Whilst driving north to fish the Derbyshire / Staffordshire Dove, I thought to myself how well I had done this summer concerning hay fever. Usually I am affected badly, and of course with angling being an outdoors and mostly (for me) rural activity, I am often smack bang in the middle of pollen! But I have read recently that 25% of sufferers actually start to get better as they get older, and so I was well pleased that I was one of the fortunate quarter of the red eye and blocked nose population that was destined to see an improvement!
Arriving at the river, recent rain had made no impact at all. I think it’s going to take a literal deluge to make a difference to the rivers, well certainly the ones I am familiar with at least. Although having said that, as I write there is news that heavy rain is on the way, so we shall have to see. Although the easiest fishing as far as effort is concerned has to be low and clear rivers, I must admit that my favourite barbel angling is when the river is in flood. And the icing on the cake has to be the lower Severn when it is right up to the rim, and you’ve got fourteen feet of water just inches from the bank!
But back to the Dove, and the current session I am writing about. It was a scorcher of a day, and sitting there in the sun I found it a struggle to stay awake. Certainly when the weather is like that, I find it easier keeping alert during the hours of darkness than when the sun is high in the sky. But the worst part of the weather was that I felt the dreaded hay fever coming on. Even though I wore my sunglasses and resisted the overwhelming urge to rub my eyes, nevertheless I had a severe attack. In fact it was the worst I’ve had for a long time. So much for my positive thoughts that I had on the earlier journey, I thought to myself. Maybe I’m not one of the chosen few after all!
As far as angling is concerned, I have three pet hates. They are firstly (although in no particular order), people that leave litter behind (I know it’s a society problem but that doesn’t make it any better). Secondly, those who fish without licences and tickets (why should the rest of us pay our dues when some anglers are on a freebie ride through life?). And thirdly, the anglers that come and set up on your shoulder when the rest of the stretch is free. And it was the latter that I encountered on this particular trip.
The reason I had walked five fields was to ensure that I had relative peace and quiet. So what happens? I saw an angler coming along the bank and when he set up literally within spitting distance (ah, now there’s an idea!) of me I simply shook my head in disbelief. After all, there were numerous good spots that he could have fished in, yet he came and sat right next to me. In fact the other meadows were all free of anglers, but I suppose some people see someone fishing in a certain place and think that must be THE place to be, and so try to get as close to the action as possible.
I had actually walked past some excellent pegs to get to where I was, simply because I fancied a nice quiet session. One of the problems with open banks is that people can (and do!) set up where they like. It’s all down to courtesy and respect, and if that’s missing then you have no guarantee of space around you. That’s why I like some of the places I fish on other rivers. With dense undergrowth all along the bank, it is impossible for someone to fish that close that you can hear their heartbeat!
But I worked through my feelings and drew a line under it. After all, it would ruin my session and I wasn’t prepared to let that happen, and the hay fever was trying its best to do that anyway. This was my first visit to the Dove this season and although the river has been very kind to me in the past, the fish / hours ratio is not for those that want plenty of action. Just before I set off I had been to visit my dad, and although he’s not an angler he understands where I am coming from. And so when I said that if I get two fish from the session then I’d be happy, then he didn’t seem surprised in the least.
But as the hours wore on I was more than happy to halve that figure, so slow was the day. Anyway, my ‘friend’ in the next peg couldn’t take any more and so off he went leaving me once again to fish alone. In angling you’ve got to know when to fish on and when to quit, and I’m definitely one that will continue. No matter how small the possibility, if there is the chance of a fish, then it’s worth pushing on. And so after ten hours of total inactivity, when my rod tip started to pull round, I struck and found myself playing the first Dove barbel of the season. My faith had been rewarded.
And what a fish it turned out to be! But funnily enough it didn’t fight that well and I certainly didn’t put it down as a big fish, but as it drew closer to the net I could see that it was a good double. Lifting it from the water and putting it on the unhooking mat, I estimated it to be a ‘12’. It was long and fat and resembled one of those barbel that you catch at the end of the season rather than early on.
My estimation was correct, although only just. It weighed in at 12-0-8, which is a good fish in anyone’s books, particularly from the Dove. It certainly made the ten fish-less hours a distant memory. It’s amazing how a good fish can do that, suddenly the time spent in its capture doesn’t matter any more. But I did have a stroke of ‘luck’ when photographing it. After a couple or so shots, suddenly my camera started to malfunction and it wouldn’t take any more pictures.
What a relief it was that it had packed up then and not three shots earlier, otherwise I’d have had the sheer frustration of releasing a fish with just the memory to go with it. Anyway, it meant that in order to get my three shots per article I had to include the barbel twice. Still, at 12lb I’m sure you can understand my overindulgence, and for that I make no apologies!
(Originally published July 2005)