Testing Times – Martin Bowler joins Peter Drennan on the Wye

The float not so much sailed downstream but waddled with its in built buoyancy, fighting against the river’s will to pull it under.  The aptly name ‘dragger’ though had been designed purposely to overcome such a situation while allowing the hookbait to be placed on the stony bottom in a bid to lure a barbel which sifted through each and every pebble, desperate to find the pellets that had been deposited there.  Control of the situation was being managed topside by the manoeuvring of a rod which ensured the belly of line between its tip and the long slender antenna never took over thus forcing the bait down an unnatural path.  The streamline olivette producing both the casting and cocking weight also aided this process and with a combination of correct calls on the angler’s behalf his hookbait presented itself as good as any bolt rig.

In a world dominated by self-hooking setups it was a good reminder that traditional methods still have a place in the angler’s armoury.  Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the implementation of such a tactic unquestionably requires a higher level of skill so it shouldn’t be a surprise when I reveal the angler in question was schooled by the sport’s legends like Dick Walker and Billy Lane – Peter Drennan was the man I watched trying to tame the wonderful Wye.

Given who I was in the company of, along with the call of two buzzards circling overhead and the fleeting glimpse of a kingfisher resplendent in its blue jacket disturbed from its path downstream by an acrobatic salmon the notion of ‘work’ is probably the furthest descriptive word from your mind but the day had been busy with prototype tackle being put through its paces in one of angling’s most unforgiving environments.  If there is a fault the Wye has a habit of exposing it.  The name of Drennan is synonymous with quality and despite decades in the tackle industry Peter’s desire to maintain both his, and his company’s pedigree is still unfaltering.  All the greats of our sport who I have shared company with exhibit obsessive behaviour from John Wilson to Hugh Miles and Peter is no different highly animated by a new product which will make life easier for the angler.  Perfection is what these men strive for and is why their names have taken their place in the very fabric of our sport.

Today a new line and reel was being put through its paces, so far successfully subduing a series of chub.  What was really needed however was a big barbel with its super charged tail capable of wrenching line from the clutch with unbridled savagery.  So once again a soft pellet was impaled on the hook and sent on its way down the crease.  ‘Make sure you control the river not the river you,’ is float fishing advice that has spanned the generations and Peter added another that had been passed to him by Billy Lane; ‘Never show the bait in an unnatural manner’.  His theory being that once the shoal was alerted to being fished for their willingness to feed would be greatly tempered. Following these well worn rules which are as apt today as ever the floats sight tip marked the hookbait’s route.  

Suddenly it momentarily shuddered before stopping dead in its tracks, a split second later the antenna started to ‘waggle’ and slowly sink from view: a cue for Peter to strike and the tackle testing to begin with the fish below now anchored to the hook and keen to shatter the Drennan brand. Power packed it searched out every snag and stone but to no avail and with each crank on the handle its will to win the battle weakened.  Bending down with the landing net I waited for the right time before scooping up a thousand copper scales.  ‘A tough job but someone has to do it!’ was the thought that flashed through my mind as I shook Peter’s hand.