I'd been looking forward to this weekend for a while, my club card arrived mid-week and I was soon packed and ready to pay my first visit to the river Dove in Derbyshire. I'd said ta ta for now to the river Dane and we parted company on good terms so I could always return should the opportunity arise.
An early start was planned but I failed miserably to make the 5am alarm call having only had three hours sleep due to an over active imagination and broken dreams of 6lb chub. Instead a more civilised 7am rise saw me making up a flask of coffee and heading off onto the M62 around 8am. Eighty miles later I was walking into the cafe for a spot of breakfast, something I fear will become a habit, still it does set you up for the day!
I headed upstream and found a very tempting swim with a smooth glide. Dropping in I sat back for five minutes and just observed my new surroundings. The sheep in the field bounded around in between munching grass, bullocks turned up to have a nosey at the new bloke and flocks of geese performed aerial manoeuvres overhead.
Another angler wading upstream of me flicked his fly with rhythmic precision and although I did consider walking up to have a chat my eagerness to cast was too great so I set about it with a ceremoniously overhead flick, my fishing on the Dove had begun.
A fresh cheese paste I'd made the night before felt just right as a first offering to the chub, my usual blend of Laguna Milk Pro base mix combined with the Blue Cheese SAC juice mixed 50/50 with the Banana SAC juice and plenty of stinky cheeses hit the crease with a 'plop' however I'd under estimated the pace of the river and was soon dragged into the nearside bank. I reeled in and stepped up to a 30g black cap feeder filled with hemp and as I recast to the same spot it stayed in position allowing for a slight bend in the tip.
A reassuring pluck was registered and like a gun fighter in the wild west my hand hovered over the rod ready to strike, it pulled around and I lifted into a fish. It lept almost immediately from the water and I could see it wasn't a chub but it still fought well and within a few seconds was in the net. I'd been fishing less than fifteen minutes and had my first Dove fish, I wasn't use to that kind of start and thinking back I should have guessed the trout were in residence after all the clue was staring me in the face fifty yards upstream.
I probably stayed too long in the swim but I wasn't in a rush and had the rest of the day ahead of me but after a further half hour I went in search of the weir.
The weir marks the upper limit of the beat and also the start of nine miles of Derbyshire countryside for me to explore. I wanted to fully appreciate the river from start to finish, I knew that wasn't achievable in a day but I have all the time in the world for this kind of river, wider than the Dane overall but of a similar depth and a complete unknown which is why I'm fishing it.
I'd researched my surroundings and felt acquainted with their form, I had my bearings but Google earth is a powerful tool but you have to be careful not to make any assumptions particularly when it comes to boundaries and barbed wire fences!!
The shingle beach provided a stable footing for my chair but I stood near the edge and rolled a piece of free lined meat around in the turbulent water hoping to get a quick take from an unsuspecting barbel. Eventually my lack of sleep caught up with me so I attached a 2oz grippa and cast it forty yards or so into the heart of the weir, propping the rod on the rest I tucked the long cork handle under my arm hooked my finger around the line and drifted off into a much-needed sleep. An hour later I was woken by the sound of panting just behind my right ear, disoriented for a moment I turned and came face to face with drooling dog who'd come over to inspect this strange man sat in the middle of his patch. The beat is popular with dog walkers who nod knowingly if you catch their eye and seem to be a friendly enough bunch.
I reeled in only to find the meat had long gone, perhaps it had been plucked carefully away by a giant chub who managed to avoid the hook, if it had I wouldn't have known a thing.
Walking back to the car I stayed close to the river's edge scanning potential swims for my next visit, every twenty yards I could see a 'chubby' looking spot, the Dove was quickly getting my seal of approval.
I decided to use the last hour of light to find a second car park downstream and set off in the general direction but it was soon apparent that the sat nav didn't know where it was going either and I ending up driving around in circles until eventually it was pitch black.
Heading back to just below the road bridge I dropped onto the next beat. It too screamed chub and had a bit more pace judging by the occasional procession of foam. Mid way was as good as any and within a couple of minutes I was casting a rod length out and letting the flow take the feeder to a natural resting place. I poured a coffee and watched the starlite, it flickered slightly and then pulled steadily around a nicely conditioned chub of 3lb 12oz was the result.
Pleased with the chub I decided the far bank needed a run through so I punched the feeder across and this time held onto the rod. The cheese paste had barely come to a halt when I felt a familiar tingling through the line. I didn't hesitate and stuck firmly to my right but no resistance was forthcoming and I reeled in quickly to recast. Just under the rod tip I caught a glimpse of a fish and much to my surprise my second chub was banked. At only eight inches in length it was a chublet but it was the first chublet I'd seen since Bicton two months ago and it signified a healthy river with a growing population, result!!
My final couple of hours were spent wandering downstream where eventually I came across another angler, a brief chat confirmed my location and he said there were a couple of anglers beyond him so I gathered my tackle and headed off to find a vacant peg. A suitable peg found I had a look to see if I was close to anyone else, two glowing night lights twenty yards away confirmed I was so I said hello and we started chatting.
As luck would have it I was speaking with the current barbel river record holder and he spent a good half hour or more telling me about the Dove and how he'd fished it since the mid 70s, he clearly knew the river intimately. His river record hadn't come from this section but he said it still contained some lumps so I spent the last hour casting frequently and learning about my new home which although it's likely to be a long haul I'm happy to drive those extra miles each week and once again enjoying my fishing.