I really should have packed down the roach gear a little earlier in the evening and started the barbel session sooner because by the time I'd dismantled and re-mantled the made up rods from zander ready to barbel ready, with all the tying and threading that operation requires, I'd missed half the prime time around dusk and it was almost dark when both rods were finally cast and the general area ground baited.
Lucy's Mill is a pretty much snag free barbel arena of open water so really heavy tackle is not really necessary, however many of the barbel that do live there are real monsters, sixteen pounders some of them and who knows, some could be bigger still, perhaps? Such fish are not to be taken lightly. I remember on one of my first forays down at the mill going up the back to the trees and taking a leak only to return and find the next angler along has wound in and is standing by my rods. He turns to me and pulling a very stern face, reprimands thus ~
"Don't ever leave your rods to fish for themselves mate, not here, not even for a second. Wind in when you need to answer the call of nature because if you don't, one day you'll lose the lot"
I was warned...!
The cross-stream rod fished a single crabmeal pellet on a hair over a bed of hemp and a handful of pellets whilst the downstream rod fished my new wonder bait over hemp and five or six samples of the same. I'd spent hours in the bait lab creating this delicious morsel out of cubes of luncheon meat marinaded in a special juice. Early pint pot trials were not so successful as the juice just dissipated in a cloud just as soon as it hit the water leaving plain old meat flavoured meat behind, a bait that all barbel love dearly but in such a place as Lucy's Mill where they are fished for constantly, must be wary of.
Molly, the bait lab taste tester, ate all the rejects in her usual way - take a sniff, take the morsel, taste it, chew it, swallow it and then just wolf all following pieces of the same straight down, but would she pass the final product? Well, she didn't like the raw juice at all, so that was not a good sign, but I soldiered on with my experiments and finally found a way to get the meat to soak up the juice so that even when the chunk had been sitting for hours in the pint pot, the meat still smelled and tasted of the juice and not luncheon meat.
A fortnight's soak in a sealed bag in the freezer was what it took to arrive at exactly the required end product...
And Molly passed it with flying colours...!
Surely no self-respecting barbel or carp could resist this?
The glowing tip lights nodded rhythmically against the sodium orange night sky above the apartment block across the water as the restless current washed over the taught lines. I was now occupied with the final stages of tidying up my pitch after the faff of setting up stall, putting the baits in order and squirreling away all the bits and bobs of barbel paraphernalia, and wasn't unduly concerned about the rods, just keeping an eye out, as you do.
I was occupied with putting something or other in its rightful place, and looked up to find the downstream rod crossed over the cross-stream rod with its tip pointing straight at the road bridge, an intermediate ring jammed in the rod rest preventing outright disaster and its butt waving at the full moon over my shoulder!
(An eternal second's pause here, to gather my wits, and . . . )
Holy Mother of God! This fish very nearly pulled me in the water too and was already ripping line off the spool as I grabbed up the bucking rod on a deliberately paced but awesomely weighty initial run toward the sea. It was as if I'd hooked a bloody barge! (and I have before, so I know what that feels like...) I ran downstream after it without the net, a fatal error when alone as you'd have to win the fight and then haul the beaten fish upstream against the current (or perform other equally dicey maneouvres just too scary to contemplate) but as Lee was around and ready to do the honours once the fish was beaten, not a problem tonight.
Anyway I really didn't feel I had a choice...
The change of angle gave me an advantage and as I lessened the strain the fish turned and swam upstream toward me and things suddenly felt a little lighter and less fraught, the crucial first 30 seconds were now past and it was going to be a carefully stage managed slog to the waiting net. The fish began to move around in a determined fashion down deep beneath the fastest water under the concrete bank - I couldn't exactly stop it wherever it went but felt I might be able to lead it. I was about to employ a low rod angle in an effort to have the fish rise in the water and gain the upper hand by upsetting the balance of a streamlined body purpose made for sticking the fish like glue to the riverbed in rapid currents, when it all went horribly slack, and the big fish was gone - the hook-hold that had held fast throughout the violent onslaught after the opening bell of the fight had failed during the ground hugging slugging match of the middle rounds.
Ah well, the wonder bait had only been in the water for twenty minutes so they must love it as much as Molly does!
A shame though, it would have earned muchos percentas on the challenge scoreboard as I reckon the fish was one of the Mill's biggest doubles - it certainly was the heaviest and most brutal barbel I've ever had the terror of being attached to.
We fished on for a further hour and a half but despite getting a few knocks and rattles to the pellet rod no more fish were hooked, and lost...