Sunday, 22 December 2013

Omne trium perfectum

'Everything that comes in threes is perfect'

With the pure gung-ho attitude that only a man can possess, Andy took his second run at the small ramp that led to the top of the flood defence barrier. Maybe two feet farther up than his previous attempt the wheels began spinning again. So he did as all men would do and floored it spraying mud in all directions. As for myself I was perched half way up a different plane of the mound, out the way of the flying earth, with a mixture of Herefordshire mud and cow shit slowly seeping through my crocs as I watched on. It was not long after this that I heard a local voice call to me from over the field. "Can I ask what you chaps are up to?"  I think it is only natural to feel a little guilty when a figure of authority questions your intent and I could have defensively or sarcastically replied that we were down for a days fishing on this here salmon beat and before we began, fancied ploughing up this here field a bit. But sense prevailed and I meekly replied that we were here to fish and had foolishly thought we could get up on the hill, but had now realised the error of our way and were in retreat. "No one drives up there at this time of year, all the locals know that." I knew exactly what he meant; simply put 'we were not local!'

Our only choice was for Mr Lewis to perform a very impressive rally reverse back down the lane to the civilised parking at the very top of the beat. Once parked where the car was at no risk of reaching its axles in mud, we now had to walk back the distance we had driven twice to reach even half way where we wanted to go. Even with highly reduced kit this was going to be a sweaty walk in the cattle-created Somme-like conditions.

After a little Wye wander we did eventually find ourselves at the point we agreed we would work our way back from through the day. You see this whole venture was conceived as a piking trip and they would be our main quarry, but as the weather has been so mild, we thought the barbel might well be on for a bit of an re-Xmas knock up. So we split our gear down the middle and had brought along a barbel rod each and a pike rod each. So we had headed to the massive sweeping bend that has in the past it has always proved more than reliable were as Bertie was concerned.

I went for the middle of the bend whilst my companion targeted the crease where the flow deflects off across the river. Today though the Wye was as low as I had ever fished it and my first few casts seemed to be hitting the deck far too quickly. In the time it took Andy to land three brownies from the crease swim, I had done little more than fine tune my rig to stop my feeder from rolling around the swim and ruining my hook links. Even with very little water on it, the flow of the Wye still shocks me and me only option to hold bottom soon became the clumsy cow lead.

Honestly, the sound of my feeder hitting the water not only grated on me but I was sure would see off any fish present as it made such an awful thump hitting the water. But I was proved rather wrong when after mere moments on the rest the rod tip tapped once before jerking violently over. All barbel fight hard but these lean wiry Wye fish run like savages in the early moments of the fight. Combine over two ounces of feeder and the fear of hidden trees littering the river and it makes for an interesting battle.

After the first one slipped up, that was it, I thought the flood gates had opened. As soon as the rig made bottom again I got a hard tug which resulted in nothing. The again next cast barley had enough time for a leaf to hang up on my line before another one was on. I had brought along my JW Young barbel rod which I have been using on the Avon for barbel this year. It could be said by many that at 2.5lb it's a bit on the heavy side, but for this river its tough back bone was more than enough to handle the big rigs I was discharging into the river, whilst still being forgiving enough cushion some very intense first runs.

Two more similar sized fish came in very quick succession after the first, but it would seem that the feeding spell was to be very short lived. Either that or my theory that the Tonka truck of a feeder hitting water did spook them out of the area. On the journey down it had been agreed that would would keep moving and not sit around waiting for bites, so after a quiet forty minutes we made tracks back up the beat.

The pike were always going to be a different matter to the barbel. We have fished this stretch of the Wye twice before and truthfully although we had seen one pike lingering in a slack we had no idea of where to begin fishing for them. On the way down we had taken some time to clock out possible areas of attack but nothing really screamed pike as most of the beat is shallow fast riffles. There was a couple of 50/50 spots that we could have tried, but nothing definite. On the way back up from under hoods we discussed where to fish. The rain by now was really coming down and wanting to lighten our loads we agreed to stop at the car and leave most of kit there, and armed with only a rod each and one net we would head to a area that even now thinking of it makes my blood run cold... Dead man's bend.

