...that has such creatures in it. A glorious Saturday spent on the banks of the upper Leam produced such a wealth of wonderful sightings that I scarcely know where to start.
Perhaps not, for a change, with the fish. Because as I set up in a wooded 'jungle' swim (a move I swiftly regretted as I launched my first float rig into a low overhanging branch), I became aware of buzzard calls. I looked up and around, and realised that not one but four birds were playing and courting in the trees around me, so close I could hear their wings beating over their mewing calls.
Not 10 minutes later I was watching a pair of ravens engaging in even more acrobatic courtship low over the nearby hill. And what was turning into a decent birding day went on to include a series of up-close-and-personal sightings including kingfisher, sparrowhawk, reed bunting and skylark.
Meanwhile I was struggling to recover from that float-in-tree incident. Although there had been a gentle flow on the river when I arrived, a gentle upstream breeze had sprung up and all but stopped the water. That, plus the fact that I was again being plagued by minnows, resolved me to abandon my initial stick-and-maggot attack in favour of a tried and tested combo - a nice juicy lobworm on a size 10 hook connected to the most sensitive quiver tip in the bag.
That final detail really came into its own when I cast into the third swim of the day. As has happened before in this swim, barely had I tightened the line when that super soft quiver tip just started to edge round - a quick tap followed by the slowest and smallest of bends. I struck, and it was immediately apparent that this was likely to be my best Leam fish to date - all I had to do now was get it on the bank.
Fortunately I think I'd previously made every mistake it is possible to make in this swim, so I was able to steer the fish first into the relative safety of the deeper water and then to draw it towards me without gifting it the chance to bury itself in the submerged reeds right in front of me (it had a pretty good go though).
After a very tense minute or so I had netted my prize, a pretty respectable perch. It was indeed my River Leam PB, as well as my perch PB, weighing in at 1lb 9oz.
And although I caught no further fish that day, the river did have one more fishy encounter in store for me. As I sat quietly in my final swim I noticed a sizeable shape slip past the end of my rod tip. For some reason my initial reaction was 'chub', and I moved my hand closer to the rod handle in anticipation. But this was no chub - it was an altogether more majestic spectacle. And, like the buzzards who had welcomed me to the river that morning, it was a killer.
It wasn't a big pike by most standards, but it certainly looked big in this tiny stream-like stretch of river. Its two menacing passes along the margin beneath my rod tip convinced me that any other fish in the swim would most likely have fled in terror, so I packed up and went happily on my way home.