Monday, 16 April 2012

Brace Yourself

Ross Watterson

I am going to share with you a recent venture of mine, which to me, involved hitting the highest of highs and sinking to the lowest of lows, all in a 24 hour period. Ultimately, one prevails over the other, but I will leave you to judge that for yourself.

A two hour drive through torrential rain and snow sees me and my brother Craig having to make new plans as we have just found out the water we intended to fish is severely flooded. A spur of the moment decision and a further two hours driving we have arrived at a huge mass of water and are ready to tackle her. I am going to let you into a little secret of mine, although I am sure many of you have dabbled with it in the past. Prebait, groundbait, call-it-what-you-like-bait. For me and my fishing partners, on more than one occasion, we have had some of our best weekends fishing results whilst the swim has been littered with fish guts, oils, groundbait mix, hempseed and all sorts of fishy arrangements.

So with six rods cast out into the swim on first arrival, Craigo sets about making up the groundbait mix. We have tried doing this in several different ways, but the way it was made this time was by using mashed up fish (old dead baits and cheap sardines), a bag of groundbait mix. A tin of hempseed was added to hopefully attract the masses of perch shoals on this particular water. All of these ingredients were well mixed together to form a paste, then compressed into tight balls around the size of a tennis ball. With twenty or so of these thrown from the left side of the swim to the far right side of the swim, it was time to get the kettle on.

An hour passes and my right hand rod has a run, resulting in a 14.08 fish, a very short specimen, but fat as you like, with vivid markings. A good start. One hour later, as a strong westerly wind begins to pick up pace, my mackerel baited rod on the left side of the swim screams off to indicate a flying run. Picking up the rod and feathering line from the open bail arm, I click it over, tighten up and strike. All hell breaks loose as the rod is bent double with line pouring from the clutch. After taking what must have been twenty yards or so, I start to gain line back, inch by inch, with the fish travelling to the right side of the swim. After another powerful run, once again successful in turning her, she was within twenty yards of the waiting net. What happened next I will never forget so long as I live. The solid lump on the end of the line makes a run for it, full body exiting the water with a thrash of her massive head, and again, she does the same. This time she was successful in shaking the hooks free. The silence was sickening. Head in hands I slump to the ground, devastated. Craigo breaks the silence by urging me to get the bait back out there and settle the score. With the wind well and truly knocked from my sail, I rebait another half mackerel and trudge back off to the bivvy.

A very eerie hour passes with not a lot of conversation; until my right hand rod registers some action, with the swinger dropping back an inch. By this time the wind has died down drastically, in lifting the rod I feel there is something taking an interest in the trout bait. There was nothing spectacular about the fight, thankfully she behaved well and I breathed a sigh of relief to watch a nice double slip over the cord of the net. Weighing 17.12, she definitely lifted my spirits and I just about managed to crack a smile.
Two O'clock arrives, with the strong westerly still in tow and we were discussing how this should be breaking up the balls of groundbait just nicely.

 Fifteen minutes later and my left hand rod, which I had lost the fish on earlier, tears off to the over exaggerated sound of a delkim. I must admit, I was slightly nervous, the vivid memory of the lost fish still fresh in my mind. Striking into the run was intense, again a full curve was taken on as mass of weight decided it was time to move. Heart pounding, I gained line back gradually, with the fish a mere 20 yards from my anxious self and a huge boil on the surface soon appeared. I was not going to lose this fish. At that point, my receiver went off and a quick check told me I had a run on the far right rod. Craigo hurried down and struck into it, to find it had been missed......good !. I was relieved as my fish was edging closer and closer. I would be lying if I said I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw her sink over the cord, I was ecstatic. She was a good 'un! I decided to unhook her in the net as she was lightly hooked. Just as the second treble was removed from the scissors, my far left hand rod, just a few yards away screamed off with a run. Craigo sets the net up in the water with a couple of bank sticks, then makes up the spare net to come over and see me hooked into another lump of a fish. My legs turn to jelly as she inches closer to the net. After what felt like an eternity, but was no more than a couple of minutes, I burst into pure emotion. "YES! Craigo, that’s a brace of ferkin twenties", as another specimen slipped into the net !.

