It is New Years Day; I have avoided a monstrous hangover and, following a quick breakfast and an even quicker search for an errant landing net handle I head for the river to meet up with Trueman.
We pick our pegs and prepare for the first session of the new year. I faff around and it is Trueman who is the first to wet his line, and he is the first to catch: a scrappy grayling. I finally begin fishing and manage a few grayling myself before the bites dry up. Trueman is in a similar position. A quick move is in order. We duly move, and we are soon catching again, but the bites, like the daylight, have ebbed away. We pack up and go our separate ways.
The river is up. The water is cold, and brown. I catch a few grayling. My landing net freezes to the floor.
We can`t fish…and then we can.
The fishing ban has been lifted – more splendid work from the Angling Trust. River conditions are not good but I have the strange notion that I will catch a big chub so I make the effort despite the snow, ice and mud. It was a dry-net day. I managed a minnow and a dace when I changed bait, but neither required netting.
The bankwork scheduled for the previous day had been cancelled due to flooding. The river dropped three feet overnight so we met at the Sewage Works to do a bit of digging, and pruning.
I have a day off. There is snow on the ground, the river is still high and the chances of catching are slim. I head to the Sewage Works. The plan is to peg hop, fish a few likely looking spots, haul out some big fish. I have a tub of lobworms, I can`t fail.
I didn`t see another human all day, but I was not alone. I had seen pawprints in the mud, and snow. The beast responsible showed itself shortly after: otter. I moved. Two pegs later the otter reappeared; I moved again.
I sought them here, I sought them there, I sought them bleedin` everywhere, but nary a fish showed up.
I fished one last peg. Ten minutes later the otter popped up right in front of me. If it was just one otter it had followed me over 600 yards of riverbank, and had appeared in three different swims I fished. I wish it hadn`t.
A spot of spade wielding: the path at the Sewage Works is done, access is now substantially
Safer. We can`t promise that the fish will bite, but, get down there and have a go.
Brrrr ! Cold, damn cold. I am at GP.
I am still invisible. When he finally sees me I have a quick chat with Mike ( the pre-match favourite ) before he heads off to fish the Sewage Works.
Mother Wharfe is rapidly rolling along. I find a steadyish glide and set up camp.
A cormorant bolts from cover and rapidly departs, it, in turn, disturbs a hidden mink which also leaves. I pause to watch a kingfisher fishing, he does rather well. I then pause again: two teenage girls are trying to get on a rope swing suspended from an oak tree. If they end up in the river it will be a miracle if they get out alive. They see me, and I shake my head and make the universal `throat cutting` gesture. They see sense, and depart. Whether they heeded my advice or were just scared of the strange man on the far bank I`ll never know, either way, nobody drowned today.
The fishing was slow. I finally found a fish, enjoyed a wraparound bite and lifted into… nothing. I then endured a lengthy visit from a swan. I fished on. At last: the tip trembles and then bends a bit before I strike. It`s a real, live fish, and about time too - a small grayling, and it is soon joined by another slightly larger one. The tip jags right around, the surface of the river erupts, and the fish is gone.
Catching three minnows does not improve my demeanour, but then a nice, big gling comes along, and the world is a better place. My toes are frozen, so I begin to pack up. I am on my third `last cast` when the tip flies to my right, something is pulling hard but not taking line. I have a good scrap with what turns out to be a sea trout just shy of 4 lb.
Anglings positive impact on mental wellbeing is becoming well recognised, but, to choose to go fishing on this bitterly cold Sunday must raise concerns about the participating anglers mental wellbeing in the first place. Crabtree reckons I`m a `sandwich short` as it is, on today’s evidence he may have a valid point.
I really enjoyed two of the three hours I spent by the river even though the rewards were scant this afternoon. The last hour proved to be an unpleasant ( losing ) battle against my cold toes.
I packed up my gear just as another angler arrived. It was Napoleon Pottymouth. He let loose with his usual broadside of sweary bants, and bemoaned his luck – he had been bankside since 9 a.m.
( when it was -4 C ) and had had one grayling all day ( therefore, he must be dafter than me ! ). So, a paltry four gling and a brace of minnows were all we could muster between us. He caught his on a feeder, I caught mine on stickfloat; when I tried the feeder all I caught was minnows.
We chatted for a while longer and then went our separate ways. A tough day.
Atrocious conditions were the norm for January – a flooded river, snow, and plunging temperatures were to be endured by those ( fool ) hardy enough to pursue their angling passion – I`ll be surprised if February is any better.