Three lost fish, but it works out in the end (barbel article, entry 32)

 I have mixed feelings about calling the Environment Agency’s Riverline to check on the condition of the venue before I set off. Perhaps my greatest concern, if I’m honest, is the cost. It may only be 60p a minute, but if you want the water temperature as well as the river level, it costs 1.20 for the Severn. (They always seem to drag it through to incorporate the next minute!)

Take into consideration that it’s good to ring the number every day for a few days prior to a visit in order to get the trend, and it soon works out expensive. My last quarterly telephone bill made my mind up for me!

But by keeping an eye on the (free!) weather forecasts that abound you still get a good idea of what the river will be like. Therefore as I made my way south down the M5 I expected to find a high Severn. It was well up, right to the rim in fact, and still rising slightly.

There was just the one peg fishable on the meadow, but as I was the only angler there anyway, that was irrelevant. Casting out I prepared for a busy session, anticipating that I would be winding in every so often to clear debris. Actually it wasn’t too bad, as I was in a slack created by a willow tree just upstream. But as I fished, the effects of the rain further up-river became evident as forty and fifty foot trees made their way past me!

I knew it was going to be a difficult session and when I had a good bite at 10.00 p.m., I felt justified for sticking it out. However, within a second or two of striking, I was reeling in to discover that the hook-length had somehow coiled around the swivel and had broken. I fished on until midnight, but nothing else happened to eliminate my disappointment.

I decided to head north for my next trip, this time to the Derbyshire Dove. The recent rain, that had come from the SW, had certainly pushed temperatures us, and the Dove was 8C when I arrived, moving up to 9C as the afternoon wore on. I was very hopeful indeed, and within half an hour of casting out my rod was bent double as I struck into a very good barbel.

Like all fish that get hooked by the angler, it headed for cover, in this instance a clump of far bank willows. Although I was fishing with tackle that was more than adequate for the job in hand, I still felt that I had a fight on my hands. I’ve had numerous Dove doubles and this fish was certainly in that category. But suddenly, and without warning, I found myself reeling in. I was the victim of a hook-pull.

Still, I consoled myself with the thought that it was early days and that I would get another chance during the session. But it wasn’t to be. No more bites, no more fish, and I was left to simply think of what might have been.

This is the fine line between ‘success’ and ‘failure’. I don’t get that many bites at the cherry and as was the case up till now, I was fish-less. However, on the other hand, if things had worked differently, I could have been looking at a couple of doubles to write home about.

I decided to return to the lower Severn for the final barbel session in this week’s journal. By now, as quickly as the river had risen, it had subsided. It was well within the banks and was actually normal winter level. However, the fields were still under water in places, and a meadow two fields back from the river had been turned into a temporary attraction for hundreds of Gulls. There was also a small group of Lapwings in residence, taking my tick list for the year to thirty-seven species of birds seen while fishing.

Within twenty minutes of casting out I had a chub on the right hand rod. However, on the retrieve, it came off! With three consecutive lost fish, rather than look at it in a negative light, I just knew that the next one surely must make the net! Hence, when my baitrunner started to scream just before 5.00 p.m. (and still light – the days are getting longer) I felt confident. It was still good though to actually slip the net under the fish!

Not in the category of the two lost barbel, but a bird in the hand is definitely worth two in the bush! Just short of 8lb, it was nevertheless very welcome, and ensured that I had at least one fish to write home about. I needn’t have worried though, as I added a chub of 3-14-0 and a smaller barbel at 5-11-0 before I quit the session. Three lost fish, but it works out in the end!

(Originally published February 2004)

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