Friday, 26 October 2012

Monkey murder

Please do not take my title literally, for this is not about me going out to massacre Macaques or crucify some Capuchins. It is instead my intent to blow away or strangle the metaphorical monkey which represents a barbel, which and currently resides upon my back.

I may of been griping a little to an acquaintance on the subject, when out of the blue he offered me the opportunity to go and fish his private bit of the river Wye. One rule I have lived by and will live by until my dying day, is never turn down the opportunity to fish a water that is referred to as private. Undoubtedly these types of private waters are always going to be jewels hidden away, protected from the masses where fish do not grow wary from the constant pressure of entire seasons of anglers wearing the ground to bare mud.

When asked, I don't think Andy even let me finish asking him if he fancied it, before saying, just organise it. So what seems like weeks ago I scanned the calender for a suitable date convenient for all three parties. As per normal river levels were watched all week and with every down pour the Wye rose and fell. If flood conditions were to occur the agreement had been made to call off this adventure and wait for another more favourable window. But two days before the weather fell calm and the river abated to the point were it's owner predicted perfect conditions.

I would love to say something along the lines of the Wye valley looked resplendent on our arrival but as with the rest of the Midlands it was shrouded in a thick layer of fog, and on our first view of the river the opposite bank was only just visible. Though for what we could see the river although clear and falling, still made our native Avon look very tame.

Even after falling on a prime looking spot when we first arrived, we headed down stream to investigate as much of the stretch before deciding where to fish and lucky we did, as a mile or so down we came across a beautiful sweeping bend where the flow pushed off to the far bank. This spot gave us four different speeds of water to fish; from a flick into slack water, a lob into slow water, a cast into pacey water then last of all a chuck into the torrent. The genius of this area was that being newbies to the Wye it would enable us to fish hassle free with our lines under minimum pressure from the powerful flow.

Unsure of what fish swam in front of us I went for a two rod set up. One barbel rod baited with a generous cube of spicy garlic luncheon meat intended to entice a hungry beard. The second rod I wanted to use to feel out what was around. So set up a light outfit with a maggot feeder set up to try and induce some smaller fish and get a feel for the populations. 

Both rods out, I sat back peering into the fog and waited. As I expected small taps on the maggot line came first and a couple of quick casts into the same pacey area was producing regular rattles. Then I got one big tap before my rod was practically pulled off the rests. Although trying to catch smaller fish first I had luckily been realistic and fished a 5lb line straight through because unbelievably I was attached to a barbel after only being fishing for ten minutes. 

The rod and a light set clutch were doing their parts in helping me coerce a small but energetic fish towards the bank. Then on the third of three savages lunges away from the bank my line parted leaving me very disappointed  That light outfit was put away instantly and a second barbel rod came off the bench.

Flapping a bit I scrounged some new high hook link material from Andy as I felt that all my tackle box had to offer was either too light or too heavy  Calmed and cast out again I looked up the tips and noticed the tip ring of my rod seemed a little askew. Not wanting to disturb the swim again so soon, I dropped the rod tip a little to inspect the problem. I knew the tip rig would sooner or later need replacing but looking closely at it I found it was hanging on by a thread, and was snapped clean off when another barbel hit me as I held the rod in my arms. That newfangled high tech hook link snapped like baby hair as I disengaged the free spool on the reel.

Now I was in a total state. Two lost fish, two snapped hook links and a busted rod tip all in the first half an hour. Luckily I had brought a spare heavier tip and after setting up again with an identical rig plus a braided hook link. I took a moment to calm down.
Confident in my gear I again recast onto the same spot and sat back. Sure enough wham, another bite smashed my rod over and this one was not getting away under any circumstances. When a dark lean fish of around six pounds hit the net my demons were exercised and probably one of the best barbel sessions of my life began.

I had a shoal in front of me and it was time to make some serious hay. Every cast of the maggot feeder produced some sort of reaction. If it wasn't a twang of the rod tip it was a liner or just the bait runner going into overdrive. Though they were averaging between 4-6lb every fish was lean mean and fighting fit which used the powerful current beyond my catch zone to their full advantage.

I think there is a good chance some of these fish that were battering us had quite possibly never seen a hook in their lives, as every one had  perfect barbels and huge perfect rubber lips.

As the frantic feeding went on the fish seemed to increase in size. Whether it was a case of the regular casts  depositing  more and more feed thus building the confidence of the more wary older fish, or simply the shoal was thinning out leaving the bigger fish I will never know . But the biggest fish of the day landed came towards the end of this frantic feeding spell and weighed a little over seven pounds.

The next fish I hooked into was certainly a much bigger fish which knew exactly what to do. Two small twangs of the rod tip indicated an imminent bite, and my hand hovered over the rod for a moment before in the blink of an eye the carbon bent double and the reel sang loudly. This one ploughed off into the current at an unbelievably rate before I could get a handle on it. It took line and I gained line before it went on a second mental run diagonally down stream into the flow. Straight away I could feel the line grating up through the rod. What it had dived under god only knows but it was big and solid. Several different angles couldn't get this fish back under the snag and before long it went totally solid. After slackening off and setting the rod down I again tensioned up to the solid weight and reluctantly pulled for the break. I did free the hook hold to find a straightened hook and every bit of the last twenty feet of my line shredded by the hidden snag.

The action after this abated and this was seemed to coincide with the lifting fog. It was about this time when my feet began to itch and I took a wander to peruse possible other swims. That water I found though held little appeal. Shallow turbulent and powerful seemed the theme for a good mile down stream. On a hot day with a pair of waders I would of been half way out rolling meat along the deep run the opposite side. But this was late October and the chances of that were zero.

It was now early afternoon and after a chat with Andy we made the decision the hold fast, knowing there was certainly fish in front of us, and chill out for a few hours until the sun sank below the woods lining the other bank.

The sun grew warm and I for one grew lethargic warming myself after half a day spent in the damp dank valley air. The sun got so bright in fact that everything stopped feeding altogether. Even super light rigs failed to rise even a moment of entertainment from a minnow.

As beautiful as it was watching the wildlife enjoying the warm October sun I for one could not help but think of how much of a contrast there was between am and pm. We waited and waited for the fish to switch on again as night crept in. We even stuck it out into dark! But our chance was gone. The fish had melted away never to be seen again and even the witching hour failed to produce anything.

In retrospect we should of upped sticks and moved to another area upstream where the fish would of been unwise to our rouses. Looking back now I honestly think we may have put too much pressure on the ones in our swim. But hey what can you do, there was always a chance that those fish may of moved back in over the baited area at dusk and probably did during the night to mop up long after we left. As for the Wye, this was a magnificent first proper session on this amazing river and one I won't forget in a hurry. I for one can't wait to come back in the future.

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