Putting In The Effort – Again!
By Steve Chell
It was another one of those days when I had to gamble on the weather and the river conditions. We had not as yet had a full flood so the first real ‘top of the bank’ spate would be bringing down loads of rubbish – leaves, rotting reeds, branches and other accumulated autumn debris. Would this weekend be that time?
I recalled three one day sessions on the Bristol Avon last January when the forecasters had predicted rain moving in to end a long cold, frosty spell and I had gambled only to loose each time as the dipsticks at the weather centre with their computer accurate predictions did not foresee the lows slipping into Northern France or stalling south of the Scillies. So now it was time to use my own eyes and weather nouse as opposed to 21st century technology. Friday morning I opened the door and it was raining. Friday evening I opened it again and it was still raining, even heavier. The Dove rose and by dinner time Saturday it was into the fields. The low had come in from the south so I was away before eight. The rain on the motorway was torrential and low cloud took the visibility down to below 100 metres. It was a horrible day to be travelling but hopefully just what the doctor had ordered for the dozy Bristol Avon barbel who had been forced to endure drought and low green algae water conditions for months. Even at the end of October the river was way below normal summer level and nothing at all was biting.
I pulled into the car park at ten thirty with endless questions running through my head. Would the river be too high? Would it still be rising? Would there be too much rubbish coming down? Had I gambled correctly or yet again got it wrong? The next twelve hours would see.
As I approached the river it was obvious that it was up but nowhere near as much as I had imagined – perhaps two and a half feet, but an even bigger surprise was that it was not a chocolate brown but rather a dullish and fairly clear winter green. As I cast into the top swim I put a stick in the edge. Leaves were coming down and the occasional reed stem so conditions were not too bad. I soon had a few encouraging taps on the meat but nothing materialised until I cast further out into the flow from where I landed an eel and a foul hooked chub. As I sat under the brolly with the wind howling and the rain driving in from all directions I noticed that the water was rising at a rate of about three inches an hour. I wondered whether the lack of colour was due to salt flowing in off the roads. Stop that Steve. If an eel was willing to bite so could a barbel; be positive!
I moved downstream after some three hours and tucked myself in below a run of bushes. The flow here was toward the far bank so it was relatively slow close in where banks of lilies and a reed bed grew in the summer. Large reed rafts and the occasional branch were now floating down on the surface with smaller branches and stems catching on the line below so I went very light and let the bait anchor itself on the lily roots close to the bank. It was just after three when the day started to come to life.
I lifted the bait off a root and as it settled against the next I felt a steady draw on my finger and struck into the first barbel of the day. I held her close in on a tight line and stepped out from under the brolly just as the rain teemed down. Slowly the fish came upstream but there was no way she wanted to leave the bottom. She ploughed up and down dislodging reed stems. Everytime I lifted her she plunged back and hammered the rod tip down to the water. The power that keeps me hooked! This felt like a really big fish but then she surface and the fight was over as I netted her at full stretch. She was a lovely barbel but at 9-02 not quite the size that I had imagined. After another couple of casts I moved down a few yards to where the pace starts to pick up as the current moves toward the far bank. This area is normally the most productive run but I couldn’t get a touch today over the next couple of hours, probably due to the amount of detritus now coming down at all levels in the water. It was time to go back to the top and tuck in behind the big tree.
The river had risen another foot by now and I was forced to sit well back from the edge and cast over a clump of brambles into the calm area of flow close in. Second cast and I felt a pull round rather like a reed stem catching on the line but a bit more positive so I struck and made contact with a barbel that tore off downstream surprising me by the amount of line she stripped from the clutch on her initial run. She was now well below me and in the faster water and with the angle of pull over the brambles it was a real tussle to bring her back up but after a couple of tricky moments she was on a short line and soon to be mine. At 10-02 she was by an ounce my best of the season but she was also my 50th double and one of my targets for the season had been achieved. Whee-hah!
I then rested the inside line for two hours and fished the middle with a heavy lead. This was possible as although the water was still rising there seemed to be a decline in the amount of rubbish coming down but alas there were no feeding fish out there. Soon after ten I swapped back to the plasticine and allowed the bait to sing into the near bank. Within ten minutes I was in again and this time it was a totally different fight. There were no heroics she just held deep bumping and boring while the taut line pinged firstly off a reed stem or two and then off a fin. A real dour struggle followed which lasted about twice the length of the earlier scraps but eventually the power of the Armalite won the day and I lifted a big Avon lump into the net. She was an immaculate, young looking barbel that I had not caught before and at 12-07 she was my first twelve for two years. I took a few shots and slipped her back with the hope that I would see her again before the end of the season at 13 . Tired and with a headache I fished on. WHEE-HAH! I’ve had a twelve.
During the day I had been alternating meatball and double headers of flavoured bacon grill and so far all the bites had come to the bacon grill. The old Frost and flood, or as we called it, Frost and fog had been working the magic once again but now it was time for the meatball.
Earlier on as I returned to the brolly as I tried to get dry on returning the nine I had happened to glance at my scales lying on the ground – they were registering 14lbs. Was this an omen? Was this the day? An hour or so after the twelve I felt a sharp pluck on the line and the fourth barbel of the day was on.
It was after eleven when I packed up and two and a half hours later a tired but elated angler was home after one of my best ever Avon sessions and my best barbel treble. The gamble had worked big time and the first major flood of the winter had made the effort all worthwhile. Here’s to the next time and I hope that your efforts over the coming months and years bring you the rewards you deserve.
P.S. The fourth barbel was a fourteen!! Fourteen ounces!!
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