the fish off and so I toyed with the idea of striking these small lifts of the bobbin. I tried it, but failed to connect.

I cast into the pool, right against the far bank and pulled the bait into position. The bobbin wouldn't work here, the flow would just pull it into the butt ring and so I angled the rod top at ninety degrees to the flow and watched the tip. The wind buffeted the rod and bites would I thought be hard to see. I needn't have worried. Ten minutes later the rod tip trembled, pulled around hard and I struck and connected with a good size chub which tore around the swim like a wayward torpedo. Its head came up and I tried to net the fish early, but it tore straight under my feet and snagged under the under-cut bank. Teasing the line off the snag the fish then ran out into the middle of the stream and powered around trying to find some other place to hide. Next time it appeared I slid the net under its belly, and it was hoist onto the bank.

All things being relative, five pounds and four ounces of prime condition chevin ranks as a big fish for such a small river. I was wondered what it would take to find and catch one over the five, now I wondered, what chance a six? I think that possibility, my being like any other angler - always interested in breaking my boundaries, then became a realistic new target for this particular stretch.

A lovely Upper Avon chub

I didn't have the time for any more fishing. Judy was on her way back and I had to go. I didn't think there was much chance of her keeping her hair appointment, but we set off anyway. Nearing Evesham it was obvious she was not going to do it unless she gained an extra ten minutes by dropping me off at the the top of Anchor Lane, so me and Molly set off down the long lane toward barbel country.

I opted for the same swim where the barbel shoal had been last trip. I didn't seriously expect them to have stayed in residence but with the energetic and troublesome Molly darting around the swim, I was not moving again once set up. I'd have to take whatever came. I put out the one rod with a hair rigged pellet and sat back expectantly. After a while the pin began ticking off slowly and I struck into thin air. Next cast, same thing happened. And then again. And again.


This behaviour was most odd. Bites would develop slowly and then stop, or continue running but without pace. Nothing like the positive runs and easy hook ups I had experienced last trip. I thought that weed might be the culprit at first but suddenly the bites stopped altogether and nothing else had changed. I was sure that it was fish, and perhaps not barbel. Bream perhaps, picking up the bait but never getting the hook into their mouth? I was here for barbel and though I had tethered Molly to a tree root, she was still playing up so much that a tackle refinement seemed like too much work. So I stuck it out.

And resignation...

After some time, and no further bites, I put out a second rod, far to the right. Soon it was ticking away - perhaps the fish, whatever they were, had drifted downstream to where all my bait had by now drifted in the quite strong flow. The result was the same - no hook ups - and a frustrated and very cold angler. This went on for an hour or so and then both rods fell dead. I knew that nothing was going to come now, except the premature darkness of an early winter day.

Judy came to collect me an hour later than expected. She rushed to keep the hair appointment only to arrive right on the minute and be asked to delay for three quarters of an hour! So much for appointments.

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