• Agent 99

Hook a Duck

Week 1.


I`m losing track. This, was the final FamilyFish event.

We prepared the ponds for our guests as usual. Sweeping, tidying, setting up whips and rods, a little pre- baiting, checking the platforms etc. All was good until I spotted a wooly iceberg. A ewe boat. A very dead sheep. The event started in 20 minutes, so we had to be quick. The Baron suggested I don a pair of waders, and rope Flossy, then we`d drag her out. Unfortunately the water and mud proved too deep and impassable for me, so the H.M.S. Sutton was launched with Shed 7 at the helm. He rowed to the sheep, put a rope around its maggot infested neck, rowed back. Flossy was then unceremoniously dragged out, attached to the tow-bar of Sheds truck, and dragged to the far corner of the field just as the gate `clanged`, and the first family arrived.

An untimely end for Flossy, and an unusual challenge for us.

Other than that, the event was a great success, as usual.

Many thanks to everyone who gave up their time to help. A great job by all.

Week 2.


Well, it took forever, but I finally got the replacement section for the rod I broke. A quoted “two weeks” became a frustrating four months, but, at last !

To celebrate, I took a walk to GP to trot some maggots, and see what turns up. 4 x 4 stick float, 2 lb line, size 20 barbless, single bronze maggot. What could go wrong ?

Obviously, I caught a minnow on my first run. It, and its many mates were joined by several dace, a chublet or two, and two grayling, before the swim died. The culprit rose to the surface, and swam leisurely around the entirety of the peg – a very big, very bold otter. I can`t be sure if it killed any fish, but it certainly killed my swim. Hometime.


I took a walk with my chair, leger rod, landing net, a pint of maggots, and flask of coffee. I found a swim I fancied , lobbed in a couple of small balls of groundbait, sprayed in a few maggots, had a cuppa, and then made my first cast. Pluck, boing, big pluck, strike, quick scrap, 8 oz chublet. It dropped off at the net. Fresh maggots, second cast, this time a trout of about a pound couldn`t resist, and this one didn`t escape. Third cast, and another 8 oz chublet was `on it` straight away.

The fishing continued like this for just over an hour, and it was the most fish packed hour I`ve yet experienced on the banks of Mother Wharfe. I got lucky with my swim, and caught over a dozen of those 8 oz chublet, a big grayling, a trout of about 2 lb, numerous smaller chublet, a handful of barbel of about a pound and some smaller ones, and a few dace, all in a hectic first 80 minutes.

Then the chublet disappeared. Whether this was down to me fishing `catch and release`, or another factor, I don’t know, but they had legged it.

I cast further out. The bites were less frequent, but still regular. I fished a very basic rig – 5 lb mainline, 3 lb hooklength, ½ oz bomb, size 16 hook. I enjoyed a great session. Loads of fish, no canoeists, no rotund swimmers. I was visited by several Labradors however, but they seemed to take the hint, and were persuaded not to hang around for long.

I managed to catch more trout, grayling, dace, chublet, barbel, a ruffe, a gudgeon , and more minnows than required to go with the fish from that hectic start. I know I got lucky, but these bonanza days must be karmic payback for the days of hypothermia, sunburn, and blanks ? The fishing Gods reward for persistence, and dedication surely ? or just me being a spawny git ? I know which one `The Doctor` would select.

Week 3.


A short evening session on the Gregory stretch. Barbel the quarry. The Baron joined me, heading downstream. We both fished until dusk, we both blanked.


We had an invitation to fish Ilkley A.C. ponds at Ben Rhydding. The club had done some intensive de-lillying, and wanted as much bait as possible in the pond. Crabtree, Shed 7, and I were happy to oblige.

We each chose a swim, set up, and began to fish. We fished and we fished. We all made changes, trying to provoke a bite, but none came. After a blank couple of hours I headed off for a leg-stretch and a chinwag with Shed 7. However, I spotted bubbling aplenty in the next swim. I went back for my rod, dropped in my float, and waited. The float dipped a fraction, and then went sideways. I struck, and latched into a mighty perch, all 3 ounces of it. Tiny fish, but a `blankbuster`. The `bubblemaker` never appeared, so I finally got to Shed 7 for that chat.

Shed had just lost a big`un at the net, it flew off the hook. Yes, flew. He`d hooked a duck, and, to add insult to injury, it pinged his rig into a tree as it escaped. I tried not to laugh. I failed.

I returned to my swim. Time stood still. So did my float.

I then caught another perch, this one was slightly bigger, maybe a full 5 ounces.

Then, much to our amusement, Shed caught another duck. This one took his legered lobworm. He`d hooked it squarely in the top beak, he played it gently, landed it, and unhooked it – “ when you grab their beak, they keep still”. Remember this sage advice if you ever need to unhook a Mallard !

The rest of the day was as exciting as the first few hours – the fish appeared to be hiding in the still prodigious lillies, luring them out was the trick – and we couldn`t.

