Wednesday 28 December 2016

Barbel on Bread.

 Our unseasonably warm winter has many down sides to it, the flowering of buds in mid-December and the appearance of certain animals that should be in hibernation as well as many other things, though it's not necessarily a good thing the warm weather has provided me with sport I seldom enjoy after October. Knowing that with the milder weather staying around for a short while the Barbel would be feeding fairly well, my hunch was right on my last outing on the float for the Barbel and I hoped for similar results.

 When tackling Barbel on the float it's easy to think that you'd have to set up the gear to withstand the sturdy fight's that you can be met with, in my opinion that couldn't be further from the truth, of course the watercourse that the angler is tackling may mean that the stepping up of gear is absolutely necessary due to snags and other obstacles, if however as is in my case then only the occasional snag may cause issue you can fish light, just as if you were trotting for Roach or Chub. One thing that is true for all Barbel is that they will seek clear runs and swift glides to fight where Chub will seek the nearest bush, tree or unseen snag to ditch the hook, so when targeting Barbel it simply is being able to overcome the power that they possess when in full battle mode.

 I love to use a Grey's 12ft Specialist float rod and armed with either a spool of 4.4lb line or recently I have been using 3.6lb Drennan double strength line and it being ultra-low diameter is effective in being undetectable, just perfect for weary clear river Barbel.

My typical trotting setup which has been deadly of late.

 On Monday morning I had a couple of hours in the morning to use and at first it was with Roach in mind, unfortunately where I wanted to go wasn't an option so I had to rethink my options and with the memory of that red letter day last week fresh in my mind I couldn't look no further than putting a loaf of Kingsmill to the sword. It didn't take long either! It's been a while since I had found Barbel feeding so amorously and these were not holding back, weary they were not. The pin sang within my first three trots and a perfectly proportioned Barbel of 6.07 was in the net, not a bad start at all and the next three hours was equally good fun as I took another four Barbel with the largest going 7lb 7oz.

A perfectly conditioned winter Barbel. 7.07.

 As I moved about I popped into a tight swim where only a short trot was available, I had watched a shoal of large Chub drift into a slack off the main flow, the largest was probably six-pounds with the majority in the five-pound range, any one of them would have been nice I thought and it took well over an hour to finally tempt one, huge pieces of bread went ignored for trot after trot. A slight change to a tiny piece of flake on a size 16 did the trick first cast!

Another good Chub, not the largest at 5lb 3oz but certainly happy with that!

 My GoPro got a good outing yesterday too as I got some lovely footage which I am going to edit soon but I have some snaps already prepared and I have been impressed at the quality, I have my missus to thank for that!

Tuesday 20 December 2016

In Search of Monster Chub: Part Eight.

 With last weeks trip firmly in the rear view mirror of my season I really wanted to get back on track with the Chub, Sunday's phenomenal haul of Barbel had really boosted my confidence and put me in a mood to try hard for a good result today. On the bank today I was joined by one of my work mates who shares the same passion for angling, both of us were on the float and hoped to get some fish feeding on the maggot.

 Conditions again were changed from my last visit as a clear night gave way to a drop in temperature, just what we wanted.....but we were there and made the most of it. Initially we started on a section of river I'm fairly familiar with but the fish had other ideas as the first 4 hours drifted by with no enquiries at all, various swims of differing depths were tried but all in vein, the Chub were certainly there but simply could not be tempted, a change of venue was in order.

 After eating lunch and planning our attack we headed back to the river with a new plan, find a swim each and stay on it until dusk, before we arrived at our swims we stopped to watch a dog otter which was sat on the far bank preening itself as we looked on, fully aware of our presence it slipped out of sight and more than likely went on to terrorise the fish stocks. Just a bite would have been nice, just to confirm all of the fish had just got out and walked off, twenty minutes in my first swim again produced absolutely nothing and all of a sudden the float slipped away and a small Roach was swung in, I thought to myself that it could be the start of something good. I was right.

