Every so often one of those moments comes along when you know you have just hooked and lost a true Leviathan. Unfortunately in most cases it ends much the same way, with some bewildered angler staring at a seemingly unending oily swirl on the water caused by the last swish of the escapee's tail, before turning agog to his infernal rod which is obviously to blame for the inexplicable loss. It's hard to put into words exactly how it feels at that moment, though most of us utter few effs and jeff's at the time to ease the transition, the reality is that once the anger has subsided it's quite a hollow feeling, like this was your one and only chance to see and hold something amazing, and you lost it before you even set eyes on it. The unseen nature of these encounters makes them even worse because inevitably the human mind has this knack for filling in spaces and when the average angler has a space to fill, they obviously do it with something three times the size of what it actually probably was.
It by now should be pretty damn obvious where I am going with this, and even though it's clicked, I know everyone likes a yarn about the one that got away so I won't stop here...
It was a pretty normal bright summer morning on the Avon. The sun was beginning to peep through the clouds and the clock was begging to tick on how long I had left on the river before a armada of rowers, day boats and swan masted pedalos beat me into submission and forced me off the river.
Through the morning I had leisurely made my way up river casting heavily weighted soft lures into the deep centre channel of the river, rhythmically retrieving them along the bottom and up the margins into the weed line. My efforts hadn't gone unrewarded and a few sprightly jacks had lashed out at the savage gear soft 4 play roach as it neared the cover.
The entire river was alive with life and I was quite surprised to see a grass snake also hunting along the edge of the river in such a populated area. I watched the little reptile work its way all along my bank peering under the lily pads looking for unsuspecting prey before it tasted the air and detected another larger predator, then crossed the river to continue its hunt in peace.
Not long after losing sight of the little snake I moved into a nice open looking swim that was lined on both sides by matching beds of lily pads. It looked the perfect place for a hunting pike to be holding up ready to attack any passing prey fish that were unaware of the danger looming in the shadows.
After first just bouncing a small orange koypto around under my feet to check for any lingering predators, I cast and covered both obvious haunts. After this I began carefully covering every cast in the swim with a soft 4 play roach, bouncing it up in a random rhythm whilst moving the rod tip from left to right causing it to change direction under water.
As I was retrieving the lure I spotted a large patch of fishy looking bubbles rising up from the margin down to my left. Quite unaware that I was doing so I pulled my lure towards the bubbles. When I saw the lure was on course for the bubbles I switched sides to circumvent them just in case. The lure passed within maybe two feet of the bubbles and literally when I was in line with them ,the rod locked up.
The line was literally solid and my natural assumption was that I had just found a good old fashioned stick fish and that I was about to be parted from my lure. It was then that I got the shock of my life when the line started moving from side to side as if something was shaking its head. My natural reaction then was to give the rod a couple of hard strikes to bed home the hook in any possible hard mouth. The striking only served to antagonize the beast whereupon it shot off sending my little reel from silent to screaming in an instant.
For once though it wasn't one of those times when I was vastly under gunned to fight such a monster, as although the set up might outwardly look a little flimsy, the seven foot rod was rated to chuck lures up to 38 grams, the braid on the reel had a 12lb breaking strain and the fluorocarbon leader at 25lb would take the strain of practically any river fish.
Really and truthfully I felt in control of the situation from the off and although the still unseen monster was giving me some real stick, I felt the tackle would hold up if I was careful. The fish though had other ideas and after several very considerate runs across the river and back decided it was time to head off upstream. This is where the problem occurred by way of a tree which had unfortunately grown right on the edge of the bank and which formed very aggressive corner.
I had no choice but to pile on the pressure and try and turn the fish back down the river. With the fish powering upstream and me desperately trying to stop it, the pressure was too much and the line fell slack. Dazed, I turned the handle of the reel to pick up all the slack line and to my surprise I hadn't been broken off at all the lure had just come free.
Truthfully at the time I was gutted to have lost what had to have been something huge. BUT! I have mulled over this incident again and again and now I am thinking maybe it wasn't such a bad thing. You see I reckon I have narrowed down what the culprit could have been. Firstly there was no way it was a zander, as no zed fights like that and I would have taken pretty much any zed no matter how big on that gear. It didn't hit like a pike at all and again I reckon I could have taken out most pike on that gear. I suppose it might have been a catfish, but that would be real rarity in the Avon. Then I thought maybe a massive eel as the side to side shaking was very eel-like, but the runs were insane and as far as I know eels aren't renowned for their repeated long runs. It was after that the thought of foul hooked fish came to mind. The area in question has got a very extensive reputation for big carp which do like to mooch along the margins. Not just that but a few big barbel have begun to get caught in the area.
So the only options for the identity of the lost beast is either an eel the size of a whales winky, or should I say Mobys dick, or that I foul hooked an unsuspecting carp which once comprehended the side to side movements of its tail did nothing, panicked and began charging round like a nutter till it got free. That last theory is exactly why I am actually OK with losing that fish even though I'd love to know what it was.