The dawn session up the canal was not quite enough for my needs, I had an itch to scratch and the whole evening to myself so I went back out intending to do a bit of lightweight roaming with one float rod, a landing net and some bait and get Muttley exercised into the bargain
. As I walked along the cut toward the open country beyond Coventry I spied some quite large fish up to a pound or so, laying up in the surface levels under the shade of some far bank trees. I decided to freeline for them, and not knowing exactly what they were but probably roach or rudd, hooked on triple floating caster in hope of having the weight of the hook overcome. The bait landed in their midst but sank slowly from view, the fish scattering and evaporating, but then the line tightened and I was into a fish, though not the fish I was exactly after, it was a bream!
After a time the small shoal reformed under the shade of another tree so I took a closer look and sure enough, amongst the roach and rudd were two small bream. I put a piece of breadflake on the hook and watched it sink slowly and just as before the fish scattered, some investigated the bread and sharply turned away, but I allowed it to sink to the bottom and left it there for a while. It had been there for perhaps twenty seconds before the line snaked across the surface and I was once again into a fish, this time I hoped, a roach or rudd, but no, it was another bream the spit of the first. I tried to get the other fish interested for a while but they really weren't having any of my offerings and eventually I conceded and moved along.
I walked right along the canal to Bedworth but after Hawkesbury Junction the fish, if they were there, became invisible in the thick brown soup. I was heading for two lakes that I'd found on a winter walk and fished unsuccessfully then, both of which were free fishing and quite unmanaged. The first was of interest because of its massive head of rudd, but unfortunately they all appeared to be very small and these little fish, in stark contrast to the wary and well fed rudd of the canal, were ravenously hungry and I watched in amazement as thirty or more fish pounced upon the bits of crust I flicked into the weeds, creating a writhing ball of fish that only dispersed when every last crumb was gone. I cast a line in this lake and sent a grain of sweetcorn to the surprising depths to check if anything but rudd were home, but after an motionless hour it was clear that if they were, then they were asleep.
Reeds all Around
The next lake I visited is a very pretty one with its deep reed fringed margins and clearly has some good fish in it. Local lore says that it has been netted of all its worthwhile fish and they have been transferred across the way by an unscrupulous commercial fishery manager, so as a consequence hardly anyone ever tries. I arrived in one of the few swims to find a lot of fish moving around, some of them quite large and they appeared in the gloom of the margins to be bream, but I couldn't be sure. In went a handful of corn and in went my float to try for them. Only five minutes had elapsed when the float dithered and sank away, but I missed the bite.
All around the groundbait bubbles started to appear and to my joy most of these were the unmistakable dense patches of tiny bubbles sent up by tench. The float which had been sitting prettily against the background of reed stems slowly sank once again and I struck into a very powerful fish that I first thought to be a carp, a fish that headed straight for cover in the reeds and so I tried my best with my suddenly very puny favourite float rod to turn its first powerful run and avoid certain trouble. The fish kited away from the stems, came up in the water and flashed a smooth golden flank before shedding the hook.
In all honesty I think that it was no carp after all, but a very good tench. I had no idea at that time what colour the tench would be in this lake, but as it's shallow I thought perhaps they could be golden coloured and not dark green. And I didn't see any large carp like scales, neither the strong crosshatch pattern of a common, nor the saucer like scales of a mirror carp. Of course it could have been a leather carp, but it escaped so I'll never really know. After this big fish the bites continued to come along at regular intervals of thirty minutes...but I missed three in a row and for no good reason as my strike was fine and well timed and the hook point exposed.
Then the bubbling stopped completely and no bites came at all. It was such a pretty evening though, that I was loathe to pack up and walk home too early, wanting to just lay back on the ground and enjoy the fading heat of the day, observing all the activity around the lake in perfect peace and quiet. Muttley had other ideas about this and continued dropping her ball in the margins and then going in for it as she had all afternoon, the fish seemingly oblivious to the disturbance caused. Then after what must have been an hour of complete stillness and apparent absence of fish, a small swirl emanated under a tree to my right and a big patch of tench bubbles broke surface just six feet out front. Naturally, I cast there, and within a minute the float ducked and I was into not only my first tench of the summer and my first fish to be landed from this lake, but also my first tench for years and years and years. It was not a big fish and scraped over two pound by just a couple of ounces, but it was gorgeous, and it was golden!