 For the next 45 minutes I caught over twenty Roach to half a pound on double white maggots, anything else for example double red or mixed I didn't get a touch, back on to the double whites I'd get the bites again, it was a good bit of fun and every single one was immaculate, complete with the iridescent sheen and orange fins they were perfection in miniature. A distinct lack of Chub still plagued me, I was enjoying the Roach but really wanted to catch my target. With dusk approaching that time was coming.

 A change from maggots to bread eventually paid off, the Chub weren't on the mags but seeking larger baits, more than 20 runs through a great looking swim provided me with no knocks then the float buried itself and I latched into a very good Chub, the rod went solid fairly quickly and without seeing the fish it buried itself in a tree and after a few minutes of trying to free the fish a bare hook was set free, the fish had escaped unseen and it felt like a good fish which knew exactly what it was doing. Next trot after that disappointment and the float slipped under again, another fish on and this time I made no mistake, a small fish around 2.08 slipped into the net, target fish but a little on the erm...little side, with time running out unfortunately we didn't get a chance to bag anything bigger, another trip and another lesson learnt. It's not been easy but I'll be back soon.

Monday 19 December 2016

The Insatiable Appetite of the Barbel.

 December the 18th, 9c at sunrise at 0802, is it really winter? it should be but it doesn't feel like it at all, the weather seems to be getting too familiar, just like Arsenal's season!. I digress anyhow and get back to the was bloody Out. Of. This. World. Now on the likes of the Trent this maybe a regular occurrence but on many other rivers across the country this is unbelievable, a summer catch if you apply yourself well.

 The conditions as I said were just too mild for what they should be but this along with the low cloud and the appetite of Barbel was the perfect storm and on Sunday morning I had two options, first was to get some livebait and go Pike fishing, or the second was target a Barbel, both of which were good ideas but the warmth put me off slightly on the Pike front so I choose to go with the latter, it was to be an inspired decision. I arrived at the river with just enough light to set up and within a couple of minutes I set off in search of the first decent swim where I thought something maybe holding up, in mild conditions Barbel are happy to move longer distances to take a bait or passing through on the currents.

 First swim and it was perfect, on the back end of an inside bush I could see a tail of a Barbel hanging out the back end, I thought my luck was in, six or seven trots later and I felt that it wasn't going to happen, reluctantly I decided to move on. Second cast in the next swim and I felt a jolt through the rod and with that a Barbel took off, that feeling does never get old. First blood 6.05, good start and the quick start continued as I took another two fish from my next two swims, these weighed 6.01 and 6.10.

A deformed 6.05 Barbel, certainly didn't impede the fight.

 The good start put me right in the groove and I could do no wrong, everything and everywhere I tried the results were the same. By 930 am I had my fourth fish in the net at 7.09 which was my best of the morning so far but all was about to get soooo much better, on the off chance I popped into a swim I seldom fish and peered through my glasses when to my surprise I noticed Barbel, I thought to myself "oh this is great, there's fish everywhere", believe me on this, it isn't usually the case, a lot of knowledge has been learnt on various rivers and a lot of watercraft has evolved from spending many years stalking fish like Barbel in their natural environment.

Lean and dark, 7.09.

 For more than twenty minutes I perched myself precariously on a branch of a tree as I stared into the water to gauge the size of the fish that the swim held when I noticed a fish much bigger than the rest, clearly a double but amongst a shoal of maybe 15-20 fish selecting it was going to be very tricky, I do love a challenge and on my first cast into the run a small Barbel around 4lb approached it swiftly, in order to not hook it I had to winch the bait out the hungry mouth and allow it to continue down the run. I repeated this process of moving the bait around on every cast to try and put off the smaller Barbel from trying to eat it, this commotion that the smaller fish were causing seemed to intrigue the largest of the shoal and I could watch it slowly inching it's  way up to the front of the queue, the time that I sat there watching and waiting and using the sheer appetite of the Barbel I managed to get it to the front of the shoal.

