Wednesday, 29 December 2021

River Lea Double, That's a Wrap!!

 

 Well what can I say! It's been a tough few months on the Barbel front, eleven trips since my R.Ivel double back in late September has resulted in just the odd Chub and yesterday evening I thought it was going to be a case of deja vu as I slipped a solid looking 4lb 15oz Chevin into the net. With the Lea in flood, pumping through, looking like milky tea and along with the water temp up at 9.1c upon arrival it just had to produce a Barbel, end of December and unseasonably mild it was 'thee' perfect condition to fish for winter Bertie.





 Moving around the river, I gave each peg forty minutes or so to get a bite, typically in these conditions I would expect to drop on fish getting out of the turbulent waters, where food would also collect in the eddy's making life a little easier for the fish. My tactic was to feeder fish worm with crushed hemp and micro pellet in the 5oz feeder to hold bottom, plenty of loose debris was coming down in the main flow so I opted to fish the inside of any creases I could find, problem was there were too many excellent looking runs and not enough time. 

 But, just when I thought it wasn't going to happen in probably my 6th swim I got savage take that nearly took the rod off the rest, I was in no doubt it was a Barbel, armed with fairly stout tackle I opted to allow the fish to hold out in the flow where she hugged the bottom, powered upstream and downstream for a good few minutes, owing to the murky water I hadn't actually seen the fish I was playing until she sailed in over the lip of the net. In the torchlight it looked like I had managed my R.Lea double and not long after that was confirmed, river number 11 chalked off of my list and my 6th different river double of the season!

Offffft! What a sight that was for sore eyes.

She was a tough nut to crack but worth every bit of effort and every minute spent in M25 traffic and queues! On the scales she went 10lb 5ozs and my task on the Lea is complete.

GET IN!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, 22 December 2021

My Arch Nemesis.

 

 A river that is fast becoming a thorn in my side is the Kentish Stour, with eight trips now on the scorecard across 12 months and only four Barbel seen across all those visits ( all in one visit ) I am wondering whether this is going to be one of those rivers that will play very hard to get, much harder than it currently is. 

 With very little by way of action the question in my head is am I doing it all wrong? Chub do occasionally do come to the net and this was no different as I managed two on rolled meat through the extensive beds of weed that still exist. The first was after three hours of fishing, a very tentative tap on my finger and nothing more, I hit it and the rod whipped round! Fairly quickly it was obviously not a Barbel as I caught a glimpse of the silvery flanks, the second was one of a series of savage wraps on the tip and finger as I worked a superb looking pool, neither were monsters but with the Barbel nowhere to be seen its better to catch something rather than nothing!

Best of the two just under 5lb.

A pristine winter Chub.

 By the time we packed up the temps had dropped from +6c to -3c between 3pm and 6pm, the banks were crunchy and my fingers and toes felt like blocks of ice, the winter solstice will certainly herald one thing ( lengthening days, but another I'd love it to herald is a bloody Barbel....nearly three months since my last one).

Frozen eyes and crystal sheen to all the gear.

My drying sling frozen into shape of the tree it was hanging over.

One of hundreds of Otter paw prints, I'm not the only one fishing there.

 I think for me thats it on the KS until the new season where I have already hatched a cunning plan to feed up, gain confidence of said Barbel and then ambush them which I am desperately hoping will culminate in capturing my target fish of 10lb or more.

 The only thing I know is that the R.Colne took a hell of a lot longer to crack and after 1x 7lb+, 3x 8lb+ fish I finally got my double over 17 trips spanning one trip in 2019 and the last 12 months, so I know some rivers will not give up there treasures at the drop of a hat, just got to keep going. 

 Brian on the other hand managed a lovely 8lb+ Pike on the first time of asking on a new river and breaks his 2021 duck on the Pike front.....very very nearly a blank year which I think is something he's never managed in his angling career, glad to be of service!!! Pike Blog Top work mate, now get a 30+ off the R.Wye.

Trying a little something different here, via the link is a release shot of a smaller Chub, this is something I may do more often. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-dqWyoHYlQ

 Like and subscribe, more material will be following shortly.

Tuesday, 21 December 2021

Chub Successes.


