27 November 2011

A smile as wide as the fish was long

Although I'd decided last week to give the Leam a rest for a while, a last minute change of heart saw me back there again this morning.

Instead of the relative simplicity of a commercial stillwater, my heart told me it wanted at least one more crack at finding a 'proper' fish on my favourite stretch running through the nature reserve and into Newbold Comyn.

It was unseasonably warm (12.5 degrees), a fact that became uncomfortably apparent as I trekked a mile or more in full winter gear to reach the very end swim. A strong upstream wind had all but stopped or even reversed the surface flow along the entire stretch, and even here, where the river narrowed to just a few feet, there was no flow to be seen.

It seemed perverse in the circumstances to set up a stick float, so I selected a small insert waggler, set it up with a size 22 on a 1lb 10oz bottom (my lightest ever rig I think), and set it to drift just an inch or so off the bottom of a slight downstream depression.

A steady trickle of maggots soon attracted the roach bites, but nothing of any size was coming out. And then, bang, I suddenly found myself wishing for a slightly less delicate rig as something put a not-inconsiderable bend in my light match rod. Having steered it out of the nearest reed bed with a combination of power and prayer, I then became acutely aware of just how narrow this stretch of river was - to get this fish into my landing net I was going to have to draw it through a gap in the reeds no more than four foot wide.

I already suspected this was a chub rather than the stellar roach I'd initially hoped for, and it pretty much confirmed this suspicion by going straight for those reeds as I drew it into the channel. It was clearly not a giant by chub standards, but it was the best fish I'd managed to hook and hang on to over many weeks on this stretch of river and I was desperate to bring it home. One last burst of prayer was deemed necessary as I teased it from this second reedy refuge and it was in!

I swear to you that no one has ever been happier to see a 13oz chub. You should have seen my grin. It is by a margin the best river fish I've had since I returned to fishing last year (because 95% or more of that time has been spent on lakes). It is also, perhaps a little bizarrely, a PB - for some reason I just don't recall catching any chub at all as a child angler.

OK, the fact that it wasn't quite a pound was initially disappointing (it was quite a long lean creature). But since it had put up a good fight on light tackle, scared the life out of me with two mad plunges into the reeds, and nearly straightened my delicate little size 22 hook, perhaps that was just as well.

If true specimen sized fish really mattered to me then I'm sure I'd have given up on the Leam before I'd even started. But that's just not me. I'm more than happy simply to be on my favourite river, watching the birds and increasing the quality of fish I catch ounce by ounce, week by week. Mind you, I'll be even more happy if the fish that finally breaks the pound mark for me is a roach! Now that really would be worth a grin.

No comments: