Monday 22 July 2019

The Art of Catching Barbel.

 Is quite simply put in other words, to understand the art of catching chub!. This is true throughout all fishing in our wonderful and enchanting rivers. Where barbel reside chub are almost certainly close by.

 This season I have chosen to invest quite a bit of time on a neglected stretch of river off the beaten track and away from my usual haunts. Revisiting somewhere I haven't been for some time, I spent in the region of fifteen trips a few years back attempting to cross paths with an elusive monster, one that I had the pleasure of seeing with my own eyes holding steady in a fast narrow stretch of river. Chocked with ranunculus, just as it was then. I am almost holding out hope that she may still be alive or another specimen of her calibre hidden amongst the large healthy beds of weed that could quite easily conceal such a creature, the unknown for me is tantalising yet nervous at the same time, my efforts may not be rewarded in such glorious fashion.

 The very sense of being there, on that stretch of water fills one with such excitement that even with my continuing health issues that I shall not bore you with enable me to find the strength and ability to pick my way through the maze of towering stinging nettles for the first time as I look to nestle myself along with my B James Mark IV Avon 10ft split cane rod and a little bag of bait in a nook or cranny that looks fisherable. As I approached the last three to four feet of the bank I can just make out through my steamed polaroids the tail of what looked like a good barbel.

 I crouched back down behind the slightly less dense bank side foliage and wipe the condensation from my glasses whilst gently wafting some cool air up my light jumper. As I regained my viewing position I could see with clear vision a barbel of at least ten pounds holding at the tail end of a bed of ranunculus that stretched possible forty feet! This unfortunately meant I had probably entered what would be the area I would pull fish up from, so I beat a slow retreat after admiring such a glistening creature for a little longer. Confident my cover wasn't blow I slipped my way upstream to roughly where I thought the ranunculus would start and my prediction was spot on as I stumbled upon a large clear gravel patch with the beginnings of the roots of weed arching up and waving in the flow.

 This was certainly earmarked as one of my spots, so I underarm threw out a healthy helping of 6mm pellets and broken 15mm dumbbell boilies, kindly made by Darren McCann of the Hookbait Co. With the dinner bell rang this was not for fishing in mind on this occasion, yes I knew one very good barbel lay forty feet downstream and possibly more between her and the bait, but I wanted the bait to settle and allow whatever was there to feed confidently until such time that I felt the swim was ready for me to start fishing.

 In the back of my mind the fast glide where I saw, 'The Monster",  we shall just call her for future reference and wondered was there anywhere to possibly fish what is a very pacy swim. A further venture upstream through what appeared to be virgin jungle was energy sapping, sweat pouring from every pore on my body, the sound of the faster water was getting louder and this spurred me on to continue! As I got closer visions of "The Monster" crossed my mind again and almost peered through the water expectantly. This time though there was to be no initial mirage followed by the realisation of a 14-16lb barbel sitting in the flow just a rod length from me.

 Rewind those few years I just remember thinking to myself, one: how could I not have bought a rod along knowing I was looking for areas to fish and potentially have a chance at fishing for something, but secondly: why, knowing the potential of the water did I not give it more of a chance. I think the reason this campaign has come about is simply I want a challenge, away from other anglers and fish the good old fashion way, whether its stalking at close quarters or playing the long game, fast forward those years and I am here. Hoping that my chance of something special hasn't passed me by.

 The swift glide has more weed on it now than it used to but looks in fine fettle and although I didn't see a barbel I did spot the odd chub drifting around at the tail end of the weed runs. The section I am fishing is possibly half a mile long, no weir pools to keep me occupied and I feel the fish don't move much, I only think this simply based on my knowledge of barbel, yes they do move a lot and know to be transient but there is a whole host of overhanging bushes, marginal trees in the water, not to mention the very healthy weed growth which provides masses of cover. Natural food here is not in short supply either as I bait dropped out a few batches of the bait I came back with fresh water shrimp and even watched a dragonfly larvae climbing out the river in front of me as I watched that barbel.

 Knowing that competition food wise is going to be hard I felt that it would be good to get around five patches in total ticking over with bait and maybe adopt the forty-five minute rule, this is if you've had no bite in that time move to the next swim, or if you catch, move anyway to manage the swim in a way that doesn't put pressure on the shoal if indeed one exists. It's all about swim management. So over the last week including last Thursday I managed to make the journey down to keep the bait going in. Driving all that way just to bait up!...the saying "effort = reward" I'm hoping this rings true and on the 16th of July I made my first journey down to the river with the rod all set up.