 

 Given all my effort on the Barbel front as I pursue my "Forty Rivers Challenge" I have also come across quite a few Chub on my travels up and down the country with a handful being what I consider to be of specimen proportions. Taken on a number of techniques I'd say the catch rate is pretty similar to my Barbel returns and quite often when I have had Chub or where I have had Chub I have also caught Barbel.

 Given the amount of time I have spent out on the banks, the last couple of months have been very difficult and apart from the odd Grayling and Pike trips I have caught nothing, blanks are certainly order of the day!  The warmer months were certainly a lot kinder to me, now the trips to the rivers just seem to have become a blankfest.

 Here are few photos from this season so far of Barbel bait robbing culprits, and also the odd targeted specimen. I suspect as the winter gives way to early spring before the season finishes that I will come across more, I just need to get out more!


6.02 R.Lea

6.07 R.Derwent

7.04 (PB) R.Derwent

6.01 Great Stour

5lb+ R.Ivel

6.06 R.Colnbrook

Saturday, 11 December 2021

No Pleasure Without Pain.

 

 I write todays blog nursing a sore head as a very good friend of mine proposed to his other half and went out to celebrate and it was someones brilliant idea to order a large bottle of Tequila to the table along with copious other tipples, problem was I was one of only three of the party that likes Tequila, good for me! Or maybe not......I'm a touch on the lite side today and will abstain from any other alcoholic beverages until next week I feel, at 34 it is beginning to catch up with me, I never used to get pumping headaches like this.

 Kids, if any read this, consume alcohol in moderation, be sensible!

 Anyway, let's talk fishing. Yesterday was my first proper trip out in search of Pike. The previous Saturday I spent the morning out with my brother Rich and Brian for a recce on a local lake but only two small jack' were caught before the sun heralded the end of the feeding spell that we clearly just hit as we arrived.

 I arrived on the river having bullied my way through the northbound traffic around dawn and set about searching out water from the outset, big Pike were certainly what I desired but on rivers the prospect of catching one is much slimmer than I'd probably like. One thing that struck me was how overgrown the section of river I targeted yesterday has become over the last few years, some areas that were accessible just three years ago are practically impossible to get within 20 yards of the bank, two of my most successful areas were now totally out of reach and with huge bramble bushes everywhere it made for very uncomfortable fishing when I could get to the bank.

 Careful not to make areas obvious to other anglers I sought to brush through vegetation rather than crush or break so if I did catch I could keep them to myself if at all possible. Pressure + Pike = No Pike! It's not a scenario that I wanted to create. 

 As I looked through the surface layer to search for Pike I was rewarded very quickly as a large shape ambled past me that was possibly in the margins and it may have eased out into flow as it heard me cursing and making noise (not that I wanted to) as everything kept catching on the dense foliage and bramble thorns scratching and digging me as I tried to creep into position. 

 By the time I got organised the Pike had swam upstream and I lost its positioning so I decided to just grab my net and rod and try to relocate it, this took nearly an hour to do so but when I did find her I got myself in the best position possible, knelt down to keep myself off the eyeline and underarm flicked out my bait and allowed it drift down the current where I could just make out in the chop of gusty wind a flare of the gills and with that my float bobbed and then started to head over to the far bank margins where fallen trees offered bit of a headache so I struck a bit earlier than I normally would, thankfully for me I didn't need to worry as a rather dour fight played out in the flow before succumbing to the net in a very relaxed manner before going bat shit crazy in the net, at least she was mine and it was a big fish! 

 First thoughts were that she would cruise past twenty pounds, so I couldn't wait to find out what she'd go.

Oooooo, that will most certainly do!!

 Well it wasn't a twenty but not far off, registering a very pleasing 19lb 9ozs and what an opener for my winter season, conditions were not great but this was an awesome start. She was in great shape and feel she will be a comfortable twenty come end of February. 

 I slipped her back and composed myself before continuing. Problem was that I really really struggled to find another fish, I roved around numerous good looking areas, large slacks, undercut banks, weed beds etc, where I suspect Pike would be hiding up. But truth be told by about 1330 I was thinking of packing up knowing the traffic around dusk was going to be terrible as it always is on a Friday, so I headed back towards where I'd parked the car and opted to just have a quick rove in each spot to see if I had missed anything, I am glad I did! I could just make out the shape of a Pike about five pounds or so, nothing big but another bend in the rod would be fine with me. Oddly though the Pike was not even interested, as I retrieved the bait and large swirl erupted under my feet, I stopped the retrieve immediately and allowed the bait to waft down in the water column when it was inhaled by another very good Pike. 

