Monday 6 May 2024

Breaming of a Slime Fest.

 

 As the weather begins to warm so does the water and slowly but surely the Bream will come to a point where they will go off and spawn, en mass. I have been hoping that they were going to hold off on the spawning for me to have one last trip out before I turn my attentions to Carp and Eels.

 On Tuesday I ventured out for Bream but drew a blank, my second on the spin. The pit I'm fishing may only be 25 acres in size and 10ft deep but the Bream can very easily be missed and over the last few years I have learned this very quickly. 

 So on Saturday I had a leisurely drive with the view of fishing for the day and night then re-evaluate on Sunday morning (yesterday). In terms of tackle I used my twin-tips duos, 12lb line, 1x fished 12mm robin red on a helicopter setup and the other rod I used a 55g method feeder with a 8mm white scopex wafter boosted with scopex spray. I fed the spot I picked with Hemp, Pellet 2&6mm which was on a raised plateau which was around 7ft and given the warming water thought it may attract a few fish to the area and hopefully pick off some fish.

 The day panned out as I thought it would with nothing but the odd liner but that gave me the confidence fish were in the area and as the sun dipped beyond the yard arm I got my first bite, the bobbin pulled up tight and needed no further invitation, a good fight out at distance had me wondering if it was a real beast with a 16+ my new target having broken my PB with a 15.10 back in April. As she approached the net I could see it was a decent fish, however I knew it wouldn't trouble my PB. 

A chunky female of 13lb 2oz.

 A good start and hoped it would herald the start of a bream fest! 2hrs drifted by as my bobbins were constantly registering line-bites ( opted against back-leads this time around) which kept me focused and as I began to cook my salt 'n' pepper pork belly and Jasmine rice my left hand rod came alive which turned out to be a nice low double slab, the following 5hrs followed a similar theme. 

 The liners came at regular intervals and fish came about one an hour and had numerous aborted takes too where I struck but nothing on the other end. 

The fish were of a good stamp and the weights listed below.

13.02, 11.11, 12.01, 10.10, 11.07 and 12.04

A marked up 12lb 4oz female. 2nd best of the trip.
 
 Unfortunately, around 4am the bites dried up and more worryingly so did the liners, this suggested to me that the Bream had left the area. Which did make my decision around 8am an easy one, the sun blazed above which did help as it did dry off all my gear that was drenched by the heavy dew. It did not look like I would contact anything else so I packed up and headed home. 


 Six doubles overnight made it a successful trip, just didn't find any leviathans, I'll now have to wait until next March for another shot at a monster.

Sunday 21 April 2024

Back on the Bream Trail.

 

 After that slow but very fruitful start to my spring Bream campaign I headed back out with the view to building upon what was a result beyond my expectations. Fish exceeding my new PB are certainly present and given my specimen fishing background I never stand still, a 16lb+ fish is now my target and on Thursday opted to get back out.

Ready and waiting.

 The evening before I had a peek at the forecast which didn't fill me with much confidence, my only consolation is that I've caught them in 30c+ on summer days and pressure of 1035mb+. I set off fairly early as its an hour and half drive each way and knew a few carp boys would be looking to follow the wind, this for the Bream is where I'd feel most confident of locating them and after walking round the pit twice with the glasses on I found a pod of 30 fish just basking but thought if I had found some I could try to get them down on the deck grubbing around.

FAF! 😅

 My tactic as usual was a;

- 90g open end feeder 

- 4" 10lb acolyte flourocarbon hooklink fished to a size 8 - 12lb mainline (only fishing stepped up owing to the carp present to over 50lbs!)

Fished with 2x 12mm Robin Red pellets.

 Also with this venue in particular I use a back-lead as the undertow is awful and without it presentation can be compromised. By 9am I was fishing and spodded out around 10 spods of 2 & 6mm pellet, given the water temp I didn't want to over feed, and only get more loose feed out if the Bream got feeding and I was seeing that as a return in fish on the bank.

