Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Up and Running Water

How narrow can a swim be? The narrowest I have ever fished by around 5 metres

Well, it happened

Health, almost, restored...mild temperatures...time to commence the new era and head for the canal river!

The horizontally, and vertically, meandering Leam was the destination. A new venue, nay river, for me.

New 11' Avon; half hundred-weight of gear distilled into one rucksack/seaty thing, I was amazed how little kit I could get away with taking; 5.6lb line straight through to an 8 with a link leger and later free-lining (freelining!!) big lumps of flake - what was going-on here?!

For a man brought up to fish in February with a single squatt on the finest of wire 26's to 0.55mm hook length in the hope of avoiding a blank on the hardest of hard venues this was the angling equivalent of changing from a Mini to a Land Rover 130 and expecting to get the hang of it immediately, or at least within the two hours I had set-aside before the Cup Final started - penalties, I ask you - in the words of Edwin Starr, 'There has to be a better way '

So there I was, the first peg that appeared deep enough and I couldn't resist stopping just there armed only with a John Dwyer White Tin Loaf and mental notes of Tony Miles' chapter on chub fishing with bread crust (this paragraph to be read in the style and accent of Neil Oliver, of 'Coast' fame, for full effect)

The emotion, the smell (cattle drink), the noise of unruly kids out for walk with parents all burning-off the roast beef, the birdsong, the unexpected warmth, the clear water and a feeling of prominence, the confusion - boy was I confused. The simplest of issues had me taxed; no towpath (no path, even), no level area, no seat legs to set me all comfy-like, the mud, the crackling seed-head remnants of last years tall ruderals to tangle in, no keepnet to set, no depth to plumb, no whistle to await or to race to get ready before. 'Okay, let's just calm down and get the seating position right', I told myself. Once that had been achieved, calm did descend and the thought of fishing started to come to the fore

The first peg and scene of much confusion

The simple set-up was copied from the mental note...a two swanshot link looped-over the mainline stopped with an AAA and a 6" tail to the aforementioned 8 hook, a hook which in a previous life I would have considered a possible contender as a gaff. This wasn't just new ground, this was igneous rock to my previous soft silt but there was one over-riding factor telling me this really would be okay and that was the manner in which Tony Miles had written his book. I felt the same in 1977, and many times since, when dipping into Kevin Ashurst's 'World Class Match Fishing', which, although ghosted by Colin Dyson, comes across as the advice of man totally at ease with his outstanding ability, displaying a confidence that could easily have been received as a sign of conceit if mishandled but was carefully balanced to come across as supreme belief in the methods rather than falling into the trap that some other fishing writers have been ensnared by over the years. Miles' matter of fact 'this will work' attitude had me convinced from the moment I read it. I just knew it could work, the rest remained to be seen

The water really was clear and the reflection of a passing azure bullet exaggerated the fact, kingfisher number two followed 20 seconds later on the same flight path (now a species of European conservation concern according to RSPB). I thought initially it may have been possible to see the bottom of the whole swim and when I had at first introduced a handful of mashed bread (prior to the confusion episode) into the restricted flow between bulrush beds it seemed to glow as it burst out into widening pool below. After I had started to fish however it became apparent that the crease between slack water and main flow, or what flow there was, ran into deeper water such that the mommy crust actually disappeared as it sank ('mommy' - chewy, not crunchy...The Old Trout's glossary of the essential terms of life)

I fairly soon realised that 2SSG was far too heavy but then conversely and immediately learned that it takes quite some weight to sink a 2" round tear of flake but after some jiggerypokery managed to balance the rig so that it gently moved round into the slack from the flow

Fifteen minutes of getting to know the swim accompanied by a fairly regular twitching of the tip - this bit I thought I would struggle with but, again, Miles' words helped me resist a change to a light rig in the need to catch anything that would bite - must have been followed by the kind of savage bite he had warned me about. I say 'must have' because I don't actually remember it, what I recall is striking and a fish kiting towards the far rush bed. This was where the Avon was to come into play, no line given, no option of back-winding here!, just hang-on and lean into it. Although the fish felt at least 30 times larger than my usual stamp it was tamed fairly easily with this kit, apart from a short-lived wrap around some weed on the inside

Safely in the net, the words 'it worked' emerged from the corner of my mouth, out loud and with a visible exclamation mark. Followed by the whispered 'how big is that?!' Composure was (relatively) soon regained and logic applied to the situation 'Okay it's not five or even four pound' and it wasn't even three but it was the biggest chub I've had for many a year. It went 2.5.0 on my trusty 'Little Samson's, dug-out of retirement and calibrated with the official and traditional bag of sugar earlier in the day. As I said, 30 times my usual stamp. Then came the flap about wanting to photograph the fish but being concerned about it being put back, so hasty pictures were taken, just to prove the capture, and we can work on that aspect some other time

Not a real chub by most bloggers' standards, admittedly, but certainly one by mine

The disturbance lead to the conclusion that in reality I was unlikely to catch anything else here. I gave it a while longer, without the previous constant tapping of the tip, and decided to move on to another peg for the next 45 minutes or so before I had to leave. The same tip-twitching activity occurred in peg 2, accompanied by the metallic squeak of a treecreeper investigating the gnarled bark of far bank trees on its vertical spiral, and here I also tried freelining, starting to understand what it really took to sink such a bouyant bait but there were no proper bites to experience at this point, the peg having been fished earlier in the day, and time soon drifted away

Peg 2, and the glint of a low sun
 Packing away took seconds, not half an hour, so that was also good and the walk back and trip home were undertaken with that long-lost feeling of accomplishment. However small this event may have been in the scale of things generally it was a big step for me and the first of many I am now certain. Already the target of a four pound river chub has been set as the next goal, although I am not into the realms of airing, sharing or even considering PB's or the like yet. That is some way off and I am not currently sure that is the route this little escapade is due to take, so much remains to be discovered much and yet I have fished for 25 years or so in the past. How blinkered we can become

The Complete Specimen Hunter, Tony Miles
Birds of Conservation Concern 3,
Distant memory

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on that chub George, and the four pounder won't be long in coming your way fishing with those big baits.

    I remember a day when a friend came up from London to fish the upper Avon with me and we were after chub. I put out what I had come to know as the right sized bait, a huge lump of luncheon meat two inches square. He was aghast! Refused to put the same size piece on his own hook, couldn't imagine how it could work...

    He was plagued by taps to a thumbnail sized bait, I just received almighty rod wrenching lunges and banked three 4lb chub in a row. He eventually put out the big bait, though with trepidation. Within half an hour he was posing for a trophy shot with the largest chub he'd ever caught!