So with a bag full of new sweets I headed to the streamI can't imagine, except when spinning, that I can ever have set-out to fish with so little kit - new bait & tackle waist-band with matching mat plus the usual net and travel Avon quiver
A number of factors pointed to this day...
- The river had been swollen and was falling but, I hoped, would still hold sufficient cover.
- The air temperature had been hovering around freezing since before the rains that caused the river to rise, hence the water temperature would be correspondingly low but, four or five days in, the fish might be used to it.
- The Christmas festivities had taken priority.
- I now had a cheap liquidiser (in fact, like so many modern products, it is much more than that but that was, at least, the purpose I bought it for) for bread.
- Three days' full sun and clear skies preceded this one which promised to be cloudy from noon so the prospect of afternoon sport on these very short days around the new year was one I could not ignore. Equally the idea of fishing into dark after the fish might not have eaten much for the best part of a week was irresistible, and, on top of all that I also had my sweets to try.
The inestimable Lady Burton had bought me reel cases for Christmas but sadly I had too many already and so I swapped them yesterday for an eva (I'm told) completely sealed, welded in fact, net bag to keep in the car
[I also had two robust bird feeders (not to support Great Uncle Dubes over-ripe pigeons I might add!) and soon after I hung one out full of fat balls I coincidentally noticed a flock of around a dozen meadow pipit leap-frogging each other in the winter wheat-sewn field behind the bungalow, accompanied by jackdaw, rook, pied wagtail, woodpigeon (of course) and a blue tit nearer to the place we are temporarily calling home for a year]A further treat, more a liquorice hose than a fruit salad, would be the stream itself. A quarter-mile stretch, never before seen, proved a winding, alternating mix of glides and deeper holes with numerous overhanging and, occasionally, fallen willows
After some initial confusion faffing about with liquidised bread I reverted to a mix of it rougly 50/50 with mashed bread so that it was soaked, and suitably sinkingThe attack was to feed two swims downstream of the one I happened to be in, give each 15-20 minutes and move-on
It was not until the fourth swim, and the first with a branch in the water, that a sign of interest emerged running from the water and up the line to the tip but an early strike proved as equally futile as impetuous
Evidence that the levels had been higher recently manifested in silty banks within a foot of so of the waterline and, in shallower areas, ice had been left behind to float above decaying vegetation, like a miniature crystal canopy perhaps to protect a surreal exhibition of water shrews' wares, close to the waterline from the previous night's hard frost
Three more glides, one with a good-looking slack below a dramatically projecting rush bed, produced nothing but, again, the fourth, a distinctive location on a deep tight inside bend with overhanging trees, seemed the place. A tremulous indication was missed and, by the feel of it, I may have just nicked the fish as I struck. I hoped it had been glancing submerged weed and cast back down towards the branches hanging over and into the waterAnother bite, ponderous but also more positive, resulted in a pristine seven ounce roach coming to hand
Third cast to the branch and another missed nibble. The fourth however was perfect, within inches of the branch and allowed to sink before tightening-up. As I sat there thinking things were going in fours and feeling the likelihood was...hang-on that moved a bit then, and again, gentle nods of the tip...whoah!...it arced round and the strike met with what felt like a better roach. As I started to tighten to the fish with it swimming upstream toward me it started to get distinctly bigger. It burrowed deep and shook it's head. No roach. Soon it was up from the depths and a chub appeared looking around 1-12-0 I thought, from an acute angle
Keen to try another peg in woodland before darkness engulfed the valley (and I wanted to return to the peg that produced the first bite for an hour after dark) I moved on, but to no avail despite the strong foxy aroma of the soggy bankside. A tiny, unkempt and unreasonably buoyant dabchick drifted past with the flow as if with motorised feet in the wrong gear while they whirred away to little effect, seemingly and unusually oblivious to my presence
I took a moment to investigate the next thirty metres of wooded bank which looked exceptional with two large branches laying across the full width of the watercourse but there was insufficient time to prime yet another swim
Minutes later I settled into the murk at the intended resting place for dusk, crawling under a low horizontal limb to reach the comfort of the only small area where it was in fact possible to swing terminal tackle to hand, and waited...
The screech owl did just that and the temperature actually appeared to rise reflecting the moon's rise higher through the thick spiny hawthorn to my right, and I waited...
One thing is becoming clear, that the fallen branches and one or two of the very deepest holes now offer pretty much the only hope of bites on the stream. The challenge becomes even more challenging as winter bites