An angler's journal

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

A Trip Down Memory Lane


This week saw the passing of the spring equinox and with the official start of spring. However, as I write the air is cold with snow falling from a grey sky. It certainly doesn’t feel like spring and early mornings spent tench fishing on a lily laden lake or stalking carp off the surface seem as distant as ever. It is on these occasions that an angler’s mind will wander and some of our fondest memories spent on the bank return to remind of the good days. Those red letter days that we all experience from time to time that keep us returning to the water’s edge come rain, wind or shine.

Such as day occurred some five years ago when barbel had started to dominate my thoughts. However, at the time I was still yet to land a magical double figure fish or exploit the joys that mild, brown water can bring
Text book conditions?
a river angler. Such conditions arrived in the way of a heavy flood during a warm, but wet August. I decided to fish the middle Severn, a few miles downstream of Bridgnorth. Since I had only fished the stretch once before I decided to adopt a mobile approach to maximise my chances since logic told me that if I can find fish then I’d have a great chance of catching in what appeared to be prime conditions, or so the text books told me. Upon arrival, I was heartened by the empty car park that greeted me meaning I literally had miles of river to myself, although I wouldn’t need that of course. With the river at the top of the bank I set about looking for suitable spots to deposit pellets using a bait dropper. I intended to fish close in and looked for sheltered spots behind trees or naturally occurring eddies.

After about 30 minutes I had five spots baited and found myself at the first swim. By now the time was about 4pm and I must admit to tingling with anticipation at the prospect of wetting a line, everything seemed just right and my gentle underarm cast deposited my pellet bait into the swirling current. I tightened the line and held the rod almost expecting an immediate bite and I was not to be disappointed. The line pulled violently across my fingers and a swift strike was met with the unmistakable resistance of a barbel. After a spirited battle a typical middle Severn barbel graced the landing net and I had at least found a productive swim. What I did next may seem illogical as I gathered my belongings and headed off to the next swim but not before another dropper of pellets had been delivered. The second swim was shallower, perhaps too shallow and although I gave 10 minutes I was not too surprised that it didn’t result in any activity. Not to worry as I was now settling down into my next spot. Again, within minutes I was connected to an angry barbel that gave me the run around as I guided the fish through a tight gap in the trees towards my gaping net. Again I baited up and then moved on until I had three successful swim out of the original five that resulted in fish almost immediately after casting.  

It was tiring work, with the fish is almost suicidal mood I was rarely in a swim for more than 5 minutes before I had landed a fish and was on the move again. By catching then a resting a swim I hoped I was not pressuring the resident shoal and this ensured I continued to receive positive bites throughout the session. Again I connected with a barbel but I naively gave the fish too much line and within seconds it had made it beyond the crease and into the main flow. With this part of the river a raging torrent I had little hope of retrieving line and the pressure told and with it my fish. I had learned a valuable lesson that I would not allow to reoccur.

This 10 pounder took me by surprise in more ways than one
What happened next was a surprise of the most pleasant variety. I cast into what had been my opening swim. By now I was expecting, rather than hoping for a bite but nothing prepared me for the speed of the take. I cast, engaged the bail arm and began winding in the slack when I found myself connected to yet another barbel, however this one felt different to the others. It didn’t power off in explosive fashion like its predecessors, preferring to hug the riverbed in determined fashion. I knew that patience would win the day in what was a snag free eddy and at last the white belly and bronze of my prize surfaced. I knew immediately it was in a different league to the five and six pounders that had been providing such frenetic sport. The scales registered 10lb 4oz and my first double had been captured.

I went on to catch 13 barbel that evening. I returned 48 hours later to add another 9 fish and those two sessions still provide fond memories to this day. I’ve gone onto catch bigger barbel but I learnt so much that week, which has held me in good stead ever since. So with the snow still falling outside I find myself jolted back to reality and my trip down memory lane is complete.

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