First Tench of the Year
Now I thought I'd found a perfect old style tench swim, where proper rusticated but very artful approaches like the lift method could be employed, all reeds and bubbles, still water, warm air, floating debris and electric anticipation. Real summer fishing.
Another swirl to my left just had to be fished for. It was at the apex of a triangular near bank reed bed but I thought that a hooked fish at such a position would probably run for open water rather than dive straight into the reeds. The float cocked, sat around for a while and then shot under - I struck and in the first second I knew it was a big carp, one that tore off just where I had predicted, pulling my sweet float rod into an embarrassing bend and making the centre pin sing (fixed spools squeal, but pins do sing) as it demanded more and more line against my best efforts to slow it down. It must have taken thirty yards before it finally ended its first shocking run, and then wallowed around in what I thought was relative safety, but then decided to come straight back in. Batting the spool furiously to recover line and keep pressure on the barbless hook hold, the fish made twenty yards then kited right, away from the apex of the reeds and into safe open water only to turn tail and head back the opposite way again. I piled on as much right hand side pressure as the rod would give, because the angle I needed to steer the carps head away from trouble which was full pressure from the left was simply not available with the reed bed in the way, and this was to prove my undoing for the fish approached the apex slowly in a line that would take it around it and out of sight unless something could be done and soon. I had a stark choice, either crank the rod over till it was pulling from the butt, almost like pulling for a break from a snag, or release the pressure completely and fool the fish into wallowing manageably.
With only four and a half pound line on the reel the second choice was the only one I could contemplate, but the effect was not what I had hoped for and the fish sailed past the apex and disappeared from view. I held on hard but knew it had reached cover, then it pulled and stopped, pulled and stopped, and I knew exactly what was happening, the fish was now in the reeds and was going in as far as it could manage - the too fine line was wrapped around the apex and bent at right angles to me with another right angle at the point of entry. I was stuffed...
MUTTLEY, DO SOMETHING !
I let the whole lot go slack, but nothing doing. I pumped and relaxed but by now I couldn't feel any fish at all, it was solid and unmoving. It was inevitable that I had to go in after the whole sorry mess, and that wasn't a problem for me having done the same thing on numerous other occasions, and reed beds are always the same, the water comes up to the waist and no more, not a problem I thought.
In I went, but half way in I had a sinking feeling that I'd forgotten the first rule of wading after fish, and I really had forgotten the first rule - I could not for the life of me remember what it was!
I got to the end of the line quite easily with Muttley joyously splashing around behind me and a swirling boil deep down where the hook should have been told me that the fish was still on the line. As I was considering what to do next I tried so very hard to remember the first rule of wading but it was a word on the tip of tongue and just would not form into a statement. I gingerly followed the line down to the fish so that I could cradle it out of the reeds in my arms and as I did the first rule of wading finally took shape in my mouth and the full horror of what I had forgotten to do hit me like a sledgehammer in the back, for the first rule of wading is, first...
Empty your pockets...
OF BRAND NEW DIGITAL CAMERAS!!!!
AARRGHHHNOOOOOOOO!!!......... . . . . . . . . . . . .
And then as I ripped the camera from my pocket and stowed it in my shirt pocket, in the vain hope that it hadn't got so wet that it would die, the carp thrashed, and the fish and me having fought it out to the last, finally parted company.
I sloshed out of the reeds, threw all my tackle in the bag and began the long squelch home.
The only luck of the day seemed to be that I'd left my fags on the ground before wading, so I sparked up and growled to myself, humming 'stop the pigeon, stop the pigeon', arguing with the gods of fishing who had once again prevented me from banking the largest of those I manage to hook whilst all the time taunting me with a long string of the smaller ones that I do. By the time I got to Longford I had started to laugh at my stupid self, at my run of bad luck, at the whole crazy world of fishing, and as for the camera, even though I got the hoover on it as soon as I could, and it did come on and work for a short time, now I do think it's truly knackered.
Drat, drat and double drat!