‘Looking around, everything felt the same as my last visit which was over 5 months ago, however the paddock I had to cross was now full of sweet smelling grass and clover, the horse that lived in the paddock was as usual standing proud and watching me get the tackles from the car‘.
The new coarse season was upon us, I had already decided that it would be prudent to give the flowing waters a miss for at least a week, allowing for the expected rush to abate, and also to get some fresh water into the rivers. It had been so dry recently that a good downpour which was expected soon, could only be a good thing.
Sitting at home in the evening I decided instead to make a ‘dawn raid’ on a local pond, I fish it periodically, it has the appearance of a semi commercial fishery, but is actually a club pond, the surroundings are pleasant and it does not get crowded. So having made my decision the gear was all packed and put in the car for an early start and to be at the pond for 7.00 am.
After a snifter of ‘cooking whisky’ I retired to bed at about 11.00pm sleeping like a baby until 0400am. The alarm was set for 0600 am, but as always happens the night before a fishing trip I wake very early and toss and turn, my mind flitting from which swim I should fish to what bait should I use, would I be the first to arrive, a million questions tumbling around inside my head.
Once awake, I knew it was no good and getting to sleep again would be impossible. I started started mulling over my chosen venue, I had fished it twice recently and both times had had good bags of small carp up to about five pounds, the problem, if you can call it a problem, is that the place is like so many similar venues, very predictable. I had a brainwave; dangerous things brainwaves.
The River Wharfe….. I fish a stretch that opens at 5.00 am, a lovely length of river, starting at a weir pool the river then meanders down through a valley going from the pool to a shallow gravel run it then deepens off as it flows through a wood, turning right it then makes its way along a field bottom, being hemmed in by a steep cliff on the opposite bank. It is full of promise, but much of it is difficult to access. Being awake, I could have a quick breakfast and cup of tea, grab my Barbel gear and be there for about 5.00am. My decision to leave the rivers alone for a week had been forgotten, however, I did check the river levels and it was not as low as I had feared, so, decision made it was a quick job to get ready.
After a snatched bite to eat, flask filled and a packet of digestives thrown carelessly into my bag, I grabbed the gear for the day, a cane carp avon rod, an aerial style wide drum pin, my large ash landing net and a couple of rod rests and I was good to go. I was into the car and 100 yards down the road when I remembered that I needed some bait, so returned and grabbed a tin of Spam and a tin of sweetcorn, plus some halibut pellets, and set off again.
The journey to the river was uneventful but even as I was driving I was forming plans for the morning, at 68 yrs old, I am still like a child at Christmas when I go fishing.
40 miles later I was driving down the rutted farm track toward the river, would I be the first there? It was doubtful as it was quite a popular place last year, at least when Covid allowed it to be.
As I passed the area that the farmer had set aside for parking, I glanced in, not only was I the first there, it looked very much as if nobody else had used the spot, the grass was straight, no sign of any tyre tracks or crushed grass, it was hard to believe.I reversed into the car park and got my gear out of the car.
Looking around, everything looked the same as my last visit, which was over 5 months ago, the paddock I had to cross was now full of sweet smelling grass and clover, the horse that lived in the stables was as usual standing proud and watching me get the tackles from the car. I laid everything out and after loading myself up set off full of anticipation across the paddock.
Reaching the brow of the hill, looking down and to my right I could see where the river shallowed off before entering the wood. The gravel Bar was very visible, on the opposite bank, the manicured garden of the big house was as always neatly trimmed, I fully expected to see the two big German Shepherds come bounding down and bark at me as they did with all the anglers, however on this day everything was quiet, except for the morning chorus.
I opted to fish below the weirpool knowing that it had been so warm recently the fish may be a tad lethargic and the oxygenated water would perhaps awaken them.
I made my way down the hill, and through the electric fence to the river bank, glancing around it was apparent that somebody had been fishing there , there were footprints on the sandy river bank, and a mark where a chair had been placed, however, that was another day, today the river, was quietly meandering along, pausing , I took a look downstream, suddenly a flash of blue and a kingfisher swiftly passed me, followed by a second one, they were gone in a second, such lovely little birds, in fact they were up and down for the rest of the morning.
Getting settled into the swim, I set up my chair, and bag at the side, I placed my landing net close by, then put together my trusty Carp Avon rod, matched with its wide drum Centrepin, it was then I realised I had left my rod rest in the car, so it was back up the hill, across the meadow , past the horse and retrieve the offending item, returning to the swim, I carefully placed the rest where it would be at once to hand, but also away from my clumsy feet.
I then prepared the end tackles, I am not a one for fancy rigs, still using a classic link ledger just like Mr Crabtree did, however, I do admit to using a modern bait occasionally, this time it was halibut pellets.