Beautiful day, not quite Bream weather mind you. 

 As is always the case with fishing big waters you never know what is going to happen and after 10hrs of trying I got one half hearted pick-up. Not what I was hoping for and those Bream I saw remained for most of the day, out there in front of me at around 40/50 yards, so I'm sure if they decided to feed I would have picked off fish, alas, this time I drew a blank, but you never know, I could have landed an absolute monster, they do reside in these waters!.

Tuesday 9 April 2024

What A Start!

 

 Since the river season ended I've taken a 3 week hiatus from fishing, work as usual the excuse! Storm Kathleen however was predicted to bring in some stiff mild conditions, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get my 2024/25 season started. There was only one species in my mind, Bream.

 For the beginning of the season before casting out a rod I had set myself a few targets, some are probably going to pie in the sky, but you never know what the fishing gods have in store as the season progresses. I'll add one element of that list of targets here because it does have a relevance to what occurred over the weekend. That being a 15lb+ Bream.

 As the week ticked by on site I was keeping an eye on the forecast and twice said to myself I'm going to cancel, then convinced myself to still make the effort and go. In hindsight it was a brilliant decision.

 Winds of 45mph were shifting across the 25 acre pit I am targeting with only a few trees to break the constant barrage up, however that was for me to worry about in the night when the stronger gusts were predicted. On Saturday morning I could see the 17-20mph wind was blowing from the top end straight down the pit and I opted to fish off the back of the wind where I hoped the bottom wasn't as unsettled as I know at times it can cause issues with presentation and not knowing what the Bream like here I had to stick it out and stick to what I know.

 After setting up my basecamp around 9am I got to spodding a mix of 2mm and 6mm pellet to around 40 yards where I found a clear areas about the size of snooker table, to begin with I put around 15 spods out and would top it up if I caught a fish. It was however very slow and didn't get an enquiry until around 1830 when I had a steady drop back which is a very typical Bream bite and there was no hesitation to strike, or so my brother tells me, I happened to be dropping the proverbials off at the pool! Luckily Rich was there so I could leave my rods out, and I was only gone ten minutes, so when I arrived back he'd only just netted it.

Super start.

 A good start, 11lb 13ozs and first Bream of the spring for me ( Yes, of course I'm counting it! ). After that I watched a procession of Bream (some very big fish too) roll and frolic on the surface at varying ranges for a good hour or two as the light failed, this ordinarily would have filled me with enormous amount of confidence, however I have had this experience before and doesn't normally translate to bites and so it would seem this time around too. 

 For the next few hours Rich and I chewed the fat and had a great catch-up, ate some lovely food and as we neared bed time (around midnight) I got the first indication of what would turn out to be a frustrating hour or so, numerous gentle pick-ups not resulting in a hook-ups was not filling me with confidence at all, then in the early hours of the morning one finally committed and I had a steady bite that I did manage to hit, a dull nodding out in the choppy water had my mind wandering as to how big the Bream was, I know they get big in this pit which is why I'm on it. I forgot to get my headtorch so had to net it in the dark, thankfully it all went to plan and a big slab lay up in the net! 

 Without faffing around I unhooked the fish gently, loaded up the feeder and got it back out on the spot hoping for a quick bite with the fresh bait, as I popped that rod on the rest I had a bite on my other rod, the bobbin pulled up tight then dropped back, obviously standing over the rod I didn't wait for anything else to happen, I picked up the rod and away I was again! This fish even at distance felt heavy but with a dour fight the Bream inched closer to the net where I got my first glimpse and my god, what a fish it was too!

 I had a big fish in the net already and this Bream made it look small! I knew I had something special, I had surely smashed my personal best. The adrenaline coursing through me is such a buzz, what a feeling.

 Once I got myself together I weighed both fish and opted to pop them in the retainer and waited for sunrise to get some pics which were kindly taken by my mate and fellow Drennan man, Chris. We were all in awe, my brother was shocked, as was I. 