 The previous evening, instead of watching the tripe on the television I sat down and started tying a few rigs that should see me through the season. My main approach is going to be bait and wait ( unless stalking becomes an option ) so I made a few rigs using the Gardner gravel coloured coated braid and by stripping around six inches of the coating off allowed me to give the hair/hook a lot of flexibility, in time this small design may pay off. The hooks I use are wide gape hooks, always use wide gape for barbel, regardless if I am rolling meat or static fishing, the pattern is something I have absolute faith in. The size of the hook I want to relatively match the size of the bait so I am settling with a size 8 for now which is also coated in a gravel coating so that when fishing in the sunlight it doesn't glint which could put feeding fish off.

 The five swims I have chosen to get feeding all look fairly similar in terms of weed growth and cover, but the pace is different throughout the stretch and I am keeping an eye on a sixth possible location when in flood conditions during the winter as it has a fairly large back eddy that no doubt will be somewhere fish, especially barbel and chub will seek refuge come the cooler months with the higher likelihood of rains. On the 16th I dropped into a peg I really did fancy right from the off but with the bright sunlight I could still see some of my broken boilies amongst the gravel which was a good indicator to me that the fish in the time I had been feeding that spot weren't on it often enough to clear it off. That did open up a few dilemmas in my head as to whether it is a feeding area, or an area just the odd passing fish grubs up on and goes off elsewhere.

 I'll leave myself to ponder on that another time. Having gathered my gear I slipped off back down my little trail, shrouded by the annoyingly tall nettles, getting stung on my neck and face (which wasn't pleasant) I got to my next port of call, a nice swift run in the middle and an inside crease that I felt may well hold a fish or two. With my 1.5oz gravel coloured lead I gently placed it twenty feet downstream and a rod length out, sat back and waited for the tip to slam round and the centrepin to spin!

 The tranquility experienced on the bank in such wild surroundings is a huge part as to why I love angling so much and at a time where there is so much negativity, I can safely say that there will be (hopefully) none of that on this quest. As a pair of Kingfishers chased each other up and down I almost missed just the tiniest of taps on the rod, only subtle, but enough to get my attention as around fifteen minutes had passed by now and I was just soaking up the atmosphere, as you do.

 Then, like a shark had just taken the bait with rod lurched healthily downstream and line tore of my nearly sixty year old reel, I was sure that in just a short time I had caught a barbel, after finally gaining control of the rod and I gingerly got upright I began to gain quickly on what turned out to be a modest chub of around 4lbs, not my target, but it was a fish. After a quick snap of actually what was a stunning looking fish I headed downstream and rested the patch I'd just caught from.

 This peg was one of the wider ones and in truth quite tricky to fish but I chose it as a potential area of interest is that the gravel was spotless the whole way across, only a couple little bits of weed and I felt this was a peg at night that the barbel and probably chub would come in and feed on, thus giving it a go. Again, I opted to put on a small PVA bag and underarm casted the bait out with minimal noise as I am not sure yet whether the noise turns the fish on or spooks them, only time will tell on that one.

 I sat in this particular patch for around half an hour whilst occasionally standing up to stretch my back and legs, but, to also have a peer through the polaroids to see if there was any activity on the gravel for which there was none on each of my checks. After half an hour I decided to make my way back to the swim I had the chub from and hoped that any other chub in there would have spoked off and any barbel in the peg would have a feed.

 Same as before I inched my bait into position and just laid back, daydreaming of what could be, questions and scenarios constantly running through my mind. The fact I am trying is enough for me, I believe I have caught enough barbel over the years to say I am competent enough to achieve such a quest, should my target still be swimming these waters. An hour passed by in a flash and said to myself I need to pack myself away for 9pm, that gave me time to get to the motor and get home without waking up the mrs. As nine o'clock came, I packed my bag away and folding the net away and into it nifty little sleeve, just leaving the rod out, as you do, just to eek that last opportunity out of the trip and it worked!

 A single tap was followed by a ferocious slam of the rod which took me by surprise as there was no precursor, a sturdy fight ensued out in mid flow and dived into a small bed of weed which gave me the impression it was a chub, now it felt heavier than a chub so I was a little curious, a few seconds later the fish finally came out the weed and rolled on the surface, a large chub turned and all the while the landing net is getting scrambled back together again!. As the chub turned it went deep in front of me to the bottom and showed no intention of coming in, but with such stepped gear owing to the abundance of weed the chub was swiftly bought back up to an awaiting net.

Pleased with that!

Caught at 2108, measuring 21.6 inches in length.

