For the penultimate day of the season it had to be a river, or nothing, and because the gallery was hosting a classical music event on the last day, Sunday, and my services were required the whole day it would be my last chance to fish rivers for three months. John, my mate from London, who accompanies me on occasion, was coming up for the event and staying over Saturday night and so we planned a last trip to Bretford.
I smashed the tip of my float rod as I jammed the quiver in the car (thats two broken tips in as many weeks...) forgetting to put the tip in the bottom pocket was of course the cardinal error. Well, it was the full thirteen footer but now is a twelve and half, a new tip eye and it'll be fine....I got there an hour before John, setting up in the swim that I'd fished successfully last trip here, and was hoping for an early morning perch on worm and whatever would take bread. The bread rod, fishing a thumbnail sized pinch of flake and a cage feeder stuffed with mashed bread and hemp sprang into action almost as soon as I'd got myself settled in. A chub, what else? Three and half pounds of very fat and deep bellied late season chub that when first glimpsed, kiting flank up and glinting silver in the clearest water the river has contained all winter long, looked very much like a very big roach. My heart nearly stopped, but then as it tired and came to the surface, I saw the big white lips...
I had another two in the next hour, landing and returning the last just as John appeared behind me. The last was just on four pounds and like the first, deep bellied - now chub don't spawn till late April so I doubted that as reason for the fatness, but thought that there could be a fresh spring food supply in the river that they'd been gorging themselves on. What though, I had no idea.
The biggest chub of three in an hour
John fished meat, I persisted with worm and bread believing that we would now be in for a day of spectacular chubbing, but the rods fell still from the moment I recast and this drought continued till way past noon, despite changes of swim. Not a single tap on three rods in three hours. We did notice, in the margins of one particular peg, that the water was swarming with tiny fry. I dropped in a few nuggets of mashed bread and watched them fall to the river bed, the cloud of particles not exciting the fry but as the nuggets reached the bottom, larger fish, minnows perhaps, crowded round demolishing what was left in short order. What the tiny fry were was not clear but as only three fish spawn this early in the year, namely perch, pike and earliest of all, dace, then perhaps they were dace? It was good to see so many youngsters thriving in the river, and perhaps it was these new fry that had made the chub so plump?
We eventually bored of this inactivity, packed down our bait rods and set up spinning outfits for an afternoon's roaming. It was quite a time before we had anything enquire and this was a reasonable pike that was hooked and held for a just few seconds, before Johns line went slack. On inspection he saw that his snap swivel had opened out and the fish had escaped through simple tackle failure. I inspected mine, it seemed OK. I gave it good strong tug and it held fast.
Whilst John made up a new trace, no longer trusting in his rogue snap swivel, I decided to fish for the lost fish hoping that we might retrieve the spinner, that would now be dangling from its mouth. Casting my little jointed plug into the narrow and quite fast flowing swim, not really expecting anything to happen, I was amazed to see the a pike rise from below and clamp its jaws over it, I struck and was in, for a few seconds, before the hook was thrown. I tried again, and the fish followed it once more, only striking into the plug when I'd teased it by drawing it around in circles under the rod top. Once again it threw the hook. Another cast - the fish powered up from below smashing the plug to the surface but not connecting. By now I was laughing my head off at the antics of this pike! It couldn't happen a fourth time surely?
Well, once again it lunged, mouth agape, but this time the hook held and a proper fight was on. It was not a big fish, perhaps seven or eight pounds, but determined as hell, but suddenly the plug flew free and arced over my head. I knew that the last chance had passed. I cast once more but the pike was gone. Amazingly, Johns bright silver Mepps spinner was not seen, the fish had thrown that too. I think this particular pike might grow to be a monster, if it has that much luck...
We made our way to the end of the stretch and then walked back not contacting any more pike for some time. Then second cast above the wooded bend I connected with a pike, but just a jack of three pounds or so. This fish became tethered to the landing net, the barbed trebles tangled hopelessly in the mesh. When I eventually managed to free both fish and plug I crushed the barbs down to save further bother, in fact I am never using barbed trebles ever again, They are really bad for pike with their complicated cavernous mouths, and a bloody nightmare around nets, clothes, and woolen gloves. I don't like them, in fact I'm going to mount singles on a few lures to see if they work as well.
My first pike of the day
John's first pike ever!
John then had a fish of about five pounds, and this was his first ever pike! So, by default a personal best...and later I had another small jack in near darkness from a stretch of open water. That was it, a thoroughly enjoyable end to a great season fishing the wonderful rivers of the Midlands. I am going to miss them, really, truly...
But hey! June is just around the corner though, and I think I can satisfy myself chasing tench and rudd till then.