This week I've been driving around the Hertfordshire countryside with the hope of finding some good free fishing on the River Lea. It's become quite difficult these days with most of the good stretches now controlled by clubs or on private estates. I'd hoped for a barbel but the temperatures were not conducive to much action other than perhaps chub.My ghillie for the day was work colleague Mike who knows the river quite well, he's often to be found peering over a bridge, and works on the basis that the river is free to fish unless told otherwise. By using this approach along with a bit of blagger's charm he has been allowed legal access to fish on areas otherwise closed to the public, sometimes for a small daily fee.
A roaming (by car) approach will always throw open unplanned opportunities.
The car came to a halt on a roadside verge, cars whistling by, I hardly dare open the door.
Peering through the hawthorned hedgerow Mike proclaimed it to be 'one rod only' such was the density of the undergrowth.
Risking a whack from a wing mirror we scurried along the roadside to a hole in the hedge and entered the aforesaid jungle.
The river Lea, a true babbling brook at this point flowed right to left some twenty yards ahead.
Having stealthily trodden our way through gripping dead nettles and bramble we eventually made bankside, the water with some colour and pace before us.
Upstream of us lay a bend, the inside of which was laden with a myriad of snags, the home of a fish or two we thought. The inside of the bend was on the opposite bank and with access to the bend impossible from our side Mike decided to wade accross for a recce.
Sometime later he beckoned for me to join him,. Now, although I was wearing waders I have to admit the thought of traversing the torrent filled me with some trepidation, mainly due to a run-in with a barbed wire fence earlier in the day..It was time to see if the waders leaked. Oh well, in I went, crossed rapidly and stayed dry.
Mike explained that he'd spotted three barbel-like fish under the snags, with this in mind we formulated a little plan.
Arriving directly upstream of the snaggy area, I tackled up the rod with a heavy-ish drilled bullet. We had been using a couple of BB shot earlier in the day to roll the bait but I'd decided that this swim needed a slower bait that would eventually settle under the overhanging branches.
A can of that wonderful stuff SPAM was opened and irregularly cut up. We spent time drinking tea and eating a nice slice of Genoa cake whilst randomly flicking chunks of meat into the current before us, watching them slide under the branches downstream until it was deemed time for the cast.
The rod whacked around almost immediatly and I struck and held the rod back, keeping the fish away from the branches and roots.
It has to be said that the rod performed admirably, as did the Mitchell 300 attached to it. I didn't give the fish an inch of line as it tried for freedom in the flow and after a short but spirited battle it approached the waiting net.
Here he is then, the fruit of our labours.........
A modest, but handsome chub. Not the anticipated barbel but good old Mr. Chevin, one of my favourite species. He's much maligned by many a barbel angler but I often remember, as I will this one, their capture with much fondness and a smile. Unlike the barbel they will often reward you in adverse conditions and make a bad day good.
After all my years as an angler I never tire of the buzz I get when a little plan comes together. With a bit of opportunism and teamwork it's even better. This fish was one of a few we had over the course of the day, Alas, no barbel, maybe too cold. I'll be back. My thanks go to good old Mike.
|A good fellow, if a little eccentric.|