By 2pm we arrived in the fens and began the normal routine of the kids catching bait on the whip while I sorted the gear and pitched the tent. As usual I fed the swim with lots of groundbait and maggots, Shantel was soon whipping in lots of small Bream along with the occasional Rudd or Roach. Chris arrived shortly afterwards and set up downstream and after a nightmare journey north Elliott arrived and opted to fish upstream. The weather remained cloudy and fresh but there was no hint of rain. Overhead conditions seemed good for an early take so we all had Zander baits out by the early evening. The river was not looking so good however, low, clear and still lots of weed, much more than previous seasons. Still, we were all feeling confident of a take or two. Unfortunately the news from the Cricket wasn't good, too much rain and play had been abandoned for the day.
Cabaret this evening was provided by a drunken bunch on a narrow boat. Two blokes had decided to ride in an inflatable dinghy being towed and had managed to fall out and into the river. They cheerfully swam down towards the boat which cut its engines and drifted right through the area we were fishing, crashing into the bank. They restarted the boat and the two clever people in the river found out its really quite difficult to climb up the side of a narrow boat. In the end no harm was done to anybody but it's highly ironic that with all the many miles of river this had to happen right in front of us. It's worth remembering that had this incident occurred on the deep, powerful tidal rivers in Norfolk those two idiots might not have made it out of the river. Elliot's luck hadn't improved either, he had to move after setting up on an ants nest.
When the madness subsided we settled back down to the fishing and our confidence was justified as Chris had a take. The result was an eel which was quickly unhooked and slipped back into the river. He had predicted an eel or two in these conditions. There were threatening clouds away to the west but the wind was from the south and they looked to be passing harmlessly by. Chris then took up his customary role as head chef and proceeded to fry up his speciality Newmarket sausages, (he swears they're not made of race horses) served with onions and salad, delicious! Desert was toasted marshmallows, guaranteed to keep the kids up all night. Madison narrowly outpointed Elliott in the marshmallow eating contest. As usual there was lots of banter & mutual ribbing along with a cold bottle of beer or two. In fact we were having such a good time that we failed to notice that the wind had swung around and the rain was heading straight for us.
It started suddenly and then pelted down. Within minutes we were all scrambling around trying to get ourselves in wet weather clothing and cover gear up. Our camps had been set up on a southerly wind and now we had a westerly whipping rain right into us. All three of us were caught unaware' s and got a soaking, the girls however were fine; warm and dry zipped up in their tent. For two hours the sky emptied on top of us, absolutely everything was damp at best, a lot of the kit was soaked. However as the sun dipped in the west, the cloud thinned and the rain began to ease. We were treated to another spectacular fenland skyscape; in the eastern sky was a spectacular double rainbow whilst to the west the sun blazed bright orange on the horizon, the photos do neither justice. I stood out in the open enjoying the scenery with the rain stinging my face and laughed, I was actually enjoying this madness! Shortly afterwards my paternoster rig roared off and I bent into a scrappy fish, not the Zander I'd hoped for but a small Pike, Oh well things were looking up.
When the rain eventually stopped we studied the aftermath. Chris was wet but this wasn't a major problem as he hadn't planned to fish all night anyway. I wasn't too bad but damp and uncomfortable, the girls in the tent were absolutely fine. Poor old Elliott however, had come off worse and was totally drenched, as was all his kit. Spending the rest of the night on the fen wasn't really an option, his only choice was to pack up and head for home. Before he left he managed to rub salt into his wounds by falling in the mud on the flood bank. Unfortunately that wasn't the end of his bad luck for the day but I'm sure he'll be back for another crack.
Chris too began to tidy up and head for a dry home but before he left my Paternoster roared off a second time. The culprit this time was long, ugly and slimy. Eels are great when you're actually fishing for the things but on a Zander rig in the dark, I hate them. I remember chatting to an ol' Suffolk boy years ago. I told him that I sometimes struggled to unhook Eels. His reply was “I never have any trouble unhooking Eels...I just cut their f***ing heads off!” He was deadly serious and couldn't understand why I cracked up laughing. Not a very PC statement in the context of these enlightened times.
Chris had tidied up, said his goodbyes and left, at that point I envied him. I was damp and uncomfortable, the eel appeared to have completely trashed the paternoster rig. I tried to gently persuade the kids we'd be better off if we slowly tidied up and spent the night in our own dry beds. They were having none of it, insisting they were warm and dry and looking forward to me frying them breakfast in the morning. I had no real choice but to stay and make best of it so I made an effort to organise everything and get things sorted for the night ahead. My groundbait had taken a soaking so I balled it all into my swim, hoping to attract some bait fish and also predators. I put a fresh bait on the ledger and dropped it on the edge of the weed. I put a second ledger rig into a clear spot under the rod tip then picked up the paternoster which wasn't as bas as I'd thought. I thought I might as well chuck this back out too so a fresh bait was put into mid river. I now had everything organised and three fresh, lively baits out in the river and actually felt confident of putting a Zed onto the bank. After one last cuppa I settled back into my bivvy and tried to forget everything was damp and doze for a bit. Twice in the dark hours I was roused by a bite alarm, unfortunately both times it wasn't fish and after removing lots of drifting weed I recast a fresh bait into the river. The third time the alarm sounded it wasn't weed...it was a Swan and by now it was daylight, my best chance of a Zander had passed. Three fresh baits then back into the bivvy for another snooze.
8am and the camp was stirring, bright sunlight was drying everything off nicely. Shantel entertained herself catching a few more fish on the whip while Madison charged up and down the meadow with her skipping rope. I slowly tidied up and cooked us all a lovely fried breakfast, washed down with a cup of tea, both really hit the mark. We deserved a good feed and we got one! On the floodbank opposite a cheerful chap wearing a beard and a big jumper was warbling away some strange tune as he walked along. He could have been from the Cambridge folk festival, or he could be someone who wishes he was. I'm pretty sure he wasn't from the “F***ed up” gig on Friday though! By 11am we were in the car travelling back home, I hoped to have cricket on the radio but play was delayed but the good news was it was due to start at noon. C'mon England!