Shakin’ in the Rain Tuesday July 5th 2005.
104lb Siluris Glanis, The Wels Catfish. Undisclosed U.K. Stillwater
It was just 3am when I started the van to roll its long journey south. The thought of the next 175 miles didn’t exactly make me feel radiant. Still, at least at that time of the day the traffic is just about bearable. Despite the early start the sun was shining as I pulled down the final track leading to the water as I anxiously scanned for bivvies.Great, not a soul around! Now this is unusual for this water so a careful creep around was soon underway. The wind was very strong which made it very difficult to spot any give away signs as to where the catfish may be prowling. I decided on the age old technique of following the wind and set up right in the teeth of it. After all, this was the first major wind for some time and in a new direction.
Still flushed with success from my last outing where I truly rang the bell with Angling Lines Special crab boilies I decided to set up with all four rods on this. As I started to tie my baits on I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of what my mate Shaun Harrison at Walkers of Trowell had said when I explained how I set them up.
My catfish boilie method consists of a 1/0 hook with two hairs. Both of these hairs are loaded with two 18mm boilies then both of the hairs are fed through a fifth 18mm boilie stopped by a piece of surgical foam. I described it as my ‘cluster rig’. Shaun said it sounded more like a ‘haemorrhoid rig!
Believe me, it has never been the same since.
Five boilies on the double hair and a six bait stringer attached in conjunction with a a running lead rig and open bail arm tactic means you have to ‘sock it’ to ‘em on the take. Definitely no self hooking rig this.
As four rods are allowed on this water, one went to the left into the bay. It is not really a bay as such, just a little wider than the rest. The next rod was cast straight over to the far margin as there was no-one else around. The third rod was in the middle of the lake to my right and the fourth rod was tucked hard into my right hand margin.
Once the hook baits were in position I followed up with around a kilo of 14mm A.L.S. Crab freebies around the expected feeding areas. I was pretty sure no-one else had used the Special Crab on here and as the catfish on my previous visit (different venue) had taken an instant liking to them I was happy to commit all four rods to them for the first night at least.
The wind got stronger still until eventually I had to put line clips on to stop the buzzers bleeping. I was getting rather concerned the batteries would drain with the constant bleeps. Besides it wasn’t doing my nerves a great deal of good thinking I was constantly receiving indications of the start of a take. Remember I don’t use self hooking rigs.
As the day progressed the weather did the opposite and early afternoon saw the first few drops of rain. By late afternoon the first drop of rain had developed into a real storm with the wind and rain lashing straight into the bivvy door. Just wonderful, and the sky was full of more to come.
Eventually hunger took over and I cooked myself a rather watery tin of chicken curry in the pouring rain before retiring back inside the bivvy. What a miserable existence cocooned inside a rain lashed bivvy.
8.30pm and still no let up in the weather I decided to put fresh baits out for the night followed by another handful of 14mm’s over each bait. As the second rod was cast I felt that it was bang on target. Do you know what I mean? I simply knew as soon as the baits hit the water that they would be picked up. It’s as though some inner sense tells you that is the place for it. The feeling was that strong that I would have gambled on it going.
Back in the bivvy again I took the waterproofs off. The rain was still hammering it down and the usual thought of ‘I hope it doesn’t go now’ ran through my head. I was forced to drop the bivvy door down to try and keep the insides a little drier. I lay back on my bed thinking, looking and watching it slowly turn dark.
I must have started to doze when I guess it would have been about 10pm when the red indicator light came on. Pulse rate immediately sky high I dived out of bed, into my slip on shoes and over to the rod. The take seemed to hesitate then accelerate. I closed the bail arm and whacked the 1/0 home.
For a couple of seconds time seemingly stood still. Then the brute took off to the left leaving me breathless and shaking, totally in awe of such power. I set my clutches rather hard so they only give line when the rod is under full compression. This was exactly what was happening and I could do no more to stop it. If I did, the line would part.
As if to help the beast the wind and rain increased and I definitely had the feeling of being totally unable to take control. The fish must have taken a good 50metres of line without pausing and I realised it must have been close to the reeded outlet stream. I simply couldn’t clamp down on it so took the other option which often works I started to walk back up the bank. This seemed to stop it. Either that or it ran out of lake!
Straining to see in the darkness and pouring rain I could just make out the tail of a huge catfish slap angrily on the surface. Then, all went solid!
I tried walking and pulling from different angles but no good. It was then that I had the thought that if I were the other side of the tree to my left I could get a better angle of control over the cat’. Wild thoughts about swimming around the tree were screaming around my head until I remembered it is SEVENTEEN FEET DEEP! This in a force nine gale, in the rain, on my own is definitely the stuff madmen are made of!
Whilst all these crazy thoughts were running riot through my head I had kept the Free Spirit E.S. bent to the max’. So much so, my arms and legs were shaking real bad I realised I had only got my shirt and trousers on, no jacket or waterproof gear.
The pressure finally told and the beast started to come towards me for a few metres before taking it all back again.
I’m in pain now. The strain is getting to me but still I manage to win more line back which for once was not reclaimed. The fish was almost level with me now so I reached down for my big cat net and realised I had moved away from it.
The only way I could deal with this whilst trying to keep what was so obviously a huge fish on the surface was to wind down hard and stretch for the net. As I did this the fish went off again. To the right this time and harder, much harder, harder than ever before. The clutch on my Tournament was howling away when it changed note and started screeching and crackling. I was convinced it was about to blow up! There was simply no stopping this animal.
It then suddenly dawned upon me. The screeching and crackling wasn’t coming from my reel. It was coming through my hearing aid. Rain had got into my hearing aid!
What a life eh?
That’s all I need to be short circuited with a big fish on!
I put all that behind me – I had little choice. I had to concentrate on getting this fish back in front of me. The cat had taken more line than it had done on its first big run. Was there no stopping this brute? By now I was so wet it was unreal.
After what seemed and actually was an age the catfish was eventually played back and I got it as far as the net. He touched the draw cord and was off yet again! I was about done for by this stage but I had to hang on there.
Again back at the net. I was so tired I couldn’t lift the 72” arms around it. Again the fish was away. Next time he was in. He was longer than the net arms and I had to shake its tail in. Where I gathered that last burst of energy from I do not know. Surely the fish was as beat as I was. I collapsed in the wet grass and looked at my watch. 11.30pm. We had been battling for 1 ½ hours. One and a half hour of torture. Why do we do this?
I had previously caught three other catfish in the U.K. over the magical (and secret) 100lb mark. I knew this was my fourth. Onto the winch and tripod I had made up after catching my first ‘ton-up’ I wound the fish off of the ground cradled in my huge weigh sling. 104lb smack on the dot.
The rain was still lashing down and there was no way I was going to attempt to retain such a magnificent creature. So the camera was set up very quickly inside the bivvy and I sat next to the beast in the doorway for a couple of quick self-taken portraits before sliding this awesome creature back into its deep mysterious home.
The next day the farmer said that 30mm of rain had fallen through the night.
“Yes”. I replied. “Most of it went down my back”!
Bazz Tyson – July 2005