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Can't make wood

Back to the river again. The forecast promises thunder, but after faffing around - and feeling the weight of the umbrella, not used since Ireland three years ago - I decide to chance it and go with the poncho again. I can see I'm going to have make good on my foolish boast to create some sort of lightweight basha shelter that will replace the brolly for summer storms.

Again, the river looks fantastic, but the wind's picked up from the west and our original plan to fish the new big pool which has opened up downstream of where the old tree used to stand is scuppered. Wind blowing one way, river flowing the other - it's a recipe for disaster for stick-in-the-muds like Ray and I.

Instead we amble upstream and take up more or less the same positions as last Sunday. At least I do. Same 'tactics' of course. Same piece of luncheon meat if I'm honest. However, the first cast (into the same spot, naturally) produces a huge chub. Must be four pounds if he's an ounce, flashing eyes and a gob the size of a Big Brother contestant. I reckon I could get my whole hand in there if I tried.

Moving round the swim produces two eels at which point I decide to move. I don't like catching eels, and that's that.

I wander down to the bridge where the fast water pours through a concrete tunnel and there, just in front of the tree, rising and falling in the water, see a dark shape. A nice dark chub. Scurrying back with my tackle a fellow club member pitches up. No tackle, just looking, but he's keen to chat and settles down to watch me catch this chub. I can't do it. I nearly fall in sliding down the bank. The first cast is all wrong. My hands are shaking. I miss the first bite, fluff the second (though something's on for an instant) and then hit the third only to get hopelessly snagged on the bottom. He gives up and wanders off to talk the hind legs off Ray, while I reflect on my performance. I remember a Louis Theroux episode where he was talking to male porn actors and the general conclusion was that the hardest thing to do was to perform in front of an audience. They called it 'making wood'. Another reason I'll never make my living as a porn star then.


The secret bait

Having decided to try my new secret bait I felt I ought to do things properly, so I arrived at the water by about 5.00pm and left myself plenty of time to get settled and bait up with loose offerings. Once again the river has changed out of all recognition from last season. Club members have been down here already, cutting paths down to the water and making various swims safe - last season you had a choice of one and if someone was in it, you might as well have gone home. Or stayed to watch them fish.

This year we're blessed and I feel a barbel is going to come out this year for me...possibly on the secret bait.

But not this night. This night was for chub and luncheon meat (which, ever the coward, I switched to after I couldn't buy a bite on the SB). It was nice Old Oak stuff that smelled lovely. I almost ate it myself.

The chub enjoyed themselves and I caught five in about five hours, between one and a half and four pounds. Didn't photograph any of them though - nor the little pike that snatched the meat as I reeled in at about 9.00pm. He gave me a good fight though, before those fangs sliced through the line and the ledger pinged up into the tree behind me.

The river looked beautiful, just beautiful.

Never the same place twice

The river is different every time you go. For a start, every fish in there must be baked - done to a turn - and ready for the plate. I know we were, even after 20 minutes, and we'd arrived at 7.00pm, keeping to the shadows, scouring the water for holes in the weed, storing up the information for later. What must it have been like during the day?

We expected things to be sluggish but it was still awfully slow. I started fishing the fast water below the overflow (pictured here) but despite finding it hard to imagine another swim that looked more fishy, didn't get a bite. From then I moved every half hour, loose feeding with meat and cheese paste and then dropping the bait into a succession of likely spots. Didn't get a bite until darkness fell and I ended up in the same swim as a couple of nights ago. Same routine too. Baited up. Cast in. A minute later, a huge rod-in-the-water tug and after a tidy little fight, another large chub was on the bank. Could have been the brother of the one I caught a few nights ago. Lovely fish.

And that was that. I moved a couple of times, returned to the fast water, got one knock and promptly put my tackle up a tree. Packing up was miserable because of the insects. I do miss smoking....

Still the kettle was fun - and particularly fiery - and my luggage arrangements ( a return to the creel and the inflatable seat) much easier on the arms. The next trip however, will be somewhere else. I feel Surrey calling...


Pass and move

It's what modern football's all about apparently...pass and move, pass and move. The Argentians do it rather well, the English seem less bothered. After last night I know which camp I'm in.

Back to the river with Ray, trying out new luggage tactics. A recent dicussion on the Waterlog forums put me in a mind to try the new seat bought for me by my wife for Christmas and so far only used upstairs in front of the portable telly with a glass of red wine at my side. Even I realise that I won't catch many fish like that, so I thought I'd give it a run out.