Bream no:2 - 13lb 7ozs.

 I got the smaller one on the scales first when I had caught them and she weighed 13lb 7ozs which would have made anyones trip, however the fish I popped on the scales next had me dreaming and my target for the spring ( 15lb+ specimen ) was beaten and achieved. 

My new personal best, 15lb 10ozs!

 Don't look at the hair, just look at that slab, its a fish I've wanted to get my hands on for a couple of years now, first go this spring, jobs a good'en. Still time to get some more hopefully before they get their rocks off. The rest of the trip dripped by without another touch and the intense winds continued to a point I decided to pack up. 

 With 15lb+ Bream being as uncommon as they are, I thought this target was one of those pie in the sky targets. Just goes to show on the right waters it is possible.

Now also own a barrow...😕😂

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Season Review 2023/24.

 

 Well, that was fun! I managed to get quite a bit of angling done over the last 12 months, as you could probably imagine alot of it was in pursuit of Barbel as I looked to reach 23 completed rivers for my challenge. I'm happy to say that I managed to surpass that initial target and settled on 24 completed rivers by the close of play.

 It wasn't all Barbel though and here are a few of my highlights.

Kicked it off with a brace of big Bream.

Then a big river Rudd!

No: 19 - Finally a Loddon double, 10.7 YEAHHH

No: 20 - A Ribble Ripper! 10.13 

No: 21 - Sunset Sussex Rother gem, 12.10 

No: 22 - ColnBrook mirage, rare beasts, 11.5

No: 23 - Severn (lower) powerhouse, 10.7

My only PB of the season, 3lb 13oz Perch, woah!!

No: 24 - My Itchen monster, 15.2 (season best).

Best Grayling of the winter, 2.8

Tuesday 19 March 2024

One Final Roll of the Dice.

 

 The pull of the Wye has had me travelling the 310 mile round trip to fish conditions that most would avoid, oddly I seem to love it! ( tongue in cheek ). I guess my rational for fishing the Wye in these conditions is that it is well documented that the bigger fish tend to continue feeding when smaller specimens batten down the hatches and switch off, also the time of year would suggest its the best time to try and target a double as all those high 8's and 9's during the warmer months would all now be doubles, I only want and need one!

 Frustratingly for me the only chance I've been faced with was the one I lost a few weeks back, that was put down to a stroke of bad luck, it happens to us all but I had tried hard to atone for that error even if conditions as I've said before aren't great. Rising cold water rushing down the valley never makes for easy visits, I simply had to grind out what I could. This time Brian would endure the visit with me, could he manage something that has so far eluded me? 

 We set about trying every spot possible with an eye on the gauges and weather forecast upstream, we knew fishing would be harder come the 14th of March ( last day of the season ), the impetus to catch a few on the 13th was strong. 

 My first taste of a Barbel unfortunately was a foul hooked fish that made life very hard for Brian and I as I simply could not control it, after plenty of persistence we managed to net the fish and safely release it, not long after that I finally got a Barbel that was hooked fair and square, this was quickly followed by another two Barbel, but nothing big, in-fact the smaller fish seemed to have switched on, not the sort of stamp I wanted to be seeing but better than nothing I suppose.

 The remainder of the day ticked by and by midnight I got my total up to 5 fish, everything was pinned on Thursday and that rising cold river which was going to be hard. Thankfully for me the final day wasn't a total washout as two more Barbel made it to the net, the best coming just 20mins before we packed up for home. 8mm pellet once again catching most of the fish.

 7 Barbel and 2 Chub, not the end I hoped for but the conditions this season have been very testing, fingers crossed it's a lot better upon my return.

Saturday 16 March 2024

Wading About for Ladies.

 

 As the season drew to a close I got an invite from Mike once again to join him on the beautiful Wylye, how could I ever say no!!

 Conditions apparently were testing and so it proved to be, when I arrived some parts of the fields were underwater! most areas I've fished previously were boiling torrents and the bank as treacherous as you could imagine given the levels, without waders it would have been a total waste of time. 