 This one however did fight, completely opposite to the first, the initial take was met with pure power and a long surging run upstream didn't do anything to ease my nerves, then after a couple of minutes when I finally gained full control I could see the semi-barbless treble on the edge of its beak! I knew I needed to get this one in, but I couldn't. The net got stuck in the brambles somehow and I could not free it, so now I had angry Pike on a tiny hook hold and a net wrapped up with no help, it was a disaster waiting to happen, I had no choice but to ease off the clutch, put the rod down and try my best to free the net, it took a few minutes and a few little tares it finally came free, luckily for me the Esox was beaten so it didn't move and I gently slipped the net under it. 

 My trusty Avon's registered 16lbs 7ozs and the second fish of a brace weighing 36lbs exactly, I was very very happy, but very very ripped up, my hands and forearms are marked all over, put two holes in my jacket, a few small tares in my new Korum net etc, no pleasure without pain!!!!!

 By 2pm I was done and gone. Bish bash bosh, a pukka pair of esox.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

No Beginners Luck on the R.Severn.

 

 For about three weeks I planned my first trip to the Severn, a river after all these years I am very surprised I hadn't visited yet, I had to change that. What with the rivers impressive stocks of Barbel seemingly coming out in their hoards given a poor first few months of the season and the conditions ideal for an Autumn trip to hopefully break my Severn cherry it was a trip I had to make.

 With a watchful eye on the forecast the temps were decreasing all the time and catches were slowing up as the weekend approached, it certainly wasn't looking good but me being me and very stubborn I decided to stick with the plan which was to drive up to Highley around 3am to arrive in Shropshire before sunrise. 

 I was met with some beautiful scenery along with a pretty low and an almost clear river, it was not what I wanted to see, turning back now was not an option, in the unlikeliest of conditions Barbel do come out and big ones at that. I chose to fish the Sidings Fishery as they allow night fishing where most if not all BAA waters don't enable this, in hindsight maybe this wasn't the best plan but what did I know.


 I began rolling meat from the top of the fishery and down below the walking bridge at Highley, probably a good quarter of a mile maybe slightly more and was lovely gravel runs the whole way down, deep gulleys mixed with medium paced glides with 5-8ft of water, just a week before it would have been 3-5ft more than that, most importantly the water temp was a few degrees warmer then too, again, I wasn't aware of much of these nuances and that's why this Barbel challenge is so good as you get crash courses of different watercourses and you have to learn fast, cramming all the info you can in and exhausting research avenues as best as one can prior to making the journeys, as the challenge nears its conclusion in a few years time I'll be finding journeys will be a whole lot longer and less frequent owing to family and work commitments.


 For around 3hrs I rolled the river extensively, increasing and decreasing weight and bait ratios to slow or speed up the roll rate and also changing the rolling line, probably extending the reach by 2 metres with every 4 rolls to try and work out where the fish were and whether I could get a response. But nothing. 


 I was fishing well on the move and in better conditions I am wholeheartedly convinced I'd have caught, whether it be Chub or Barbel I would have had action. Whilst rolling around I found a couple of really good areas to fish static so I plopped myself in each for an hour and half at a time, one of which I felt had to give me a fish. Again, not a sausage. Dusk by this point was closing in on me fast so I decided to drop back into the swim I began in and fed some little bits of food in and offered a shaved down 15mm dumbbell of Big Squid. After an hour in the pitch black I had a load of leaves on the line that was making the rod nod quite a bit so decided to bring it when it went solid.

 So solid it could only be a snag, oddly though when I began to put pressure on it the rod felt like it was nodding towards the river, for 30 seconds or so I questioned whether it was a very heavy fish or my mind was being duped into thinking that and in-fact it was a twenty foot log that was loosely connected to a tree I was fishing just downstream, queue the battle to drag this damn log out of the river that sodden with water must have weighed 200kg or more, I just wanted my rig back and with 12lb line amazingly I got the log up the bank half-way to rescue my rig, incredible power of that Diawa Hypersensor, it should be rebranded as shipping hauser or something to that effect. 