 After assessing the surrounding's for a moment I planned my strategy to land the fish should I have the chance to catch it, I took a deep breath and flicked out my bait and watched it edge closer to my target and within the blink of an eye she turned slightly into the path of the bait and one stroke of it's tail the four or five metres between the bait and fish were covered and I could see it's mouth suck in the bait and with my heart racing and my polariod's steaming up through my sudden increase in body temp' I struck, my patience, poise and maybe even blinkered disregard for my own safety had paid off, I was set into what was a big fish, against fish of maybe 6-7lbs it absolutely dwarfed them. On the first run it took me down nearly 30 yards as it ploughed through a load of debris from the last flood, a very brief grating of line really made my stomach turn but it very quickly came back out into the main flow where I managed to gain some line back on to the pin, the fight was strong and on such light gear it was as exhilarating as it was scary, for what felt like an eternity my prize finally made it's last short dash for freedom before slipping into the net. Oh that felt good!!

 When I lifted it out of the river I couldn't believe that it was actually a fairly short fish but my god it was packed to the rafters, well fed indeed and clearly hasn't finished either. I couldn't wait to get some photographs of what is my best Barbel of the season and arguably one the best proportioned ones I've ever seen. With the photo's done I gave it a quick weigh on the scales to reveal 11lbs 2ozs, have to be honest too and take nothing away from it, I thought she would have weighed more, the frame certainly suggests it could edge towards 13lbs at peak weight. Well chuffed with that result, could the day get any better?. It did.

Oh that will do! best of the season.

 Not ten minutes after slipping back that awesome creature I had another Barbel of 7lb 6oz, they were crawling up my rod today. By this point it was six Barbel and I was only on to my eighth swim! I probably would have run out of superlatives walking down the bank, often cursing my luck I was curious as to when I grew golden spherical objects in my pants. I continued on down and a couple of times I felt that something had to go wrong, I don't know why but I just did, I fished another couple of swims on my way towards a decent weir and thought that maybe something lurked in there but with no visual I felt the line for any enquiries, ten minutes or so had gone with no joy so I on to the next swim and first cast out and the rod tip slammed around, another fish on!, the fight straight away didn't feel staunch enough to be a Barbel and the appearance of a Chub around 3lb confirmed what I thought, pristine condition and dare I say it, nice to see? some would disagree but none would disagree with what happened as I continued my 3 mile march downstream.

7.06 another dark lean.

 A good looking pool with plenty of fish holding areas screamed at me, I just had to give it a go, if an angler walking the bank saw the swim they would not be able to walk past without giving it a go, everything you could want, feature wise. So naturally I flicked my bait out upstream and allowed the current to take up the slack but no sooner the bait hit the bottom, in fact I swear it didn't get time to the rod slammed towards the river with the line stripping from the pin, it was brutal and the fight in the deeper water was amazing, the use of every trick in the book came into play as it hung strong in the faster current and putting my tackle through a very thorough test, one of which I felt it may not come out of. I allowed the fish maybe a little more than I usually would as I didn't feel a need to rush the weighty fish on the other end, bearing in mind I was probably five minutes into the fight before I actually saw the fish, another big Barbel! I couldn't believe it, two in a day....I had to coax myself to not get so blaisé as I hadn't even tired it out.

 The epic battle that ensued must have been approaching the ten minute mark before it got to a netable distance, the fish began to tire as did I, I had to swap arms to give the other rest as I was up against it in the flow, fight's like those is what it's all about. Superb showing and as she approached the net in submission I knew I had bagged myself a second double of the morning. I pinched myself just to check but the aching arm confirmed it was very much real. I could not stop grinning through the smile and very much a great morning's fishing. The verdict of the arm wrenching second double was 10lb 15ozs, only three ounces shy of the first big Barbel. Eight in 5 hours, the insatiable appetite of the Barbel was clear to see.

Second Barbel of the day over the magic 10lb barrier, 10.15.

 I honestly thought I could have carried on fishing and caught even more but I was very happy with how the morning had gone and didn't want to ruin it in any way, plus it's not often you can experience sport like that in the winter, even though it didn't feel like winter. The 3+ mile walk back was very pleasant and with a spring in my step the day was done.

Sunday 18 December 2016

In Search of Monster Chub: Part Seven.

