Having had a lesson in the craft of what one might (and not in any derogatory way) describe as old-fashioned rod & line fishing from Jeff Hatt two or three weeks ago, which you can mug-up on here
and even here, if you so desire,
I was tempted to roll back the years as they say or, as it transpired, roll back the eyes
Which reminds me of that time when someone on TV said (it may have been Harry Hill, I don't recall) "...and now the next episode of Casualty in which this week Charlie has an operation to stop his eyes rolling about in his head". Totally irrelevant, but it made me laugh at the time!
There was a time, in all modesty, when my rod & line skills were admired, admittedly mainly by passing Jack Russels and small children, but that makes it no less true to say. So I thought the prospect of combining my, still quite new, Avon rod with the, now compulsory, lift bite method would be a doddle. Jeff made it look easy and so, therefore, would I
When I turned-up without the customary blue dalek to sit on, without the matching blue matchman's (there must be a pun there but I just can't quite see it) rod, bait and net bags, my recently constant angling companion, who shall not be named for reasons which will be revealed later, was drawn to somewhat unfavourable words along the lines of 'goodness what unusual kit you have there', i.e. river roving gear of rucksack, ready set-up rod and reel, and nets
We had chosen probably the most consistently productive area of the N Oxford cut I am aware of and although in the past I was never fortunate enough to draw bang-on it in a match, as far as I recall, I do distinctly remember some good catches in between times including one net of over 10lbs of big roach on a red letter day when they just happened to all be in front of me and taking any bait almost anywhere I put the hook.
So this was to be a big roach expedition on rod and line
The early morning pre-narrowboat hiatus (can you have an hiatus before something?) was the customary target time and we arrived at around 5am to be fishing by 5.15. This week was my friends turn to chose the swim he preferred and I would make do with the hand I was dealt; using not inconsiderable logic, he sat opposite a dense willow to shield the rising sun from his eyes...'didn't think of that and I sat in the open between trees to have my inner eye scorched as the morning progressed. Fortunately the car now knows the way back and I didn't need to look, and furthermore, as I've been surviving on one bite one fish tactics of late, seeing the float wouldn't matter too much either
The plan wasn't just restricted to the rod. I also intended to try baiting three swims with the mashed centre of a tin loaf rather than sliced bread and even went so far as to leave the sliced bread back at ChezNous so that I wouldn't be tempted, it's the only way sometimes. So I would then have to use real flake on the hook too, my God!
The morning was quite glorious, if chilly, but you can't have early sun without the associated cold let in by the lack of that insulating blanket of cloud over the countryside, or, more to the point, heat let out by it. A deep mist lay over the water as we drove down and it lingered longer than normal on yet another in a string of breeze less occasions. Water colour looked good but sub-surface visibility was down to only about 4-6", not ideal for bread but good enough to suggest we would get the odd bite
Having prepped what little bit of gear I had brought I proceeded to feed what was to be my initial swim and then wandered along to two further pegs I would be able to remember due to distinguishing features without the need to mark the ground and did the same
The next half hour was spent trying to get the float suitably settled as the surface drag was stronger than I had anticipated with the early lack of breeze but this did increase as the session wore-on and a heavier rig eventually solved the problem with a no.1 shot necessary on the bottom (no, really!) and a string of no.4's as bulk above it giving the long cane-bristled slender-bodied waggler an option to lift if the fish nosed-down to pick up the bait and then righted itself simultaneously picking the shot off the bottom. Well, that's the theory, the same one I have been employing a touch more subtly on the pole
So I gave it 30 minutes in the first swim and then 20 in the next two
As I returned to swim 1 to suffer the sun a touch more the (angling) Artist formerly known as The Old Duffer was netting a fish taken on what he terms 'the poacher's pole' dangled in the side. It rarely fails and usually succeeds in snaring the odd perch, but not today, as 14.5ozs of slimline roach was plundered. It originated as a freshwater crayfish catching method many years ago using bacon but now those protected species are in such decline that we never see one
What did surprise us though was a deep croaking sound from the base of the willow he was sat opposite. Three or four slow croaks in series like a jumbo frog, it couldn't surely be a woodcock but sure enough when I fired-up the iPhone app of bird sounds it was exactly that and also confirmed that we have had them from time to time in the marshy field next to our house from whence The Lady Burton and I have heard that self-same sound in the night. Another tick for the garden, having long since dispensed grappling with the argument as to whether a 'hearing' counts as a 'sighting', well obviously it isn't technically a sighting but it is 'a tick'
So by the time I had got into the swing of fishing swim one again the dew on the Avon rod was so severe as to seriously impede casting as the line stuck to the blank. This took me right back to something I learnt at the age of about 12-13 when it was explained to me that match rods had eyes with longer legs to stop the line sticking to the blank and with lighter gear this was essential in rain or dew otherwise you wouldn't be able to cast. This had evaded my memory until this moment but if I were to try it again it would be with a different rod (and I probably will, 'can't be defeated can we?)
Eventually the float plopped into the right spot and on the second cast, to my great surprise I have to confess, the float popped-up and a lump was hooked. The beauty of this method is that the bites are almost literally unmissable it seems. This fish put up a real battle and I had greater difficulty bringing it to heel than a couple of river chub in March, a somewhat chubby round the midriff in fact, bronze bream was drawn over the net by which time matey boy had ventured closer to see what was talking so long to land. The fish went 2-5-8 as shown in the picture below and was followed by a pounder after I had revisited the other swims again after re-baiting them as I left them first time round, some twenty minutes later
A last cast on caster as I packed away resulted in a missed bite with two casters on the hook and one of them coming back crushed, probably by a confidently feeding roach. So be it, it was time to leave to get the boys to cricket practice anyway, why they want to bother I've no idea as all of the games are washed-out anyway