 For me I had seen enough and felt compelled to make a change of venue, so I drove into Bridgenorth and met up with a R.Severn local named Rob who knows a thing or two about catching Barbel on this river but even after 5 hours between two pegs I still couldn't make anything happen, by this point it was -3c so this possibly had something to do with it......I'll be back and vow to tear it a new one, I promise!!!!

Not words I thought I'd utter.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Return to the R.Wylye.

 

 I must admit I was super excited about this trip and having enjoyed a great day last time around I hoped for something similar or even better. Following on from a baron day and night on the R.Severn and a rough 4hrs kip in the car I had a day's fishing once again on the beautiful R.Wylye. It was cold, crunchy under-foot and very bright which is excellent Grayling weather, myself and Mike who once again invited me down hoped the Grayling were feeding well and it didn't take long to clock on to a big fish that Mike had previously seen the week before.

 As it cruised across the lighter patches of gravel, hoovering up maggots my heart kept racing as ( what turned out to be a he ) everytime I thought my float would bomb under. After a good thirty minutes of working the pool I finally got that all important tug of the float and away it went. In six feet of water he powered around with the typical head shaking and rubbing on the bottom (trying to dislodge my hook), I could see the entire fight even at depth in the crystal clear water, all I wanted was to slip my net under it, thankfully for me I got the chance. 

Best of the Autumn so far, 2lb 6oz.


 Thankfully for me, my day continued to get even better, gravel run after gravel run I managed to get bites as the red maggots were definitely the order of the day, with just 7hrs of fishing available myself and Mike looked to get as many fish on the bank before we lost light around 1615. 

 So without further ado, here is how my day went, oh and Mike had two crackers too!

2lb 2oz. One of 5 2lb+ specimens caught.

Mike with a 2lb 2oz Grayling -

- where are the grayling?....-

- then this happened! 2lb 12ozs!!

...And if my day wasn't already superb, as sunset had came and went, with just a little bit of the float now visible I had two bites, I landed both....2lb 3oz and this one below at a new seasons best of 2lb 7ozs.



 By the time I headed back to the car it was pitch black, I eeked every bit out of the day that I could and finishing the day on 24 Grayling with my best fish as follows: 

2x 1lb 12ozs
3x 1lb 14ozs
1x 1lb 15ozs
2x 2lb 2ozs
1x 2lb 3ozs
1x 2lb 4ozs
1x 2lb 6ozs
1x 2lb 7ozs

 Most of the remainder were a pound or over, simply amazing stamp of fish and I know there is a chance of a three-pound fish which is up there in my lifetime angling goals, here, there is a good chance and seeing two big fish that weren't caught and the capture of Mike' 2.12 is confirmation of what I feel.

 Oh, and I lost a nice Salmon too on the trotting gear, two or three minutes of thrashing and powering around ruined my peg before the size 16 hook slipped, a fish of maybe 6lb then dropped away downstream.

Friday, 19 November 2021

Back on the R.ColnBrook

 

 It's been a while since I've been able to manufacture any time on this wonderful river, plenty of hours spent walking it but haven't seen an awful lot, plenty of Chub and some really big ones, however I feel maybe there isn't as many Barbel in it as I'd hoped, or is it just me? 

 I had the gear in the van as I quite often do and got a bait out in the first likely looking spot, a nice deep gully on the far bank under a willow, just the spot for a Barbel. Forty five minutes later I was moving, as is so often case, spots that look like they should produce fish, simply aren't and along with the endless rubbish on the bottom like metal and plastic the leaves were causing me grief, millions of the things coming through.

 Because of the added issue with leaves I found myself fishing under the rod tip and keeping as much line out the water as possible. My second spot looked just as good, with a large elderberry bush on the inside it created a nice upstream crease that diverted most of the leaves away from the gravel run I was fishing, ten minutes after settling in I had a deft little tap on the quivertip and hovered over the rod, just hoping it would go. And it did! A savage pull on the tip and line peeling off the spool I thought I had finally made contact with a ColnBrook Barbel, very quickly (15 seconds or so) it was established that a Chub had indeed taken a liking to my hookbait.   

