The onset of June 16th saw what I can only describe as a mass holding of breath by the river enthusiasts of the UK. This necessary break (which I personally whole heartedly support) not only gives the fish a break to spawn but also affords us anglers an opportunity to rekindle our passion something which diminishes over a cold winter as we become blasé about flowing water towards the end of the season. The build up is as ever filled with plans and excitement of what we are going to do on that sacred first day.
I myself have in pretty much the entirety of my working life never worked this day as for me not being of a particularly religious nature this is the closest thing I have to a holy day. But this year things were ever so slightly different! When ever the holiday charts appear at work I am the first person at the office door ready to book the 16th of June off. This year having already booked it a fly plopped into my ointment by way of a begging boss. Turns out the only dates my direct superior could get off passed over my holy day and as I was the poor sucker who had to cover for him I was forced by hook or crook to relinquish this day in order for him to jet off for two weeks.
My tales of woe regarding this only get worse as in the week and a half leading up to the 16th I managed to bag an impressive 120 hrs work in ten day straight days. To be honest my fishing was knackered as I was. I had managed to squeeze two eel blanks somewhere in the haze of work but honestly even now I can't remember a thing about them.
There was no way I was missing out on the first day.
Oddly even though we all get rather mental about this day, the fact is it is generally a bit of a let down catch wise. A fact that I have always suspected that can be attributed to us anglers. For three months the inhabitants of our clear rivers see nether hide nor hair of us until the break of dawn on the 16th when from nowhere anglers pop up everywhere on the rivers like a case of chickenpox. Chickenpox tooled up with wholesale amounts of bait which is scattered liberally upon the river in the hope of relieving it of something special. From only natural food to hundred different flavours of ground bait and every possible connotation of freebies mixed in with it in only a few hours. Its no wonder they play hard to get!
With no day to waste lazing beside a river blanking, an evening trip down to the ever fickle wasperton stretch of the Avon seemed the best option.
The journey there was like an abridged version of some kind of fairy tale; travelling through the thronging masses of metal giants through Radford and Holbrook saw me meet Jeff of Hat at the junction where the Saracens head faces Londis; the next leg of our quest we journeyed the long distance from the west of the midland deep into the shire know as warks where in a sunlit field we happened upon Keith of Jobling and a man I know only as Thad. After swapping tales myself and Jeff of Hat continued on down stream beyond the village wasperton to the wooded banks of the slow stretch in search of Andy whom had ventured forth ahead of us to bag himself a spot to stalk the piscatorial delights which lay ahead of us.
We did eventually find Andy setting up in a rather nice lily lined area which looked as special as it did snag filled.
I know this bit of river only too well and as a consequence was in no rush to cast out, as it fishes best as the light fades and the fish begin to top. Beyond that during the day any chancing anglers would be forgiven for thinking it has no fish in it whatsoever.
Mine and Jeff's reluctance to start was much to Andy's advantage as the discovery of a broken rod tip was a real downer until Jeff offered to do a bank side repair for him to get him through the evening.
I eventually did set up in a odd swim behind the roots of a fallen tree in an area of the stretch I have never fished. It was a cracking view with a tempting looking over hanging tree brushing the water on the opposite bank which screamed barbel.
True to form all bar Andy had to wait for bites, but as predicted once the rings off topping fish dappled the surface our baits began to receive some attention. I was however the last to actually connect with a fish as finally after loads of trembles one of my rods went over.
Jeff appeared just as the fish surfaced and oddly we both came out the same insane statement that for a fleeting moment it looked like a massive crucian carp... It was actually a youngish bream whose colour seemed rather golden in the evening light.
If it was a rare river crucian I would have no word of a lie, wet my pants as the chubby little fella weighed four pounds ten. We stuck it out until late but the ever moving shoals of bream here are hard to hold in one place unless you have half a ton of bait to do it with.
New season Part 2
The weekend was soon upon me and Fathers day meant limited fishing time so my options were constrained, so a early jaunt to a secluded narrow run on the top meadow seemed a great idea.
I love this bit of the Avon as it's classic barbel river. fast shallow gravelly runs framed by low hanging willows and those bites.... Savage is the only way to describe them.
The mist clad river looked good with a hint of colour flushed in by showers of summer rain. As I trudged across the damp grass I spotted a very unusual sight at the end of the meadow. Normally this field has a running occupancy of maybe two anglers and a herd of nervous sheep but today it had me and what looked like a a few miles of warning tape stretched around it.
Something was definately afoot and the turning up of a truck loaded up with what looked like marquees confirmed there may well be some kind of olde English style fete happening in this field today.
I decided to have a few hours anyway and cast in. From the corner of my eye I kept seeing cars arrive here and there... By six it was busy and finally it clicked I was actually fishing at the start of the Stratford upon Avon raft race.
As the competitors arrived on mass the tannoy started to sound intermittently with ear screeching feed back and I knew my chances diminished by the second.
The only action my rod tip showed for the whole time I was there was when it suddenly sprang forward and pinged back as what I suspect was a fleeing fish charged upstream past me. I didn't know weather to laugh or cry as I sat watching more and more people arrive in the field. So I laughed loudly which seemed to erect some kind of invisible barrier around me as watchful parents told there children to stay away from that nutter over there.
In the end I gave in as the now water bound rafts were sending sea worthy waves upstream.
Leaving I stopped and took this picture of what can be described as a festival size crowd of people over the field. You would be forgiven for thinking U2 may have added wasperton as an impromptu stop on their 2011 festival tour. As I walked away I felt no ill will towards this session ruining gathering as I knew from the interview conducted over the load speakers as I packed up that it was all in aid of a good cause http://www.raftrace.org.uk/
For about the tenth year of my fishing life the barbel buffoonery has begun again... and the I feel sure the next few months will see me finding myself in some of the most preposterous situations known to angling as I try to bag my target of a double figure beardy.