My fellow kayak fishing nut Ben and his better half Deb kindly invited me over to their place for a New Years Eve soiree followed by a day on the Severn to start our 2010 species hunt. I didn't need asking twice and was looking forward to it all over Christmas.
As luck would have it my gaffer was away on Thursday so I knocked off early and after a quick wash and brush up I was on my way to Wolverhampton. I arrived to find Ben already had a houseful and was cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Without going into too much detail a cracking night was enjoyed by all, and after being well fed and plied with plenty of red wine and Jamesons we got to bed at around 3:30.
Needless to say the planned early start never happened and the morning was spent setting up tackle and mixing Ben's special groundbait (don't worry mate, I won't tell Deb what you used her kitchen scissors for ) in between mugs of strong coffee and bacon butties.
The plan was to launch at Ironbridge, negotiate the rapids and then try for some barbel before heading down to Bridgenorth where Deb would pick us up. With the cold temperatures and strong flow in the river I wasn't overly optimistic but Ben had 'a feeling' and that was good enough for me.
On kitting up at Ironbridge a dog walker stopped to talk to us, he couldn't believe what he was seeing and on hearing that we were intending to fish as well as kayak he nearly fell over. He just kept repeating 'you're not right, either of you'. He had a point.
We had a look at the rapids, and although the river was snorting through Ben assured me it was 'doable' and so it was that I embarked on my first whitewater paddle. What a buzz! I can't think of a better way to cure a hangover, we were flying along.
We rounded a corner to find a new whitewater section had appeared due to the heavy flow. I heard Ben shout 'shhiiiiiiiit!' in front of me as he approached a huge standing wave, he managed to go around it. I was a little slower to react and ploughed through the middle of it. I got a faceful of icy water and swamped the cockpit but the spro handled it well and the scuppers soon drained.
After this excitement things settled down, and we paddled on to Ben's barbel swims. Ben spotted an otter on the way down, but despite us turning round and paddling back upstream I couldn't get a glimpse.
On arrival at Ben's secret mark we tied off to some overhanging branches and he started to feed the swim whilst I faffed around with the fiddly coarse fishing tackle. Ben soon announced that we were ready to fish and cast his rig under some overhanging branches. We didn't have to wait long before he got a bite and was into a good barbel. His rod was bent double as the fish powered upstream and under the kayaks before throwing the hook.
With renewed enthusiasm we started fishing again and after a while I had a good bite that I missed through striking too soon. Things went quiet for a while and we had a coffee from the flask that Deb had made up for us. The light was starting to fade now and the temperature was dropping fast. Ben remarked that he thought he'd seen his rod tip twitch and wound down to find the rod bend over.......fish on!
He played the fish while I fumbled around for the net, these are hard fighting fish and despite this being quite a small one it put up a good struggle before we finally got it in the net.
The smile says it all!
After taking some pics and admiring the fish it swam away strongly.
We had a last cast to try for another fish but by now it was getting dark and so reluctantly we packed up and headed down to Bridgenorth, and by the time we reached the slip the kayaks had a thick layer of ice on them.
At this point I should mention that Deb is an absolute star. there can't be many of us with partners who would drop off and pick up a pair of lunatic yakfishers after staying up till 4:30am to tidy up after a party. She had even found the time to knock up a fantastic bolognaise for when we returned.
So, the species list stands at Ben 1, Andy 0 and 8 or 9 miles paddled. I'll be back.