Don’t try this at home (barbel article, entry 239)

Some time back I had a telephone call from my wife who was in a local charity shop (you can get some real bargains from time to time) asking if I was interested in some neoprene waders. ‘The boots are your size, the waders look in good condition, and they are £3.50’. It was definitely the latter of that three-statement sentence that caught my attention. With nothing to lose, other than a few pounds, it was certainly worth taking a risk, so I told her to go ahead. Once home I had a little ‘play’ in them and did what I could to test them for any holes. I went in the shower and blasted myself from all angles and was happy to discover that I remained dry beneath the neoprene.

 I did an internet search and discovered that they are aimed at trout and salmon anglers, which is pretty obvious really. But I already had in mind exactly what I would be using them for, and this week they got their first outing. My internet search also revealed that to buy new they cost well over £100, so I did get a definite bargain there. Well done Mrs B! I don’t know how long those waders were there in the shop, and I’m sure most people thought to themselves, ‘Who wants those?’ But as soon as Debby saw them she knew straight away who!

 With the River Severn once more in flood, the waders made their debut this week – as you can see from the photograph in this article. However, let me stress with absolute importance the issue of safety in regards to entering rivers, and the photograph should not be taken in isolation but rather read in the context of this article. Life is a precious thing and no fish capture is worth the risk of unnecessarily cutting short our stay upon this planet. Eternity will come round soon enough, without our aiding and abetting it.

The swim I had elected to fish is one that is an excellent high water mark. Due to protruding trees just upstream, even though the river is racing along a few metres out, the flow slows down to a very manageable rate. There is also a ledge between the bank and the actual river itself, and this is where I was wading on. The problem is that if I am fishing on the bank I lose tackle as the flow inevitably brings the lead into the edge and with the rod being so far back, it is impossible to do anything about it due to the angle of the line as it enters the water.

Hence, by wading a couple of feet or so, I was able to position the rod towards the end of the ledge so that the line entered the river proper off the tip. I know the swim intimately, and although I was well short of the drop into the river, I still erred very much on the side of caution. In fact there was no flow whatsoever on the ledge, and that’s an important point. We should never underestimate the power of a river in flood, and there’s no way we should even consider wading through water that we have to battle against. In effect I was in more a compromising situation than the numerous salmon and trout anglers that venture into rivers on a regular basis.

Due to the depth, I had to improvise with one of the bank sticks I needed to keep the rod and reel out of the water. I only had one stick that was long enough and so used a branch to support the handle of the rod. Also, although I usually fish with two rods, on this occasion it was one only. Again, that is an important safety feature in a situation like this. Trying to concentrate on two rods and indeed the possibilities of getting two fish on at the same time in such conditions, meant that one rod it was.

The water temperature was rising and I was very hopeful, but alas I had nothing to show for my efforts at all and I ended with a blank on my first session of the week. With the temperature still on the up and the river now back within its banks, I returned two days later to the same swim. Surely I would get amongst the fish this time? And to enforce the odds that were firmly in my favour, I was now back to two rods. But fishing from just after midday until 9.00pm I did not have a single touch. I really was surprised as the water was now up to 7C and the river looked great. I was in a good swim, the conditions were spot-on and my tackle and rigs were tried and tested. But not a single fish!

The birding was good though! I saw my first peregrine falcon of the year, in flight overhead and then briefly in dive-bomb mode as it had obviously spotted something that it liked the look of. I also saw my first green sandpiper of 2008 and a single pink footed goose. The latter are winter visitors and although they are reasonably numerous (I have seen large flocks before near Southport) they are also quite localised. Therefore I wasn’t sure whether my single bird was perhaps an escapee from a private collection or else it was just an odd bird that had got detached from its companions. But either way, it was a pink footed goose and so it was recorded as such in my little red book.


 (Originally published February 2008)

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