 The first 6hrs of the trip were very hard going indeed with just 6 proper bites and five of them were Grayling with the best just over 2lbs, I really did wonder whether it was going to get better in the evening and thankfully for me it did! 

 The final two hours provided much better sport, not sure why but glad it did switch on, that final stretch provided a further 13 Grayling with 2 of them over 2lbs ( another at 2lb 1oz and my best of the session weighing a pleasing 2lb 6ozs ), that was backed up with numerous decent 1lb+ fish with two 1lb 15oz specimens chucked on top for good measure.

2.06

 That did mean however that my quest for a 3lb+ Grayling rolls onto next winter, I knew it would be tough but it has not been easy at all, nevertheless the fish I've been catching of late are of a superb standard and one can never tire of runs of 2lb+ fish!

 Until next winter....

 Best fish: 2.6, 2.1, 2.1, 1.15, 1.15 & 1.14.

 Also after my recent trip to Drennan HQ I collected a couple of new bits to try and absolutely loved how easy the new 15ft Acolyte Specimen float rod managed in that pacy water, I can not wait to tackle some summer Barbel and Chub with this rod 😍.

Saturday 2 March 2024

Upcoming Events.

 

 With one eye firmly fixed on the end of season glut I'm hoping to sample I also have a couple of events that I have been invited to talk in.

 Bear in mind this is first time I've ever done anything like this so god knows what it'll sound like and be for the listening public, but I've been asked whether its something I'd like to do, of course I said yes, so now it's time to start prepping as the first one (21st March) is at the RDAA (Reading & District) Fisheries Forum where I will be chatting to like minded anglers about my angling but mainly about the "Forty Rivers Challenge" that you guys all know about by now!

 Details for this evening of festivities is available below. However, in June I have been asked to open "The Barbel Society'" annual show at Notts County Football ground, this may well be a bit more nervy as I suspect there will be a fair few people attending and public speaking is not something I've done before and only been in front of a camera a couple times, so I have quite a bit of work to do over the closed season.

 If any of you guys are coming it be great to see you and looking forward to putting faces to names and meeting new people too, it will certainly be an interesting chapter personally, we shall have to see if it is a total disaster or an educational and light hearted chat among friends both old and new.





Sunday 18 February 2024

Six Foot.

 

 Well, winter still hasn't arrived and the rivers are in a constant state of flood, now for Barbel that isn't the end of the world but now valentines day has passed my attentions typically turn to plump Dace, solid Roach and Gigantic Grayling, all of which will be close to their pomp. Issue is these conditions are not conductive to targeting any of the above. Therefore I still feel persuaded to target Barbel, can't say I am too disappointed of course!

 Once again I made the journey to the R.Wye, this time however it was via Oxford as I felt I was long overdue a visit to see the chaps over at Drennan HQ, I have had conversations with a few of the guys ( Chris, Ian and Foxy along with Jack and Richy who I have been filming with on the Wye ) however I haven't personally met most of the guys including the main man, Peter, who I had the pleasure of meeting on Thursday. Many many fascinating stories from yesteryear and many exciting things ongoing and new projects in the pipeline for all you anglers out there. 

 It was great to see machinery doing it's thing, whether its laves being used to make float bodies, machines cutting and profiling new bank sticks and buzz bars or creating small brass weights to fit on the bottom of floats for still water fishing, it was great to see manufacturing here in the UK and I didn't even see the main part, which I'll hopefully see another time. 

 It was a fantastic opportunity and left with a couple new toys in the shape of the new Acolyte 15ft Specimen Float Rod, Acolyte 9ft Commercial feeder rod which I'll repurpose most likely for close quarters Chub fishing and the new 2.8m telescopic landing net pole which feels great, for the roving angler who wants to keep gear to a minimum but not compromise on ability this may well be the bit of kit for you as for example this new pole compact is about 2ft long where as the middle of the range Twistlock is around 4.8ft compact, plus it is light too. 





