Monday, 5 November 2012

Pockets of Winter

The trip started way before the morning of departure. All week I’d been hatching plans, gathering information about the fishery, tidying up tackle and I even restored a cane rod for the occasion. New line was wound onto empty spools; weather reports were checked and checked again, those thermal long johns were located and extra thick socks were purchased. It was certainly “Wrap up warm” time, almost as if autumn was only a few days long and made way for winter’s savage onslaught way ahead of schedule.

A few days previous there was rain, lots of it, mostly overnight. Saturday was to be dry but cold, I wondered how the rain and drop in temperatures would affect the fishing, but with grayling, chub and perch to angle for I felt sure of at least a little action. Even if nothing wanted to play, it would still be an enjoyable day spent with a gang of traditional piscators, tea would be flowing, cake was sure to be handed around and a lack of good chat was never going to be an option.

The morning came, five am the alarm sounded. It was dark, I peered through the window and was met with rain falling, droplets peppered the glass. I quietly got dressed so not to wake the baby and carried out my ablutions, left the house and headed for my parents’ home and the tackle shed. Once there I made a flask of coffee, some cheese and pickle sandwiches, loaded tackle and bait into the boot of the car and with the sat nav pointed in the right direction I headed to Newbury and a rendezvous with the creatures of the Kennet.

When I left it was reading seven degrees outside on the car's thermometer. A built up area near the sea was always going to be reading higher, almost lulling me into a false sense of security. I reached the motorway and as I headed through areas of a more rural nature I watched the temperature drop as low as three, but still I feared not. During the last few miles things changed quite considerably with some spots dropping as low as zero, it was as if there were little pockets of winter dotted around the landscape. I arrived at the venue to minus one and a heavy frost.

Mark and Jeff were already there when I pulled into the car park at a little after seven. We all shook hands and spoke about the prospects for the day. A few others arrived and after greeting old friends and acquainting myself with new ones I decided to head off in search of fish. The fishery was a real maze of streams, ditches and pools that twisted and turned, I found myself lost on a few occasions but eventually got my bearings back and returned to the hut for a coffee and a quick scratch of the head whilst contemplating the plan of action.

With maggots, worms and bread at my disposal I really didn’t know what species to angle for, but in order to keep my options open I decided on trotting bread-flake through as many glides as possible in the hope of snaring a chub, roach or grayling. With my newly renovated rod and delmatic loaded with three pound line I headed off full of anticipation for that first cast. It was as if I didn’t want to make it until I found the perfect spot, for to reach the end of the glide without a bite would have tainted the occasion somewhat.

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I found the perfect spot son enough, a sweeping bend that had a classic wooden platform to cast from and an overhang on the far bank that just had to have a large chub living under it. I baited my size six hook with a fairly large flake and cast my float into the flow mending the line all the time to stay in control. As the float neared the overhang my heart beat quickened, I expected it to dart under at any second, but it wasn’t to be, eventually it came across the shallower area where the water became more turbulent and I wound in for another go.

I fished on there trying various depths for around fifteen minutes and headed on to the next spot biteless. Thirty or so yards further downstream there was an equally promising glide which narrowed between brambles and opened out again the other side. I had to stand close to the water to keep the float in sight but the first trot through produced a dip in the float which I struck at but wasn’t sure if it was the bottom or a fish, either way I came back bait and fishless but without any sign of weed so attached another flake and ran through once more.

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This time the float dipped in the same spot, just through the narrowing, but as I struck the rod tip jagged round and a fish was hooked. A few seconds later and what was obviously a decent sized fish managed to shed the hook. Three more trots through resulted in just one more missed bite, but this came much further downstream so a change of position was needed. From my new vantage point I continued to work the stream watching the float tip and willing it to go away. It did disappear on the third trot and immediately the hooked fish leapt clear of the water, trout on!

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The battle was spectacular, at first I wished it was a big roach or a chub, but I was engaged in a serious fight and once the net was slipped under my prize I just had to reach for the camera and get a quick snap. It was a lovely fish, really nicely coloured and was a fish that would make the day of any fly fisherman. It certainly made my morning a tad brighter and cast any thoughts of numb finger tips aside. With all the commotion the swim went understandably quiet and three more trots produced nothing.

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This seemed to be the order of the day. More swims were fished and more trout were caught. All hard fighting and all very pretty, having differing patterns colourings they were a joy to angle for. I made my way back to the hut for the lunchtime gathering where we ate various cakes made by the anglers, drunk tea and chatted about the mornings activities and what to expect in the afternoon session.

The Fisherman's Hut

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During lunch I had my eye on a pool close by just downstream of the bridge near the hut. Probably overlooked due to its location but a stream begging to have a nice flake run through it. After three trots I watched as the float dipped and upon striking a trout did a somersault in the air before crashing back into the water and shedding the hook. No more bites came from this spot so I wandered off to explore more of the river and its tributaries.


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One area I headed to was a small stream with slack areas where I was told there might be a few decent perch hiding. I fished into an area with no flow, leaves and other debris came swirling through off the main stream every so often and through the clear water I could see everything. My worms wriggled around an inch off the bottom and small roach, bream and minnows came into view but never troubled my hook-bait. Trout also came to this slack but no perch, I stayed for half an hour or so and headed off to discover more of the main stream.

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Various other sections were fished and more trout were caught. Apart from one minnow that I hooked fair and square in the mouth I caught trout, over twenty of them. All hard fighting and all very pretty, but the roach and chub I angled for eluded me. There was one small perch caught and a handful of chub to nearly five pounds to Merlot. A couple of pike were also caught along with a few grayling. Everyone enjoyed themselves immensely and by four pm anglers started to bid farewell and make their way to their respective homes.

I packed up around four thirty, bid my friends farewell and started the hour long journey back to a warm house and a hot meal. Unfortunately I didn’t use my camera nearly enough, but Mark and the Professor kindly sent me some of their pictures of the day to use on my report.

Next weekend I return to still water, Redmire Pool for two days. Gudgeon by day and carp through the night, that’s the plan anyway.

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