Monday, 16 March 2015
As the river season floats away, a little ripple of interest these past few days with water at last at a steady winter level having been too low between deluges right through since October. What a contrast to last winter when the level was not at 'normal' through the whole period!
Air temperatures have gently risen two fleeces from a month ago and a four inch rise in river level on Friday caused a torrent of wishful thoughts, having enjoyed a roach windfall these past days
Although word on the bank had it that roach were again suffering pre-breeding ravenosity I fancied the day searching for a chub. Paddling against the flow as usual
Mid-afternoon was the best start time I could manage with the preceding whirlpool of Mother's Day prep and work to attend to. I pulled-up in the bay expecting to be unable to park however only one other angler had bothered, a sign of these sad egotistical times if ever there was one to behold. It made me happy, then it made me sad in equal measure
A long initial meander through the increasingly rough grassland saw a deep hole appeal to me as a somewhat contrary starting point and base, but I remembered I had taken our wide-mouthed friends there before, albeit not to any noteworthy size. So it was here I set up and trotted a 5AAA balsa-bodied topper at two rod lengths in mid-stream; a work of art under the wayward control of a philistine
The depth varies greatly where deep-holes exist on the Leam making them very taxing for the float angler; not only is there the depth to contend with (this one was around ten to eleven feet) but they are often quite steeply bowl-shaped such that the bait is only near bottom as it leaves and then reaches upstream and downstream slopes. The river, adorned with fantastically old creaking and splitting veteran willows as it is, is also remarkably but commensurately snaggy. The aquatic scrub-like bed must be festooned and pebble-dashed with lost line and shot. My own swan shot bill per annum must exceed £15, and I am as tight as a dabchicks ear never casting into the gaping mouth of the overhang except in the desperation of those lifeless winter days
Second trot with a pinch of flake and the float dipped. The Trotter arced and, just as quickly, relaxed. The mild irritation at potentially wrecking the opportunity was soon glossed over however when, two trots later, it went down again, this time more positively and the difference between hitting a fish on an Avon or with the subtlety of the new jewel of the rod collection became apparent. Taking a fish on an avon at short range is very bang, crash, wallop, usually resulting in the need to feed and move on; with this piece of sublime wonder however the quarry can be drawn away from its counterparts and it is only at the net when one sometimes wishes the immediate power of the Avon could be brought to bear. The key of course is to encourage out and then beat the fish in midstream so that its rubber-rimmed gape is gasping air before it gets sight of the bank and its associated escape roots. It can then be lead flank-down to safety without concern
At a pound eleven this chub was a nice start to the day. Two further tentative bites came but then, quiet. I re-fed and wandered into the wilderness, pegs I had never before seen, finding a freak glide of faster water created by a tree fallen diagonally toward me from upstream on the far bank such that the two feet of surface between the tip of the branches and the near bank was the only area of its full thirty foot width that was discernibly moving
I crept forward on my knees anticipating all sorts. Shallow water, a clear run and, perhaps,...chub. Unknown, unseen and unwitting(?)
Bending, bursting spring branches had to be knelt on and twined with others above the dicotyledons of future botanical resplendence pushing through the warming woodland floor
This would work, definitely. This would work
A generous crust was dropped into the slack a touch further out to check for buoyancy against the shot. Perfect, it drifted down like the real thing. Into the flow it went. No more than eighteen inches from the near edge, nothing fed, just the bait. So far back was I that only the crimson quivertip overhung the water, so restricted was the swim
The line drew vigorously from the spool, flicking my fingertip, as the crust was dragged by the current toward the prey, or so I hoped. It came to rest. I gently tightened that little bit of slack.
A twitch, a short pull, a tap. A nod and a wink to the angler now poised like the proverbial coiled spring. A definite curve round. Three inches, six inches, increasing speed, nine inches. Whack! Salar-esque he leapt from the water and, in that related momentary lack of control, headed for the undercut. I frantically walked on my knees toward the edge and gained some outward leverage, drawing him sufficiently to avoid what would have been inevitable. He surfaced and headed net-ward with that characteristic upright head-wagging gait
It didn't matter what he weighed. Leech-infested he may have been but he was fooled, and, as was only to be expected with those improbable constraints, the prospects henceforth would be wrecked
Or so one might have thought...
I took the fish back to my keepnet to join his brother and went to sit down and run the float through a few more times there, but as I crouched down to do so something made me stop and back to that tiny accelerated and now baited glide I went
The same process produced an immediate fighting fish. Not a chub though. No, this felt like an angry roach but with a somewhat juddering action. First impression when visible under water was rudd, then roach, then both from various angles. Examination in the net evidenced traits of each species but with the mouth damaged on one side that key feature could not be relied upon. The colouration though was distinctly that of a roach emebellished with highlights of rudd and the deep back was evident. A river first this, a ruddXroach hybrid just a gnat's whisker under a pound. I hadn't seen such a monstrosity since they were ill-advisedly stocked into the Stratford Canal in the 1980's, and love it I could not, p.b. though it may have been
Another small chub came from the same hole before darkness started to fall and I headed for three swims I had taken the target species from before to round the season off, one way or another
There would be no holding-back. Large chunks of crust balanced against two swan shot simply nipped onto the line four inches back from a size 4 hook to give that gentle fall was the teaser. The first of these further swims was the most productive chub swim I had yet found on the stretch I had signed-up for in the autumn. Nearly every time I had dropped in there I had been fortunate enough to add one to the day's summary, sometimes the only one to write-up through this tough period since New Year
First 'cast' along the face of the near bank produced nothing on the drop as the supposed temptation drifted in the current and so it was allowed to come to rest three or four feet out from an undercut in the steady flow and I poured a hot drink with the diminishing north-easterly eating into my face, the steam blew itself out immediately on leaving the cup. The warmth was welcome as was the ensuing initially twitching enquiry that then boomed into a wrap-around "I'm having that!" bite. The strike was a little odd, the line was under a briar and initially I thought the fish had come off the hook but as I tightened I realised the fish was moving toward me in its escape bid. On regaining contact the fish had not headed root-ward but was midstream and deeper. A good fighter too but as I flicked the headlamp from red to white the batteries were low and the fish was difficult to visualise in the failing beam. By hook, and landing net crook, it was landed fairly uneventfully though and the best fish of the day, and for some time from this stretch, was soon wriggling in the net obviously filled with belief. The hook had fallen out into the mesh as is so often the case and on weighing it went 2-8-0 and boosted the day's catch to 5 fish for 7-11-0
Next peg produced nothing on a similar basis
The last peg had given-up its first chub to me only fairly recently. It was deeper and deserved, I felt, the remaining bread mash to be introduced at the outset as I would be sitting here until it announced the season end with one more fish
It was sheltered here and the water was still. Woodpigeon panicked with the cracking of wings as only they can in the dark as I moved into position. I flicked the crust out to mid-river but had to increase the lead to three swan in order to hold in the area I imagined the feed would have settled
Second cast - a gentle pull, brief hold and slack. I guessed the line must've been compromised by an obstruction underwater and as I wound in it was indeed temporarily hooked-up
Out it went again and this time no mistake, a typical chub take. Nothing else was having this bait either, clearly! This fish was soon under control, netted and weighed-in despite the failing lamp at a touch smaller than the last, 2-4-0
9-15-0 of fish (one more ounce!!) was as good a seasons' end as I could recall. Suddenly everything had come together this past week on the Leam
For now though the riverine inhabitants can do what they do best to keep their numbers up and new challenges lie ahead
Two recent tip-offs have started the cogs whirring...