 I am looking forward to using them. My tour of HQ at Drennan was done for now and said my goodbyes to all and set off for the Welsh border, the plan was to fish for the afternoon for a few hours and then fish on Friday, so I had a day and half planned. The level when I arrived was 3.4m and tanking through, the temp was okay at 9.4c which I felt was fine for a few bites and a few bites I got, the first two takes were modest Chub to 4lb+ and after 45mins the first Barbel of the trip slipped up, around mid-6 it gave a good account of itself and as evening drew closer my tally was inched up to 3 Barbel with the best weighing 7lb 9oz, a nice fish but bigger were sought after so she quickly went back. As soon as dusk came the river went dead and packed up at 10pm having not had a bite for 5hrs.


 Friday morning I woke up nice and fresh after a surprisingly comfortable night on the backseats of my Audi, I certainly can't lay straight at 6ft tall but was good enough. I started the day with a couple of bacon rolls and set about building on the previous afternoons work. Friday morning was not a bad affair as my 8mm pellet and small PVA bag approach certainly got the Barbel feeding swiftly as my rod was put into action, a couple of 6's followed by another 7lber was topped by a lovely hard fighting 8lb 5oz fish, which like all the others were in great condition.


 The Barbel sport dropped off a cliff around 1pm, but the Chub seemed to switch on massively, the utter carnage that ensued was glorious, every slack, crease and snag came alive and the tip was bouncing all over the place and wrapping round at regular intervals, nothing massive with the best around 4.08 but I quickly got up to 19 Chub, most of which were 4's before all of a sudden the bites ended, like the light had been turned off.

 For the hour leading up towards dusk I was back to manning a motionless rod/s ( which became 2x rods on nightfall to double my chances ) and as the light gave way to night my luncheon meat rod bounced a couple times to which I became alert, a few minutes passed without further incident, well that was until the rod went into meltdown, even stripping line off the clutch which was fairly tight. I knew it was a good fish and by the way she hung deep in the flow I had a feeling it was big, the first 3/4 minutes were played out in the flow and barely got it off the bottom. 

 The fight was slow, strong and on the stout gear felt that I was just in control, my main issue was I was fishing beyond a concrete landing stage and throughout the fight had to keep my rod tip high to prevent the line from rubbing on the concrete lip but also get the fish up and over the lip into what is usually dry but currently 5ft or so deep. It wasn't until it rolled a rod length out that I got to see her and knew it was a double, the fight pretty much cemented that thought but seeing it just confirmed any doubts, however things did not go to plan from that point on as I knew I was nearing the end and was seconds from chalking off number 25 of my Barbel challenge, the next phase of the fight was agonising, she rolled on the surface again in front of me and all of a sudden my gripper lead came hurtling out the water toward me, it took me a couple of seconds to work out what just happened, then it dawned on me, she was gone! I thought the grating of the concrete on the hooklink had parted the 12lb flourocarbon but turned out that the hook hold had given way. 

 I was THAT close....just six-foot between a R.Wye double figure Barbel and me....that was tough to take.

 My first hook pull in over 12 months and only the second Barbel I've lost all season. The remaining hours drifted by without another touch as the stars emerged from behind the clouds, the Owls chorus grew louder and louder and the thunderous echo of the turbulent river emptying out of the valley. 

 150 miles back home, I will have to do it all over again. 19x Chub to mid-4lbs and 8x Barbel to 8lb 5oz.

 Below is a little look through my rigs / tactics for most of the trip.

 

A starter bag, used in swims I have just started in.

Running 2oz gripper lead.

8mm Robin Red with fake maggot tip, size 10 hook.

Saturday 10 February 2024

Local Action.

 

 On Tuesday just gone I dropped the kids off at school and nursery, that left me with a dilemma as to what to do, chill at home for a few hours before heading back out to get them at 3pm or go fishing... 

