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It's been a while.

I'd intended to spend the day on a river in Surrey, fishing for barbel in the morning and evening and then trotting during the quiet parts of the day for whatever came along. I was on the road by 5.30am and at the car park an hour later. The plan was to walk to the end of the beat and then work my way back swim by swim but on the way I decided instead to have a look at the top end of the river, the first fishable swim. It looked too tempting to pass up so I tackled with a 12ft rod, Mitchell reel, 6lb line (too light, I know) a link leger and the old faithful - cheese paste.

First cast, I got a cracking bite which missed. Second and third casts came two chub, both about 2lbs, fourth cast came a bream. Then the swim went dead. I persevered for an hour, then gathered my stuff and began to walk downstream.

It was a nightmare. The banks were so overgrown that there were few places where you could actually get down to the river and when you did, many of the old swims had disappeared. Either that or the bank was so high that my landing net handle wouldn't reach the water properly and I'd struggle to land anything substantial.

After a fruitless 45 minutes slogging up and down I returned to the original swim and tried again. I'd seen no other anglers until then, when a guy appeared on the opposite bank, looking at swims. Eventually he slid down the bank almost opposite me, but slightly downstream. Then cast, almost over my line. I coughed loudly and he bent over, peering across the water. He shouted an apology. I was pleased he hadn't seen me. "Any good?" I told him. "My mate's just had a perch downstream, but no barbel yet." Me neither mate, not with all this shouting going on. He reeled in and wandered off downstream. The rod knocked, then there was a gently pull. I struck and it felt like nothing, some crap off the bottom maybe. Then it moved inexorably upstream, going deeper and deeper. I couldn't get it up. I applied as much pressure as I dared and the hook came out, clean as a whistle. Boll-ocks.

I switched to luncheon meat and started to fish the slack water under my own bank about 20 feet downstream. Nothing happened for about half an hour and then I had a cartoon bite which almost tore the rod from the rest. I reeled in and the line had just parted. A jack pike maybe? I've hooked them before on luncheon meat here.

I switch to the centrepin and trotted for a few hours - small roach, bleak, a gudgeon or two and a chub even smaller than the gudgeon. Then I packed up, walked back to the car, dropped off the gear and went to the pub for lunch. I'd decided to let fate guide me. If the swim was free when I returned, I'd stick to the original plan. If not, I'd think again.

Of course it wasn't free. A guy had got there minutes before, and was just settling into his chair having cast in. We had a chat and I slogged back to the car again.

Rather than try another stretch I decided to head back to Sussex and fish a local river - I'd always wanted to try casters there. I arrived during the only rain of the day. Sat it out in the car. Then got the gear again, walked across the field to a bend in the river and started fishing. I caught a few roach - bigger than the Surrey ones, actually - and then there was a commotion in the water downstream. Round the rushes came a mink, swimming in the water. It came almost to my feet before it spotted me. It had a good look and then just turned round and swam back. Not really bothered at all.

I moved swims a few more times and ended up with this nice little perch. Knackered though.


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