Lee Swords Fishing

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A December night on the Trent


 A night on the Trent. “Zombied, The Night I was fishing bread!”


Lee Swords TrentThe drop in temperature was the first thing that hit me as I left work, it had been a reasonably  warm day but when you get into December any warmth from the early winter sun is quickly replaced with bone chilling cold as soon as it sets. The sky held little in the way of cloud cover, so a frosty night was  a nailed on guaranteed certainty but come hell or high water I was having an overnight session.

However tired I was ( Tina said I looked like a half dead zombie creature) this would be my last chance to wet a line on the Trent  before Christmas and I could just about guarantee I would have the stretch to myself (what other idiot would spend a cold night on a flooded river Trent?)

The week previous had seen a change in weather, the long dry cold spell had given way to several days of rain and a marked rise in temperature this had to be a good sign, and was the perfect excuse for me to spending my days off fishing rather than Christmas shopping . A call to river line told me that the Trent levels were up just over a meter and holding steady. Now I don’t know about you but I enjoy the challenge of fishing a big river like the Trent when its running through with a good three foot or more of nicely coloured water so I was getting a little bit exited about spending the night out in sub-zero conditions much to the amusement and confusion of all my co-workers, I’m sure they wonder about my mental health at times.

In no time at all the taxi pulled up outside my house and I almost threw myself out of the door, an awful  thought occurring to me that if I think the river is “ on” so will everyone else and I wouldn’t  get a prime swim. All my gear was ready, and in no time at all the car is loaded up (to the point where the wife starts asking if certain things are really necessary and telling me we drive an escort not a transit van).

Grudgingly I take out the kitchen sink to make a place for our daughter, Olivia. I think we need a roof rack, I am sure Olivia would enjoy it; it would be just like a trip to Alton towers. Within an hour we have made the journey down from Sheffield and are pulling onto the car park besides the stretch I had chosen to fish. I quickly unloaded the car and much to my absolute delight no one else has had the same stupid idea as me, aren’t I clever!

The night sky

The Trent was  really banging through; the flood conditions look awesome yet to me it seems more like closer to two metres up never mind one. The level is dropping though, a line of flotsam marked the high point of the flood which was raging past several inches below. The question now is how fast will it drop off? Rivers these days seem to rise and fall much quicker than they ever used to, something which must affect fry survival and ultimately the long term balance of an ecosystem. Setting up takes around half an hour, being organized and not having any clutter on the bank is vitally important when doing an overnight session, one slip or trip and it could be curtains.

The last word of the drowning man

Drowned in a raging torrent that was supposed to be the River Trent and never to be seen again. Not a good way for the so called Trent Machine to make the angling press! (But it would definitely be his last) I think the headline would be somewhere on the lines of “Stupid Trent angler breaks neck and drowns: plus more big perch and barbel from the Ouse”

The soft golden glow of Nottingham’s street lights plus my Coleman North Star makes fishing the semi-urban Trent far easier and I find the extra light from a lamp keeps the rats away! And when the rats are the size of a Shetland pony that can only be a good thing .The swim that I had chosen to fish on this occasion  is my favourite flood spot, being a little deeper than the main flow of the river from which it is protected by a slight dog leg, extensive rock work and reed beds I think at some point it must have been a mooring point on the river but time and erosion have rendered it little more than an oversized cow drink, but in high water conditions it screams fish. The crease which separates this steady run from the main flow is some twenty metres out and the entire length of the swim is around fifty metres so in all its quite a good sized area which has thrown up some very good multiple catches for me in the past .

The Mark Tunley “Flood” rods I use are very capable of handling any thing that may come along (I have had my arse slapped too often now by rogue fish to use anything lighter ) The reels are matching bait runners and they are loaded with  13lb Kryston Snyde an excellent line and highly abrasion resistant.

Kryston Snyde and KrystoniteThe rigs of choice will be 4oz Fisky feeders feeders rigged up “Jan porter Style” loaded with Teme Severn micro pellets dosed with a lot of CSL and Barbel Pro Activator, at  the sharp end of the tackle are size six Drennan Super Specialist hooks tied with the super simple knot less knot .

Lee Swords barbel rig diagram 1

these are then baited with T7 Elipse  boilies wrapped in a little of the same paste.


