Saturday 20 June 2020

Looking for Gipping Barbel part 1

Work has been nonstop since Monday but eventually Friday rolled around, my first chance to fish moving water this season.  I want to catch a Gudgeon (aka Gipping Barbel), that is a goal for the summer but I’m not sure they even exist in these parts nowadays.  The weather in the week had been kind to me, with storms on Wednesday and more persistent rain on Thursday.  When I arrived at the old millpond I stood on the bridge and looked down, it was nice to see a good flow, water poured over the weir creating the noise, foam and a smell I associate with fishing here as a kid.  Walking round the pool I noticed someone feeder fishing on the far side, what I planned to do wouldn’t infringe on him so I quickly put the rod together, fed a few maggots then commenced trotting with a stick float.  This was how and where I first learnt to fish but something I haven’t done in years.

The morning was a mixture of cloud and sunshine with a brisk south westerly wind.  I was surprised by the first bite but not the second and soon swung a small Dace in.  I fed half a dozen maggots every now and then and bites came frequently, mostly small Dace but a couple of Chub and a nice Rudd, each about three ounces or so.  I forget how hypnotic it is to watch a stick float going away from you downstream, even the female dog walkers didn’t distract me other than to return their greetings.  Then came one in full pink lycra jogging gear who insisted on running with her mutt, into the river just downstream.  I don’t think it affected the fishing but it was a bit daft, then what can you expect from someone dressed like a stick of fucking rock?

I was catching fish but not Gudgeon, despite shallowing up and letting the float run through the shallows at the bottom of the pool.  I used to catch them at this very spot but dredging in the eighties changed this pool forever and the current runs differently these days.  I waded out to try to cover the area better and almost managed to fall in; in fact I don’t know how I avoided it.  Despite all this I managed to catch a couple more nice sized Dace before another dog walker insisted her hound entered the water right where I was fishing.  A younger me would probably have had something to say but judging from the woman’s expression I got my feelings across with a smile and shake of the head.

Not long after that I moved on downstream to a slight bend where I used to often catch Perch, but today a couple more tiny Dace was all I found.  After wandering for a while I returned to the millpond and had a few more trots through the first swim, catching a few more fish; Dace, Chub and Rudd but still no sign of a Gudgeon. 

I decided to take a wander upstream, above the weir, not really knowing if I’d even be able to have a cast.  Thirty odd years ago I used to fish this stretch with a carp rod, eight pound line through to a float and a size 8 hook covered in sweetcorn.  I’d catch loads of chub between two and three pounds, the heavy gear was to bully them away from all the weed and snags.  Nowadays this stretch is thick with reeds and mostly unfishable including the pool bellow the rickety bridge where once an attempt to sail down the river in a cattle trough ended in a dunking.

Just below this was a deeper glide where someone had hacked a swim of sorts so I fished here for a while.  It looked promising, and I had a few bites, Dace seem to be everywhere today but it was ultimately disappointing.  However it look a decent bet for a winter Chub though, I’ll have to remember that. 

I had another pool in mind but when I got there it was all changed and unreachable due to reeds and a fallen tree.  Just upstream of this was a run that was a little deeper than I remember, we used to net Loach here; I wonder if there are any of those still in the river?  There was a nice fast flow and I dropped the float in at my feet, it didn’t travel a yard before disappearing and I hooked yet another Dace but a good sized one.  Over the next half hour or so I caught several such fish here as well as a couple of small Rudd and Roach but still no Gudgeon.  I wandered to the top of the stretch with a cast here and there but no more fish, I did find another winter chubbing opportunity though.

By this time it was midday and my stomach told me I needed to eat.  On the walk back to the car I stepped aside to let some walkers past and I didn’t even get an acknowledgement.  Then a bit further on I had to dodge another lycra clad cunt, this one on a bike.  Since when have cycles been allowed on rural footpaths?  I’d been out about four hours yet the time had flown by and I’d enjoyed watching the red dot sail away from me.  It was nice to be catching fish and nice having little idea what species would be hanging on the end but as usual I failed to catch what I was really after, this time.  It made a change but it’s not something I could do every week, not here at least.  Obviously the river valley has changed since I was a kid, houses and industrial units encroach every year and the river desperately needs dredging but there isn't the funds.  I'd been lucky with my timing today, the rain water had made a huge difference.

