Piscatorial Quagswagging

...the diary of a specialist angler in around the Warwickshire Avon and its tributaries.

Friday 28 April 2023

Transient Towpath Trudging - Pt.63

Now it's a sad fact but a fact nonetheless that fishermen have to share rivers and lakes with other water users. The problem for fishermen is that they need quiet to get the best out of their pastime, while other water users often like to make as much noise and disturbance as possible. Water skiers are a curse, canoeists a damn nuisance and boating holidaymakers even worse.

Sometimes conflicts arise and boaters and anglers have even been known to come to blows. More amusingly, anglers fishing the stretch of the Thames that runs through Oxford have at times taken their revenge on the arrogance of passing college boats by accidentally catapulting large quantities of maggots at the occupants.

 But problems like these are thankfully rare on the upper reaches of the Thames, and Buscot, with its moss-covered weir and air of Victorian innocence, was a quiet backwater with few boats in the 1960s. Fishermen in pursuit of the massive barbel that skulked beneath the foaming waters of the weir had it all to themselves, which is why the legend of what the locals jokingly called the biggest talking fish ever landed in Britain became part of fishing folklore.

It all started on a sunny day in August. A London club had come up to fish the stretch of water below but also including - the weir and they were not having an easy time of it. Water levels were low, the river was sluggish and the fish were not in a taking mood.

But the fifty-odd fishermen pegged out at thirty-yard intervals along the banks stayed put. One or two gave up and enjoyed the view, some found a book or a newspaper somewhere in their capacious bags and began to read, others discreetly reeled in their lines, stretched themselves out on the warm earth and fell asleep.

One fisherman Mick McNewey, pegged about halfway along the half-mile of river devoted to the match, was determined to catch something. He'd done badly in the last two matches and was keen to at least avoid a blank despite the fact that, on this hot and unforgiving August day, most of the club was likely to remain fishless.

A small group of what this particular fisherman assumed were picnickers had settled on the far bank about four hundred yards downstream. The fisherman noted their arrival and then forgot all about them. As the afternoon grew hotter, more fishermen gave up the unequal struggle and settled down for a snooze. Three who had long ago surrendered decided to wander along the bank and see if anyone had caught anything. 

They arrived at the last peg where our determined fisherman continued to try as hard as he could just in time to see him strike and apparently make contact with a good fish. 

They were astonished and said so. The man in contact with the fish was so excited and simultaneously terrified that this monster chub or barbel would get off that he spoke not a word. 

But inwardly he was exultant, knowing that if he could get this fish safely to the bank he would win the match by a wide margin.

His rod was bent double, line occasionally slipped from the reel as the fish moved downstream, but it was a solid, seemingly immovable weight. 

The fisherman put as much pressure on it as he dared and the minutes slipped by. This was unprecedented. 

He could see his line entering the water about fifty yards downstream, but it was moving in circles. 

Then it edged slowly towards the opposite bank before returning, quiet and unhurried to the centre of the river. Still the full pressure of the rod was having absolutely no effect.

The fisherman was beginning to despair. Behind him and around him a small crowd of his clubmates had gathered as word of the epic battle spread along the river. 

And they were all watching when the fisherman suddenly seemed to be getting somewhere. This monster of the deep was no longer fifty yards away. It was virtually opposite the angler, right in the middle of the river.

Then with a great boil it came to the surface. It was a diver, fully kitted out with rubber wetsuit and oxygen tank. With rod still bent double and his line clearly running down to a point on the diver's left leg, the fisherman could only stand and stare. 

He was speechless. The diver one of that small group of apparent picnickers downstream on the far bank was unfortunately not in the least lost for words. He took off his facemask and hurled abuse at the poor fisherman for a full two minutes. 

The gist of it seemed to be that a very expensive diving suit now had a nasty little leak in it caused by a size fourteen hook and a ball of cheese paste That August match went down in the club's history books as the worst in terms of fishing but by far the best for entertainment.

Now talking of entertainment I fully expected a blank fishing for Zander at an area that according to the grapevine been electro fished and the Zander removed.  To be fair my results haven't been brilliant down here and to be honest over the last 2 years I rarely now and it's the closest bit of canal to me. 

Even if it has those small fish will have avoided the stun gun and would get about breeding anyway. But a likeminded anger had been catching a few down here so I thought I'd give it a go. I've a Freedom of Information Request in to see if those jungle drums were correct, but judging by the others I've submitted I'm probably just an inconvenience to the canal and rivers trust. 

Anyway only a two hour session this and after covering one section without a bite I moved to another section and within 5 mins of fishing tight to a bush two bites at the same time 😵 and I soon had two schoolies in the net after some piscatorial drama. And that was that, one more missed bite and another hour in the rain, nothing else doing so I brought the session to a conclusion. 


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