I have to say I haven’t felt 100% well since Christmas Eve. I couldn’t quite say what exactly was wrong but I just haven’t felt right. Then I went down with a touch of the flu I think. It started with a lump in the throat and a inner cold feeling. That night I couldn’t stop shivering. In the end I had to get dressed and put an extra blanket on the bed and yet I still shivered constantly. The next day the hot sweats started and this along with the cold shivers lasted another two days, along with aches and pains, blocked sinuses and on one occasion a giddy spell where I very nearly passed out. Typical that this happened at work! As a long haul pilot you can imagine the consequences…….! Only kidding, but it would have been interesting
Anyway enough of my self indulgent, self pitying nonsense and on to some fishing. As you can imagine with the weather since Christmas, the rivers have been up and down like a whor…er well you know what I mean. However we did have a spell of less wet weather as opposed to dry and this gave us a chance to visit the Kennet near Thatcham. With this rather wet and windy spell came much milder temperatures and that always spells barbel, although you wouldn’t get away with that one in scrabble. So we arrived bright and early to find the car park flooded and the river still spilling over the banks and into the car park and woods. We managed to park up right over to one side on a dryish spot, without blocking the entrance. Again it was a very mild day, around 11c and had been for some days, so the water temperature ought to be pretty good. Personally I’m not into taking the temperature but I know people do. If I’m going fishing then I just accept the conditions as they are and fish for whatever species I feel is appropriate. If I feel it’s right then I’m generally confident and I always think that if I took the water temperature and found it was dropping I’d be inclined to just pack up and go home, so I don’t bother with it.
Anyway, we loaded up like a load of Himalayan pack horses and headed off carefully downstream. The footbridge was partially flooded but traversable. The river was as high as I’d ever seen it and had burst it’s banks in numerous spots. However it had a nice tinge of colour and a really good push on. Due to the nature of the this stretch with it’s winding bends and lots of bankside foliage, there was lots of fishable opportunities. Dan was already ensconced in his swim, having arrived slightly earlier than us. Kevin remained upstream, I walked lower down and Geoff somewhere just above Dan. I have to say the river looked spot on and someone was bound to catch.
I set-up in amongst the trees and fished out into a lovely smooth glide with a canopy of overhanging trees to offer shelter to perhaps a few resting barbel. Generally in these conditions its widely acknowledged by barbel anglers that a large smelly bait is best. Some garlic or spiced luncheon meat often being the most recommended. I had some plain meat with me and also some home made boilies and paste. I decided to fish a straight lead and hope that the smell of the bait would attract the fish in quite quickly. This is when choosing the right swims is so important. You really want to be as close to the fish holding areas as possible, even manoeuvring a bait into the lair itself, which is easy to do with a light leger weight or just a link leger with ssg’s on.
Well despite fishing numerous swims, which all looked spot on and alternating baits, I couldn’t so much as muster a twitch on the rod top. Fortunately around 1-2pm a short feeding spell occurred and offered the other guys some action at least. First in was Dan with a beautiful barbel going 8lb 9oz and then he sadly lost a fish shortly after that. Geoff had by now moved and he too struck into a barbel which unfortunately came off. Kevin had numerous whack rounds on the rod top and bumped off a couple of fish which he felt were barbel but did land a magnificent brown trout of nearly 4lbs. So some missed opportunities perhaps but at least some action.
By 5pm a hard frost was forming as the temperature plummeted. It was time to call it a day and head to the services for a nice hot cup of coffee. As always it was good to be on the banks and in good company.