As he ambled towards my camp through the woods with a smile on his face proclaiming his admiration for my chosen spot he looked relaxed. When he caught sight of the arsenal of rods protruding through tiny gap in the reeds he lifted his shades from his eyes and his jaw fell slack. After giving him a detailed explanation of the different dynamics of every rod and my thinking behind each one he fully understood. And after all Keith too knows how fickle the lake is and why I should want to maximise my chances of catching. This was the point were he stated that he thought the lake was getting under my skin. And as he said it to me at no point did I actually think he was wrong. If one of the most fanatical anglers I know thought my outlook was say a little shocking and thought it was perfectly normal. Maybe I was getting a little over involved.
After a catching up for a few hours Keith headed off into the night leaving me to try and grab a few hours kip ready for the middle of the night onslaught. Lying on my back in the dark with mosquitoes strafing me I pondered whether I may becoming obsessed with the lake. It was winter when I conceived this idea and since it's conception I had slowly and pragmatically readied myself. Barring only one exploratory trip to check out a new river ticket I acquired this year, any and all allotted fishing time has been syphoned into the lake, and all my off the bank pondering has been about the lake too. I noticed the other day that in most pictures of me holding a dripping fish that I seem to have developed a distant stare. Though as yet I have not started rocking back and forth or chatting quietly within my bivvy.
Sleep and crept over me somewhere mid mull, but an alarm soon woke me. Looking out the door towards the lake a blue light was on. I told myself it must have been a liner but as my eye lids slowly closed again it went again. The bream were in the swim and the one bothering this bait seemed to be struggling to choke down the epic bait not intended for it. But eventually by seeming force alone the culprit forced its self around the bait which in turn rang the bell on my end. And all too soon I was again covered in slime and photoing myself with another seven something two toner.
Hmmm, slightly distant stare...
God knows how many times I had got up in the now chilly night to deal with another small bream which had hung it's self up on a bait intended to be to big for them. They were getting smaller as the night wore on and I was for one was beginning to think this is just to bloody much. As an angler it sounds awful to say this, but I was glad when the shoal passed out the swim just so I could get some sleep.
My mobile phone alarm woke me to recast just after sun up and half lucid peeping from my sleeping bag with my nose swelling from a nagger bite I actually said out load to myself "I need a break!" Even with the epiphany that had just slipped out I did get up and recast. On the last of the four rods I decided to make a slight change as the sun was down sparkling through the clear water. The bottom bait was removed and replaced with a two grains of popped up sweet corn to sit up off the method ball like a flag. It hadn't been out ten minutes before ripping off. This was no bream for sure and it was too small for a carp. At last I had hooked one of the illusive tench that turn up rarely from the lake and that I so desperately wanted. Sadly it didn't last to long before I got that slack sensation running back to the rod. I didn't bother recasting and instead began that most arduous of tasks packing up after a night on the bream.
The next day with a few decent meals inside and a proper nights sleep under my belt the idea of a trip to one of my favourite little stretches of river seemed the perfect salve. Days before I had taken Jacky to Stratford for the day and as we sat in the busy park the Avon looked just right for a spot of barbel chasing and that heavy colour should have be fining down just nice by now.
Compared to dragging all the gear I have had to miles round the lake. Carrying a small bag, two rods and a seat was bliss. Even in the dark I could tell the river still had some power and colour. I first dropped my gear at a swim at the top of the river before depositing a little bait to stew just off a nice crease on the inside bank. I then headed down stream to bait up a few other swims for later. I crept back into my first swim and lowered my rig into place silently. After an hour I had established that yes, there was plenty of small pecking fish in the swim but seemingly nothing big that wanted to play ball.
Though the morning I dropped down to swim after swim giving each one equal attention but by mid morning all I had hooked was a few overzealous roach. By now the sun was up and rather warm. Even with the river heavily coloured I got the feeling that the better the cover the better my chances of connecting a barbel. So headed back to a swim I had fished earlier which had the most cover on the whole stretch.
The morning was drifting away and all that had come my way was an odd pair of swans and their strange offspring.
Weirdly I actually saw the swans treating the goose almost like they would a cygnet and it followed them everywhere they went. The swans even got a bit defensive towards me when they ventured onto my bank. I wonder if some sneaky goose may have pulled a cuckoo on them and plopped an egg in their nest whilst they weren't looking.
My attention was beginning to wain and I was just about to have a flick through Facebook on my phone when rod tip went from straight to bent in the blink of an eye. Even having not fished this way for a good long while the ground in instinct to apply max pressure and keep the rod tip low as possible came back instantly.
Those moments of stalemate when you utter to yourself "come on, get out" seemed to go on for ages and to my elation I soon got it into open water.
It kept deep, repaetedly diving back towards cover in surging runs and I knew it was a big barbel. It couldn't be anything else in this bit of river. Time and time again I had to steer it away from the far banks reeds but still it kept deep. Then in a huge boil I caught a quick glimpse of a massive coral tail. Now my heart was thumping. I knew a very big fish was landed a few weeks ago from this stretch and I was sure I was now connected to it.
Gradually it seemd to tire and it seemd to begin to come up in the water. The next sight of it got me going even more, as it seemed very thick indeed. Then the next time I saw I thought thats a very dark barbel.
Then I saw the head of the fish as it rolled on the surface and my heart sank. It was an impostor who was doing probably the best impression of a barbel ever.
A further five minutes of determined fight later I coaxed it into my net. After one of the hardest fights I have ever had in fast shallow steamy water I had my prize... A fighting fit twelve pound twelve ounce river carp.
Even though it wasn't a barbel I could not be dissapointed with such a perfect example of a free as you like, wild born river carp. It was rock hard nose to tail and the orange tail was close to as big as both my hands put together. And it wasn't finished yet! After resting it in the edge whilst I set up the camera for a quick snap I laid it down on the soft grass unfolded the net where it went mental. I should have set the camera on to video because I feel sure I would of had £250 quid in my pocket from You've Been Framed after this performance. As much as I wanted the trophy shot, it didn't! It battered me senseless. I got a tail slapped in my face. It did that menical vibrating thing repeatedly in my arms. In the end after three failed attempts I gave in and opted for the on the ground shot before slipping it back to pull one over on the next unsuspecting barbel angler.