• Agent 99

Stairway to Chevin


The new river season is nearly upon us, an opportunity for some proper `social distancing`. Not a meager two metres, or fifteen, I`m hoping for a hundred, minimum.

My goals for the river season ( if I`m very lucky ) are to win another match, to catch a double figure barbel, and a five pound chub. I also want to get my kids to fish, even if it`s only once – miracles can happen.

I`ll keep you informed.

Week 1.

Another visit to Tevant Fisheries. Trueman is truly taken with the place.

Liking the place doesn`t improve his punctuality, however, and he`s running late, so I saunter down to the ponds. I find a peg I fancy, dump my gear, and return to the car park to meet him. He arrives presently.

We set up, and begin.

Trueman starts on corn, I start with maggots. I`m happy to catch whatever comes along, fishing for a bite. I get off to a good start, with a roach on my first cast. A few more roach and rudd soon join the party, but they`re not in a feeding frenzy. Maybe the cold night and ground frost have shocked them after the run of sunny days we`ve had ?

I catch sporadically – mostly skimmers, a roach / bream hybrid, a gudgeon, one big skimmer, some roach, and a tiny perch all visit the bank, all courtesy of the mighty maggot. Trueman has caught a couple of decent skimmers, but it’s a slow morning all round. Three blokes leave at midday and they`ve all blanked. Another fella leaves an hour later, a solitary skimmer to his name. The bloke in the corner is balling in groundbait at a furious rate but I haven’t seen him catch anything yet – his landing net is still dry when he leaves, mid-afternoon.

We fish on, but it`s not spectacular. Trueman catches a few decent sized skimmers over the course of the day, all on corn. I move nearer him and switch to corn. I get a couple of decent skimmers, and a few more roach.

The mid-afternoon brings rain, and the temperature plummets. The bites dry up. Trueman doesn`t dry up; his brolly breaks mid-shower and he is soaked. He toughs it out for a couple of hours, but, when the skies blacken again we beat a hasty retreat.


A day on the bank with a spade and some loppers. No official Club maintenance parties are to be held, but the usual suspects put in a few hours in preparation for the new season.

Week 2.

A bit more digging, a bit of strimming, and maybe a little pre-baiting.


A short session on the river. I have dendrobaenas and lobworms to keep me company.

In short, I was comprehensively out-angled by a pair of kingfishers. I didn`t blank, but I hope the kingfishers eat an awful lot of minnows. The less said the better.

I did have a huge brown trout swimming at my feet, but catch it I could not.

Week 3.


The glorious 16th, all systems go. I got back from work late. I didn`t fish.


Club match.

This was a toughie from the start. Every angler caught - there are plenty of minnows in the river – but no one caught much. I had my first ever `trotted` ruffe, and an unwanted but lengthy visit from an otter. I didn`t bother weighing in. The match was won by Baloo, well done.


I had the strange notion that I might catch a barbel, so, I picked a likely looking stretch of water and began my quest. Well, I didn`t catch a barbel, but there was definitely something in my swim – I had my bait pulled off the hair rig, twice. I avoided a blank, catching a few chublet with maggots.

Just after the rain had stopped, I witnessed a murder: a rabbit was going about its rabbity business, when it encountered a mink going about its minky business. A swift ambush followed, and a writhing helix of mink and rabbit rolled down the bank opposite me, the mink firmly clamped on to the rabbits neck. The rabbit was squealing loudly. The mink dragged the rabbit to the water, and finished the rabbit off with a combination of `throat bite`, and submersion. The rabbit fell silent, and the mink swam away with the corpse.


A day ticket clasped in my sweaty paw, I headed to the Nidd in hope of the barbel and chub that lurk within. I passed The Doctor, and The Guv`nor heading in the opposite direction. Was this an omen ?

Crabtree and I picked our pegs, he even let me have first dibs.

The river was up a little bit, and carrying a touch of colour. A negligible amount to my eye, but Crabtree, Nidd veteran that he is, thought the fishing might be tough. It pains me greatly to say it, but he was right.

It was `big or bust`for both of us, we weren`t there for tiddlers.

The bait went in regularly but not even a wee twitch was had, let alone a three foot one. Then, slowly, the tip moved. Not the five lb chub I`d like to catch, not even a pound, but another blank had been avoided.