The first rod was given a gentle under arm lob, the feeder landing with a plop only a rod length and a half away from the bank into a gully behind a spur of dead reeds ,I know the feeder is now sat on a patch of course gravel some three feet square and on the money! A prime spot for me in past sessions, when the river has been in similar flood conditions. The second rod was to be fished a little further down the swim and twice as far out this was also onto a deeper gully where I hoped there would be a couple of “old girls” taking a bit of a rest .

Tips up on the Trent

Both rods were fished “tip up” on the Delkim’s with the bait runners on the reels “engaged” but set quite tight, as added insurance the butts of the rods were held in grips, because you never know when your going to get one of those takes  where the rod just slams over and if your not on the ball, its in the drink and lost forever.

This done I sat back face glowing with perspiration, sweating like a pig on a hog roast would be a better description.My extra layers of clothing plus the layers of neoprene and gortex were doing their jobs just a little too well, but it’s a better option to be able to take off a couple of items than spend the night frozen solid and shivering like an idiot wishing you’d put that thermal suit on thinking to yourself  ”it had been such a warm evening as well!”.

Lee Swords Cartoon

Even in the middle of summer it can be cold  just before dawn and being cold slows down and confuses the sufferer, so just by keeping warm you’ll catch more fish.


Slouched on my chair totally relaxed and dreaming of the giants that swim these waters I began to unwind and relax all the stress of work becoming a distant memory, then “BEEP” a single sharp jag on the left hand rod brought my mind quickly back into focus. The speed of it and my strike meeting with nothing meant it had to be a chub, they can tear a rod off its rests and still not get hooked, they’ve got lips like Harry Houdini and more tricks than Lionel Messi!

Quickly the feeder was reloaded and cast back out, just as I placed it in the rests and engaged the bite alarm and bait runner the other rod wrenched over and sprang back ,oh yes old rubber lips was definitely in town! The knocks and taps continuing for over the next hour or so, it was getting to the point of the ridiculous! Each time the rod looped over the strike was met with nothing. I think its time to get the bait bag out, a change of bait a change of luck perhaps? Whenever I decide to do a session I always have with me a range of baits for different species I have, worms, plain meat, flavoured meat, corn, a dozen frozen sardines and a loaf of uncut bread, one of the big Chevins all time favourite baits!

And Lee is in!

Off the hooks came the boilies and paste and on go two large squares of crust these I expect will sit proud of the method ball and will be the first thing the fish will reach when they investigate the scent trail back to the feeder.


No sooner had the second rod hit the water, the first one screamed off, bucking violently against the running fish. A single turn of the reel disengaged the free spool and with the rod held high I began the task of stopping the fish before it made it into the main part of the river, where it would use the force of the flooding river to its advantage. Tearing off so much line, landing the fish would be a remote possibility. Locking up the reel I leant back into the fish the, rod hooping over into such an extreme curve I half expected the whole thing to explode at any moment! The rod bottomed out a yard short of the crease and to my relief the fish turned and headed back towards the bank.

The odds were now in my favour and more than likely this fish was heading for a an all expenses paid photo shoot, in addition to  a possible mention in the glossies. Grudgingly the “carpel” (this was definitely no chub, and I couldn’t decide on carp or barbel yet) edged closer to the bank and the waiting landing net. The darkness and the murky water refusing to give any details on the overall size or species of my opponent.

The net plunged deep and I waited for the moment to lift, the fish in one last act of defiance turned a huge shovel like tail slapped the surface, a carp! And a bloody good one at that!

Would this be my long awaited twenty? Nerves twitching, the head of the fish broke the surface, gouts of water coming from its mouth, half a second later and the fish was mine. Get in you beauty!! A quick unhooking and it’s onto the weighing sling and up, not quite the twenty, but who could be disappointed? What a superb example of a mirror carp my fist from the Trent as well! Ten metres down the peg and an assortment of nets and sacks await (ever the optimist!) Oh how I bet the lads at work were here to see this, Big Swordsy the Trent Machine!

Napoleons casino

(At that exact moment at Napoleons Casino Owlerton) Paul turns to Charlie and says “What about that stupid twat going fishing down the Trent tonight? It’s warmer in the bloody freezer !” to which Charlie replies “That fool is mental if he thinks the Trent will fish tonight, he should be locked up!” To which Marie was heard to add “No good will come of it, he will be moaning next week when he can’t move, the idiot boy!”)

