I'd loaded the car in warm silence and began my 25 mile journey to the River Lea.
In 1617 the Inn in the area I was to fish owned 119 acres of land,. It was a favourite angling resort and Izaak Walton himself is reputed to have stayed and fished there. I wondered if he had reached the fishery gates before 5am as I had.
Having met up with friend and colleague Mike en route, we were surprised not to be the first there. The alleged best two swims had already been bagged.
Settling down in my chosen swim, I slowly set up my Sealey Octofloat De-Luxe and Speedia for long-trotting. The water came fast through a bottle neck upstream with messy water and had gouged a deeper gully under the far bank trees. Downstream was even and slower.
Mainline was 6lb Drennan Float Fish and hooklink was 5lb Guru N-Gauge to size 16 Super Specialist, with traditional avon style float .Bait was to be double white gentles, though I also had hemp,casters and soft pellet.
The swim was fed little and often whilst setting up and with one pinch of hemp catapulted upstream before the cast we were now ready.
Within a couple of seconds the float was under and the newly revived Sealey was re-christened with a fine dace.
I love the way one can learn about a river pool by searching it out with a trotted float, those hang ups, those unseen current changes, it really is the most pure form of our pastime. That familiarity one develops allows the manoevring of the float to be developed and honed as the day goes on, it's real thinking angling.
The next few fish to come to hand were chublets, little pristine scrappers.
There were also roach, wonderful chunky roach. I will definitely be back to specifically target them later in the year.
So, with the feed going in little and often the bites were coming at a steady rate. I decided to experiment with the set-up, deepening up so that the bottom shot was dragging the river bed.
Down the stream the float bobbed, slower and seemingly unnatural, but it produced something lovely, something that brought the biggest of smiles to my face.......
....Now THAT is a gudgeon, a true monster....I love them.
It was shortly after this that Mike arrived in my swim. He was fishing in the next swim down from me and as etiquette dictates he asked if I would mind if he cast his feeder to an upstream feature, apparently a known holding area for barbel.
I answered that the spot was only a couple of metres from the end of my trot and that the chances were that it would kill my sport. He understood and said he would try further upstream.
Now, with Mike vacating the downstream swim he had, of course, made things better for me.
I decided to up my feed and was soon into a larger unseen fish which I guessed was a chub, unfortunately the hook pulled.
On recasting I immediately hooked a harder fighting fish which led me a merry old dance with surging runs downstream. Eventually it was close enough to see that I had foul hooked a barbel. Knowing that they are rarely alone I fed hemp and caster as I played the fish, inevitably the hook came out and the fish was free. A foul hooked fish is not a sporting catch so I wasn't at all disappointed. With the next cast the feeding payed off as I was into another fighting fish. This one was hooked fair and square and duly banked, my first Lea barbel...small but perfectly formed and great fun on the cane and pin.
The fishery is busy and other anglers had arrived. Fishing is from numbered swim only and it was just a matter of time before someone settled in to the swim below. I had just got the barbel in my swim when a large feeder sploshed just down from my killing zone. Yes, this fellow knew of that spot too, but lacked Mikes manners.
He had a barbel almost immediately. It had proved Mike's hunch correct, barbel were to be found there , but it also proved my point also, in that I didn't have another bite.
The Octofloat had proved itself to be a welcome addition to my armoury. Versatile, crisp and didn't feel too heavy in hand.
It was time to up sticks and find Mike.
Some distance upstream he'd also landed a small barbel and as there was some decent space between swims here, I dropped downstream of him.
I made the decision to fish a hair rigged half boilie on a size 12 Drennan hook and my usual small river running drilled bullet rig. All this with my B.James Mk IV and I opted to still use the pin, even though I had brought a Mitchell 300 along.
That reedline shade just had to harbour fish and I opted to fish nearside with fourteen half-boilies as free offerings around the hookbait.
It was just a case then of sitting back in the dappled shade and pouring myself a cup of Twinings Afternoon Tea.
On striking, my first thoughts leant towards a quality barbel, but barbel are eventually controlled. This fish had gone out of sight. I stretched the rod out over the water and gave it some welly. Slowly, very slowly it came towards me, intermittently diving head first into the reeds as it came. The old Mk IV eventually subdued the species it was designed for.
The little bruiser only had one eye, a proper little character.
It was time to crack open the Lemon Drizzle cake, so having returned the fish I strolled up to Mike's swim to share. Now, within the 'traditional' fishing community there are those that bestow much majesty on the humble cake. Some will tell you that the consumption of certain cakes will help the angler to lure specific species of fish. There are also those that believe it to be flowery claptrap.
Mike hadn't had a bite for over an hour fishing the maggot feeder but knowing about cake theory declared, "I'm bound to catch another barbel now ". I kid you not, the magic was instant, his rod whacking round immediately.
Soon after, I ventured a maggot/hemp feeder myself and had a wonderful couple of hours sport with chub and roach.
There were many last casts, you know, 'just one more', but I strolled back to car thinking that the spirit of old Izaak might have smiled on me. A truly enjoyable day and that gudgeon'll live in the memory for a good while.. I'm still smiling about it now.