After the now customary summer angling hiatus, autumn and winter 2014 was a somewhat rudderless affair
Canals had drifted to the back of my mind and the intriguing little River Leam pushed itself to the fore via its curvaceous contours, enhanced later in the year by a new licence allowing a much wider search to be made in often deeply sculpted recesses. Now access to three rural stretches was possible (plus the town waters of Leamington Spa which offer little attraction)
The two trips prior to this weekend had been partly experimental in trying cheese paste for chub without a single bite. Yesterday I reverted to bread, as I had promised myself, and had a lovely fish, just gaining a few golden scales in readiness for summer, first cast in the first swim...they're trying to tell me something. That's meat, worm and cheese paste I've tried for chub over the preceding months and years now and every time I come back to bread. The fish gave a brave and memory-registering account of itself in the stronger flow here, displaying 3-1-0 on the scales and bending the light Avon double at the same time offering a reminder of those many evenings seeking the one biggest fish from the swim after dark that I have now become so impatient with
The sheep by now were apoplectic at my presence and braying loudly in their comedic multi-coloured voices as they faced across the water. Soon though they grew tired of the lack of, no doubt, anticipated food and wandered as only sheep can to the distant reaches of the meadow in search of whatever their somewhat empty heads seek, and back again. They say a low boredom threshold is a sign of intelligence, sheep seem to be up there with the house fly.
Second and third swims, although looking tasty, produced no real bites but the fourth, in many ways similar to the first - a smooth glide leading to an undercut with overhanging bushes - again offered an indication of feeding activity on the first drop-in. As with the first fish, upon the strike it leapt clean out of the stream and a concern it might tangle in branches above the water afflicted me, but no, things were soon calmly in hand and an immaculate never before caught beauty of one and a half pounds was soon laying in the glistening mesh of safety, mildly rouged fins rigid in resistance and mouth fixed agape like a miniature basking shark
Swim five was one known to be holding a shoal of roach from previous visits. An unexpected deep hole leading to a long glide that had an annoying branch impeding tackle control and which had not been removed on the previous visit. No bites this time, despite a couple of topping occupants, and the woody irritant was soon dragged up the bank leaving a clear run for the future
Another uncut leading to a bush was next but it proved snaggy and dangerously tackle-consuming so it was soon deserted
By now darkness was falling and, despite being multi-thermal layered, the air soon noticeably chilled as fieldfares began diving and crashing into riverside bushes for roosting sites in their inimitable style. Woodpigeons and various crow species headed-off to their own secret slumbering locations among the beckoning branches of the darkest woods. The resident punky little grebe scooted by in semi-darkness
A couple of bursts of tapping on the tip lead to nothing decisive another than the distinct impression of a rather desperate small roach in the very last swim and, as the impatience set in once more, the net had frozen solid as I closed-up the stall and headed back, the knowledge of the most likely bait once again underlined in ink, the others struck through in red
Tomorrow, the intention of seeking the biggest chub after dark with the temperature rising to seven or eight degrees into the night from zero at dawn. The river continues to slowly fall, being about eight inches above normal level with a tinge of colour. All indicators suggest an ideal opportunity, but first there is cricket to coach
So, with twenty young batters, fielders and bowlers, and five coaches, thoroughly worn-out, a return was made. Not to the same length but, given the conditions, to the location thought most likely to threaten the current personal Leam chub record of three-thirteen
The pre-planned intention was to alternate crust and flake, feeding mash every half hour or so and possibly also swapping between swims if safe and sufficiently discreet to do so after dark, feeding each as I left in rotation and expecting bites as I dropped-in to each. On this basis expecting relatively long periods without a bait necessarily being in the water, but that depended upon the prevalence of bites and also whether it would be possible to use more than one swim
On arrival, half hour before sundown, three pegs were selected and fed. The air temperature was 8degC and a breeze blew across the river over the right shoulder. The most upstream of the three pegs was to be the one I would be likely to settle in after trying all three, based on the conditions, likelihood of fish and previous experience
First cast was around 5.15pm and two hours later, with not the slightest indication, I sauntered back fishless
But that's why we keep going isn't it? The unpredictability. The challenge.