Friday, 5 July 2013

Avon Chub & Barbel — The Dead Man's Shoes Angling Association

There's nothing more exasperating than fishing a stretch of river where the 'Dead Man's Shoes Angling Association' running the far bank have easy access to the swims you'd dearly love to fish but can't because of near bank day ticket impossibilities such as vertical banks or dense thickets of club rush between. At least if a fella was occupying one then you'd be able to confirm if it was indeed the honey pot you thought or a lemon instead, but you never see anyone in 'em. 

This is such a venue. Beautiful is what it is. But testing. There's a shoal of proper roach who I witnessed one moonlit winter night of last season priming in my swim around dusk but who I couldn't fish for not having taken along bread and a suitable rod to fish it with. Stuck with a barbel rod fishing a huge chunk of meat on the deck there was no chance of them having it and they knew it — driving me crazy in their frolicking; spitting in my eye with their gay abandon.

Never seen them since.

Like the far bank club of absentees and their time worn but ever vacant pegs, they were winding me up...

Martin has other reasons to be here. Him hooking but losing a '14lb barbel with my name on it' the same evening, he's the dog who lost a big fat bone and really thinks it'll still be there next time around. I'm the same breed of mutt because they were there once before and so they'll be there again. 

But when?

Martin explains his loss...

We started off in the same two pegs, naturally. Martin in his weirpool, me in my glide. My roach weren't there once again but he did lose a barbel early on to a hook-pull with the fish on its way upstream under little pressure. He wasn't about to shift swim but I was offski — downstream in search of those elusive redfins of mine. 

The river takes a long approach to a smooth bend running deep against the far bank the whole way but with a great big area of shallow water no more than a foot deep nearside with rushes flanking the main channel all the way down. The river looks very roachy there but I wasn't equipped for paddling, no-one in the DMSAA had yet given up their shoes, so I couldn't walk around and fish it off their comfy bank. Next time I'm borrowing Martin's waders and getting to their alluring swims the only way possible, if they'll fit.

Once upon a time a roach swim...

Next port of call was a big pool on a corner where before I've done rather badly despite it looking the part. It probably does contain a few roach but pools are not what they prefer and the bites I've had before were just a little too twangy to be from them. Nevertheless, you have to try because you never know, do you?

First cast the tip was still for quite some time, then it twitched and hooped around as a chub made off with the disc 'o' bread bait. It became weeded in a raft I couldn't see, only feel, but the pressure unravelled the spade-end knot leaving my next-to-last fine-wire Kamasan B560, the Rolls Royce of roach hooks, lodged in its lip. I must have tied it badly earlier on — so I got out my reading glasses and did the job properly with the precious last-example-in-the-packet under close scrutiny!

An alluring gap in the rushes through which roach might easily pass...

About half an hour later I was glad of it. After receiving a few jangly bites that weren't going anywhere and certainly were not from roach I decided to move around the corner for a single trial cast into the approach run to a shallow riffle. I do this a lot when roach fishing — take the rod and bait to a likely lie, cast in, see if bites are forthcoming and if they are don't strike them, then decide if they're from roach or not.

It's a great way to find them out, but what I hadn't bargained for was chub!

Of course I didn't have to strike at the huge bite and he was hooked before I got to the rod. This was troublesome though. I'd cast through a gap in the vegetation but just a little too far downstream than I really should have so now the fish, who'd made off downstream too, was a long way down and with thick stands of club rush between me and him.

A dense stand of rushes through which troublesome chub might not...

To create good angles I'd no choice but follow on and shorten the line ten yards downstream. Now fighting the dogged fish across the rushes, to keep him out I had to hold the rod by the end of the butt at full arms length and attempt to tease him back upstream to the gap and the waiting net. Twenty minutes later after numerous weedings and successful unweedings on a vertical line (always works!) he was slowly but finally approaching safety, when I looked around for the net only to find I'd left it behind at the pool...

Ah well, a chinning out then!

Troublesome chub...

I don't think I ever had so much trouble with a three-pound chub and though I was sure that the same swim held more to catch, wasn't wanting to test the 2lb tackle again even with a net to assist. Of course wearing dead mans shoes it would have been a doddle, but you know what, they'd probably blister at my heels with their ill fit... 

Taking the easier option I returned to the open water of the pool where I found what might well have been roach bites in a certain conjunction of slack and moving water, but I thought a little too off-beat in their trembliness to be so. Sure enough, when one was finally hooked it was only a small dace. Nevertheless, these bites were at least hopeful, so casting again to the same spot, I sat back down when 'bang!' the rod lurched over and once again, a chub was on.

B560 still lodged in the scissors. The proof of the matter!

There's no breathless account of this tussle apart from saying it was clearly a good fish I didn't want to lose. Coming up in the water I was sure she was a five-pounder with that bulldog-head big chub have, so took my time teasing her into the net. On the bank I had the feeling she'd miss the specimen mark by ounces for she was lean in the frame after the rigours of recent spawning exertions, and I was right. She was a half-pound under. Wished I'd caught her in March !

What I failed to notice on unhooking because the fish lay on its right flank on the bank and for the picture I simply picked it up and hit the shutter button — lodged in the scissors of the right lip was my next-to-last B560!

It was the same fish I'd hooked and lost...

I retired from the pool just before dusk and made my way back to my original swim but stopped off at the weir first just to see how Martin had fared with the 14 pounder with his name on it. 

He managed to get half a sentence out about his only capture thus far but right when he stated the species his left-hander began to tremble and buck in the rest. 

This was no bream though...

The fish held fast in the current and at first he couldn't say whether or not it actually was, but after a time was pretty certain it wasn't the one inscribed on its golden flank with the illuminated legend ~ 

'Sole Property of Martin Roberts Esquire'

Martin banked the fish without my assistance as netsman. Two-thirds of the size of the fish he was hoping for, it was nevertheless the first barbel he'd banked in the many hours spent in this swim and more than made up for earlier losses. I can't remember the exact weight of the lovely thing but I think just under nine pounds.

There was a little light left but it was 10:30 by the time of release so we wound our evening up there and then, ambled back down the bank to the fishery gate, stopping along the way to chat with an angler expertly short trotting an extremely luminous orange pellet waggler downstream and catching chub by it. 

I could watch such an angler fishing for a whole evening without wanting to wet a line myself, but our hours on the bank were all used up in doing it ourselves. And though we'd once again failed somewhat in our target fish missions, we'd had such a really great time not achieving them that it really didn't matter a jot because we were bound to agree as mutts of similar breed...

'They were there once before and they'll be there again...'

'Next time!'

1 comment:

  1. If those waders don't fit I'll eat my Hatt.
    Skinny feller like your self will rattle around in um.