With the weather so mind bogglingly mild and the river levels still very low I had no idea what to expect when I set out at dawn yesterday.
At this time of year I would, under normal circumstances, be concentrating on barbel. But, although I have picked up one or two in the last month (a beauty of 9lb 5oz damn near pulled the rod out of my hand a couple of weeks ago after I had momentarily nodded off), the look of the river, when I got there, did not inspire me with confidence.
Furthermore, I have become increasingly convinced by various theories which suggest that the phases of the moon are a useful pointer when scheduling barbelling trips. This may sound a bit new age but bear with me - I have evidence...well, some cobbled together statistics anyway.
I keep records of what I call ‘notable’ fish. The adjective is applied loosely and can mean whatever I want, more or less. It always, however, applies to fish which count as ‘large’ by my standards (again, a loose description defined by me). In barbel terms this means over 9lb as these fish are, for me, above average size ('average' fish run from 6-odd to 8-odd pounds). My records show that all my ‘large’ barbel of the last three seasons (9 in all) were caught within a period 2 days either side of the full moon. The only exception – a fantastic fish of 9lb 15oz, which gave me my best scrap yet – was caught on the afternoon preceding the new moon (14-07-07). All fish came from the same river. I am notably less successful during the phases of the waxing and waning moon. Yesterday (27-10-09) was the day after the crescent of the waxing moon and so (statistically) one of the two worst times of the month to go barbel fishing. I am convinced there is something to it despite the scepticism of certain pals (Barry R. Reef, I’m talking to you). My faith was further bolstered the discovery that long time hero Neil Young has for years used the phases of the moon to plot his itinerary - but I digress.
Deciding against battling against the odds for barbel, I grabbed the emergency pint of bronze maggots I’d brought and sallied forth to try a bit of trotting. The rod I invariably use for this job is a Maver Reactorlite 15/18'. It is a very good, very modern, rod. At 15' it is remarkably light, balances perfectly with my Youngs B. J. Lightweight centrepin and is a delight to use. Yesterday I came upon a very long glide on a rather wide stretch with some tempting overhanging vegetation on the far bank. I decided this was the time to try the rod in its 18' guise (having owned it for over two years without having done so). As soon as I put it together it was clear that the familiar lightness and balance were severely compromised by using the longer of the two butt sections. The rod felt clunky and unwieldy. However, I decided to press on, as much out of curiosity as anything else.
I got bites immediately and, having landed about 10 grayling all of the same half-poundish stripe, was about to move on when my last cast in the swim (was it the fourth or fifth 'last cast'?) produced a beautiful brownie of just under a pound (see pic.). I have to say that, with the rod at 18' rather than 15', I was able to stay in meaningful control of the float for a much longer length of trot. I caught many fish right at the far end of the glide and was able to utilise the extra length of the rod to strike effectively at longer distances. There was a definite improvement in the effectiveness of the rod at 18' despite it being considerably less comfortable to use.
After a few hours of roving and trotting my arm was suffering a bit. I decided to try a bit of leisurely legering. I set up the barbel rod secure in the knowledge that if the barbel were unlikely to play during such an unfavourable phase there would be plenty of non-moonstruck chub queuing up to take a proffered pellet. Having dipped into seven swims without so much as a line bite the eighth delivered the wonderful creature pictured above. It put up a considerably stink even on barbel tackle and weighed an infuriating 5lb 15.5oz.
Note. Apologies for the poor quality of the pictures. Having forgotten to take the camera I was forced to use the camera on my mobile phone (My God - that it should come to this…). Having said that, it did create the blurred effect on the picture of the river through the trees all on its own – or was that chub slime…?