 It was an easy decision of course 😂, not a big one at just over 7lbs but a healthy bend was put in the rod as I aimed to keep that feisty Barbel out of the snags in the far-side undercut which it did visit momentarily but the well balanced tackle did it's job well.

 Release of that powerhouse below ⬇⬇⬇⬇

 Available via YouTube where there are other videos too ----) Chalk stream Barbel 

 Before the Barbel downstream I did have a surprise Brown Trout that was easily over 3lbs, very good to see them frequenting the lower reaches. Half past one came and that heralded my exit so I can make the 13 mile journey back home in time to collect the kids, t'was a nice way to spend 3hrs.

 Not quite the elation felt a few nights previous, that capture will be remembered until the day I kick the bucket. Still perched on cloud nine and smile everytime I see the pics.

Sunday 4 February 2024

River Itchen Double, That's A Wrap!!

 

 Well, I can honestly say the R.Itchen really made me work hard and it very nearly didn't happen, sometimes angling is a game of chance and I played my hand a few times on this trip and came up, in the end, with a royal flush.

 I originally planned to head down Friday night after work and fish through to sunrise then head home, but the mrs unbeknownst to me had plans so my trip to the Itchen had to be put on ice a night. Conditions were still good on Saturday night so I chose to go then instead. 

 A day was spent at the sister-in-laws before heading home where the youngest decided to puke everywhere in the car, not once but twice. Time was spent sorting that out, however the smell lingered for the duration of my journey down to the river, even with windows partially open the smell was still there, thankfully an hour and half later I was at the river and getting myself set-up.

 I opted to fish two rods, one on meat with a 5oz cage feeder and the other on 8mm (Robin Red) pellet with bouyant maggot tip. The plan was to set-up base for a while and move if things did not materialise and after 5hrs thats exactly what happened. Oddly the level rose and the colour was getting heavier which I didn't know if it would help or hinder me. The only negative thing I was faced with was debris coming down and at times my 5oz feeders were being swept out of position, so I had to re-evaluate my approach.

 The best option for me I thought was to rove around and give each spot 20 minutes as the bait and wait approach wasn't working. I spent the next hour and a bit hoping around slacks and creases to try and illicit a bite, 3am had come and gone and I was just tidying up the boot of the car which I was now fishing next to when I caught the glimpse of the rod tip tap and hold about two-inches which grabbed my focus, I crouched down to see if it would materialise and as I was about to pick up the rod it ripped round, giving me no doubt as to what it was and within the first few seconds I knew it was a very big Barbel. 

 The way the big ones hold out in the flow on the bottom is mighty impressive and took me 2/3 minutes to gain some control before it cruised up into the back-end of a weed bed where it got temporarily jammed before easing back down and under full contact again, it really was a hairy battle but knew the kit was up to the task. 

 A couple of minutes later I could sense my time was coming close to wrapping it up and it didn't dawn on me how big she was until it came into full view through the coloured water and steam from my breath as my BPM possibly reached 140+, my fixed rim 26" net never looked so under-gunned for a fish, until now.

 Somehow I managed to land her and allowed her to rest after her exertions, I staked out the net in the margins so I could get my mat, camera, sling and scales all set-up. Once that was done it was time to lift her out the water, I did honestly think I was gazing at a new personal best Barbel, she really was that big!

A fish I never thought I'd lay eyes on.
  

I was in awe at first when I laid it on the mat, but when cradling it for photos I felt privileged to have managed such a feat, the words captioned in the title were words that I didn't think I would be writing, this was my 13th trip to the Itchen and the previous 12 trips resulted in blanks across 140.5hrs.

It was a true Itchen beast.


 As the digitals settled it obviously confirmed it was a double, that was never ever in doubt as the scales read 15lb 2oz and river number 24 of my epic challenge has now been completed, it's a fish that made me work bloody hard but the result of all that hard work could not have been better! 

Cigar time!!!!

Breaming of a Slime Fest.

   As the weather begins to warm so does the water and slowly but surely the Bream will come to a point where they will go off and spawn, en...