I was overwhelmed to say the least and took a couple of seconds before taking the fish to the mat to be  unhooked. This fish was obviously smaller than the one waiting in the net, and we weighed her before setting her in the net next to her big sister. 22.09 she weighed. Taking the first capture of the brace from the net, I proceeded to weigh her, and you couldn't have seen a happier person when the scales zipped round and settled at 24.10lbs. I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Now, while doing the photos, you may notice the brown substance down my left trouser leg, and although I will forgive you for mistaking this for something else, this is in fact the groundbait, which both fish were evidently feeding on, given away by the hemp seeds which were part of the mix.

 An outstanding result and another reason for being confident that our groundbait technique was effective.

The next couple of hours were spent reminiscing of the good fortune that had come our way; until Craigo pointed out that he was yet to register a run. Now Craigo has been fishing with me as long as I've been fishing, and although I've had some excellent results, Craig has yet to register his first twenty, and I had to reassure him several times that afternoon that his time will come.

As we progress from daylight to darkness, a flurry of snow is making its presence felt, until everything around us has been blanketed in a white sheet. With the sky turning clear the view is stunning, but the scenery soon takes a back seat as the sound of my brother's alarm has us on our feet in no time. After a short tussle a plump fourteen pounder is unhooked and released. This puts a smile on Craig’s face and he regains a bit of confidence after being Gillie for a day!

We were discussing how he always seems to get the night time fish, when no more than fifteen minutes after returning the fourteen, his middle rod lets rip with an unstoppable run. I take the net as Craig lifts his rod and strikes into the darkness. With the headlight on the rod, I see it’s got a healthy bend in it as Craig battles to get some line back. A few minutes pass as the fish is now within fifteen yards of the net and she makes a couple of slow yet powerful runs as she enters the shallows. With the torch light shining on her long flank, she reluctantly drops to the right side of the net. As I bring the net in and get a good look at her, I hold my hand out to my nervous, smiling brother. "Congrats on your first twenty bud." His face is glowing as he tells me not to get carried away. Unhooked and placed into the sling it was the moment of truth. Eight ounces over the magic mark and to see the sheer delight on someones face is heart warming. Although, from the photo you would think he was more shocked than anything else!

This was our red letter day, two fourteens, a seventeen, a brace of twenties and a new twenty pb, all within a 13 hour window. The thought of what was lost early on in the session was put firmly to the back of my mind as we toasted the latest success.

While on the phone to a good mate, to tell him of the new pbs, my right hand rod, just a couple of yards from where we were stood let out a single beep, shortly followed by the bobbin falling off and line slowly trickling from the open bail arm. On picking up the rod, I feel for some movement before clicking over and winding down. Striking into this fish was something else, as the rod arched back, it was literally pulled back twice as hard, taking me very much by surprise. With the fish around 50 yards out in the pitch black, the slight ripple on the water came to life as I felt a violent head shake followed by the thrashing on the surface as she leapt clear. At this moment, de-ja-va struck as she went for a second tail walk, resulting in the same scenario just hours earlier. All was slack. The same feeling of anguish draped over me as had done before.

Morning was soon upon us both and we felt no need to hang around, all the gear was packed up and we began the journey home. Unlike most sessions, when we try to squeeze in that extra hour or two here and there, we felt content in leaving, knowing what we achieved which  by our standards was exceptional and would stay with us for as long as we are able to remember.

I wrote this piece to hopefully give some inspiration to one or two of you reading this. I am not a known angler, or a big fish angler, just your average Joe Blogs with a fascination, determination and a burning passion to catch that next pike, whatever size it may be slip over the cord and into the net.

The day I don't smile when this happens, will be the day I hang up the rods.

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