Sunday, 10 August 2014

Trying to beat Bertha

For the first time since the middle of May I actually had time to spend a weekend at the Marsh.  I’d originally planned to arrive after work on Friday evening but a stormy forecast put me off.  The forecast for Sunday was dodgy too with the remnants of hurricane Bertha expected to cross the Atlantic and make its presence felt in these parts.  Saturday was looking good though; comfortable temperatures, a mixture of sunshine and cloud with a nice westerly wind.  So the plan was adjusted, spend a nice relaxing day at the lake then bivvy up for the night, hopefully getting away before the storm arrived on Sunday.

Shelley and I arrived in mid-morning to find our preferred end of the lake empty of anglers so dropped straight into a comfortable, familiar swim with the breeze in our faces.  On one rod I fished my normal helicopter set up with a snowman rig and PVA bag, this was cast to the marginal slope in front of a bed of Norfolk reeds.  We both cast Chod rigs, Shelley’s into the open water in front of us and mine to the edge of a snaggy area off the adjacent bank.  I then catapulted around half a kilo of boilies, spread across the reedbed slope and the open water.  On a fourth rod we shared a feeder set up baited with corn, this was literally dropped in front of the lilies in the near margin.  Maybe this is an unconventional way to fish corn in the margin, but it’s one way of slowing down the bait stealing Rudd.  Groundbait was ‘Special G’ spiced up with Chilli hemp and a sprinkling of Corn.  The plan was to keep building up a carpet of bait in front of the pads, hoping larger fish would move in eventually.

What a lovely way to spend a sunny afternoon, sat in a comfortable chair by a lovely lake, sipping tea and listening to TMS on the radio.  The occasional Rudd or Roach disturbed us by hooking itself on the feeder rod but the boilies remained untouched.  In the cricket, England’s batsmen played carefully at first then with 70+ scores from Root and Buttler, powered away from India building a lead of over 200.  The only downside being an injury to Broad which meant he probably wouldn’t be able to bowl.  In the end he wasn’t needed.  Anderson and Ali done the damage with the ball then Jordan tidied up giving England a comfortable innings win inside three days.  We’re starting to look just a couple of players short of a good side now, on the other hand India were awful, a truly gutless display.

With the test match over and done with, Shelley popped off to the chippy to pick up supper.  While she was away I recast my two rods, both landed bang on first time, then pulted out another half kilo of boilies.  After cod & chips and another mug of tea we got Shelley’s rods sorted for the night then settled back once more to watch the sunset.  Just after nine o clock my rod cast to the reedbed sounded a steady take, I connected with a fish… but only for a second before the rod straightened and the line fell limp.  I told myself it was a Bream because I didn’t want to think I’d lost a Tench or a Carp.

An hour later with bats swooping and Tawny’s hooting the same rod was away again and this time I connected with a decent weight.  After getting briefly stuck in weed, the fish plodded around in open water before giving up the ghost and rolling into the net.  The weight in the net was a surprise, it was a Bream and a good sized one at that.  Laid out on the unhooking mat I became convinced I was looking at my best ever Bream and the scales agreed.  It may not have been the species I was after but I was pleased none the less.  Over the seasons I’ve caught several Bream from the Marsh in this way, sometimes when they pick up a carefully positioned bait in the middle of the night it can be a pain in the arse but when they’re as big as this they’re very welcome.
 After getting the bait back on the spot I’d hardly sipped the celebration tea when the same rod was away again.  This time I expected another Bream and I was right, what’s more it was another good fish just a few ounces lighter than the first.  With the line marked and clipped getting another rig and PVA bag back out there was easy and before long I was back in my chair finishing my tea.  Shelley was wondering when it would be her turn!  We sat chatting till gone midnight by which time the wind had died but the cloud had built ominously.  A bit of rain was forecast in the early hours before Bertha battered us in the afternoon.  I wound in the rod cast to the snags as the risk of a fish getting in there before I got out of my sleeping back would be too great.  Knowing there had been Bream around, I decided to top up the swim with a few more pouches of boilies then with drooping eyes we retired to the bivvy for a bit of rest.

My alarm clock awoke me.  Except it wasn’t my alarm clock, what was going on?  There it was again, that bloody beeping sound…  I scrambled out of my kip bag, groped for the head torch, stumbled into my shoes and wasn’t aware of anything until I had a bending rod in my hands.  The fish had run away from the reedbed into the open water and it was just a case of pumping it back to the net.  It was another Bream and another good sized one at that, worth taking a quick snap on the unhooking mat before slipping back.  I looked at my watch and couldn’t believe it was 0430 and the sky was growing lighter.  I recast the rod and decided against getting back in the kip bag, instead I’d sit up on my chair and try to keep alert as the next few hours gave me the best chance of a Tench or Carp.  Before settling down again I recast the rod to the snags and landed it bang on first time, I’m getting good at this!
 The early morning period saw the usual cauldron of bubbles from unseen bottom feeders and thousands of feeding Rudd dimpling the surface.  It also saw a couple of light showers which saw me take shelter in the bivvy again.  It was during one of these damp periods around 0830 when I was sat in the bivvy with my eyes closed and breathing heavy that the reedbed rod rattled off once more.  I was up and on it within seconds but not before the culprit had run towards me and got itself stuck in some lilies.  I managed to free it and started to battle with something in open water.  It didn’t feel heavy but managed to charge into another bed of pads in front of me, annoyingly just out of netting range.  I could see a tail which looked like… surely not a Tench?  Steady pressure on strong tackle freed the fish again but it refused to give up and fought every inch of the way into the net.  Yes it was a Tench, a male that looked like it had been through more than its fair share of battles over the years.  It had scars, split fins and had a miserable look to its ‘face’, a real character of a Tench.  I have a feeling it’s a fish I caught a couple of years ago at half a pound lighter than it was today.  Not one of the monsters of the Marsh but any Tench here is a good one and well worth photographing to capture the memory. 
The commotion saw Shelley finally emerge from her sleeping bag and after a revitalising cup of tea she recast her rods.  The sky was still cloudy, the wind had swung to the south but there was no rain and for a while it was pleasant being by the lake, devouring a fried breakfast.  A couple of large fish rolled off the snags and there was still loads of fizzing, it seemed as if the gloomy skies would prolong the morning feeding spell.  I told Shelley things looked good for another fish or two.  Then almost without warning came Bertha, a couple of hours ahead of schedule.  Within minutes the wind had freshened and the rain came sheeting down accompanied by crashing thunder and lightning.  I don’t find holding twelve feet of carbon much fun in these conditions.  Neither of us wanted to spend the day huddled up in a bivvy so with Shelley under shelter I braved the wind and rain to get the gear packed away and the car loaded.  In these conditions staying dry was impossible and all the gear will need drying out when the sun shines again.  The session had to be cut short but it had been fun while it lasted.

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