• Agent 99


October 2020

Week 1.

No fishing at all, no nothing. Do not `pass go`, do not leave home.

I am self-isolating.

The days are a blur, and I soon lose track of which day it actually is. I occasionally re-join humanity for a day here and there, usually because Leeds United are playing.

I read a lot.

I listen to a lot of music – Joy Divisions ` Isolation` is already on my playlist.

Week 2.

I can finally escape the confines of my four walls, my stretch in solitary is over. I am as one with Nelson Mandela, Cool hand Luke, and Norman Stanley Fletcher. I am not a number, I am a free man.

Jesting aside, I`d much rather endure a precautionary stretch in isolation than a spell on a respirator.

It might be Friday, it might be Monday, it doesn`t matter to me because I am finally heading to the river. Mother Wharfe is calling me; she has been running across God`s Own County at a fair old pace for the last two weeks. She has been carrying some colour, and an awful lot of autumnal debris. The river level peaked a couple of days ago and now it is tailing off - It looks good for a barbel, but I now know that that counts for nothing, but, seeing as we anglers are eternal optimists ( apparently ) it`s a case of nothing ventured……

I pack only my barbel gear – 12 ft, 1 ¾ lb test curve rod, 12 lb mainline, 10 lb hooklength, a 6000 series reel, a 24” landing net, a chair, an array of baits, a thermos flask, net handle, bank stick, and scales.

I pick a swim close to one of the six bridges that span our stretch. It was a toss-up between two swims, and, because I am the only person fishing, I can choose. I reckon I will fish Peg A until 5, and then fish Peg B for the last couple of hours.

I become engaged in a conversation with a dog-walker and this delays my start – I don`t make my first cast until 1:45.

Thirty minutes elapse, there have been no signs of fish, but my rod hoops over, and, after a short fight I eventually land a very impressive twig. I cast again, this time I get a bite within five minutes, and this time it`s no twig, this time it`s a big ball of leaves.

I cast again. The bait is on the dancefloor. The tip remains motionless – maybe all the debris has gone ? The tip is motionless for another forty minutes, and then it begins to gently nod. I picked up the rod and raised the tip; this time it`s no ball of leaves: somewhere in the murk, a fish is running.

A short but spirited fight ensues before I see my quarry retained in the bottom of my net – a fin perfect barbel of 6 lb 4 oz, and from the tiniest of bites.

I send a photo of it to the Boilie Baron, the attached optimistic message reads “ just a baby. The next one is the big one”.

Two hours later, my optimistic prophecy becomes real.

This was not a subtle bite, a trademark 3 ft, nay, 4 ft twitch, a never- ending bite. The fish ran downstream. I held on. The barbel surfaces 40 yards away. It is big. I pretend I haven`t seen it.

A lengthy fight, it hugs the river bed several times. I struggle to net it in the flow, but eventually I win. Everything is set up; the scales are zeroed, the mat is wet. I lift the fish from the water, one tiny swear is uttered.

This barbel is a bit bigger than the first one, and the scales read 11 lb 4 oz.

I ring the Baron to confirm my powers of prophecy. He is on his way, he wants first-hand proof. Am I not to be believed ? Is my testimony not sufficient ?

I rest the fish, The Baron arrives.

“ You need a bigger net “ he observes, when he sees the fish in my landing net . He then takes a couple of photos before heading home for his tea – two kilos of spod mix. I fish for another hour, but I was probably being greedy. I don`t go to Peg B.

I was chuffed with one barbel, I am delighted with two.

I head home.

Week 3.


Following some concerted peer pressure, I order a new landing net.


We dispose of the debris generated by the ongoing work on the Sewage Works stretch. A task made more difficult because the back- breaking Shed 7 has forgotten the firelighters, and Crabtree has pinched the petrol can. We manage to get the fire lit eventually, and the area looks respectable once more.



Today is another episode in the soap-opera that is Match Fishing.

As mentioned, we anglers are eternal optimists - at least until we start fishing. We`re all big kids when we`re holding a fishing rod etc etc.

So, we assemble at our pegs on the football fields. The Guv`nor proclaims “we`ll all catch today” – the stretch has been producing consistently good nets of silverfish, so we all nod enthusiastically, all expecting to see more silver than Beaverbrooks.

Famous last words.

Four and a half hours later and I`d caught nothing other than minnows. An hour previously and the Guv`nor had packed up, and legged it – at least he caught a grayling to accompany his minnows.

Dismayed at my luck, and desperate for the toilet, the final straws for me were the rain, and the dog that jumped in my swim. A `higher power` was letting me know that this wasn`t going to be my day. The `higher power` was acknowledged; I packed up, and sheepishly headed for home.

Week 4.


My new landing net arrives. It could house a manatee.


An afternoon to be spent barbel fishing. I take my new net with me – it wouldn`t look out of place being dragged behind a trawler.

The river looks good for a bite. It is carrying colour, and a lot of leaves. The water is very cold.

I spend the afternoon peeling leaves off my line, and rig. I get a decent `bite` from a passing twig but that is the sum of the fishing action.

I do witness a display of hunting acrobatics from an owl, which entertains me. I see lots of kingfishers, and a lone heron, but I see no fish.

My new net remains dry.

Autumn fishing – what a mixed bag.

Warm, cold, wet, cold, floods, cold, leaves, cold, barbel, cold…..

… but less minnows.

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