by Rich Frampton
Things had gone to plan so far this season.
By following Steve Pope’s advice I had beaten my personal best at the start of July and then again just two weeks later.
The caster and hemp approach had worked on both occasions and it was with a touch of confidence that it would work again that I invited Will Smith to come down to the Kennet in Berkshire for the day.
Will was going to fish the same swim that I had at the start of July, a deep glide with an overhanging bush and a raft it its tail. I was going to go further downstream to fish an area that had been kind to me two weeks previously.
We hoped the same technique of three or four droppers every 25 minutes would lead to Will’s second ever double figure barbel.
The drive down from Shropshire flew by and at 6am we were walking along the drive to the river. Will had read articles by Steve and my own first attempt at an article on Steve’s blog in which I had described the capture of what was at that time my new personal best. Here though was Will’s first opportunity to put that knowledge into practice.
The method of fishing is to use a bait dropper to build up a swim with casters and hemp. The chosen swim was indeed ideal for this approach and soon the first of the hemp and casters were being lowered out.
I left Will to it and headed off downstream to a spot that only two weeks earlier had given me my new personal best, a fish of 13lb 5ozs.
My swim was a glide alongside a bed of streamer weed that reaches half way across the river. A clear channel no more than four feet wide before it reaches the trailing branches of the far bank willows and alders. Another perfect spot.
By this time however the weather wasn’t so perfect. The drizzle had increased to a light rain and the clammy conditions made just being out in it uncomfortable.
A short while after I had finished baiting up and chilled out for a bit the first text came in. Will had caught his first Kennet barbel and, at somewhere around three and a half pounds, it was probably one of the smallest in the stretch. But that didn’t matter a jot – it was the first and a good sign.
I had set up a running Stonze weight with a smaller backlead. As usual there were no knots apart from the hook knot with the 20lb Powerpro braid being fished straight through to a size 10. A mono hair was tied off the bend and to this was super glued a cluster of casters.
Despite this tried and tested approach the reel remained silent while the morning wore on. I deposited 3 or 4 small droppers into the glide ever 30 minutes to try to trigger a take but …nothing.
Meanwhile, another text, then another, and yet another had indicated that Will’s swim was rewarding his efforts! Three more fish, all relatively small but, more importantly, getting bigger each time at around 5, 6 and 7 pounds.
My attention had drifted away to a Red Kite that was lolloping in flight above the meadow opposite. Last week in the warm sunshine it had sailed effortlessly in the thermals. Today in the dull but now thankfully, rain free conditions it looked leaden.
It had just landed in the willow opposite when, as if on cue, the reel screamed out.
Grabbing the rod the fish obliged and took off downstream, with me in pursuit. The major weed bed now out of the scenario it moved from one clump of streamer weed to the next and after a strong run upstream I made out its shape below the second Stonze backlead as once again it headed back down past me.
That sight made me realise that this was going to be my third double in as many weeks and so it was to prove. I was soon weighing an immaculate fish, the Reuben Heaton’s settling at 11lb 2ozs. Just at that moment a text came in from Will to say that he had had another fish of 8lb 14ozs and that he was resting the swim again. Perfect timing I thought, a photo was required.
After a short chat, Will headed back up to his swim to continue, with the sight of this double his enthusiasm was charged up even further (as if it needed it!).
I had to make a decision and it was soon made. I was going to move. It had now hit mid afternoon and I shifted upstream, past Will, to a swim that I had always wanted to try below a steep vertical bank about 4 feet above water level.
The top limit of the swim was marked by a bush that grew out into the water and which, in turn, created a slack area immediately in front of me. It was all very close in and tight and I knew I’d have to be really careful to stay off the sky line.
I had seen John Found fishing there before and he had told me how vital it was to use a backlead in that swim. I had one on already but now I needed at least four feet between the leads, the first one would lie three or four feet away from the bank.
This arrangement would allow the hook to be positioned right in the middle of the slack while the five or six feet of line on the river bed would enable even a good sized fish to turn around and feed without causing a line bite – that occurrence would almost certainly spell disaster.
Out went several droppers, and I sat well back to allow the swim to settle down before I made a cast.
A dart of blue caught my eye and a Kingfisher came to rest in the small willow that grew into the water opposite. It sat and shook the drizzle off as if it had just dived in after one of the hundreds of minnows that were frantically charging around in the shallows.
A beeping of my phone woke me from my trance and I grabbed it like a cowboy drawing his revolver. Another fish and this one needed a photo. At 9lb 12ozs Will was justifiably over the moon.
I left him with the message, “The next one will be a double!”
My reel had remained silent for what by now seemed an eternity. The dull day was closing in fast and I was thinking, hoping, that Will could end the day with the target, a double figure fish, when my reel started to turn. Now the line was going straight out so the rod tip remained calm and it reminded me of a carp run in a lake. Just picking up the rod set the hook and the fish immediately took off upstream. Holding the rod high I moved downstream where it was possible both to get to water level and find some space to control, or rather try to control the fish.
The river narrowed here and the flow was incredibly strong. Keeping pressure the fish used this to its advantage and just hung there, almost immovable.
Again, it relented to the pressure and at the third attempt, because of the strong flow moving the net away, I managed to envelope it in the mesh and next thing a large shape was resting at the bottom of the net.
At 10lb 2ozs I was really happy …two doubles in a day! I couldn’t believe it.
Fully rested the fish headed back to its home under the bush.
Now we needed just one more.The darkness was approaching and rather than move again I packed up and spent some time chatting to the trappers who had arrived to take their crayfish.Their stories and knowledge of the river are limitless and as I walked downstream to get Will their words rang in my ears.
Just at the moment I arrived Will’s rod tip heaved around and he was into a strong fish which tore downstream and then up. He knew that this was as heavy as the previous fish but would it make it, would it make the magic 10lb?
It certainly fought hard and after a strong upstream run it turned and I was able to hold the net so that Will could steer it into the waiting maw. Silently we just looked at each other, thinking the same thing, it was going to be close. And close it was.
The scales read… 10lb 1ozs! Will had done it and I’m not sure who was the more pleased, him or me. It was a fantastic moment that even whilst writing this has brought the euphoria flooding back.
It had all gone to plan …again.
Walking back to the car we noticed that the cloud was breaking to reveal a beautiful star lit night – what a perfect end to the day!!!