Stroudwater Canal, Monday 18th April 2011
A phone call yesterday had me heading off to the garden centre to pick up a few parts we'd ordered for the pond. With the canal only a mile or so further away and the day so sunny and warm I decided to stick a rod and net in the car hoping to see a chub or two basking amongst the lillies. A small rucksack containing camera and bait followed and with all the necessary bits and bobs of tackle in the pockets of my jacket I was soon on my way. Arriving at the canal at about 3pm I was soon sneaking about trying to spot fish but without result.
Rather than head home I decided to have a couple of casts nonetheless, heading down to a spot where a section of willow had split over winter and was now providing a nice piece of cover where it lay partially submerged in the canal. Rigging up my trusty John Wilson Avon in quivertip mode with 6lb line I attached a hooklength of 4lb Drennan Double Strength terminating in a size 10, intending to fish a juicy lobworm and breadflake cocktail and hoping for a few bites from perch or bream. A free-running open-end feeder stuffed with liquidised bread completed the rig and my first cast plopped in tight to the edge of the trailing branches a few yards away. I sat back in the dappled shade of the willow above me, basking in the warmth of a glorious spring day, twitching the rig a couple of inches every so often in an effort to tease a perch into biting. Reeling in a twig after half an hour or so I chose to make my next cast into the shallower water on the far side of the canal close to some emerging rushes a few yards upstream of where a small patch of bubbles was evident. Possibly a bream or two grubbing around I thought to myself.......
The bait had been in the water for less than ten minutes when the tip tapped gently.. "Oooo a bite!" I said to myself, envisaging a bream with a taste for a cocktail or a small perch having a peck at the worm's tail. A moment later the tip walloped round and just kept going... Lifting into the fish the rod hooped over and a brassy flank rolled on the surface before the hooked fish steamed off unstoppably downstream. Fumbling for the drag I flicked the reel's anti-reverse off instead getting a sharp rap on the knuckles as the handle span in a blur..."Hmmm, no bream this.....!"
Still the fish charged on, taking twenty yards of line before I really knew what was happening, fortunately staying parallel to the far bank and not bolting towards me and into the willowy snags. I had no choice but to run after it, gathering up the net under one arm as I did so, desperately trying to keep the line up and over the sunken tree on the near bank but to no avail. A dry branch got in the way, preventing me from continuing the chase and nodding mockingly at me as the fish kept running while I tried to free the line.
Lunging at full stretch with the net, I attempted to knock the rotten branch off the tree but the net was short by a tantalizing few inches. The only option was to balance gingerly on the fallen trunk over the deep water in a last ditch effort.... Success! The line pinged free after several long minutes and the chase was on once again, my heart thumping at the knowledge that the mystery fish was still on! Could it be one of those massive chub perhaps, or possibly even a carp? I caught up with it only to find that it had ploughed into the near-bank rushes, the feeder heavily entangled in the rotten stems. Once again I had to poke about with the net at full stretch, "Why, oh, why, is a net always a fraction too short when you really need it?!...."
Resigning myself to the fact that the fish was off I dropped the rod when I eventually managed to get the rushes shrouding the feeder to hand, and began removing them. Seeing that the lobworm was amongst the tangle I assumed the hook was there too, then realized that the bait and feeder had flown up the line as it got caught up. The feeder pinged from my grasp as a large boil broke the surface ten yards away. The fish had been taking a well earned breather but was still on! Scooping up the rod and net once more I moved to an opening in the vegetation where the fish could be landed without too much trouble. Catching my first proper look at the beast from the deep I realized it was a nice common carp.... Possibly even a double.... Careful now....
All I could think of was that the 4lb hooklength had no doubt seen some punishment over the last quarter of an hour, so I played the fish as carefully as possible. By now the carp was content to circle about on the surface with a defiant rush for the depths when I showed it the net. My first chance to net it failed - the mesh having picked up lots of large burrs as I chased through the foliage was effectively velcroed together - and the carp slid off with a powerful kick of its tail. The clutch complained as I tried to unstick the net with one hand and one foot but I sorted it after a brief struggle. Raising the rod I tried to draw the fish to the net, paying out line against the clutch as I did so. A roughness ran between finger and thumb and I looked down to see a horribly frayed section of line.... "Please hold.... please hold...."
Finally my prize slipped into the net, fighting all the way. I dropped the rod and hefted it onto the bank elated. After over half an hour of heart-stopping action (or to the casual observer half an hour of something resembling a Norman Wisdom film...) an immaculate common of 10lb 9oz was before me. After giving him a well deserved rest in the net I took a few pictures before releasing the beauty, with him getting the last laugh as a powerful sweep of his tail sent a large splash all over me. Grinning from ear to ear I wondered just how far that fish had charged so paced down the bank from where I hooked it to where I'd finally managed to land it nearly 60 metres away. With the line so badly damaged there was no way I was going to have another cast so gathered up my things and set off homeward very chuffed indeed. What a result for two casts in an hour's fishing!