This week saw the passing of the spring equinox and with it, the official start of spring. However, as I write the air is cold with snow falling from a grey sky so it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Spring has disguised itself as winter, and is doing a very good job at it.
Early mornings fishing for Tench on a lily laden lake, or warm afternoons stalking carp from the surface, seem as distant as they ever were. It’s Easter time, but the bite from the easterly wind still has a firm grip and the fish seem reluctant to bite.
It is on these occasions that an angler’s mind will wander. If we’re not fishing, we’re either reading about fish or dreaming about fishing. The one that got away, the one that is yet to be caught and of course, memories of former glories, of past triumphs and victories. Those red letter days that we all experience from time to time that keep us returning to the water’s edge come rain, wind or shine.
Such as day occurred some five years ago when barbel had started to dominate my thoughts. However, at the time I was still yet to land a magical double figure fish or exploit the joys that mild, brown water can bring a river angler.
Conditions came by way of a heavy flood during a warm, but wet August. I decided to fish the middle Severn, a few miles downstream of Bridgnorth. Since I had only fished the stretch once before, I decided to adopt a mobile approach to maximize my chances. Logic told me that if I can find fish, then I’d have a great chance of catching in what appeared to be prime flood conditions, or so the text books told me.
Upon arrival, I was heartened by the empty car park that greeted me, meaning I literally had miles of river to myself. With the river at the top of the bank I set about looking for suitable spots to deposit pellets using a bait dropper. I intended to fish close in and looked for sheltered spots behind trees or naturally occurring eddies.
After about 30 minutes I had five spots baited and found myself at the first swim. By now the time was about 4pm and I must admit to tingling with anticipation at the prospect of wetting a line. Everything seemed just right and my gentle underarm cast deposited my pellet bait into the swirling current.
I tightened the line and held the rod almost expecting an immediate bite and I was not to be disappointed. The line pulled violently across my fingers and a swift strike was met with the unmistakable resistance of a barbel. After a spirited battle a typical middle Severn barbel graced the landing net and I had at least found a productive swim.
What I did next may seem illogical. I gathered my belongings and headed off to the next swim, but not before another dropper of pellets had been delivered. The second swim was shallower, perhaps too shallow and although I gave 10 minutes I was not too surprised that it didn’t result in any activity. Not to worry as I was now settling down into my next spot.
Again, within minutes I was connected to an angry barbel that gave me the run around as I guided the fish through a tight gap in the trees towards my gaping net. Once landed, I repeated as before. I baited up and then moved on. I had three successful swims out of the original five that resulted in fish almost immediately after casting.
It was tiring work, with the fish is almost suicidal mood. I was rarely in a swim for more than 5 minutes before I had one in the net, and was on the move again. By catching then a resting a swim, I was not pressuring the resident shoal, and this ensured I continued to receive positive bites throughout the session.
What happened next was a surprise of the most pleasant variety. I cast into what had been my opening swim, by now expecting, rather than hoping for a bite.
I cast, engaged the bail arm and began winding in the slack when I found myself connected to yet another barbel. This one however, felt different to the others. It didn’t power off in explosive fashion like its predecessors, preferring to hug the riverbed in determined fashion.
I knew that patience would win the day in what was a snag free eddy and eventually the white belly and bronze of my prize surfaced. I knew immediately it was in a different league to the five and six pounders that had been providing such frenetic sport.
The scales registered 10lb 4oz and my first double.
I went on to catch 13 barbel that evening and returned 48 hours later to add another 9 fish. I’ve gone onto catch bigger barbel since then, but I learnt so much that week which has held me in good stead ever since. So with the snow still falling outside I find myself jolted back to reality and my trip down memory lane is complete.