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Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

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Published by BobRoberts
An extract from Martin Bowler's excellent book, A fish For All Seasons, published with the permission of Cliff Moulder at Mpress. The book is available from Calm Productions: http://www.calmproductions.com/acatalog/afishforall.html
An extract from Martin Bowler's excellent book, A fish For All Seasons, published with the permission of Cliff Moulder at Mpress. The book is available from Calm Productions: http://www.calmproductions.com/acatalog/afishforall.html

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Published by: BobRoberts on Dec 13, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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With the beginning of a new millennium so came abig change in my own life. Bedfordshire, the countyI had grown up in and been rewarded by withcountless big fish, would be left behind as I headedwest to the Wiltshire town of Chippenham. It’s funnyhow fate changes your life. Never before had thisarea been of any interest to me, but with a new pagein the book turned, my wife Jo and I set up hometogether, and somewhat predictably I started makingenquiries about the local fishing! For the first time Iwould live close to a river; but what did the BristolAvon have in store for me?
Camera: Canon EOS 40D - Shutter Speed: 1/2700 sec - F-Stop: f/4.0 - ISO: 400 - Location: Dauntsey Vale
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Rising near Chipping Sodbury, in Gloucestershire, theAvon begins life as two streams before merging nearMalmesbury. From this point on, continually energizedby tributaries like the Marden and Frome, its pacequickens as it winds through a captivating West Countrylandscape. Broad-leaved woodlands, hay meadows andpastures, the river passes them all but this single burnreally captured my imagination when its path throughthe Dauntsey Vale reached the outskirts of my newChippenham home. Barbel, and lots of them,proliferated in many stretches and despite their topweight falling a little short of their southern competitors,doubles were without doubt thick on the ground. CueStuart Morgan, a fellow barbel enthusiast of somerepute and a local expert, who kindly took the time toshow me the delights of Lacock, Avoncliffe and LimpleyStoke, to name but a few stretches, giving me what I hadnever had before – barbel on tap.A boom in interest for the species was also kicking intotop gear throughout the nation at this time and bycombining ideas with Stuart during this period, we reallydid ride the crest of the wave. Floodwater fishing was inits infancy and while most anglers stayed at home duringthe worst the winter had to offer, we loved it. Coffee-coloured water breaking through the river’s confines andsaturating surrounding fields was our signal to catchbarbel, regardless of how hard it was raining. The tackleto cope with such conditions was no longer woefullyinadequate Avon rods, but stout 2lb test curve modelscapable of hurling 6oz sea leads. Fifteen-pound line andstrong carp hooks were also the order of the day as weenjoyed a huge amount of success and fun, for I find fewthings more exhilarating than a savage battle while waist-deep in waterThe river didn’t contain a large quantity of fish over 12lbs,so this target was always the aim and, once I managed tolure a fish over 13lbs, the odds on catching a 14lbspecimen got even longer. I was confident, though, that if I ever had the good fortune for one to cross my path Ihad bait and rigs at my disposal good enough to fool it!Three days of mild, south-westerly winds accompanied byclouds laden with rain made me smile, even if theweatherman looked gloomy at his own forecast. Initially,the river being spate in nature would rise dramatically,bringing with it all manner of debris before settling downover a day and becoming perfect for catching barbel.The following morning, a first glimpse of the riverconfirmed this prognosis with more froth than youwould find on a cappuccino. A wall of water fought tostay within its own banks.
On my doorstep.
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The Avon awaits.
Surface side it may not have looked a good propositionto get a bite from, but I had learned not to judge a bookby its cover; down below, barbel would be on the prowl.If I could locate a fish in this maelstrom I knew a bitewould follow, so mobility was the key to success. It wascrucial that I kept on prodding the River Avon throughoutthe session along a series of stretches.With such a mindset, I carried only a small rucksack,lightweight chair, a single rod, and the obligatory landingnet as I squelched through deep puddles and muddygateways, regularly becoming stuck in the cattle-fuelledswamps before I eventually overcame the obstaclecourse and reached my destination.The river before me had to be assessed first, as surfaceflow patterns can be a giveaway to a barbel’s lair. Bywatching carefully as rubbish was pushed along in theflow, I could discount many spots, for if it backed up onitself I felt no fish would want to live in a washingmachine. I continued my meander as the cloudsgathered above my head and once again dispatchedtheir contents, forcing me to pull up my hood, wipedroplets from my glasses and consider my sanity. Ipushed on until a sharp right-hand bend kicked the flowacross to the far bank, creating a distinctive crease downthe centre, which formed a lovely, smooth, glass-likeglide. It was here that the quest would begin.I cast into the middle of the river where six ounces of leadand a solid ‘donk’ gave me confidence that the hookbaitwas presented correctly, even as the rod tip bent roundimmediately as the line became festooned with weedand all manner of flotsam. The secret here is never torecast until you either want to move, or the lead isphysically shifted by the build-up of pressure. Constantcasting to remove odd strands of debris only serves todisturb and ultimately destroy the swim. So, after half anhour I found myself in the usual position of holding therod with it compressed into a full arc, and unable to put itin a rest as it would have been dragged in.The time for a move was fast approaching, but thisthought was never to be put into practise as the strainsuddenly relented, only to be replaced with somethingtwice as strong. The power of the bite was transmittedto my hands, which duly responded with a strike. Myinitial reaction was to think that a small barbel was theculprit then slowly but steadily the pressure began tomount and to prevent disaster, my clutch was forced toyield line. A heavy weight hugged the bottom,unimpressed by my efforts to tame it, and the mono cutupstream as I applied more tension. Fortunately, thistime it had the desired effect and turned the forcetethered by my rod toward me. Slowly, it began to riseuntil a tail flapped on the surface.
Barbel time.
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Bristol’s best.Keeping mobile.

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