 Home time delayed by a little while but when its a chub of 5lb 8ozs I am sure nobody minds. In fantastic condition and in the winter it will certainly tip the scales over the 6lb mark, it certainly was no barbel, but the art of catching barbel is the art of catching chub, so it's inevitable. 

Friday 12 July 2019

Unabled Bodied, Able Minded.

 Over the last couple of weeks I have really struggled with my health and the recent results of an emergency MRI scan have determined that a pro-lapsed disc which is pinching the nerve that runs the length of my left hand side of body through my buttock right to my toes has rendered me at times completely bed ridden. I can tell you that it has been extremely difficult to contemplate.

 For those who know me well will know spending any amount of time at home more than what is absolutely necessary is very difficult for me to accept, but feel that I am more at home away from home if that makes sense, my senses immersed in nature, whether it be in the deep Fenland spaces or the confines of the urban surroundings I live in. With my impairment fishing has become impossible and only since the first day of the season have I managed any time out fishing. With such a lack of angling opportunities available I decided to give my mate Brian a call and wondered if he fancied a wander around a section of our urban jungle.

 Knowing that the early summer roach fishing can be easy pickings the tackle was geared towards them. A 15ft Grey's Toreon float rod, Okuma centrepin loaded with 3lb line and a light 3BB float setup fished with a size 12 narrow gauge micro-barb hook was just perfect. I chose a nice deep pool that offered a near side and a far side eddy where roach normally reside, sure enough within a couple of trots the float slipped under and a fish powered upstream in the strong flow. Expecting to see a roach and a modest gudgeon appear is always a bonus and although it was not the sort of size that would get the blood pumping it was still great to see. I often wonder what a 6lb gudgeon would fight like if they grew to that size, per ounce they are very willing fighters.

 It didn't take long before my target finally came along, a roach of possibly 4oz followed by a procession of eight more in a little over an hour before the swim went strangely very quiet so myself and Brian went for a wander towards the bus stop. Before heading for our transport home I decided that a quick half a dozen trots under a favourite oak tree would yield a roach or two to add to my tally. What happened next I did not expect. As my float hit the crease I usually find roach sat a barbel shot out of the far bank cover and nailed my thumb-nail sized piece of bread flake.

 Needless to say the battle was awesome and on numerous occasions I felt that I was going to lose it. Having navigated the thick, lush runs of Ranunculus and overhanging tree branches Brian managed to slip a big barbel into a rather small net! Just goes to show, even on such light tackle with snags present you can land fish way bigger than your tackle is designed to "tackle".

 I was chuffed of course! 8lb 11oz of chalkstream muscle on light match trotting gear.

 Tight Lines all, enjoy every minute, I know I did, but since then my back has got worse and I am really struggling physically so it will be some time before I find myself out on the bank once again.

Thursday 4 July 2019

The Ever Faithful Roach.

 Fishing for Roach on the surface is not something you'd initially associate as a go to method for them, that said, I was feeding some crust on the surface to see if any chub or trout were present and within a short space of time I had roach well over a pound, a couple close to two pound confidently taking large lumps of crust just downstream of me. I was in awe at just how many were at it.

 Needless to say I got myself ready fairly quickly and within ten minutes I had built up a little bag of Roach before they got weary of my presence and they backed off downstream. A quick mat shot of the ones I had coaxed to the net, nothing big mind you.

 Once I released those guys back I tracked the trail of curst going down and could still some very big roach taking pieces of crust off the top, first cast had a large specimen of possibly 2lb swirl at the crust but didn't take it and continued down the run unhindered. A couple of free-bees went out and this large roach once again showed itself as the third piece of crust went down, so it was obviously being selective and for some reason wasn't confident in my offering but would wilfully take others.

 A slightly smaller piece went on just covering my size 8 hook went out and the same big roach came up and again swirled at the crust and I struck thinking it had taken it, but immediately it was obvious that it hadn't and the crust came off and was eaten by a roach further down the run. I felt my chance had passed me by and tried again after resting the run for a couple of minutes and feeding a couple of pieces of crust every thirty seconds or so to get them competing.

 The swirls started to increase in appearance and hoped this was my time, third time lucky I thought and as my crust went by the lair of the big one with no response I guessed that strike irritated it enough to drop away from that spot knowing now that it was certainly being targeted, five yards down the run a healthy swirl appeared as my crust carried on down the crease and then vanished, the line pulled tight and roach on!

 Not the biggest I'd seen surfacing but a roach all the same! Around a pound in great nick.

 After that one, two more roach did also fall foul to the floating crust but the prospect of a big roach seemed to end pretty quickly after that first miss. Another time I guess. When I back up and running.

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...