 Fishing is seldom a catwalk of fashion and style but there is something about marching wader clad around town and along the river, the distant looks of almost complete disapproval entwined with the why would you wear that?, that answer is easy though....without them my last two days of angling (Thursday & Friday ) would have resulted in a complete disaster.

 The need to remain completely flexible when fishing in my opinion is very important, had I not donned my chest-high's it would have been a very slow bit of fishing and knowing the Stour during the winter it's never easy and you need to give yourself every chance to catch what could be a monster, that next trot or lob out with a boilie could provide a 7lb plus fish and maybe even an "eight pounder" in some of the places I frequent of late, under no illusions that the task I set myself at the beginning of the season would have been testing and I am finding it out first hand.

 Trotting maggots by day and static boilie by dusk for that all important knock of the tip or the subtle slip of the float was all I waited for. With the conditions looking good I felt very confident that the Chub would midday only the Dace were interested as in my first swim I bagged a healthy 7lb 3oz of the silver darts in just over 2hours. Not my intended target but it was good fun and even though a thickset Pike of maybe 16-17lbs sat just off the shoal the silvers never stopped feeding, after the two hours I had assumed no Chub were present and it was time to move on.

 I moved to another run I earmarked in the summer which seemed to hold good Chub all summer and autumn, so with that knowledge I flicked maggots into the crease as I stood in the middle of the river so I could fish the far side tree line as I believed they would be close by. The next 3 hours were tough on me as I worked tirelessly to bank a fish and contrived to hook and lose two Chub, both around the 4lb mark and came agonisingly close to slipping my largest Stour Roach yet, not quite 2lb but was certainly getting there when the hook pulled just half a rod length from the net, gutted for sure and things were hard going.

 My luck did come in later on in the session as I struck into a solid fish in the main flow as I had no joy on the far bank crease and on a size 18 hook I needed to play it cautiously as the chances of catching were getting slimmer and slimmer. The frame of a decent Chub broke the surface as I angled it through the remaining stems of onion reed towards the net, as it cruised into the net I breathed a sigh of relief, it had been that kind of day!

5lb 2oz, turned out to be my best over the two days.

 After that excitement of a 5lb+ Chub on the board the rest of the day flashed by without a peep, it was to the pub for drinks and curry. Friday, another days fishing, cue the excitement again......oooops we managed to oversleep, again and missed sunrise by an hour. Must stop doing that as its writing off nearly 15% of the daylight angling time. Nevertheless we got out on the bank and Brian's blank day on the Thursday was tough going, so he decided that a days roving for Pike was in order, it didn't take long to stop the rot!. However I continued to struggle but one of the most unlikeliest of lye produced what turned out to be my only Chub of the day again, smaller than yesterday's fish but equally as appreciated as everyone else we spoke to had blanked!. Lucky me eh.

Absolutely immaculate.

 Dusk came and went with very little to shout about, one sharp bang on the tip was the only enquiry I had after 1pm. Hard going indeed.

Sunday 11 December 2016

The Barbel Drought Ends.

 Barbel fishing for me of late hasn't been particularly easy, my previous three trips have resulted in just a Chub. The Barbel seem to have disappeared from the river but this baron spell has also coincided with the change in bait, since joining the Lone Angler team I have fancied giving their baits a go, so the previous three trips I have been chopping and changing between the Ocean Pride and the Sausage Sizzle dumbells. When starting again with a new bait it takes a little while to get the fish to feed confidently on it even if you know where they are!

 On Tuesday evening I finally made it out and after a days work and got to the bank with a snippet of light left so I could get organised. The river was in good order, but tap water clear so I felt a longer hook-length might pay dividends as the fish may pick up the lead (within view) and didn't want them to realise they were being targeted. The first two swims I chose didn't produce anything but after twenty minutes in my third swim the Hamster wheel spun uncontrollably! The rod bounced up off the rod rest and down the bank, I had to react swiftly to grab the rod off the ground whilst the fish tore off downstream. Just before the rod slammed over I said to my mate who I was catching up with that I hadn't had a sniff and was thinking of moving and it's possible the Barbel weren't holding up in this particular swim, I was made to look rather silly with my comment.