 Down in the water column I couldn't quite make out how big it was, once in the net and hoisted up on to the mat I finally got a good look at it, yes it wasn't a Barbel but I could not be disappointed with such a wonderful looking Chevin. 6lb 6oz on the scales and my first Chub off the river is a "Six", not bad at all considering I haven't had more than the odd liner and that most of the Chub I've seen have been 3-4lb.

Big Squid munching barrel of a Chub.

 A couple of photos taken for the album I slipped her back downstream and tried my luck for another half an hour into darkness, but nothing else happened. One last peg was tried a hundred yards downstream but again, the quivertip remained motionless. A quick / traffic free drive around the M25 was as welcome as the Chub! Happy Days indeed, but where....have.....the......Barbel gone???

Saturday, 13 November 2021

Grayling Fishing on the R.Wylye.

  

 Recently I was very kindly invited to fish a wonderful section of the beautiful R.Wylye set deep in the Wiltshire countryside, the offer was far too good to refuse and Mike who would be my host and I organised a day on the banks amongst my incredibly busy work schedule, just the tonic! 

 The previous day I was guiding on a picturesque R.Test tributary where my client for the day targeted the Grayling, once we had had our day, I packed up and drove down to the R.Itchen via the kebab house in Eastleigh - Large Kofte with salad, chilli sauce and chip :) - as I looked to continue my quest for an Itchen double, a fish that so far has eluded me and by 3am the decision was made to pull the plug so I could grab some shut-eye before driving up to Amesbury after a biteless 6hrs, yet again. 

 It is incredibly frustrating fishing on the Barbel front, seems its either feast or famine as between mid July to the end of September I'd managed to chalk off FIVE target rivers with lets face it pretty limited time what with my busy life at the moment. 29hrs so far on the Itchen (overnighters between work usually) for not even a bite! but I know they are there, albeit not in great numbers, so I will continue as I have no back-up area to target where a double is a possibility should I get a bite.

 Alas, we move on to the Grayling and having met with Mike at a leisurely 0830 we headed to a couple of lovely looking beats where I was assured the Lady of the Stream resided, so I began to trot white maggots down a wide sweeping bend around 4ft and feeding roughly ten maggots per trot to build the swim. It took just one trot to get a solid pull on the float and it felt like a big Grayling, twisting in the flow as expected, a minute later a Brown Trout surfaced and slipped into the net. Not what I expected given the fight.

 The next bite didn't disappoint as a Grayling around 1lb 8oz came to the net which was quickly followed by the loss of what looked and felt like a big Grayling, with Mike peering in he suggested it was a good "2lb" which further asserted what I thought! Not great and I'd have to wait for a decent amount of trots to pass by before I did get another shot at a Grayling and this one didn't come off.

A decent fish to kick off proceedings, properly. 1lb 12oz.
 

 Then the bites began to dry up, so having plenty of experience with Grayling I know just a change up can work wonders in eeking more out of each peg/run/swim, so I changed over to red maggots and deepened up 2'' and began to feed in the same manner, bites didn't take long to come again and within twenty minutes I had another four Grayling and two Trout but one Grayling was in that bracket I really wanted to catch....my first "two pounder" of the day.

A raggedy 2lb 4oz specimen, thick as anything!

 Then by the time I had had nine Grayling out of the first peg it went dead and decided to move on up and find a fish or two amongst the gravel and weed runs, but a brief pause to take a couple of photos was needed, be a shame to not show how lovely it is here!

Conditions really were absolutely superb.
 

 Mike decided on fishing downstream and I moved on up to see what was lurking around, but apart from two smaller Grayling around a pound and a very cautious Otter it didn't pay off so I moved downstream after lunch and a natter with Mike to see what else lye in wait.

 After lunch I decided to work the top of the next beat and work my way down until I ran out of light, this time of year thats a lot earlier than perhaps we'd all like. First peg down looked lovely and 2.8" in depth and pretty steady I opted to fish straight away and feed from the get go and within twenty seconds of my first beginning a large Grayling took my double reds and fought hard in the pacy flow, wearing my polaroids I could see the fish clearly and knew I need to get this beauty in! 

I need not have worried, 2lb 5oz and my best of the day.