By 2000 I was sat behind one of those rod pod contraptions with three rods sitting on buzzers, back to the valley for a night after the impossible Tench/Carp.  Location is everything but I didn’t have time to go looking so set up in a swim that allowed me to fish a rod on an area I’d baited through May.  This was the best thing I had to go on.
The princess and I spent a lovely evening by the waterside watching the wild world pass by in fading light, and then we stared in wonder at the stars.  It reminded us of festival nights and we are gutted we won’t be doing that this year.  This will probably mean spending a few more nights here where I never catch anything but I can live with that because for some perverted reason I enjoy it.  I know what I’m doing wrong; I have to find the fish.

We crashed out around 0100 and I didn’t rouse again fully until just before 0800 by which time I knew my best chance had passed.  Sometimes I get up early and sit behind the rods but it hasn’t been worth it yet.  We had massive bacon sarnies for breakfast and plenty of tea, sitting in the sun with a breeze on our faces.

I still had some maggots and had brought the float rod; I didn’t bother to change rigs from what I’d used in the river and still caught loads of Rudd in no time at all and could have caught many more if I could be bothered. 

The next week looks dry, bright and hot which won’t suit the river but might be an opportunity to go looking for these bloody Carp with some floaters?

Sunday 14 June 2020

Late Spring

After six weeks of confinement we were let out into the countryside again.   At the beginning I didn’t fish for a few days as waters were busy, even the wild places where I like to spend my time.  I saw footage online of around forty cars queued up to get into a popular southern carp fishery which was fucking ridiculous.  As were some of the comments urging for the clip to be taken down so angling didn’t get halted again.  Thankfully most of the commercials in this area were run in a much more sensible manner.

When I did start fishing I had a plan for the impossible Tench/Carp.  Instead of flitting about fishing here, there and everywhere I decided to concentrate on one spot, where I’d seen fish before and prebait it.  I really don’t like fishing in this way but as I’d tried everything else I thought ‘what the hell?’  So this I did, depositing around twenty kilos of pellets over a two week period and fishing regular early morning sessions.   On my first trip I saw a fish roll over my baited spot which gave me confidence but in the end it made no difference, I still caught fuck all.  Not then nor the subsequent half dozen trips.  On my final attempt I cracked and started throwing a lure around.  One hour and three Pike later I’d had enough.  I could have easily caught silver fish at almost any time but I just couldn’t be arsed.

But this spring I learnt a little more about how to approach this type of fishing from the punt.  How best to lay things out and keep the space organised and comfortable.  It’s a bloody shame nothing pulled my string so I could put the theory into practice.  It was wonderful to be back out in the wilderness again and I thoroughly enjoyed myself watching the birds and animals which included rabbits, hares and a fox.  The sky and water was full of all the usual suspects but also a Red Kite, the first I’ve seen this far east.

So after a few weeks of blanking I decided on a change of scenery and visited a commercial that I’ve never fished before.   My motivation for doing so?  Just to actually catch a summer fish that pulled back for once!  I got there a few minutes after the gates opened but when I saw the amount of cars parked up already I nearly turned around again.  I took a deep breath, loaded my gear onto my back and went for a walk.   I saw a carp poke its head out and found a swim within reach that had a nice tree I could sit under/hide behind.  Surely I’ll get my string pulled today?  No, I blanked again.  In fact of the nine anglers on the small lake only one Carp was caught.  It was one of those days when fish were mostly cruising around on the top, not even taking floaters.

I was amused at the antics of some of my fellow anglers though.  I couldn’t help wondering why anglers needed a full barrow of kit on a water where night fishing isn’t allowed?  Why would anyone set up a bivvy on a dry windless day?  Why use ‘distance sticks’ to cast to an island about twenty five yards away?  And after that how did he manage to land his cast five yards short?  I shouldn’t criticise, I did blank after all.

So that was spring and now we are limping towards summer, although nobody told the weatherman, soon the rivers will be open and it’ll be time for something completely different.