I am now fishing the other local stretch of the Thames - the one where I believe some barbel have been caught. For the moment the focus will be chub, then when the water temperature begins to rise, I will start a campaign for a barbel there. Nothing has indicated that Duxford would be better for barbel - the swims I used to catch loads in during the mid-1990s just seem to have chub in them now.
My focus today would be on two deeper swims at the end of the stretch. This involved a one mile walk and the milder weather meant I was really hot when I got there. Fifteen minutes later and I had baited half a dozen swims and could have a sit down, a drink and a Mars bar. One new swim baited today - a spot where a tree and some rushes cause the inside line to about one rod length out to be a much slower flow than the main flow (i.e. a near bank crease). This could be a great floodwater swim. Downstream in the slower flow was a tree in the water, so maybe fish would hole up there and then feed along the crease.
My first fishing spot was two swims close together which I have christened "Hawthorns 1" and "Hawthorns 2" . With only maybe half an hour since the bait had gone in, I wasn't sure I would get anything here, but gave it 20 minutes in each before rebaiting and then moving to the big raft swim. Using slightly more lead than usual, I decided to hold the bait under the raft itself, rather than just to the side as I have done before, and actually did get a bite here, which I missed.
A second feeding of bait into the two deeper swims, then I settled into the inside crease swim, my new spot. First cast at the head of the crease produced nothing in ten minutes, so I moved the bait down a few yards and then did get a take which I connected with. The fish set off into the main flow, then promptly fell off. Not sure why as the hook looked fine. It didn't feel a huge fish though. But it was good to know that there were fish in this new spot, and so I can have another look at it next time.
Finally, after 3 hours and two baitings, it was time to have a go at the two top swims, my initial choice being the uppermost swim. First cast was perfect, drifting down towards the tree in the water. Five minutes later, the line briefly slackens, then tightens as the tip pulls round. I got a look at the fish straight away and it was clearly a decent fish. Oddly it fought by moving away from the huge tree in the water and stayed in open water throughout. And the hook held this time - a lovely fish of 5-02, the second 5-lber of the year from the Thames and a pretty instantaneous confirmation of the wisdom of dual baitings before fishing.
First fish of the day, 5-02
So with that in mind, I thought I would stay put, just in case the first fish had not scared any others when it ran away from the snag rather than into it.
And 15 minutes later, I got another bite and connected with another solid fish. This one stayed deep and did try for the tree a couple of times. But I am trying to play fish hard at the moment and was able to heave it away ok. And what a fish, 5-08, my best of the year so far. A birdwatcher appeared as I was setting up the camera and obliged by taking a couple of pictures - a shame neither of us spotted the weed attached to the fish's side which slightly spoil the photo!
The fish of the year so far, 5-08
Next spot to try was the second of the deeper swims. This hadn't produced a bite the last two times I have fished here, but 10 minutes or so in, with no preliminary moves, the tip flew round and another fish on. This one was smaller than the others, but actually caused more trouble landing as it found a snag just under the bank in front of me. But by moving downstream to change the angle of pull, it freed itself and chub 3 of the day was landed, a smaller fish of 3-15.
That proved to be the last fish of the day, though I continued to rotate between the various swims. A cold easterly wind picked up as the afternoon progressed and I was quite happy to pack up around 5:00.
Our Valentine Day's meal was a starter of salmon, prawns and scallops in a cream and paprika sauce; fillet steak with a port and red wine jus and steamed vegetables and an M&S ricotta cheese cake, all washed down with a bottle of sparkling rose and a Cahor 2004 red.