Yet another mild day forecast for the next. A piking session at Clattercote Reservoir planned. And Tesco fishmonger's slab a broad expanse of scrubbed stainless steel on New Years Day. Luckily there's a single pack of sardines hiding amongst the smoked haddock and Vietnamese river cobbler in the reduced rack, and besides, I'll take along a few worms. Should the sardines prove a bad bet, then I'll wangle fresh baits.
But I find Mark Wintle extolling the roach potential of this venue on Fishing Magic forum. Apparently it holds fish well into the two pound bracket and the average stamp is high. The venue record stands at 2lb 10oz according to the Canal & River Trust and given the size of the venue it seems more than plausible. Too much information for me to ignore. I think I'll grab a pint of caster on the way down.
It's painfully low. All the pictures I'd seen beforehand had shown water lapping at the boardwalks but today there's bivvies pitched on the beach below and just a few feet of water out front where I'd planned to float fish. However, there's plenty of depth to be found off the rocky dam...
Martin nabs an ideal peg for fishing two pike rods. Certainly the one I'd race to if I were about to do the same. Setting up to his right, the depths found by the ledgered sardine sleeper are surprising. The line enters the water at near 45 degrees for a shortish lob out and I have plenty of depth to work close up with caster. But I find myself snagging rocks too often for comfort. So I move around to easier prospects within shouting distance.
Seems a good bet. Four feet of water and a nice clean shelving bed. Very occasionally I'm spotting lazily rolling fish between our positions. Certainly not carp. I fancy they might be large roach. These signs occur always along a line two rod lengths out from the dam. No further, no nearer. And one occurs just a few yards to my right. That's where I concentrate.
Martin scores a small pike in the morning. Looks like it might prove a good day for runs. Perhaps one of those twenty-pounders we've heard about will trip up later...
However, by mid-afternoon further runs have not come and it's looking grim on the pike front. As for the roach front, well, I'm certain that every free offering I've chucked about the float still sits on the bed ignored. And so I decide that I must go tough it out on the rocks and fish right in the middle of the line of signs I've seen and where they were most frequent.
As the light begins to fall, finally I have a bite and reel in a very small roach. Martin steals it, holds it in his capacious net, and rigs up a live bait rod. Of course, I think my roach sport is about to begin. So I change the shotting to fish more actively on the drop rather than motionless on the deck. It doesn't quite happen, though an hour later I do get another equally tiny blade. It's desperate stuff!
But then a fish rolls nearby and I spot it clearly. A good sized tench...
Perhaps it was them all along, eh?
There's a dilemma. Should I consider tying a larger hook straight to the four pound mainline? This size 18 will hold a tench of any size should it find a good hold but the 2lb hooklink will struggle should one take the bait.
I don't bother now that I'm catching small roach regularly and thinking large ones may turn up around dusk...
And what's the chance of tench feeding early January?
Martin comes over and sits behind. A fish rolls in the swim. Down low all I see is the swirl but up high he spots it clearly. It's another tench.
Of course the next bite comes and I hit what I initially think to be the good roach I've fished all day for. But that's what you get for expecting. For a few brief seconds there's the illusory sensation of just the right kind of middling weight without any great power driving it, but then things do get heavyweight. There's a very strong lunge for the deeps when I know I have tench problems on my hands. But the hook didn't set well. Off it comes.
Oh dear. I can barely see the float by now. It's too dark to be fiddling about changing hook. But I just know that the next bite will come soon enough and it likely won't be from roach! And sure enough, when it's so very dark that the float is seen better by looking slightly askance rather than directly at it, away it slides and a risky bout commences.
I think I stand half a chance. So does Martin. "Keep the rod high and the line vertical!". He's right. The nearer fish comes the greater the risk of disaster. These rocks are 45 degrees of trouble. Nevertheless, the fight is dour, uneventful, and well-controlled despite the light tackle. Well. It is till the fish finally comes up in the water and the float emerges, when, it suddenly decides enough is enough, stops pussyfooting about, and charges back down to deep water and the safety of the bed...
Where the hook-link breaks three or four inches above the knot, and we part company.
Ah well. Eel at Christmas. New Year tench...
Caught unexpecting again!