The float trembled, dipped, then buried. My strike met with splashy, token resistance. It had been a long time. Too long. In fact, it had been an almost unprecedented 6 weeks since I'd last fished, but now, in the company of other members from the Thurnby Church Anglers club, I was drawing my first fish of the day, a small roach over the net. It felt good to be back.
However, don't be fooled by my delight at being back on the bank, or the enormous enjoyment I, and all the club members, derived from the day. The fishing was hard. Very hard. On a water which on our two previous trips we've almost "emptied", bites and fish were at a premium. With frosts a regular occurrence over the last week, and low water temperatures, feeding appeared not to be featuring too highly on the fish's agenda. The statistics say it all: 12 anglers, 31 fish, 2 blankers and "4 seasons within one day" pretty much tell the story.
This particular trip was "themed", and had been billed the "multi-species challenge", with a prize ( a feather inlaid Ian Lewis handmade waggler float) to be awarded to the angler who caught the most different species of fish on the day. I started briskly, adding a perch to my roach, before catching a bream,my third species of the day. And, that was to be it, for me, until I added a chub in the final few minutes.
Meanwhile, other anglers were beginning to pick up the odd fish, and in the adjacent swim, my son had swung a perch and a gudgeon in on his whip, and was changing to the Method and hair rigged pellets in what turned out to be a bold, but ill-fated effort to persuade the lake's carp to feed.
Over the course of the day, between us all, we managed 7 different species (roach, perch, gudgeon, crucian, tench, bream and chub), but it soon became apparent that chub were- true to form- less loathe to feed in the cold than the other species, and chub outnumbered the other fish caught by some considerable margin. Pete managed 5 chub, and his son Jacob, the club's youngest member, weighed in with 3 nice chub, as well as the day's only crucian, all caught on the Method.
The weather throughout the day was erratic- warm sunshine saw layers of clothing being removed, before rain saw layers being added and umbrellas pitched, and for a brief ten minute period we were even treated to a flurry of snow. Hardcore angling!
A couple of unseasonal tench put in an appearance, one to Graham (the eventual multi-species winner), and one (seen here being returned) to Ben, another of our younger members.
In the last few minutes, my float, which had enjoyed a sedentary and undisturbed last few hours disappeared, and I was playing my final fish (and first chub) of the day to the net, to give me a total of 4 species, and a tie for first place. Greg also managed a last gasp chub after a long period of inactivity.
When time came to "draw stumps", there was a tie at the top of the leader board- both Graham and I had 4 different species each, but as Graham (with a "mighty" 5 fish) had caught one more than me, he was rightly presented with the prize, and crowned "multi species champion."
There could be no doubt that the fishing had been difficult- normally I'd be expecting a bite every few minutes- and had the chub not proved so obliging we would have really struggled. But despite the snow, the changeable weather and the uncharacteristic moodiness of the fish, it had been a wonderful day in the countryside, adorned by the company of robins, a songthrush, reed warblers, a moorhen, chaffinches, a black cap, blue tits and chiff chaffs who all provided an enjoyable visual and musical accompaniment to the day.
I can't wait till next month's trip ....... we might even catch something!