Ending The Season In Style?

Is it just me, or do the last few weeks of the river season fly by in a blur? All those plans I had will have to wait for another few months at least.

With spare time at a premium this year, I managed to sneak in a last gasp evening session just before the March 14th deadline. I wanted to do battle with a barbel so I headed for the River Trent, despite the freezing overnight temperatures. When I arrived at my chosen stretch I was surprised to see the river a couple of feet up, with a good bit of colour too. The temperatures weren’t favourable, but the water levels were. At least I had something to give me hope! Those hopes were almost extinguished by the bailiff who arrived out of nowhere.

He went on to say that no barbel had been landed from the stretch for a while, despite plenty of anglers targeting them. This made me change tack slightly. Instead of doing what everyone else was doing, I fished a couple of big baits right in the edge of the river, just a few feet from the bank. All kinds of negative thoughts clouded my head, but I was just happy to be in the fresh air, having time to reflect, whilst having a nice mug of coffee.

Those tranquil thoughts were interrupted as my downstream rod was yanked round by a barbel,. By the time I picked up the rod I think it was on it’s way to Gainsborough it was running so hard! Rather than pump it back against the heavy flow, I walked downstream with my landing net and soon landed a beauty of a winter barbel. As I struggled to lift it from the water I realised that it was obviously well into double figures.

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When I placed it on the mat, I noticed that the hook had fallen out in the net, which shows how small things can make the day a success or not, fish wise. Just before that last cast, I noticed my hook wasn’t as sharp as it should be, so I changed it. With the new sharp one falling out in the net, would the blunt hook have had such a good hold? Would it have been the one that got away? Of course, nobody will ever know, but it’s nice to think these small things make a difference.

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The scales gave a pleasing weight of 13lbs 7oz which more than made me happy, especially as everyone else was struggling. I stayed on into dark, despite the temperatures falling to freezing. As I sipped the last dregs of coffee from my flask, the upstream rod started bucking in the rests and I was doing battle number two. Sadly this wasn’t to be. A grating sensation could be felt in the fight as the line rubbed against a snag. After a few seconds, a feeder whizzed upstream as the hook link parted. I threw the rod in the car and packed the rest of the gear away. It had been a bittersweet ending to the season………Roll on June the 16th!!!!

Roach Magic!

After getting back out on the bank and catching some nice chub, I decided to get out again as soon as possible. Taking advantage of a spare afternoon, I went to get the chub tackle out of the garage, but noticed it seemed a bit milder. I checked the temperature on my phone and noticed it was 9 degrees, up from the 4 / 5 we’d had for the last few days. I decided to push my luck and see if a big roach or two would have a feed. Living in a river they’d have to feed sometime, so I took a chance.

After a quick drive to the tackle shop to buy a pint of white maggots, I was soon teasing my crystal dibber down a stretch of a small local river. After a dozen or so trots without a bite, I moved to another area, choosing a nice steady glide.

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The first few runs through saw me get the bait just tripping the bottom, on the next the float jabbed under. A steady sweep of the rod saw it take on a sweet curve as I hit into a decent fish. After a lull of a second or so, the ‘jag jag glide’ sensation told me I could be attached to my intended quarry. With the fish being about 15 yards or so downstream, I walked slowly towards it to reduce the chances of a hook pull and make the fight a shorter one. I was greeted by the sight of a large silver shape holding itself across the current, like a grayling uses its sail like fin to its advantage. I now knew I was playing a large winter redfin and I tried my best to keep calm. A tiny size 22 hook and 0.9mm line were all that was keeping me in contact with my prize. Luckily for me, everything held firm and I landed it at the first time of asking.

I laid it on the mat and knew that it was over the magic 2lbs barrier. The question was by how much. First I took a quick snap on my camera phone before sending it to my mate Martin.

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The scales hovered just under the 2lbs 3oz mark so I settled on an ounce lower. I placed it back on the mat and marvelled at one of natures finest, a mixture of silver flanks, marked with tales of near misses on its way to the legendary 2lbs size. There was the winter sheen on the top half of its flank, like a shot of electric blue painted on its scales. The fins were blood red and the orange eye was straight out of a textbook. What a fish it was, and not from one of the famous chalk streams, but from a river right on my doorstep. I felt a lucky man to have seen such a creature up close.

After a few more traditional photos of me holding the fish, I let her go, hoping her and the small number of shoal mates she swims with carry on avoiding predators for a few more winters to come. The rest of the afternoon was spent chatting, mainly on the phone to Martin. Roach trips for the future were planned plus I didn’t need to carry on fishing. My day had been made already.

A couple of days later on my day off work, the temperature had shot up to 14 degrees. Martin text messaged me asking if I was fishing for roach in such favourable weather, but I was on such a roll I’d gone fishing for a big winter barbel. Like all good runs, this one came crashing to an end as the rod tips remained motionless all day. Maybe I was pushing things too far, but after the previous two afternoons can you blame me?

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