With some sudden and totally unexpected news concerning a close family member’s health arriving out of the blue, I certainly had a dose of reality. I won’t go into details, after all my Angling Journal is read by a large number of people every week, and I’m certainly not soliciting sympathy. But the sort of news I received is that which makes you literally take a step back, and see the fragility of life. It’s also the sort of situation that brings everything into perspective.
Therefore, my current roach campaign, where I am pretty much struggling to get amongst any decent fish, suddenly didn’t matter. Life is precious, and at the end of the day, a few fish here and there aren’t important at all in the grand scheme of things. I am fortunate that is how I view life anyway, so the blow of the bad news was certainly softened. And above all, my strong Christian faith was certainly a comfort and a rock.
I managed a couple of sessions during the week, but just locally on the Middle Severn. With water temperatures continuing to be scraping the barrel, I knew the week was always going to be a struggle. This has certainly been the coldest spell of the winter, and although the eastern part of the country has born the brunt of the weather, here in the Midlands we haven’t been far behind. Whilst the snow hasn’t fallen in great quantities where I live, nevertheless the temperature has been very low, with the nights being well below zero.
On my first visit to the river, I fished a peg that I hadn’t been on before, but had certainly marked it out as a likely one for a future session. I decided that the future had come, and so literally slid down the steep bank and set up at the water’s edge. I decided to go for a cage feeder, which was filled with crumb and dead maggots, and three ‘reds’ on a size 16 hook to hopefully tempt a fish.
I did get a bite during the day, which turned out to be a minnow! It’s amazing how such a tiny fish can actually cram three maggots into its mouth. It must be the equivalent of a human eating a whole pizza in one foul swoop, rather than a piece at a time! Still, for a long time it looked like it would be the only fish I would catch. I think it shows how desperate the conditions really were when you get excited over a minnow!
I was able to fish just an hour into dark before I needed to get back home, and even though the drop in air temperature brought on a sudden coating of frost over my fishing tackle, nevertheless the water remained constant. This is a common mistake that many anglers make. Just because it gets cold this side of the water, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the same is happening beneath the surface – and certainly not to the same degree. Water takes longer to cool down than air.
During darkness, as my rod started to pull round I struck into a fish that if it was a roach it would have been a good one. However, as it came to the net, bright red fins did not accompany the silver flash. I had caught a small chub! In fact I should really subtitle my current Angling Journal entries ‘chub’ not ‘roach’ as I am definitely catching plenty of the former but none of the latter! But with the conditions, in all honesty I was just glad to catch a fish.
One thing that I always enjoy when fishing in extreme weather is the journey home when the heater is on full, blasting out hot air. Sometimes it is the thought of the experience that keeps me going at the water’s edge, knowing that I have something to look forward to. Strange logic I know, but when you fish all year round in everything that the English weather can throe at you, then it does distort one’s thought patterns. Otherwise I am a solid, balanced and very rounded person!
Returning to the Middle Severn for the second session, this time I only had the day to fish in, and not the ‘luxury’ of going on into the hours of darkness. I fished a different peg from the first visit, but one that I have been on before. As I was limited with time, I got there mid-morning, as opposed to my usual lunchtime arrivals. When you’re struggling, then every hour counts!
Fishing identical to my previous visit, I cast out and focused on the quiver tip, urging it to burst into life. My faith was certainly rewarded a couple of hours into the session, as a gentle pull round of the tip, and I’m into a fish. It certainly felt like a decent enough fish, as I was forced to give line during the fight. Working through a process of elimination as I played it, I settled on either a very good roach or a good chub.
It shows just how wrong you can be, because as the fish came to the net I realised that I had hooked a barbel! I was certainly very happy to net the fish; at least I had something decent to illustrate the article with. It had been a hard week – from both the conditions encountered and a personal emotional point of view – but it was good to be out at the water’s edge. Apart from the actual enjoyment of fishing, I find just sitting by water (particularly the running variety) very therapeutic.
(Originally published March 2005)