 A tense battle under the rod tip was pretty nerve jangling, along with a great hook hold behind the scissor plate my long landing net handle bridged the gap and a quick couple of snaps was followed by the typical batter me on the bank then play dead, a minute later she cruised off after some gentle holding in the current, no sooner did I get my next trot going my float sailed under exactly where it went down the trot before and the hook set into another big Grayling, another long fish twisted and turned in the current, making a bid to escape, yet again I was fortunate with the hook hold as this time the hook was in the folds of net when I began to look for it, fine margins and all that, this beauty was yet another "two pounder" but weighing less than she looked, but thats fish for you.

My third "2lber" of the day, excellent, 2lb 0oz
 
 As I opted to move down again as the previous peg dried up I began to hook Grayling pretty quickly and after three fish around 1lb 8oz a bigger fish took two whites and made off downstream in the flow, sail up and broadside I knew this was the doing of a better fish and within thirty seconds the hooked slipped and a powerful tail slap was its final goodbye, I wasn't going to land that one...it looked bigger than any I'd caught up to then, such a shame, we can't win them all.


 But my day didn't finish there, as I made my way further down on my first trot a nice Grayling came up in the water column and intercepted my two whites before they hit the trotting line, a good fish and once in the net I weighed her and another 2lb 0oz fish, this one I opted to just slip back straight away, a lovely fish, which was number 16 for the day and my last three fish were again of a smaller stamp around the 1-1.08 mark and a couple of Trout to finish up on what was a great day on a river I'd never fished before and must confess I have read much about the Wylye and it's sister rivers, which I am yet to have step foot on, but who knows that may change in the future. 

 I thoroughly enjoyed it and the elusive "three pound" specimen will have to wait a bit longer :) 

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

My First Guiding Day.

 

 Last Wednesday and Thursday I unusually found myself fishing! with work pacing along and family life all consuming I had the pleasure of two days Grayling fishing! 

 My first day out actually wasn't myself wetting a line but a client who had won a days fishing on a premier chalk stream beat that holds some wonderful fish in a wonderful setting. Of course the winner of the charity lot had the unfortunate fact that he'd be fishing with me! But what I will say is I know the river pretty well and if anyone stands half a chance of doing well then it might as well be with me!!! (Not that I'm blowing my own trumpet of course!)

 My client for the day was a young man named Dom and having never caught a Grayling before I thought we should set our sights at one to begin with and then work our way towards the target of a two-pound specimen that do exist, if you can find them of course.

 Over the course of the day Dom became more familiar with the centrepin which wasn't easy at times with the odd cross wind causing the line to back around the spool, but he persevered and coupled with my guidance he finished the day on ten Grayling with a PB of 1lb 10oz which is a superb fish in anyones book and one that I'm sure he is chuffed with. Here are a couple of shots from the day.

 I can only suggest it was a success and that given the fact we saw "twos" loitering around it was unfortunate that one of the bigger fish were not caught, incremental steps after all is a nice way to up your PB rather than going the whole hog from the get go!

A great start!

1lb 9oz

1lb 10oz

Dom trotting one of the many excellent pools.

Sunday, 7 November 2021

Barbel...Where Have They Gone.

 

 I have really struggled of late on the Barbel front, I am currently dividing my time between the Kentish Stour, Lea, Itchen, ColnBrook and the Nene, all of which have provided me with little or no sport what so ever, not even a small Chub which would normally really annoy me but now it would simply be an indication that I  am fishing effectively. 

 Since my last Barbel, which came off the R.Ivel I have embarked on eight sessions ranging from short 2hr after work visits or all nighters on the Itchen and K.Stour. Numerous areas tried and various baits tried, from rolling meat to sat behind a rod or two where possible and still absolutely nothing happening, its been bloody hard, so much so unless conditions do not improve markedly then that'll be it for me until February at least, with that the Grayling gear will come out of retirement!

 




 Since my last Barbel here is my list of blanks up to the beginning of November.

 Lea - 3hrs

 Nene - 13hrs

 K.Stour - 3.5hrs

 Itchen - 9hrs

 K.Stour - 3hrs

 K.Stour - 7hrs

 ColnBrook - 2hrs

 Itchen - 6hrs

 It's been tough!!!

Wash Out Wye.

   Brian and I had a trip earmarked for the R.Wye to target the Barbel, ultimately the plan was to play the numbers game and catch a double ...