Friday 30 July 2021

River Mole Barbel Quest Part I.


 Along with my pursuits on the K.Stour I've started to visit the R.Mole in search of my 8th different river double. I must admit upon arrival the first time around I was astounded at how much of the river looked "Barbelly", literally every ten yards looked like it could hold fish, that has given me a dilemma as to where I concentrate my efforts. 

Large overhanging willows just one of the pegs.

 It is as if someone has just created a mile long Barbel swim and as I fished through Tuesday and Thursday afternoon my confidence of catching something was sky high. The river was up quite high but in perfect condition, especially on Thursday. Tuesday didn't result in any action, nevertheless it was invaluable as I got to check depths of certain areas and how weedy they were, along with other useful snippets of info.

 Most spots that I have tried so far have ranged in depth between 4ft and 8ft but more importantly pure clean gravels, in some instances the near-side margins are also undercut which gives me even more confidence that it holds big Barbel. With specimens approaching 13lb and the average fish around the 8/9lb mark I know that a bite could well be my target or very close to what I am after. 

 So when my far margin rod double-tapped and bolted off down stream yesterday evening you could imagine what was whirring in my mind! A big heavy weight hung in the current after a purposeful first run, very Barbel like too which gave me even more hope that after just two previous visits amounting to 5hrs of fishing that I would have achieved my goal. A couple of minutes passed by before I got to take a glimpse at my potential prize and I was very surprised to tell the truth that what was on the other end wasn't a Barbel, but a warrior of a Mirror Carp, not something I was expecting but given the fact its a new ticket for its nice to catch to begin with.

 Plenty of back and forth with the Carp I finally slipped it into the net, not bad for a river Carp.

14lb 5oz Mole Warrior.

 For this campaign I am using the "Hookbait Co's" Big Squid range, it has done me okay so far and this another victim of the new bait, lets hope it trips a few more up too!!!

 Once I released the Carp I continued to head upstream and spend 35-50 mins per swim to hopefully increase my chances of coming across another fish but my efforts unfortunately didn't result in anything further. 

Just one of the many good looking little nooks.

 And as I made my way back to the van I heard the distinctive grunting and growling of Badgers....noisy and nosey buggers, however great to see them in good numbers. This was just one of nine I was watching.

Wednesday 28 July 2021

Attentions Turn to Other Rivers.


 With the tough proposition of catching a double figure Barbel off the Medway completed, other rivers can come back into the fold as my pre-season target of ten rivers looks to now be a very good bet, dare I say maybe even achieve eleven or twelve if the time, skill and luck allows. I remain quietly optimistic of such an achievement, I have done hours and hours of homework, had conversations with anglers who's patches I may one day wander, just to build an image of roughly what my challenge will encompass and where it will take me.

Fishing overnight on the KS was slow, so I watched the moon instead.

 Once I had the pleasure of capturing and releasing that immense Barbel off the Medway I packed up immediately and made my way across Kent to the Kentish Stour, a river I've spent a bit of time on with very little success ( only Chub so far ). Given my bouyant mood I felt confident that a Barbel from here would be a possibility and that I could at a stretch achieve two rivers in one night! 

Lovely sunrise.

 To cut a fairly long story short I didn't manage to catch a Barbel but after sunrise I went on the offensive after a biteless 4 hours in a known stretch for the species. A quick wander with the gear left in the tall nettles I went about looking for a fish or two and not long after starting my search I did find one of about 8lb that slipped out of sight pretty quickly which didn't show itself again, then upstream I found a nice clear gravel bar, probably the only one for half a mile that I have access to and low and behold there was three big shapes hovering over the sand/gravel, one was of a big Sea Trout, the other two were good Barbel, both looked to be into double figures and certainly the size I wanted to see, unfortunately for me they pushed up above the gravel bed and into some very dense weed upstream and lost their positioning.

 Seeing them on this trip was enough for me, a plan has since been formulated and my return will hopefully bare fruit of some description. By 10am the heat was unbearable in the waders and high grass so I called it a day, not to mention I'd been at work all day Friday, finished work, had dinner, swapped into the car and drove over to the Medway, then the K.Stour once I had caught that beauty off the Medway to make it 7 rivers down.

Saturday 24 July 2021

River Medway Double, That's A Wrap!!


 Like anything in angling and indeed any other line of work or passion persistence is key to success or at least a vast majority, my trips on the R.Medway were mainly short evening sessions, in the hope that one day I would come across a creature of the deep. With the Medway spanning over 70 miles the scope to target is so vast, so location is key as usual. Bear in mind this being my ninth visit to the river since October last year and only recently breaking my duck, fishing has most certainly not been easy.

