Just before I jetted off for the Caribbean one last chance presented itself to head out and wet a line. With the time available I could only think of one target, Barbel. With a night going begging I opted for a static approach and feed a little as I fished a few pegs, the target Barbel being a double if at all possible and given how few are present in this river it was a tall order.
First swim that I slipped into was stupidly steep and with the persistent high levels the banks were covered in a sludge that I could barely grip, even with my proper waders ( in case I fell in! ) I struggled at times. Having finally got a bait in the water I sat patiently, hoping that the wait wouldn't be too long. Typically I give thirty to forty minutes per swim and in the winter I feed very little, sometimes just a broken boilie and maybe a PVA bag of just twenty 6mm pellets, enough to put a scent in the water and nothing else as feeding off a single fish in the winter given the difficulty of my task would be a major blow.
Forty minutes or so slipped by quickly as myself and Stu ( a fellow barbel man ) nagged about football and fishing before deciding upon a move. A similar issue faced me downstream in just about every peg as each resembled an ice rink. With the river still shifting through I was limited to fishing in the margins, that however suits me just fine as quite often its the best place to ease down a lead without alerting fish in the vicinity that they are being targeted as these fish, especially the Barbel are very weary and any sense of an angler they stay well away.
A single 15mm dumbbell and with a tiny PVA bag lowered onto a clear gravel patch I was happy the bait was free of weed and hopefully wouldn't get fouled like it did in the first swim by flotsam. With the rod out and bag organised Stu and I continued our chat when we both interrupted by the awesome tune of my match aerial screeching into life and my mark IV rod tip thumping downstream, without a doubt a Barbel was on the other end, size was very difficult to gauge at first as the flow was so powerful that night, but she held firmly in the middle without breaking into a sweat. Doing my best to ease her into the margins she produced a very good fight and easily the strongest I've experienced in a while. As she came up in the water it was clear I had managed a good one, within a minute of negotiating one last burst for freedom she slipped over the rim of the net and I was confident that fabled target was achieved. ( Not many of these left unfortunately ).
|A trademark chalkstream double, just lovely.|
Waited all of five minutes for that take in the second swim, just proves with a bait in the right place at the right time anything is possible. With a few hours still ahead I decided to move on down as I felt the swim was well and truly trashed. With about a mile of water still below me there was still chance another fish and after passing a few cutouts I got myself into one that I could sit in, the ones in between were a total mess and too dangerous to attempt accessing.
Fishing a short hook-length meant I could gently lead around to find gaps in the weed beds that were still present in vast numbers and enable the rig to sit properly on the gravel rather than in the weed or other detritus.
Midnight slowly crept up on us as we checked in on a couple of other pegs that I have caught from in the past but didn't present any opportunities and with a little rain starting to fall one last swim was fished as it felt good for a bite as the recent floods had scoured out a channel with a large weed bed at the bottom of the run and shallows either side, the perfect feeding spot for a Barbel or two.
|Just a few stars out that night before the rainclouds moved in.|
Out of all the pegs fished this one in particular had me sitting almost expectant, to begin with my hand was hovering over the rod at times at the slightest tap, fifteen minutes later I began to relax a little as it slowly became apparent my expectation was possibly too high and spent the final thirty minutes chatting away before packing up in the rain, albeit light before the heavens opened as we reached the car.
That for me was the end of my Barbel fishing for another season and considering my efforts I don't feel I did too badly at all.