A damp, misty start to the day and only 1C outside first thing, so I was not absolutely sure I would go fishing today. But during the morning I made up a bucket of bait - mashed bread made with the liquid from my hemp making, plus 4 or 5 pints of hemp and a mix of white and brown crumb. Delicious - what chub could resist? The mist finally cleared around lunchtime and it became a bright sunny day - also not great for fishing, but at least it would be warm out.
First surprise was two cars already parked in the layby. The first angler was fishing in the first swim below the car park. He said he had fished here a lot over the past five years or so and had managed two 6 lbers in that time. He'd had a 5-10 from the swim he was in today on his last visit. We talked for about 20 minutes about prospects for a Thames barbel, how we both disliked commercial stillwater fisheries, and how great the chub fishing now was.
Again my plan was to bait half a dozen swims with my "magic mash" and fish each for 20 minutes or so until well after dark. But in the field where the last two swims were, there was an angler in the far distance, so I went for a wander down to see him, perhaps to keep him away from my baited swims. It turned out that he sort of knew who I was - he was one of the friends of the guy I had met a couple of weekends ago from Windsor. He was fishing in a similar-ish manner to to other guy - extremely mobile, not bothering to bait swims first, no more than 10 minutes in any spot. And he had done pretty well, having had 5 fish - one of exactly 5lbs, 3 other 4s and a 3. He was fishing with a friend who was actually just upstream and who I had not seen when I walked down. We all chatted for another half hour or so about local river fishing - the state of the Cherwell, Evenlode and Windrush - the prospects for a big Thames chub (they have had a few sixes on this stretch and one of them had a 7 a few years back). They were both retired and described themselves as doing more or less nothing other than fish. Apparently they first fished this spot in the 1960s when a 4 lb chub was a great rarity.
So finally I started fishing around 4:00, by which time I was expecting my baiting to have done the trick, despite the fine sunny weather. But for the next couple of hours I was untroubled by fish completely. However by the time the two other anglers were leaving (about 6:00pm), I was starting to get the odd small tap on the quivertip - not enough to strike, but a sign some fish were around. The other two had finished with one extra fish each, for a catch of 9 between them.
Finally, around 7:00, I had a small chub of about 2 1/2lbs from the inside crease swim, so at least I wasn't going to blank. The sky remained clear and with a first quarter moon out it was actually a really nice night to be by the river. Several roe deer had appeared as it got dark, owls were hooting continually, and one flew over the river as I fished.
By 8:00 I was in the deep raft swim at the downstream end of my baiting, casting most of the way across the river and letting the bait swing round full under the raft. A slight tightening over my finger then the classic pull round and a solid resistance on the strike. I suspect that the fish was initially further under the raft than I had thought it would be, as after some heaving I thought I had the fish well clear of the raft, but it surfaced just above the top branches. But no other troubles and I soon had a decent fish in the net. It looked quite a solid fish, but didn't feel particularly so, and scaled 5-02, whereas I would have put it at 5-08. It had some bread mash and hemp in its mouth when I landed it - had it really only just settled on the bait I'd put in? By then there had been three earlier baitings of the swim. Hard to think it had all been ignored until well after dark.
No more fish tonight, but a lovely night to be out. Venus was just setting when I packed up in the top swim around 8:45. Quite cold again by then, and a mist forming as I walked back to the car.
Next time - maybe Sunday - I am planning to go about 5:30 and be there, fully set up, by first light. Then I plan to fish loads of spots with no pre-baiting. Daughter might be home that day so I will only have until 11:00 or so, but I might be able to fish 20 spots in that time. A radical lightening of my kit will be required for this to be effective.