Keith Arthur: 44 years of hurt? It all ends in glory for me

I’ve waited all that time to return to the Parlour Pool The last time I stood on the bridge over the Parlour Pool on the Royalty Fishery ¬ possibly the most famous and iconic swim on the most famous and iconic river in Britain ¬ was in 1966, just before England won the World Cup.

Forty-four years later, a few weeks after England’s ignominious exit from the 2010 version, I was back.

In 1966, if memory serves, a Royalty day ticket was 10 bob (50p) but the Parlour Pool was a fiver ¬ and I was earning £8 a week, so all my mate Brian and I did was chuck our remaining maggots in before we went home after a week’s holiday there. The barbel came up and flashed for the maggots, after the bleak, dace, roach, sea trout, bream etc had their fill. This time I could fish!

The Garden Pool looked great. Maybe 80m downstream from the Parlour, the brilliantly shaped weedcut has left a couple of clear, shiny gravel patches and the fish were pointed out to me by Jason Lewis, MD of Southern Fisheries ¬ not that it took much pointing out once the sun got up, there were bloody great fish everywhere!

I could clearly see half-a-dozen bream spread across the river, hanging behind the fronds of ranunculus; then there were a few chub, with one absolute critter smiling his white lips. I swear one of the smaller bream was a roach too. But I was there to try and catch barbel and they were there in numbers.

Some of the fish looked in the 3lb to 5lb class but most were bigger and there were two belters, sitting either side of a decent pike in mid-river.

Definitely proper doubles ¬ the larger of the two looked maybe 14lb.

Once plotted up in the swim, I loosefed a few of those 6mm and 8mm Nori pellets that Roy Marlow said I should try. I can officially reveal that not only do barbel like them, they LOVE them. Several anglers stopped behind the fence on the far side and watched the fish flashing over the feed.

The hookbait ¬ two 10mm Nori boilies on a hair rig, with a size 10 ESP Barbel hook to 10lb Ghost fluorocarbon ¬ went out and my rod-tip was subjected to several pulls and taps as the barbel bumped into my line.

Eventually the rod hooped over directly after I watched a fish ‘flash’ in the swim, and battle commenced.

The rod, a 12ft 10ins Barbel Specialist, went a very funny shape as the fish powered through one weedbed, then another, until the line dropped slack ¬ the fish had found a sharp bit and cut the line.

How I managed to make up another rig I don’t know, but my fluttery fingers managed it and the next bite brought success in the shape of a beautiful fish of 7lb 8oz. That was followed by a tug of war with a bigger fish that also weeded me, but by wading out into the river and handlining the fish came free, despite my conviction that it had gone.

I had seen the bait hanging from the fish’s mouth as it shot across the river but in the battle the hook had obviously pulled free and was in the dorsal fin. That being the case, I didn’t weigh the fish but held it in the current for a few minutes until it swam happily off.

Two more, smaller, fish followed, this time on banded 8mm Nori pellets, and my day was complete. With a two-hour drive home I left at the best time of the day, with fish still returning to the swim digging for those pellets.

I will make a bet with you now ¬ the next time I see The Parlour won’t be in 44 years’ time!