I also used another “modern” innovation, PVA mesh tubing containing an eggcup full of pellets to hopefully attract a passing fishy inhabitant – barbel preferably.
Gear all prepared I went to get the bait box from my tackle bag…… you have probably guessed, it was back at the car, so it was another walk back up the hill to retrieve the bait box and return having a quick chat with the horse as I passed.
What else could go wrong?
Hopefully nothing, I baited up, took my first careful cast, Wallace style which was actually quite successful, placed the rod in the rest and settled back comfortably on my chair looking downstream past the motionless Cane and Pin ,I could see the top of the gravel Bar, still no dogs to bother me.
I was sat in quiet anticipation when my reverie was rudely interrupted by my Mobile phone, I curse the day these infernal devices of the Devil were invented , I know we cannot manage without them , but we somehow did once not too long ago.
The phone was relaying me a message from my car, it said “YOUR VOLVO IS UNLOCKED“
Damn Damn and thrice Damn! Curse these clever cars!
Not wishing to leave the car unsecured I wound in the baited hook, and leaving the rod in the rest once again for the third time marched back up the hill, across the paddock, past the horse, and when I was within “zapping “ distance used the remote to lock the car up.
On returning to the swim I had another quick conversation with the horse who by now must have been wondering what I was up to.
Back into the swim I recast the in waiting baited hook with a fresh PVA bag and once again settled down, what else could go wrong?
I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat back comfortably but was immediately and loudly surprised by a large otter swimming downstream, not 15 feet out from my bank, it turned, looked at me and hissed loudly, dived, only to reappear on the opposite bank where it climbed out of the water and vanished amongst some tree roots. I have sat and waited for hours, camera in hand hoping to catch a photo opportunity of an otter, it is sods law that such things happen when one is not prepared.
I sat back again, but as I did so, the loud screech of the ratchet on the “Pin alerted me to the rod bending like a wild thing, I had a fish on – in what was effectively my first cast of the 2021 season.
Taking the rod from the rest it was apparent that I had a Barbel on, the way it surged powerfully away downstream it could only be a barbel. After several minutes of cat and mouse games, keeping it away from overhanging branches , gaining and giving line, eventually I managed to net it successfully. This was a double 2021 first for me as I was also using a steamed ash landing net I had made earlier this year. Fish in the net I placed it on my unhooking mat and took a quick snap of the fish with my infernal I-phone. The barbel, which was about 5 pounds or so looked small in the large net, small, but fin perfect. The barbless hook almost fell out without assistance.
What a morning, after a false start, and other things of my own doing sent to try me, I had managed a seasons first. I rested the barbel in the shallows and after ten minutes or so it was ready to swim away, which it did without looking back.
I baited up again and cast in, the trap once again set. I sat back determined that I should have a few minutes to enjoy the sounds of the morning chorus, there was a buzzard circling above the trees on the opposite bank, mewing his presence to his family. The Kingfishers were doing relays up and down the river, ducks were swimming around and a noisy pheasant, somewhere behind me was making himself known, all this on top of the musical notes of the songbirds made a very pleasing background to the thunder of the weir upstream.
All was good in the world when suddenly I heard a splashing from downstream, looking down past the rod, I again saw the Otter, this time he was chasing a white egret that was on the gravel bar, there was a lot of splashing and kerfuffle, the egret managed to fly away leaving a very irate otter who slipped into the river and vanished, again my camera had not been to hand.
I sat back and poured another coffee, had a couple of chocolate biscuits and congratulated myself on a good decision made in fishing the river instead of the pond. Having finished the coffee l sat back and closed my eyes leaving my ears to do the work, slowly I seemed to slip into a state of half wakefulness, half sleep, the sound of the river was peaceful, the birdsong was music, I had already had a much fuller and eventful morning than I would have had at the pond.
Suddenly I was jerked back into reality by the reel once again signalling that I had another fish on, jumping to my feet I took the rod from the rest this time this fish was a different proposition, it seemed more powerful than the first, it refused to co operate and took quite some time to bring to the net, once landed it was quickly unhooked and rested whilst it recuperated. I managed to set up my camera phone for a ‘selfie’ shot, which I achieved after a fashion. The barbel was released and swam off strongly as had the first one, neither fish were large in the scheme of things, but they were a far bigger challenge than the little carp in the pond.
That was the last of the excitement for the day, it became warmer and there was no further interest shown toward my baits so I decided at 10.45 am to call it a day and leave the river to itself.
Making my way back up the hill for the last time, I passed the horse tipped my hat to him and thanked him for his patience with a forgetful chap who kept on disturbing his morning.
All Writing & Images OMR Summer 2021