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 fishing....it 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.