Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fifty-fifty it's the first twenty of 2012

Fifty-fifty it's a twenty mate, says Rob as the rod goes round and I feel the first angry kick on the other end.

Spring erupts in a glorious chorus of bird song, as we sit on the floodbank savouring the sunshine. Just over a  week ago, just about everywhere was still frozen. It's 15C today, as we plot up around the stove and get the kettle on.

I haven't seen Rob for weeks, so we shoot the breeze as the floats bob in a brisk westerly and the sun beats down from an almost cloudless sky.

We've both caught so few fish this season that our ratio of twenties to smaller fish is about the only thing we can draw any comfort from. Less fish than last time around, but more of them have been bigger ones, if that makes sense.

As talk turns to the water we're on, Rob comes out with an interesting statistic. If we catch one today, there's a fifty-fifty chance it's going to be a twenty. If being the operative word, I say, bearing in mind I've hardly caught anything since Christmas and my best of 2012 so far is 17lbs.

Then again, I did tell a mate I thought we'd probably end up sitting it out for the chance of one big fish today, while we were deciding where to go. Can't be assed with that, he said, leaving me and Rob to see if my hunch was right.

I twitch the baits around 10.30am and a few minutes later I'm off, as a blob sets off against the wind, pulling line off the Baitrunner.

Fifty-fifty it's a twenty mate, says Rob as I pick the rod up and bend into what's obviously a big fish. It stays deep, shaking its head violently, after I put the brakes on its first lunge.

I bend in harder, wondering if the hooks will stay in. I remember the lump I lost last week, when the net snagged on a trace caught on a branch as I went to net it. I'm using a smaller, shallower net today, to avoid a repeat performance.

I feel slightly less worried as Rob sinks it deep in the margins without snagging anyone else's lost ironmongery. For a second or two, the fish wallows on the top, gills flared as she winds herself up for a tail walk. But Rob lifts the net as she glides over the draw-cord, pulling the rug out from under her feet.

She's unhooked by the time I get back down the bank with the scales, sling and camera. Do the hooks we currently both use - micro-barbed Owner ST36s - come out a little too easily at times..? I've had a couple of good fish which have shed them in the net, plus one that shed them on the way in.

Nah mate, says Rob. Hooked right in the scissors, two points right in to the bend - even I couldn't have lost this one, in other words. One of the hooks has straightened as Rob removed it from the pike's laughing gear. Maybe I'll step up a pattern next season, I decide.

We lift her on the mat and there's no doubt she's a twenty, broad-shouldered and deep-bellied, as she slips into the sling. Not a ripe old hen yet, though - as in room to weigh a bit more when she swells out with spawn.

I give her a bounce on the Avons and she goes bang on 23lbs. The first twenty of 2012.

When we're doing the pictures, we notice something else - a length of trace wire ending in a swivel and a bit of mono coming out of her scissors.

Back on the mat, the wire disappears ominously down her throat. Rob pulls up the first hook and I turn it out. As I do so, the bait pops clean out with the second treble.

She looks fine as we put her back, disappearing back into the depths with a lazy flick of her tail. The bait on the second trace is a fresh-looking bluey, the rig looks well-made. I wonder if the other angler broke off on the strike, or even on the cast in the same swim or somewhere nearby yesterday.

Either way, it's this girl's lucky day, as we rid her of someone else's handiwork. After she's gone, we find a large half herring in the net. That's one of mine, says Rob, examining the slashes he carved in its flanks. I was down here Sunday, I threw it in when I was packing up.

I say we ought to weigh the herring, to add a few more ounces. I stick it on a rod and lob it out instead. But add two ounces for my dodgy Avons and it's 23lbs 2oz, I remind myself.

Buzzards wheel overhead after I re-cast and wonder if we'll get another. It's 18C by what would have been lunchtime, if I'd remembered to bring the food.

Rob disappears off to work just after 3pm. The joys of being self-employed. The afternoon blurs by without another run, apart from a few bobs of the float when a crab shreds the bait, neatly peeling the skin off one side of the mackerel.

Strange how a single fish can re-kindle your enthusiasm and leave you itching to get out there again.

Click here for more twenties from the Fens, NB work in progress...

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