Sweating like a pig I set about getting the rig back in, big chunk of crust on, hook length o.k. reload the feeder, the rig is recast and I sit down and get the sarnies out, time for a snack. What will I be having tonight? My beloved wife Tina has some strange ideas when it comes to sandwich fillings, in the past I have had Stilton and HP brown sauce and pork pie with piccalilli, now don’t get me wrong I don’t have any food hang ups it’s just that I don’t like too many surprises when I am out fishing! I did ask her to stick to ham and cheese but she is a black belt so it’s up to her really what she puts on the bread.


Just as I take a bite of the cheese sandwich, the left hand rod gives a little knock, then bang! It’s away! The alarm is screaming I’m trying to get up, I have half a sarnie rammed down my gullet, its just like I have always said, fishing is all about timing! I lunge at the rod, slipping in the mud and choking on my pack up. The perfect example of an experienced angler at one with his equipment and the natural environment in which he reigns supreme!

I may have almost choked myself and more or less ended up having a swim but I did managed to get the rod and turn the carp(?) almost at once, thrashing at the surface it was a quick one, two and the fish was in the net, still pretty clueless to what had just occurred, one moment it was having a supper time snack the next some mud caked idiot  is kissing it, giggling like a fool and pushing it into room two of the black mesh hotel singing “A brace.. A brace.. I’ve bagged a fucking brace!” a nice common in the very low double category was my guesstimate..It wasn’t worth the effort to weigh it…time was of the essence, the fish were on.

This was turning out to be a great night out, when 95%of other fishermen would be indoors tucked up in bed; I am out here in the cold December weather baggin`up on Trent carp. Flood water, cold and wind lashed nights, these things are meat and drink to raving bloody idiots like me! (So long as we are catching, otherwise we sit in our bivvies singing songs of woe and/or getting intoxicated on cheap lager) I do not condone the latter, I am dangerous enough to myself sober never mind drunk.death series 1

I have already worked an eight hour shift at the back-end of a fifty hour week, a bit of fatigue is starting to set in. I am hungry and I am tired, slumping down into my seat after reloading and getting the bait back out I quickly come to the conclusion that these all night sessions, however satisfying really are hard work.

Session angling is extremely demanding mentally as well as physically. The chaps who stay out weeks at a time, either do not do much else in the way of work, or are simply made of sterner stuff than me! I reckon this type of fishing must have put more people in boxes than any other, and if I don’t get something to eat and a bit of kip I will end up on the slab myself!

Hungrily I finish off my sarnies and settle myself down for a bit of shut eye. The collar of my thermal suit  is pulled up around my ears, the tank hat goes back on and I roll my sleeping bag out and lay it over me “duvet style”. This is more like it, the sound of the river gently easing me towards a few hours sleep and just at the point of total sleep when everything is at its lowest ebb “BEEEEEP!!!!!”,what the bloody hell?

The alarm is screaming and the rod looks like getting pulled out of its rest, the fish seems to be powering straight along the margins causing the rod to be pulled sideways(lucky for me I  have the rod clamped or it would be gone!) Grabbing at the rod I struck without disengaging the bait runner giving the fish even more line than it had (Idiot) a turn of the reel and the rod slammed round into another big fish, this one had to be a carp, the power and speed was unbelievable.

Bending into a good fish

The line was singing but still the rod was fluid in its action; it isn’t until a powerful rod is put against a fish like this that it ceases to be what some would class a “broom handle” and becomes the superb tool that it was designed to be.This is where class shows.

I could hear the fishes tail slapping the surface somewhere in the darkness towards the end of the swim, I held the rod out and up in an attempt to get an angle on the beast but that just made it power harder into the distance. A banging sensation travelled through the rod as the feeder knocked against unseen snags, the lower end of the swim being much shallower, the rocky bottom now becoming one big snag. It was now only a matter of time before the feeder caught and just plain luck that the fish chose to change direction.

I began to take a little line back, really pumping the rod against the run of the fish .then the rod sprang back slack, gone! What a gutting sensation the whole world drops out of your backside, but just as I am about to scream obscenities, the angling gods smile down on one of their less intelligent children and the rod slams over again!

The fish must have done some kind of underwater flip then powered straight at me, creating a lot of slack in the process (I think?, it has never happened to me before and never happened since. who knows?) One bonus being that now the fish is under my feet and in deeper slack water, the odds have swung again in my favour !

