So the carp gear has been packed away, and plans were being made for our first pike trip of the season... that was until I checked my emails.
There amongst all the spam was a message titled 'Barbel'. It turned out to be from a friend who also happens to be a river Lea bailiff, and besides asking how I was doing, he wanted to let me know that one of his stretches was fishing very well, so wasn't it about time Gary and myself came over and had a go.
Well, with the weather still staying reasonably mild, and the occasional downpour of rain putting some water in the rivers, it seemed like a good idea. So the pike gear's left where it is and the barbel rod's are slipped into the quiver!
I met Gary at a local shopping centre, and after he'd got his 'sarnies', we trundled off towards the venue. With the SatNav's help we found our way to the small car park that lay not far from the river.
With the weather preceding our trip out becoming rather chilly Gary felt a bit of chubbing might be the order of the day, as the sudden drop in temperature would probably keep the barbel off the feed, and I didn't disagree, anyway this was an exploratory outing so any fish would be a bonus.
On arrival it was on with the cold weather gear and off across the field to the far end of the fishery, spending a little time in each swim, looking for features, or any areas that might reasonably hold fish... and some lovely spots there were too.
After a good hour checking out the stretch, we were bloomin' cold! 'Shame that Tesco's didn't have a cafe' mentions Gary, 'What were you thinking then, getting a coffee?' I reply... 'No mate, I was thinking about breakfast?'
So being the industrious chaps we are, it's only 10mins later and we're sitting in a local cafe tucking into our plates of 'full english'... now that's my sort of fishing!
As breakfast is settling in our stomachs, we're back at the car park and setting up the rods. We both made the decision to travel light on this trip, as finding out about the venue was more the priority than really targeting the big fish we hope are here. So it's one rod each, a small tackle bag, a light chair, and a landing net, that will keep us mobile.
We marched off to the far end of the venue, picked a couple of swims, and started working our way back up, doing half an hour or so in each spot. The first couple of places didn't give me a touch, but then fishing to a little hole in some overhanging bushes on the far bank, I get a good pull round.
I bully the fish out of the bushes and play it almost under my own bank, but it's soon out in open water, and I can see the white lips of a decent chub now heading for the landing net. Into the weigh sling and it goes 5lb 8ozs, now that's not a bad start is it!
Gary admits he's missed two good bites now as we progress up the river, and I mention the little taps I'm getting, which we put down to the crayfish, so we keep moving.
By mid afternoon we've worked our way to near the top of the stretch, and into the area that we'd been told had produced some good fish. I get another strong bite, but it only turns out to be a small chub of about 3lbs... Gary's now getting the hump as he's not managed a fish yet... I snigger. Then there's a shout, and he's into a fish, but as I walk over to help he remarks 'It's only a pike!'... I laugh.
It's now late afternoon and time to get serious. Yes I know I said this was a fact finding trip, but that didn't stop both of us packing a second rod each!
So instead of straight through line, a small lead, and a lobworm on the hook, it's now a short braided hooklink, bigger lead, and a hair rigged pellet... well, Gary goes for a boilie.
I'd put out my first rod, slightly downstream, and almost mid-water, and had just cast out the other rod, when out of the corner of my eye I see the tip of my first rod twitch. The second rods dropped into the rest, and as I turn back to the other it arches round sharply.
It's now plenty of side strain to keep, what now feels like a decent fish, out of the overhanging branches opposite me. A large boil on the surface of the water shows its moved out into the middle, but then it dives and sits doggedly on the bottom.
The pressure finally tells and after a couple more lunges I carefully steer the fish into the waiting net which Gary is now holding. 'That's a big lump mate' he says, as I help him up the steep bank. On the mat, out with the hook, and the moment of truth... 14lb 8 and a half ounces, now that's a cracking Lea barbel!
We give it till an hour into dark but there's no more excitement. So what a first session this has turned out to be, and as we walk back to the cars I think we're both very happy with the potential of what could be in here... but only one of us is grinning like an idiot!