I acquired this week, as birthday presents from my wife, a Drennan Super Specialist Duo Avon/quiver rod and an Okuma centrepin reel. I managed to get out for a couple of hours on Saturday and Sunday to have a play with them, and have to say I'm very pleased with my new toys.
Saturday involved a short trip to a local free stretch of the Thames at Cricklade, starting at the weir by the farm and heading upstream to the Bridge Swim. Actually, my plan was really to fish the Bridge Swim for most of the session, but I wanted a dabble on the way. The day was bright and crisp but bitingly cold with a low wind that gnawed exposed flesh. The water was also very cold and very clear, but at least the level was good; it's nice to see the Thames in this area actually having some water in it. Alternating between lob tails and bread produced no bites on the way upstream, but trotting a few of the swims with the centrepin was enough to convince me of the satisfaction of using these reels to trot a float.
The Bridge Swim is slow and deep with an even flow. In the Summer it sports a fringe of water lilies and is a good swim for perch, and it was with perch in mind that I started off fishing lobworm tail. After a couple of trots down the float dipped and vanished, but I struck at nothing. I've had a few roach and dace from this swim before but never a chub, so it was a nice suprise when the next bite resulted in a small chub of about half a pound. A little later, another bite, and this time a better fish. I was fishing braid on the 'pin, and the feeling of direct contact between reel and fish is fantastic. I soon had a brassy winter chub of about three pounds on the bank. A good start for the new tackle, but the light was failing fast and the cold wind which had been chilling me all afternoon gained a new bitterness as the sun sank. Trudging back to the car I dropped a line in a couple of swims, but I could barely see the float. Eventually a small bush on the far side snaffled my hook, and I called it a day.
On Sunday I'd planned a trip to the Thames near Lechlade with Iain. The river here is much wider and deeper that at Cricklade, more a matchman's river than somewhere you stalk through undergrowth Hiawatha-style. My plan was to fish the 'pin with a lovely crowquill avon I'd spotted in the tackle shop on Saturday. Ludicrous, really, to spend the best part of three quid on a float which will probably catch no more fish than a big stick float or a cane and balsa avon at a third of the price, but they were such nicely made floats. I found a point on a sweeping bend where a spur of bank created a small slack and a long glide down the inside. It looked perfect. It fished perfectly, the 'pin allowing perfect control of the speed of the float.
Sadly, while I was very impressed, the fish were not and my casters were ignored. I gradually came to the conclusion that while trotting was proving delightful, the fish would come best to a bait nailed down. Returning to base I took down the float rig and swapped the Avon top for a quiver and the centrepin for a Shimano fixed spool. I rigged up a small blockend feeder and placed it close to the overhanging trees on the far bank. Fishing casters on the hook and feeding hemp and caster brought not a sniff, and so learning from Saturday's lesson I tried lob tail. Iain had to get home early to do some work, and prospects weren’t looking good. We were just discussing calling it a day when the quivertip jerked round and I found myself attached to what felt like a very good fish. It turned out to be somewhat smaller than it appeared, but a chub of a couple of pounds on a cold day is always welcome.
Having escaped blanking, it was time to take a risk. I have some cheesepaste in the freezer which I made around a year ago from the leftovers of the Christmas cheese glut. It’s a mixture of revoltingly smelly cheeses, ground hempseed and a jar of anchovies, mixed in the blender and melted in the microwave. It stinks. In theory, a wonderful chub bait. In practice, I’d never had a bite on it. The feeder came off and a small bomb and size 6 hook were fitted. A good sized blob of paste went on the hook and in it went. Well, I have now had a bite on it. Two, in fact, both of which I missed. I think I need to keep the hook more exposed, but the important thing is that I now have faith in the bait. More research to come!
Eventually we packed up and I dropped Iain off to get on with his work. As I got into Cricklade, I realized that it was still only half four, giving maybe another hour of light. I dropped in to the swim in the cowfield on the edge of town. This is an odd swim. It’s a deep pool where a tributary enters on a bend. It’s a bit turbulent, with a complex flow pattern, and can be quite weedy in the summer. It looks fantastic, really, the only swim for miles a self-respecting barbel would be seen dead in, yet I’ve never done really well in it. I’ve had a few good pike (by the standards of this stretch of the Thames, that is; large jacks, in other words), but very little else. I’m determined to catch well there, though. It just has to have some decent fish in it. Again, the crowquill avon and the ‘pin came out, again the trotting was a joy, again to very little avail. Eventually, though, after about half an hour, a bite came while working the float up a back-eddy to the confluence with the tributary. I’m still puzzled as to what I hit. It didn’t feel like a chub, and I have a feeling it may have been a trout. In any case, it immediately shot into the faster water and shed the hook. A little after that, I conceded defeat as bad light stopped play.
All in all, not a bad weekend. I’ve christened my new rod and reel, had a lot of fun getting used to the ‘pin, and put a couple of chub on the bank. The Drennan rod really is a lovely bit of kit with great ergonomics for me, and mastering the ‘pin is a new challenge which will fascinate me for some time yet. I’ve also proven to myself that my special cheesepaste gets bites, which means that I will have the confidence to leave it out long enough to catch some fish with it. I think I’d have caught on it if we’d stayed at Lechlade until dark, so I will definitely try it again there.