The big fish hide under the far bank bushes. I fed that line, and then landed my hookbait on it. I kept feeding over the top of my hookbait. After an age the tip bent over and I lifted into a heavy fish which dived straight under a tree and shed the hook. All that waiting. I think I should have had the clutch set tighter. Lesson learned ( but, too late ).

Crabtree had had an equally unrewarding time, and had a bleak , and a tiny chublet to show for his endeavours. Crabtree analysis – the barbel were not yet present.

Our biggest slice of luck was missing a `mother` of a storm by about half a mile. I`d rather of got wet if it meant catching some decent chub.


A little tlc for a couple of pegs.


Club match.

We gathered in the car park for the draw. We kept our distance, and we pointed to the piece of paper we wanted, Crabtree opened them and told us our pegs for the day. We headed to the bank, and prepared for the `all in`.

I had a bite, first chuck – a tiny chublet, and another on my second cast. I then lost four in as many casts. Today was going to be a battle on two fronts; one against the impending sun, and one against the fish, so all errors were met with a growl. I tinkered with the rig, and lobbed it back in. A bite, a greedy minnow. I was desperate to get some fish in the net as quickly as possible, but not bloody minnows.

I lost another couple of chublet, but I caught five for every one that wriggled away. They weren`t big, but they were better than minnows. I persevered with the size 20 hook, single maggot, light waggler, and 2lb line, hoping a trout wouldn`t gatecrash the chubfest. A text arrived from Crabtree, and then The Doctor: both were struggling to catch.

I managed to keep fish going into the net, mostly chublet and an occasional minnow and, when Crabtree appeared an hour later he was astonished to hear that I was catching ( cheeky sod ), “ fkin hell, nobody else has got that. You might win it”.

I scratched out another five or six chublet from under a bush, in the last hour, and `time` was called.

And so it came to pass, Fathers Day 2020 brought me victory ( to compensate for the lack of cards from my kids ). Crabtree nearly choked as he handed over the cash. Priceless.

I took the money home and laundered it – to kill any bugs, not to avoid the taxman – and plotted a spending spree. “Forget that plan”, said my wife, “ the cat needs his flea treatment”. Easy come, easy go.

One seasons goal achieved.

Week 4.


I had been working from home. I finished work at 5, relaxed in my garden for an hour, cooked tea, and then headed to the river with barbel rod in hand. I didn`t expect much action before dusk to be honest, but fancied a bite when the bats came out. I just had a feeling.

I fired in a few small pellets and used a larger one on the hair. After an hour I re-cast, and an hour after that I positioned the bait on the spot of my original cast. The tip bent round slowly. I struck. Nothing. The pellet had been robbed from the hair, I replaced it with a boilie.

The light began to fade, and with it my chances ?

I still had that feeling. I would stay til daylight departed ( no night fishing ). I checked the time, on my phone, 10:02, I had about 15 minutes left. I watched the tip, it trembled and twitched slightly. It`s gonna go. I put my hand on the rod butt just as it arced round, a proper three foot twitch. The barbel ( it must be a barbel ) surged downstream. I held on. Then it paused, thirty yards away, and I began to gain line. I drew the fish level with me and it ran again, this time it went upstream. Slowly, I regained the line, it made another couple of short, furious runs, but I could feel it tiring. It saw the net, and ran again. I caught a glimpse of fin and golden scales, it was definitely a barbel. Another show of resistance at the net, and I was involved in a rather tense tango. I wanted the fish in the net, it had other ideas. Eventually, I brought it to the net, and captured it at the fifth attempt. First barbel of the season. I lifted the net, eager to see my prize for the first time.

It rhymes with duck, and it fell from my potty mouth. A bigger fish than I thought.

I rested it in the net, and grabbed my scales with my free hand. I weighed it in the net, twice, and rested it again. I took a couple of quick photos, re-attached the landing net handle, and then pushed the barbel out towards the flow to speed recovery. After a few minutes the barbel tried to run. I bade it farewell and released it, where it swam off strongly

10lb 2oz.

Maybe I am a spawny git after all.

I packed up, went home, quaffed a celebratory dram.

Not that goals, or targets, are anything other than personal challenges, and I`m not going to get obsessed by them, I was surprised, and delighted, to `tick off` two of mine in two days. I hope the rest of my season is as fruitful.

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