I'd gone for a walk along the river, it would have risen on Friday and it might have warmed too so it was worth investigating. Accompanying my camera gear on the walk was my thermometer. The first stop at the edge of a nicely coloured and dropping river was to throw the thermometer in the water. It didn't take long for me to decide not to return with the rods for a while. 2.9C was far from encouraging, and the distant fells still had a faint covering of snow that would be entering the river some time soon.
When the sun went into hiding, to be replaced by light rain, I was on my way home and thence to the tackle shop where the talk was of torrential rain and gale force winds for today. The consensus was that I was mad to be buying maggots to use for roach. My intention was to wait and see what the morning brought and either head to the river if it looked set fair or to a stillwater if it bode ill.
As things turned out the foul weather was in the south (hurrah!!!) so I could get a couple of small glueing jobs done, make some sarnies and pack my gear in the car to arrive after the turn of the tide. Two cars were parked up with only one angler in sight. He'd caught a couple of chub and told me he didn't fish maggots on this stretch because the dace did his head in.
After arranging my gear in the claggy clay I cast out a single white maggot on a 16 and my usual feeder rig, the feeder being filled with old maggots, their attendant casters, and micro trout pellets. Then I ate my first salami bun and recast. As I was pouring the first flask-tea of the day the quiver tip commenced a-dancing. A nicely conditioned roach of about six or eight ounces. I was fishing a close in line to start with. If I start catching from there and then bites dry up casting further out usually brings renewed action. I prefer to do it that way than start in mid river and come closer. I'm not sure why.
The rig I was using had been trouble free when used with a heavier hooklink for chubbing. While it was tangle-free initially with a light hooklength it had soon started to twist around the lead link and tangle on previous sessions. From there on it spiralled (pun intended) downhill. Tying on a fresh hooklink would sort it temporarily but it was a pain. Why I hadn't switched to a helicopter variantI can only put down to pig-headedness or laziness. This time I made the switch.
It was so simple. A small swivel trapped between two Drennan Grippa Stops on the main line. Another swivel tied to the end of the mainline and the feeder attached to that via a link of slightly weaker mono. The hooklink is looped to the rotating swivel, after having a cut down large Korum rig sleeve
(the small ones are too small) slid on to it. The rig sleeve is pushed over the rotating swivel and makes a bit of a boom. It works. Talk about kicking myself.
It was almost an hour later before another fish came along. A dace that didn't looks as big as the ones I'd neglected to weigh last month, so I weighed it. 5.5oz. Or thereabouts. A second dace was weighed at an ounce more. That one didn't look as big as the unweighed ones either. Then I hooked something that tore off downstream, hung in the flow and came adrift as I applied too much pressure trying to pull it upstream. I reckoned it was a chub until I hooked another fish that did something similar. This time I took it easy and allowed the fish to make its own way upstream. It turned out to be a pound-plus roach, and hadn't felt as heavy as the lost fish. A smaller roach was followed by another heavy feeling fish that I took my time with. This one was a chub, of about a pound and a half. I hadn't a clue what I'd lost.
Fred keeps an eye on the rod tip while I eat my sarnies
By now I was fishing further out, about a third of the way across. Bites came with increasing regularity as the afternoon wore on. Mostly dace, two of which looked more like the ones from last month and weighed eight ounces and a fraction less. The bigger fish upped my PB - the first of the year. It still didn't quite seem as big as one I had returned unweighed. Maybe there wasn't much in it, but enough.
The top of a Ruckbag makes a good unhooking mat for small species
Despite a bitterly cold wind I wasn't feeling uncomfortable. I only noticed my toes starting to numb when I thought about them! Getting plenty of bites is a great way to get back into the swing of fishing. In among the dace and dropped fish was another roach of some six ounces. Had I remembered my keepnet I'd have amassed quite a netful. The sky had been grey but cloudy until the sun began to set. For the first time in ages there was a colourful sunset during which fish began to top all along the river.
A disgorger behind the ear is a sure sign of plenty of action
My flask was all but drained, the food long gone. Bites were still coming so my departure time kept getting put back. At five to six, with still enough light to allow the Petzl to stay in the Ruckbag, I hooked something heavy again. I took my time wondering if it was a roach or a chub. the grey dorsal that sliced through the water's surface gave the game away. Only about a pound, but on light tackle with a small hook there's no way to bully these fish in a strong flow. I'd tidied most of the gear away so the recast would be the last.
Hardly had the feeder settled when the tip bounced the upstream self-hooked fish bounce. A shoal of chub must have moved in as a fish that felt just like the previous one got itself in the flow downstream a rod length out. There was still enough colour in the river to make it difficult to see fish until they were almost at the surface. When this one boiled I was sure there was a flash of red, but the light was fading fast. I eased off a little, just in case. When I did catch a definite sight of the roach I was starting to consider prayer.
Not the biggest roach in the world, not even big by some people's standards, it was the best of the day and a great way to end my first session in what seems like ages. I'd finished with 22 fish after a slow start - two chub, five roach and the rest dace. My head was well and truly done in!