So, a poor days fishing for the 3 musketeers – only two fish between us. I won the piscatorial plaudits for a pair of piddly perch, and Shed 7 won the `hook a duck` contest with a brace of quality `donalds`, including a new P.B.

Week 4.


I spent the last hour of daylight fishing for barbel. The river looked perfect. I thought I might get one. I did not.


At a loose end following the cancellation of a match, Crabtree asked “pleasure fish here, or go catch a barbel `on the float ?”. No contest. He knows I want a barbel, float styleee. We decamped to the Nidd, and sought our foe.

Regular feeding brought forth plenty of chublet, a couple of bigger ones the highlight, and then, after a couple of hours of constant trotting and feeding, my float dithered and ducked in a way it hadn`t done before. I struck tentatively into what I expected to be nothing, and connected with something heavy.

The barbel was well behaved, slowly plodding up and down the swim, with the occasional short run to test me. I was playing the fish on `backwind`- a first for me- as per Crabtrees instruction. I asked about snags to avoid, and he said there was only one “that f tree”. Well, the barbel woke up, it bolted upstream and I just about kept up with it. I then drew it close, reaching for my net it set off again before pausing near the surface twenty yards downstream. I suspect it was taunting me. Our eyes met [ possibly ] and then it bolted for that ` f tree`. I wound like fury before I had to try and put the brakes on as the barbel headed for the snag. It sped up. A last attempt to stop it resulted in it snapping me. A cuppa, and a good swear were needed. I took a break and contacted Crabtree – he`d caught two barbel, and some chublet.

I fished on, catching the odd chublet, but the swim had gone dead. Stretch my legs time.

I visited Crabtree, and he was battling a big `un as I arrived. A lump of a chub soon nestled in his net, quite probably a 5 lb fish, maybe more. With absolutely no envy on my behalf I congratulated him. He smugly announced that that was the fourth huge chub he had caught in the last twenty minutes, and he had bagged another barbel too, and had also lost a pair.

Somewhat deflated, I trudged back to my peg. It had had time to rest, maybe the fish had returned ?

Cast, feed, mend, rpt.

After a quarter of an hour or so the float dragged under. I lifted into another big fish. This one instantly morphed into the `barbel express`, and bolted upstream. Same result as last time, snap !

Crabtree and I fished with the same set up, both playing fish on `backwind`. We used 4 lb mainline and a 5 lb hooklength. He landed his big fish, I lost mine. Maybe the extra 40 years experience he possesses [ and much more skill ] were what made the difference, but it still proved a frustrating lesson to learn. He then came to see how I was faring. He made a couple of casts before hooking a chublet which went very heavy. He managed to prise the chub away from the toothy predator, but alas, the damage was done, the fish was almost bitten through. Crabtree lobbed the recently deceased chub back in to the river, as it hit the surface the pike engulfed it. Maybe that was why the swim had died on me ?

Well, I didn`t get my float caught barbel but I did a few other `firsts`. I fished a new venue, used a new method for barbel, and a new way of playing them. I did hook a couple, but it proved to be a harsh `schoolday` today. If we return I will use slightly heavier gear, in accordance with my skill level, and you never know…… if I get one, you`ll hear about it.

Week 5.


A day off work. A day on the river with Trueman - his second river session.

Trueman set up his new rod, and then went back to his car for his flask. I didn`t wait, and caught a 1 lb barbel as he returned. We then caught consistently for the first couple of hours, and were still catching when Piscator popped in to say “hello”

Mother Wharfe was clear and steady today. We used groundbait and loosefed maggots to incite the fish to feed, and it seemed to do the trick.

Then Trueman got snagged again. Luckily for him Piscator had his wellies on, and he waded out rescuing Truemans line from the discarded rig it had become entangled with. A major birds nest. Fair enough, we all lose tackle now and then, but this rig had 30 yards of line attached, and appeared to have been cut at rods end rather than `pulled for a break`. At least Trueman inherited the bomb that was still attached to the abandoned rig, and a good job too, as he was losing plenty of them.

Trueman christened his new rod with a barbel of his own, and he caught a good few more. He also bagged a few trout, some minnows, and the only chub of the day. I seemed to have the `buffet` peg, and I was fortunate enough to come across barbel, trout, salmon [ parr ], minnows, ruffe, grayling, gudgeon, and a perch.

The fishing slowed down over the next couple of hours with only the odd bite to keep us focussed. Some more groundbait reinvigorated the swim, and the bites increased – Trueman caught another barbel, some trout, and a solitary salmon parr. I caught a couple of scrappy trout, a small barbel, and a pair of grayling in consecutive casts.

The Sun, such as it was, had dipped. Daylight was leaving, and rain clouds were arriving. We packed up in the gloamin` and departed as the first shower began, leaving the obligatory Wharfe tennis ball free reign to bob around the swim on its own.

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