Even though the fish is in “my water” now, it’s still refusing to give in the ghost and simply swims in deep circles just out of range of the net. I don’t have that many targets in fishing as I have said, but I do have a few, a ton up net of fish in a match(my best is 87lb) to catch barbel over 10lb (I have had fish to 13lb 7oz,but my target is still 10lb) and a twenty pound carp. Now if I really wanted to, I could target a water that hold lots of fish in that class but I want my first twenty to be a real fish, not some Gaelic import swimming around a lake the size of a large bath tub! I want it from the Trent and to be honest I want it from this swim! Not asking much is it? I have had two carp of 18lb4oz and a shed full of fifteens to seventeen’s; I know the bigger fish are there because I have seen them! I have witnessed captures of up to 24lb and know anglers that have had them to 38lb,oh yes my fish is out there its just a matter of time!

The angle of the line is now almost vertical from the rod tip the fish is cruising under my feet but still there was still no panic in the fish just a steady plod, and a refusal to lift its head. After what felt at the time an eternity the carp resentfully submitted to the pressure and broke the surface, heart pounding, I knew this fish was the biggest of the night and would be very close to the twenty a few seconds later the fish was in the net and I was straining to pull it onto the bank side. This is going to be close, its a fat common, not that broad across the back mind, under close inspection it seems to have a little bit of koi in it .

I saw an orange koi cruising around the suspension bridge which was huge, well over the thirty pound mark. It seems they either get washed in with floods or released by pond keepers when they outgrow their surroundings, however they get in they seem to thrive! Onto the scales a quick double check and what would you know? Bloody typical 18lb 4oz!! I can’t be disappointed but in strange way I wish it had only been 18lb3oz, I have now had an 18lb4oz fish in each of the last three seasons. The fish is sacked and placed in the deep slack margins with the other two nets. Three carp are now awaiting their photo call, what a night it just proves the old adage that you can’t catch if you’re not on the bank; you simply have to put the hours in to get the results!

I am now beyond tired, I have a dull throbbing headache and thinking is feeling a little bit too much like hard work. Anyway who needs sleep? I would have only dreamt about those lovely young vampire ladies again, and on tonight’s form would have been awoken just at the moment they decided they weren’t really that hungry (working nights and coming home only to find crappy horror films on the box, can have long term effects on your dreams!) I will just get on with the fishing, grind out the rest of the night. Its half past four now, in a few hours Tina will be on the mobile to see if I am ok and whether or not I am ready to go.

Sunrise on the Trent

Over the next few hours I caught a string of apprentice “Trent” chub (fish that are in training to be big, but not quite qualified yet!)These spirited fish soon succumb to the heavy tackle which does them no justice at all.

I say “Trent” chub because it is my belief that Trent chub are a sight different to other chub, Trent chub are built different and Trent chub are definitely sneakier little buggers when it comes to getting a hook hold, Trent chub also seem to have a more active taste for steak and mince and small fish baits than the chub I have caught elsewhere.

Two smaller carp also join their larger relatives in the nets, so by the time the sky begins to lighten I know that I have had an exceptional nights sport. Lone night fishing can be a soul destroying game and extremely dangerous to boot but if like me you want to push the boundaries of your fishing, it can be so rewarding. I don’t think I would have blanked tonight but the change from boilies to bread proved deadly, converting the knocks and nudges into screaming runs and good fish.

Lee Swords with Trent Carp

As Tina pulls into the car park and strolls down the bank towards me, hot bacon and egg sandwich in hand, she is obviously amused by my state of disarray.

“Have you been busy?” she inquired looking at my slime covered four seasons. I could only smile and reply

“Just a bit! Can I go home now?”


Note to anyone of a mind to moan This session took place several years ago, I no longer own any nets other than one sack and one Queenford retention system. However bear in mind each fish had a net “each” and were retained no longer than they would have been if I was fishing a 6 hour match.

5 Responses to “A December night on the Trent”

  1. I enjoyed that Lee, a good read

  2. good piece lee, is it time you wrote a book?.

  3. Hey up Jubby I am working on it mate!

  4. good idea lee i think, still doing the winter night fishing now ? you must be crazy and dedicated.

  5. Come on lee a book of bye gone times n tales is well overdue.

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