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Cold Turkey

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I haven’t fished a river since the season started, and before that I only managed a couple of hours on the Wensum when all our still-water options were frozen solid! I’m suffering cold turkey. The local commercials are okay but I find them very frustrating. Don’t the fish know they’re there for our entertainment? They should be queuing up to be caught, but never for me.

I needed a fix!

I planned to visit my 93 year old Mum who’s in a home in Leeds, I hadn’t seen her since I took her for a cataract operation in late May. I planned to travel up the day before and squeeze in four or five hours on my favourite Yorkshire river, The Swale. I’ve fished the Wharfe, Nidd, Derwent, Ure and even The Don, but it’s the Swale that lures me back every time.

It was a last minute plan, but as luck would have it Micky was on holiday and said he fancied an afternoon there as well. There was a bit of confusion and our other fishing mate, Glen, couldn’t come with such a last minute arrangement but he made up for it by phoning every half hour!

I met Micky in Boroughbridge at quarter to three, bought day tickets in Fish’N’Things, and inquired how the river was performing. Jim confirmed what Sean Meeghan had told me that it was low and clear and the best pegs were down the end of the fishery, in the deeper water. Sean had fished the day earlier and suggested we head for the bottom swims. We’d never fished in this field so we picked a couple of swims and got fishing; it was about four o’clock.

Micky has been in sensational form this year. He’s had the good fortune to spend some time as a guest on a rather rich syndicate water and has been rewarded with carp to 26lb. His confidence levels are very high, but he’s never landed a Swale Barbel.

A few weeks ago I watched an interesting ‘Tight Lines’ programme where the guest was Duncan Charman; he showed some rigs for barbel fishing that caught my eye. Basically, an in-line lead with holes and knobbles that you could press groundbait or pellets around, very much like a method feeder but smaller and more streamlined. I fancied it but the only thing I had similar in my box was a solitary Preston’s one-sided 30g method feeder. I put it on anyway, with a quick-change bead (great bit of kit), and size 10 hook to 10lb braid. I’d scalded some 4mm halibut pellets and they were just ready to press into the feeder for my first cast, baited with a banded 10mm pellet. It was a nice weight and plopped smoothly into the river twenty yards downstream. A chilly downstream wind that seemed to get around your neck had sprung up so we were soon buttoning up our coats.

After an hour or so, I nipped down the bank to see how Micky was getting on. He was fishing with a cage feeder with Halibut pellet groundbait. Largish hook, 14mm hair rigged pellet. He’d eaten his sandwiches and hadn’t even saved me a bit of chocolate biscuit! I checked out his rig and noticed that his feeder barely had 20g of lead and suggested he added a bit which he did. I reckon his bait had been moving away from his groundbait.

I went back to my swim at 5.45pm and scaled down my rig with a size 12 hook and recast with an 8mm banded pellet, after it settled I was rummaging around my pocket for a half-eaten Twirl when the rod tip jerked alarmingly around and I struck into a solid fish. It didn’t scream off downstream which puzzled me, but hugged the bottom while it swam relatively leisurely upstream towards me. There were weeds in the near bank and willows on the far bank, which could have offered sanctuary, but the fish didn’t seem interested. I called Micky who came quickly to my aid.
“Looks a biggun!” he said.
“I dunno, I haven’t seen it yet!
To my immediate right, on the near bank dangling in the water there was a tiny willow that didn’t look as though it would come into play but the fish unexpectedly darted towards it, my 1.5TC Fox Duolite rod suddenly arching twice as much. I made a mental note that I needed a stronger rod, 1.75TC at least. After five minutes the excitement was drawing to close as I brought the fish to the surface and drew it over the net Micky was holding. I made another mental note – I need a bigger landing net. The fish barely fitted into the net but soon it was on the bank. I could see it was big, we weighed it in the net.
“Exactly 10lbs, including the net”
After some photos I nursed the fish back to strength for a couple of minutes and returned it to the river. Weighed the net, 14 ounces, making the fish 9lb 2oz a personal best for me (and actually my second ever largest fish!)

Later on we celebrated my success with a pint and a burger in Boroughbridge. A visit well worth making.

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  1. Rickrod's Avatar
    Nice one Skoda I hope i get one that size when im up there on the swale in a couple of weeks .I cant see the photos
  2. Skoda's Avatar
    Cheers Sean, I don't know about the pics! I compressed them down to 45kb, posted them on my album and copied the URL to the appropriate place but they don't seem to come up. Any tips?