However, my new found love affair with the Kelly Kettle means that I now carry more gear than usual - the kettle, the base, milk, a cup, spoon, teabags, mini firelighters - and while I'm not going to give it up, it poses problems for an ultra-light angler such as myself. So, I stuffed the reel, milk, spoon and cloth into the tiny pocket in the seat, slipped the dry rolled-up landing net into it along with the kettle base and closed the lot. I then reached for this bizarre utility belt thing I bought from the Friday Ad about ten years ago and have never used - loads of pockets on a thick wide belt - probably designed for trotting anglers who wade to keep maggots in. I decamped legers and hooks and stoppers into a leather pouch and distributed various bits of bait in the other pockets - cheese paste (yes, last season's!) some hideous bright orange American cheese slices which I'd rolled into a ball and frozen along with luncheon meat. Oh and my secret bait. The litre of water went into the back pocket of my waistcoat along with my emergency seat - inflatable cushion - and I was packed.

Horrible. The belt made me look like Baron Harkonnen out of Dune. It was so heavy it kept pulling my trousers down. The kettle clanged against my legs, confused cows followed me down the field wanting to be milked, my hair got in my eyes, I found liquorice rolling papers in one pocket, reminding me of those happy days when I used to puff and fish at the same time.

And some bloke was in Ray's swim. He was a member of the club that fishes the other side of the river and having fished through the hottest part of the afternoon was now packing up, just as things were likely to get interesting. Why do people do that? Why do they turn up at 11.00 in the morning, fish until 5.00pm and then complain because they caught sunstroke but not any fish? What's that all about?

Ray settled in and I plodded on to my June 16th swim, looking for all the world like a pack mule that's learned to walk upright. I threw in some of the Hideous American Cheese and tackled up - 5lb line, quiver tip, link leger, size 4 hook, big lump of cheese paste. First cast I lobbed the bait into a spot between the lilies and the margins that I'd noticed the previous trip. I started to lean back and put the rod in the rest - taptaptaptapTHUMP! Nearly pulled the rod out of my hands. I struck, felt the fish - big - and then the hook came out.

Pass and move, pass and move. Fish and move. Stupidly I stayed and didn't get another bite. It won't happen next time. An hour and a half later I headed upstream towards the big open bend where I was going to fish into darkness. It was a nice spot. Just me, an opening in the reeds, a nice looking pool and a steaming cow pat about eight inches away from the rod rest. When it got dark I was going to have to be careful.

I baited the swim with some more HAC, brewed up, drank the tea and then cast in. Popped the rod on the rest. Ray wandered by heading for the Willows. He'd just gone over the stile when BANG the rod went again and if I hadn't grabbed it, I would have lost it this time. A good short crap later and the result was this chub - certainly over three pounds and probably bigger. The photo doesn't quite do it justice. (I do however really look like that).

Yes, I decided to leave that typo where it was. Of course, I meant to say 'scrap'.

If I could crap chub then there wouldn't be a problem would there? And I'd certainly never blank.

Getting the hook out proved impossible because the chub had wolfed that cheese paste right down, so we cut the line and I was so keen to get the fish back in that I popped it back into the swim by my feet. Fish and move, fish and move.

I didn't get another bite. Ray meantime caught two large chub and an even larger carp, probably a double. Unfortunately, he didn't bring his camera, so you'll have to make do with this.

No fish

It's been pointed out to me that there isn't enough fish porn on this site. You know the kind of thing. Beefy blokes (of which I confess, I am one) holding massive fish, bellies bulging with beer (the blokes) and boillies (the cyprinids).

So, setting out for the river this morning with conditions pretty much perfect, a new ball of cheese paste glistening in the creel and a song in my heart, I fully intended to correct this omission. In fact, yesterday I nearly wrote a pre-trip entry saying that I was certain I would catch a barbel when I went fishing the next day.

Fatal, naturally. I caught a chub second cast - nice as well, about three and a half pounds - and a gudgeon last cast and nothing in between. I positioned the chub neatly in the landing net, laid a float above him and placed the rod and reel beneath for scale, opened the lens of my Sony and took aim. Whereupon the chub decided it had had enough, flipped itself out of the net and slid gently down the bank and back into the river, making barely a splash. The judges gave him an 8.7.

So here's a picture of some horses I saw in a field on my way down to the river.

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