Ever had something stuck in your mind, like the annoying first song your hear on the radio in the morning that you whistle all day? I for one am quite prone to getting images stuck in my head. Like the time a few years ago when I saw a pure white Koi swimming along the upper Avon. That fish was my white whale. Like Ahab I became a little preoccupied with the thought of catching it. Which I never did! But at least it never dragged me to my death as the whale did old Ahab.
The little weir pool hooked me when I cast into it. In all the years I have peered into it, I never thought it could hold so many wondrous fish. In only two or more hours it's secrets bewitched me. If catching those little tench was not enough to do so, what I saw definitely was, and may well become, my new white whale.
Along with a pair of small carp and an odd bream, I spied a big tench. Now the carp were by my estimation maybe 5-8lb, although carp weights can be hard to truly assess. Rock hard running water carp will weigh more than a flabby commercial cyprinus any day, but these looked around that weight. The tench I saw with them had a quarter more length, but was no where near as rotund. At a guess I suspected it may of been a five pounder, but the constant mulling of my mind had me pondering the possibility of a larger weight.
I had no choice, I had to go back. So even with a myriad of other possible angling scenarios that I could have embarked on this bank holiday weekend. My heart wanted the little weir pool.
This time I had kit more akin to winkling winter chub, and also I had enough worms to last the entire day when I stepped into the wood and followed the trail round to the head of the weir pool.
Looking into the water through polarised eyes, I could not see so much as a tiny roach in the early light. But sometimes it's better not to see your quarry, as there's less distraction that way.
I wanted to get some bait down and try and focus the fish into the one deep area at the centre of the run, but this had to be very subtle. So I began to sprinkle red maggots into the run ten at a time and held off casting for the first half an hour so as not to disturb the occupants. After only half that time I was desperate to make a cast and had to remind myself to hold fast.
Eventually the time came, and rather than trot a float down I flicked out a tiny link ledger with only two swan shot as weight. It barely made a sound as it broke the surface and only enabled me to just hold tension on the line in the flow. The first taker of my lobworm obliged immediately. My seventh mini tench from the weir pool was the first and two more followed before the forth strike hit something very solid. In moment of sheer madness a much bigger tench rolled in the centre of the pool and freed itself from my hook instantly.
I had to calm myself as I sat firing more maggots into the run waiting for the tiny swim to settle down. That fish looked about big enough to be the one I had seen, and I had just lost it! Again I swung the rig out and settled back to see what effects this short lived fight had had on the swim.
A tremble of the rod tip followed by a hoop and again I hit something solid. This fish bored deep towards the reeds at the end of the run. But low hard pressure turned it around and it then charged across the swim towards me. I saw it shaking its head under my feet angry as hell at being hooked. Time and time again it ploughed around the pool but my resolve held and a decent tench was in the net.
I was sure this was not this fish I had seen originally. Not massive, but fighting even this three pound fish in the a tiny pool no bigger than your average car is a nerve racking pass time.
After this a string of small perch preempted a second coming by the micro tench brigade, and my tally of tinica reached twelve. The sheer amount of tench trapped in this pool was unreal and more was still to come, and not by way of a leviathan either. To the left of the pool is a shallow sandy bar where the the flow bends slightly with the natural curvature of the river and the pressure dissipates. Quite often shoals of roach or rudd are seen passing over it. Today the shoal looked different for some reason. Both roach and rudd in this clear pool have bright red fins and this can be clearly seen in the gin water; these fish however were very dull and moved in absolute pure unison. After reeling in my rod, I crept right into the thicket to try and get a closer look. Peeping from between the grass I could see exactly what the were; twenty to thirty tiny, finger long tench. Although it is perfectly feasible that as surface dwelling fry they may have washed over the weir I was beginning to suspect that maybe they were pool bred. This place was beginning to blow my mind.
What happened next was a proper shock. After sitting on a cast for an age, I received a couple of slow taps on the rod tip then nothing. Thinking I had been cleared out I lifted the rod to re bait and found myself snagged solid. I had ether cast over an unseen branch or a small perch had probably dragged my bait into one. All I could do at this point was pull for the break. After locking down the clutch I walked slowly backwards shielding my face with my had in case a couple of flying swan shot should crack me upside the head. I was expecting a snap when I suddenly felt the dull slow movement of whatever I was attached to moving. Then something kicked and I was fighting a fish. Straight away the fight gave its identity away. It was an eel, and a strong one at that. As eels go this one was almost well behaved and just tried to swim backwards for a few minutes before I slipped it into the net, where it promptly went absolutely insane. Luckily the hook was right in the corner of its mouth and a quick twist from a pair of forceps had it unhooked. It wasn't a huge but still weighed in at 2.5lb. But importantly it was the right sort of eel... Anyone who has ever read anything about eels know there are two different head types found on our native eels. The first is the narrow snout and small mouthed type which feed predominately on invertebrates. But this was the other wide mouthed variety. Which are mainly predatory fish eaters, and are most associated with becoming big snigs.
This was definately going back in the lake, hopefully trapped there for forty years or so, growing massive, hidden in the weeds eating passing roach.
My patience was about to truly be tested when a small jack pike moved into the swim scaring off every other resident and proceeding to grab every worm I cast in. Twice I hooked it and twice its surging fight and sharp teeth bit me off. The third time it was not so lucky and I hooked it right in the scissors. This jacks days lording it over the little weir pool were over. Up it went to the lake were it would suddenly be a small fish in a big pond.
A few more small perch and the forty lob worms I had taken were gone. My feeble attempts at fishing a Medusa's head of maggots on the hook just attracted all the little silvers, who where having a party since the pike had been relocated. Roach, rudd, skimmers and some hybrids that were an combination of the three, battered my bait senseless.
Had I more worms I would have stopped on indefinitely. But trying to hook small stuff on a tip would drive anyone mad. But as I packed away I did realise that I had landed seven species from a swim no bigger than a snooker table and carried on with my re population of the lake with small tench to boot.
Then just before I left I spotted the two resident carp doing there rounds around the pool followed by not only the one big tench but two. The carp carried on off along their route but the two tench stopped side by side on the bottom facing me. I could see there yellow down turned mouths clear as day as they just sat there mocking me as I had literally no bait to cast at them.
Sadly at this point my relationship with the lake must go on hold. I have had an amazing time being monogamous with this fickle water, and the things I seen have been nothing less than revelations. No matter what anyone says about the state of the fish populations, I have seen with my own eyes what lies beneath the surface and held some of them in my hands. But for now my neglect of the Avon weighs heavy and the babbling water calls to me. So the next month or so will be spent sitting on its banks with hope that a barbel and a few zander will come my way.
I cannot rule out the odd session back on the lake here or there, although for now I keep telling myself I won't be back until the green leaves of the trees turn a hundred shades of Autumn