 Five minutes later I guided a decent frame into the waiting net. It looked good. But not a double, my guess of 9.8 was nearly right, 9lb 4oz the end result and one I was very happy with, Sausage Sizzle's first victim!

Another "nine", had quite a few this season.

 So I was happy to put some more bait in before leaving and headed upstream to another swim that does produce the odd fish in the winter. A few minutes later I saw a slight touch on my quivertip but didn't think too much of it, ten minutes later again my rod came alive and good solid fish stayed deep and low to the bottom, the fight was much better than the first Barbel so I instinctively thought it was a much bigger fish! It took a little while to get it up off the bottom and in the pitch black I couldn't see the fish until it approached the net. It wasn't as big as we both thought but nice to get another one on the bank and two in two swims. The second victim to the SS weighed 8lb 1oz and we both actually didn't think it would do 7½lb let alone 8lb+. A good evening's fishing and glad I've broken my duck with the new bait.

Short but really stocky "8".

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Monster Minnow.

 Now, most of the things I post on my blog are usually of species of fish that grow to large proportions but rarely small fish that grow to large proportions. A Minnow is often the scourge of any trotting anglers day but when they reach the dizzy heights of 18 grams, or to put it into context it was 77% of the British record it's hard to feel frustrated. Simply enormous and here it is !

 It is hard to not appreciate such an amazing creature, colossal Minnow and it's fair to say I won't see many like that in my life time. Needless to say it hammered my personal best for the species.

Sunday 4 December 2016

A Wintry Return to the Frome.

 My season has had quite a few dry patches as many anglers will experience over the course of a season but there has also been some real highlights too, for me the most prominent was the recent capture of a 2.11 Grayling and since that trip I have decided to put a little more time into the very river that gave me that lasting memory. Albeit a very long way from home I have embarked on a couple of days trips to a new section of the river, much further down but with equal possibility of catching some even more special than what I have already managed.

Releasing my prize of a hard days work, much enjoyed I must say.

 2½ hours each from my home in south London is a huge commitment and the efforts required to fish it are great but it's sport that simply isn't available closer to home. Over the past couple of years I have really enjoyed targeting Grayling and so the journey hasn't in truth been a bother or the financial's behind a trip like these I have made recently, but when I have been on the bank I have found it very hard going, on the first trip the river was up 4-6inches and carrying a little colour, not a problem as Grayling are happy to feed with a tinge in the river but on my second trip the conditions were even better, the severe frost I thought wouldn't have been an issue but enquiries were very few and far between.

 The only decent fish I caught was a Grayling around the 1.04-1.06 mark, not a monster but in fairness it was my target species, in immaculate condition it was very good to see but the scenery and wildlife kept me more entertained than the fishing. During the morning a very inquisitive Weasel kept me company all morning and it was my first ever sighting of one in the wild, wonderful little creature they are but none come better than the Barn Owl, as dusk approached I had a snow white shape glide over head as I lye in wait for a Chub on the Stour whilst on my way home, I've seen a few this year and they are an awesome sight.

 With the severe frost came a completely white landscape, it looked so clean and untouched by humans, it was almost perfect it but for the freezing of my rings whilst I was trying to trot, it didn't make trotting easy at all. Not a bad day to be out though.

The Frome at dusk on the first of the latest trips.

At minus 5c I wasn't the only mad angler on the bank!

A motionless tip on the Stour.

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Coffee Club Chub.

 When it rains and the colour is that of a cup of tea with hardly any milk there's usually only one species of fish you can rely on targeting, the Chub. Chub have a very good sense of smell but when targeting them using bread flake you'd expect fishing to be hard but once the fish are located they seldom stay anonymous for long. This session was only a short one and large Chub (6lb+) are extremely unlikely, but for the time spare a longer journey wasn't a possibility so I made do with some trotting in less than ideal conditions.

 I arrived at the river I had in mind to find it firmly in flood, I thought to myself that it would be tough, if the Roach were feeding I'd find them in the slacks and on the creases as the main flow would just be too much for them to constantly hang in, I did initially plan to ledger breadflake in the margins as a 4oz lead/feeder wouldn't hold in the flow but in the end I opted to use a 7BB wire-stem float and fished it over depth around 6-8 inches. For a good half an hour I had one little knock on the float but it didn't materialise further.

