The last couple of evenings have seen me return to my own little piece of heaven. A place that I haven’t fished for quite a long time now. I was in need of a change, away from the hustle and bustle of everything and everyone after spending two evenings on a rising river Trent. The river in question is just on the cusp of being too far for an evenings fishing if i’m honest and it’s fair to say it’s not an easy water either. There’s not much of anything in there in my opinion but what it lacks in number of fish it more than makes up for in their size and it’s a beautiful place to fish. So, on Thursday evening I decided to return to try and rekindle my love affair with the river.
I had a spot in mind as I had unfinished business there after losing a big fish on my last trip three years ago. When I say big, I mean mahoosive which is why I haven’t been back for so long. I couldn’t face going back as it had my stomach in knots as deep down I knew I would probably never hook a fish like that again. Every now and then a river will throw up a freak of nature and I truly believe that lost fish was one of them.
Not knowing what to expect I made the long walk across the meadows wondering whether I was wasting my time or was it even going to be fishable. I had a hunch it was going to be overgrown and it was. The sheep had made a little bit of a path through the balsam and nettles to get to the water but I had to spend the next twenty minutes chopping my way through, without making it look too obvious, and making a little nest for myself next to the river. I put two rods out mid river and sat back and had a little chuckle to myself knowing that no one had been fishing this glorious spot and I had it all to myself.
As expected it took long time before I had a bite and in all honesty I was expecting a blank but when the bite eventually came the last thing I expected to catch was a Bream. Not a bad one either at around 5lb but not what I was after. As dusk fell there was very little in the way of surface activity. Normally when out fishing on other rivers you see rising fish and hear big fish crashing out of the water, but not here. There was nothing. Despite this I knew there had to be a big fish sniffing around here somewhere then at about half ten the bite alarm let out a couple of beeps before a steady continuous beeeeeeeeeeeep!!!! Why do they make the lights so bright on bite alarms by the way? It was that bright I was suffering from welders flash and I couldn’t make out where the rod handle was. All I knew was I was getting stung to buggery by the nettles as I fumbled around for the rod butt, half blind.
It certainly didn’t feel like a big fish at first but then it went heavy in what little flow there was. I was a bit perplexed, was it a big Chub, was it a Carp, it certainly didn’t feel like a Barbel. The fish came in close to the reeds and I reached down to position the net when it decided to wake up. The rod took on a deep curve as the fish went for deeper water and I fumbled desperately to slacken off the clutch before the line went slack. What a school boy error. I’d tightened the clutch up when I was fishing the Trent and had forgotten to slacken it back off. When the fish made that lunge the hook had pulled and I was left to curse my own stupidity. One chance is all you normally get and i’d blown it big time. I cast back out knowing that I probably wouldn’t get another bite and that is how it turned out. I packed in around half eleven but before I left put out a good scattering of boilies vowing to return the next night and give it another go.
So I returned last night and although I was optimistic I couldn’t help but feel I had blown my chance. Should I let the swim rest longer than the day i’d given it, would the scattering of boilies i’d put in have what few fish were there, on the munch? Time would tell I guess.
The first couple of hours were uneventful before the right hand rod tip rattled, a sure sign a Chub had picked up the bait. Not a bad fish at about 4lb but it needed to be twice that size in all honesty. It was a really ugly bugger though that only it’s mother could love. With a big fat head and lips like Jodie Marsh I slipped it back upstream so as not to disturb the swim.
Then, as a total shock, I had another bite. Again the rod tip knocked a couple of times before pulling over and springing back. I struck into something totally different and there was no doubting what it was this time. The clutch was set correctly this time although I wasn’t really in a position to give it much line with snags to contend with. The fish just kept pulling and pulling, the power was pretty immense to be honest with you and I was just thinking something has got to give in a minute when everything went solid. WTF???? I hadn’t given it much line and I couldn’t see any obvious snags in the water so what’s the crack? I tried altering the angle to try and free it up and I could still feel the fish on the end but would it come free? Would it eck!!! I left the line to go slack for a while in the hope it would free itself up but it wasn’t happening. I tightened up and I could feel the fish thumping away on the end, all the while there was a grating sensation coming back down the rod before the inevitable happened. The hook link had frayed down near the hook. This couldn’t be happening. I knew this had to be big fish territory but to lose two in two nights was either stupid on my part, well the loss on the previous night was definitely down to my stupidity, or just unlucky.
I didn’t have time to let it sink in because as I stood there in disbelief the right hand rod was bouncing around. Another Chub came to the net, this one being slightly bigger than the first. I would like to say it was prettier but it looked like something had sunk it’s teeth into it. Half it’s gill plate was missing on one side and a big chunk had been taken out of one of it’s flanks. An old wound but this fish had done well to survive it’s close encounter.
After releasing it upstream I took a minute to gather my thoughts. I had a think about the tackle I was using and whether there was anything I could do to minimise my chances of losing anymore big fish. In all honesty my setup was fine and I didn’t see what more I could do so I tied on a new hook link before putting both rods out again.
I really couldn’t see me getting another bite again and as night time fell so did my optimism. I couldn’t see that there would be any more fish in the swim but the fire in my belly hadn’t completely been extinguished and I stuck it out. It’s a good job I did too because around eleven o’clock there was a single beep on the upstream rod. I could just make out the rod tip rattling once i’d regained my composure from being blinded by the light on the bite alarm. It looked pretty Chubby to me and I struck into something not particularly exciting on the end. Damn it, the weed had pulled the lead out of position. I wound down knowing there was no chance I was going to get the bait back in position in the dark. I remember thinking “this is a right chunk of weed” before I felt a couple of kicks on the end of the line. This isn’t weed, it’s a fish!!!! The fish had swum downstream. I tightened up before all hell broke loose and the fight took on the exact characteristics of the fish i’d lost the previous night. It made lunge after lunge when it was under the near bank and I desperately wanted to see what it was in case I lost it. I was pretty certain it was a Barbel but it would be nice to see it just to confirm. Fighting fish in such close quarters is a totally different ball game compared to a fast flowing river like the Trent. I couldn’t really give it an inch but I was conscious of the hook link pulling if I didn’t give it some slack.
Eventually I could see the fish and it was a good sized Barbel, in fact my best one of the season so far by the looks of it. After making one last desperate lunge to escape the net I scooped it up and let it rest in the water for a few minutes before removing the hook. It looked absolutely pristine in the water and when I lifted the net out I knew it was a goodun. Looking it on the mat it was pristine and looked like it had never been caught. The tail on it was immense. A quick weigh confirmed it just scraped over twelve pound by coming in at 12.1 before I rested it in the water to let it gather it’s strength back.
The feeling of joy was overwhelming as I didn’t think I was ever going to get a fish out of this spot. From losing that fish all those years back to losing two in two evenings I honestly just didn’t think it was going to happen. I still think there are more to come from that area so i’ll probably go back and give it one last try before resting it and moving onto somewhere else. I’ve got another lovely spot in mind that is unfished. Thank god everyone is so obsessed with the Trent, it leaves these lovely little spots all to me.