The very first time we visited this stretch we were chatting to a local dog walker/angler and it was him who pointed out this ninety degree turn in the river. As the water quite literally changes direction instantly as it collides with the bank it creates one of the scariest undercuts I have ever seen. From a distance it looks quite innocuous but when you stand directly above it looking at the massive straight that leads into it you realise the very bank you stand on feels the full force of one of the most powerful rivers in the country. But that's nothing compared to when you look down at the water and see the random boils emanating from twenty feet down under the bank. It quite literally looks like there is a shoal of whales gallivanting under the water. Apparently according to the man who pointed it out this one bend has done more than enough to earn its name over the years.

As dangerous as it looks from above we had spotted that a large still eddy had formed with the lack of water and that luckily it looked like we could easily get down the bank behind between two trees. We were right and soon enough pitched up in a cap between two barren bushes. The bank itself was nothing more than a skid of bare mud exposed by the low water and should the river be any more than a foot up it would disappeared under the Wye. Flanked on both side by trees which hung down into the water it was going to be tight but also looked the perfect pike swim.

You know you're fishing deep water when your float stop is half-way through the rod rings and the bait is in your hand. With depths between ten and fifteen feet this wasn't going to be easy but did look spot on for pike. We had to wait a while for some action and what occurred next was destined to be one of those moments that hurts for a long while. My float had sat motionless for a good three quarters of an hour just off the trees. Then, out of nowhere, ripples emanated from the dumpy float. I remember saying "hey up here we go" before I took the rod in hand. A few more bobs came before the float toddled off classically away from the trees. I watched carefully as I paid out line, then after the float traveled about three feet, it sank under slowly and I tightened up and prepared to drive my hooks home. Not so much a minuscule of resistance was felt and my float, with rig in tow, launched straight out of the water and into the bushes behind me. Only a moment of silence followed as it took me that long to inhale enough air for the protracted and explicate tirade that followed. It wasn't that I had just missed a fish, more what that fish could have been judging by what happened later.

I calmed down from my tantrum by the time Andy's float seemed to get caught by the flow. Then after I convinced him I suspected it was a fish all hell broke loose when he struck and with no choice he had to really force the fish through the swim avoid an obstacle coarse of snags. Luckily the fish cooperated and went pretty much straight into the net. It looked massive lying on its side in the net and I think both of us were equally excited to get it on the scales.

Out of the net it looked just as big, but three sets of scales proved that even though we have both seen our fair share of pike we were well out on our estimates. For my part I had seventeen pounds in my head but could barley believe it weighed just under fourteen pounds hence the three sets of scales.

But that wasn't it! Next cast the bait had barely hit bottom before the float sank away attached to another good fish. This one we saw deep down in the water and it looked very long and thin. Not long after we saw it, a shake of the head set it free before came near the bank. I could barley believe it when a third and forth fish snaffled Andy's baits from the same small area. These two were totally mental beasts that smashed us both around, getting us in a right mess, hence no pictures for either. Both were smaller and so badly behaved that we were glad to see them back in the water where they were unable to twist, snap or trash around.

Three different sets of three different species that all came in threes seems an odd coincidence to me on what I can only say one one of the dampest days I have ever spent by the river. We walked sopping away from the water not long after the last fish as the river was rising fast and I think truthfully we were quite satisfied by the days catches considering the time of the year.

My only regret of the day was that missed run. Considering all the pike Andy caught were low to mid doubles I can only surmise that at the minimum, my fish was at least a double, and considering it was the only bite that came away from the hot spot I can't help suspecting it might have been a loner that the other fish avoided. Adding insult to injury is the reported size of the stretch monster, which I feel most comfortable referring to simply as big! And we all know the Wye can breed them proper BIG...

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