Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Avon Bream — Big Fish, Little Fish, Cardboard Box

Having to compete for best swim is never fun but when the rivers are as low as they are now many stretches have just one or two viable options available and they are invariably filled on the weekend. Martin and I met up with Joe down the Avon early Saturday morning. Joe was already fishing Martin's first choice and my first choice was occupied too. That left the rest of the river at our disposal.

Sounds OK, but unfortunately the rest of the river seemed devoid of fish. I had two alternative swim choices. The first a very deep peg that I thought might contain bream and tench, but it was so sluggish I might as well have been fishing a lake and I didn't get a bite there. The second, which always fishes well with a bit of a push on but does not have the same character without it, offered up a single knock on ledgered meat and a pluck to the same but trotted. Martin fared similarly. However, Joe banked three barbel...

Lucys Mill at Stratford-upon-Avon on Sunday afternoon was an outright disaster. On arrival a moored boat occupied a large part of the available bank with two float fishers trotting maggots above holding two of my first choice pegs. So I was forced to fish my very last choice swim downstream of the boat. With a great pool of water to fish you wouldn't think that a problem but bream were my target and they are found, as you would expect, in a shoal that I think prefers to be where I could not cast to without winding up the other two fellas. 

It was very slow fishing indeed. Just as bite-less as I thought it would be. When the boat moved and a little later the match boys upped sticks too, I was in their vacant pegs before their exit tracks through the grass had puckered back up. It was little better, But, there were at least bites coming every now and then. 

This unique place is that rare river fishery that can provide the angler with 40lb bags of large bream in the middle of a sunny afternoon. This afternoon is as sunny as you like. Casting every few minutes in order to put down a bed of brown crumb and corn as accompaniment for my hook bait of corn and worm cocktail, I'm pretty certain that I will find that big bream of mine.

But then two very small boys turn up. Say they'd recently caught a hundred-pound carp. Of course, I carefully pick apart the details of this remarkable capture and by stealth try to ascertain not only the venue but the swim too...

Can't tease an inch of sense out of them, but mention "this carp of yours would weigh more than either of you (if not both !) slung in a Lidl carrier bag hooked beneath a set of Ruben Heaton hung on a portable gantry". They look nonplussed. Then disappear but then reappear minutes later armed with carp rods. Say they will now fish for carp, but "could you set up for us"?

Ah crap. They've no weights, no hooks, no nothing else, but at least they have line (and thick springy line at that). So I rummage around in my box for the least valuable leads I can find which are two plummets I think I once found on the bank that I never have had a use for. Tie them on the ends, then hitch up a paternoster to dangle them from by tying a figure 8 loop knot 6 inches above to which I attach 2 ft leaders in 8lb line thinking the step down from 25lb to 8lb less ungainly than my alternative option of 3lb. 

I give them both size 8 hooks and instruct them to tie them on themselves. At which point they both sit down in their preferred swim to my right where they hunch over their end tackles in deep concentration. 

About thirty-seconds later one comes over with his knot for my inspection. It's some kind of granny/blood hybrid. Looks like it would hold a gudgeon. So I motion them closer, bite off both attempts, and begin instruction in the fine art of tying the palomar. My practised nimble fingers whip them both up in under a minute. They are astonished. 

"Can we have some bread please, mister?" 

"Yep, and where did you get the rods from, lads"?

"From Dad, he's fishing up there." They explain in unison, one waggling a finger in the direction of Stratford town.

"Why couldn't he set up for you? Is he mentally or physically challenged, or both, or blind, or something?"

"Said he couldn't be bothered to, mister".

All this time I've a beady eye on the rod. It's nodded once or twice but not twice in the same nod, so there's been no need to worry. However my ten minutes of patience is long over and now I'm irritated and becoming stern. Hooking on two bread discs each I instruct them that their preferred swim "is my upstream swim, so can you both fish below me out of harms way, please". And by 'please' I don't mean there's an option. 

Dutifully they drop in where told where I tell them to cast close, in the faster water, which is 'barbel country'. "Behave yourselves. Sit still. And don't turn your backs on those rods for even a moment".

"Barbel"? One enquires. "Are they as big as carp"?

"Depends on the carp, Sonny Jim, but no. They don't get that big here. Nowhere near 100 pounds..." 

I imagine young boys pulled sharply in the drink and towed down to Seven Meadows weir at 15 mph by 16 pounders, but there's a lifebuoy 100 yards downstream, so there's nothing to worry about. I think  — but don't know — that I can sprint that fast.

At last the rod nods twice and the strike meets with the unmistakable brick wall of a large bream running at a right angle to the bank. Plod, plod, plod, donk, donk, plod. In she comes. She's kiting upstream, and then turning downstream, but surely and steadily tacking my way. 

"Cor! What is it, mister?" They ask, mightily impressed by the graceful sight of a well-curved heavy rod.

"It's a big bream"

Three-quarters of the way in the hook-hold fails, but they don't know that, and when the slack is taken up but there's a tremble felt, I'm aware there's a comic moment arriving. Yep, a little perch had taken the worm on the drop as the feeder fell through the deep water to the deck. 

"Blimey, that is a big bream, mister" Is what I'm waiting for, but it doesn't come. 

They blink at me open-mouthed as if I'm some kind of ancient old fool with a head as big and empty as a cardboard box who doesn't know the difference between big fish and little fish when I have one or the other on the end of my line. All small boys may not have not caught one-hundred-pound carp...

But of course, all small boys will have caught small perch.

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