 Then I had a little brain wave, this was to bulk my shot all down around 3inch from the hook, then moved the float back to around full depth, effectively I was rolling breadflake and using the float as indication as normal, a few trots in and the float sailed away, fish on! and in these conditions I suspected I wouldn't get many enquiries so I had to make them all count. First blood was a 4.01 Chub, this was followed by another three fish within a 45 minute window, the remaining three went 4.03, 4.06 & 4.13. No fives this time around but they are there, one of the Chub I caught was exactly 22 inches in length and only weighed 4.03, that fish in the Stour with that length would probably go 5½lb and maybe even more, problem with some of these bits are the head of fish is vast and the food I suspect isn't enough to sustain the population, whichever it is I know it isn't right.

Best of the short trip, 4.13.

 I caught though and that was the only wish for such a short session, next up is either a bash at some Barbel closer to home or a nice jaunt to my big Chub fishing grounds. 

Sunday 20 November 2016

Through the Lens: The Fens "Ruddy Great Sport".

Pukka fish aren't they!
 Rudd. One of the country's prettiest species, in my opinion they only rank behind the Tench, Grayling and my favourite species, the Roach. Catching them on the Fens was at first bit of challenge as the concept of fishing from a boat posed a few more thing's to think about, flying hook in the side, falling out of the boat in excitement and the possible action of my crew-mate pushing me in should I have caught a monster. As it transpired the real monsters over the course of the summer had decided that just showing themselves was enough for this season, baby steps for me then. Thankfully the act of mutiny did not take place.

 With the baby steps I managed six Rudd over 2lbs with my best at 2.06, conditions more often than not were not ideal for free-lining or float fishing, but when a 190 mile round trip is made no matter what was thrown at me I stayed and fished, sometimes cursing my luck but it did pay off at times. For all the hours I put into it over the summer there was probably 3-5 hours of perfect weather for spotting and stalking big Rudd.

My first 2lb+ Rudd in over twenty years, caught last summer.

 The fishing was brilliant and I learnt so much, next year I will target it unforgivably, the target will be an elusive 3lb jewel, of which over the years I've been lucky enough to catch, on a single morning's fishing with my father we had what was a "session of a lifetime", a phrase that is often coined when big fish are caught, this however at the time (1994) between us we probably caught braces of Rudd that broke the British Record, special fish indeed and something I strongly believe will never happen to me again. My brace at 3.08 and 3.13 with my fathers brace at 3.14 and 3.10, these weren't the only "three's" we caught that morning either, it was simply unbelievable, to this day it is still our fondest memory of angling. The greatest shame was those captures must have been when the Rudd were approaching the end of their lives, we never did see them again and believe me we both went back on numerous occasions. They went as quickly as they came. Special memories for sure, much to our regret we never had a camera with us and to this day vowed to remember the camera before the rod!. I love a photo now, they remind me of the great times and when the fishing is tough they give me the kick up the backside to continue as another special session could be very close.

 Last season I started to target Rudd in the Somerset levels and on my first attempt I caught a 2lb Rudd, my first since that day back when I was six years of age, some 22years later, far too long and now I'm hoping to make up for lost time, here are some photos of some stunning Rudd and the beautiful surroundings, can not beat a trip into the countryside, us Brits are blessed with how stunning our country is. Angling at it's best.

War torn Rudd, full of character!




Season best at 2.06

Small dinner plate of gold.

A right royal pain in the ....

Sheer bliss, Me, my boat and I.

One of many Grebe's that work the healthy rivers of the Fens.


Miles from civilisation and just how I like it, in the wilderness you
feel so insignificant but as close to nature as possible
as the resident Barn Owl glides past.

Can't wait to get back.

These were typical of the sunset's in the Fens, often bringing
about the best feeding spells but I couldn't find that leviathan.

8 Years in the Making.

   So we find ourselves finally able to get back on the rivers and thank god for it too. I don't mind stillwaters and canals now and aga...