Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Avon Roach and Barbel — Saved by the Belles

To the shops!
Between yesterday's morning and evening work commitments I had a short session planned on a local free still water. Was going to fish corn over an experimental corn laced meaty ground bait to see if it would work. Had it all prepared and was ready to go when I learned that the girls were off to Stratford for the afternoon and were leaving in the next ten minutes... 

To the river!
Lucys Mill looked better than it has for ages. Last two trips the place seemed somewhat stagnant with hardly any of the exciting flow complexity I've learned to read and exploit. Apart from a trickle of water passing over the bottom weir, really it was just a lake then and most uninspiring. Now the top weir was flowing strongly and the bottom weir gushing noisily. It looked vital, and I hoped it might be alive with hungry roach.

The influx of water combined with the seasonal die back of weed had clearly caused something of a problem. Not, I thought, a serious one. Just the usual one of having to wind in occasionally to clear the line. However, this weed proved to be that from the great cabbage beds at Stratford Recreation Ground, fragments of which are neutral in buoyancy unlike reeds and rushes. And so the debris was not only at the surface but spread throughout the entire water column below.

I discovered quickly that this would cause a second problem. Fish were biting alright, but were scattered here, there and everywhere, and without any particular shoal concentrations I could locate.

So I was forced to cast my bread here, there and everywhere. I plucked a few small roach and a single gudgeon from various locations. But there wasn't the usual continual run of bites I'd come to expect. I'd get one there and then have to cast here to get another. And wait some time between. It was all too random to be successful unless by sheer chance.

The fish were clearly chasing natural food about — all that invertebrate life dislodged from the decomposing cabbages — and at all levels.  I could not compete without a float rod and a box of maggots at hand, neither of which were. And then an isolated shower approached and it rained. Heavily. And for some precious time in which I could not fish having left the cagoule I always have stashed in the side pocket for just such occasions drying in the shed. I stood under the trees and watched my hopes for this snatched opportunity crumbling...

When it stopped I tried downstream a little way for bream with corn on the hook and a large feeder full of experimental corn laced meaty groundbait. Cast way across the main flow and into the big slack far side I hoped it would sit still. Usually this will be fine so long as the flow channel is not very wide but today it was. Even with the rod set near vertical I could not stop a big belly of line developing. Not a problem so long as it doesn't dislodge the feeder and it didn't. Well, it didn't until sufficient weed had found the line when it was dragged along and bite detection was nigh impossible.

I dropped the tackle in the one place I reckoned it would stay put. Right under the bank and in the strongest and smoothest flow of all. Something of a gamble with only a roach net to hand and large barbel the only fish likely if a bite were to come. They would be chasing food too but along the bottom and right where my bait was placed. 

I'd banked a double-figure pike for Keith Jobling in that little pan and that at Stratford Rec. And it had happily accepted Simon Daley's seven-pound Dorset Stour chub too. Surely I could manage to fit a big barbel in head first, tail out, if I were to walk it downstream to slower and less tricky waters? 

Given sufficient time it would have happened, I'm certain. The conditions were perfect and my personal history of barbel fishing sessions at Lucys Mill, though not exactly extensive having tried just four times for them and them alone, is one of having hooked up to double-figure fish on three occasions. 

Luckily there wasn't nearly the time for such a sticky problem to occur or the session to count as 'barbel fishing'. Though I thought I had an hour to go, two happy ladies refreshed by their jaunt round town appeared earlier than anticipated with a funky little cardboard doggy box with a string handle and my hand-written name on it full of cheese and pickle and poached prawn sandwiches. 

Saved by the belles.

Back to the car and home...

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