 With conditions slowly cooling down south I opted to head out at dusk for a couple of hours and try my luck. I headed down with a little more confidence too owing to my recent catches on the Medway and Colne, so all I could do was try. A nice balmy evening on the bank was pleasant for a few hours fishing, just add Barbel! After setting up I aimed for a gravel channel just under my feet in the margins where I have suspected the target use as a feeding highway owing to the surrounding area, this stuck out like a sore thumb but as of yet over the previous visits I have yet to muster a bite ( the barbel I did catch from the Medway came from another area ).

 After ten minutes I got a tentative knock that didn't result in much, or so I thought. A minute or so later my rod tip nodded towards the river and gently struck into what felt like a small fish, first thoughts were a Chub but it didn't take long for the culprit to surface and it was my target species, just a long long way off the target weight! Nevertheless wonderful to see.

 Bait was obviously in the right area so after slipping that mini-Barbel back the rig was straight back out and fishing. With no time constraints on this session I was prepared to spend as much time as required to give myself half a chance, just forty five minutes later had my time finally come?

 I sat watching the stars beyond my rod tip night-light and the monotonous quivering of the flowing water passing the line briefly changed as something on the bottom was showing interest, before I got the opportunity to wonder what was happening down there I got the most savage wrench on the rod, along with an instantly screaming clutch, was this my chance? it certainly felt like it was my target species and whatever was on the other end possessed a fair weight, coupled with the power I began to get very nervous. 

 As I got nervous the heat of my breath was steaming up the torch so I was shrouded in mist which prevented me from seeing clearly towards the water, all I knew is that this fish was giving me hell in the pacy water and made its shape and weight count for every second of the battle, my rod was bent double for the entire time, quite something, but at no point did it seem to break stride, just a constant solid dogged fight. When she came to the surface after three or four minutes I knew I hadn't just achieved my target, I had obliterated it, if I was nervous to begin with I was shitting it now! A solid hook hold served me well though as she began to give in I turned the screw to put an end to the fight, it was one for thee epic battles scrap book thats for sure. The sheer size of it caught me by surprise!

 There was no doubt river number 7 had been chalked off and what a way to do it, fish of this size in the Medway are certainly not common and at 13lb 9oz makes me wonder what she'll do come Feb/Mar next year! After a couple of photos and the weighing I rested her up in the flow and in no time she began to kick strongly, a few minutes later I dipped the lip of the under the surface and my prize slowly eased out and back into the murky waters that are the River Medway. 

 Another river ticked off the list I packed up straight away and made the one hour journey down to the Kentish Stour where the next part of my journey begins, that will be for my next entry. Tight Lines all until then. 

Friday 16 July 2021

Pursuit of my River Medway Double.


 Last winter I tried my hand at the River Medway, probably not the best time to target such a river owing to its nature. In flood I have never seen a river so violent and unforgiving, two to three metres of flood water can rush through the valley in what seems like a heartbeat, a couple of times I have either been fishing when the river has risen without warning, others I have arrived 1 or 2 days after heavy rains just to find roads impassible and entire fields under a metre of floodwater, so seeing it in a placid state was actually quite strange, this is what I was met with the other evening.

 A quick journey down as its now my most local river was taken care of and within minutes the rod was set up and ready to go. After a half mile walk to my first swim completed it was time to get a bait out. 

 Having just received some new bait from Darren @thehookbaitcompany I opted to pop one 18mm BigSquid dumbbells on and await the action, baring in mind I hadn't yet had a bite or fish out of the Medway yet after five trips over the winter and this being my second visit of the new season, so maybe my confidence was born out of hope rather than expectation.

 Forty five minutes had slipped by with only a small liner to keep me interested in the peg I choose to begin with and my faith was repaid as my rod tip slammed round in typical Barbel fashion. The fight unfortunately didn't last long owing to its size but knew the location was right owing to some good intel, it was just a case whether I would get lucky with a double, this one was not threatening that at all, knowing fish were feeding and rig was fishing well was good enough for me. 

 5lb 5oz the verdict and not a lump, but I know I'll have to kiss a lot of frogs to get my princes on this challenge!

 The rest of my evening didn't provide anymore fish, the odd liner kept me honest and certainly coming back as I seek a fish twice the size of that one above, if it were to happen the Medway will be complete.

Tuesday 13 July 2021

River Colne Double, That's a Wrap!!


 Having seen my target fish just last week and only on Wednesday slipping the net under a fighting fit Colne Barbel a new sense of purpose was found and my fishing mojo rediscovered once again after a tough 6- months of fishing. Since landing the 8.13 a return visit asap was a must.

 So on Friday after work I headed straight back down the river and made a bee-line for the same area. The brisk mile walk was soon complete and with the warm sun on my back I got settled and gently lowered my Garlic Nimrod hookbait and small PVA bag on to the clean gravel bed, all I could do now was sit, wait and hope for some activity.

 With fishing in mind after work I waited to have a bite to eat, so now that I was settled and bait out on the dining table it was time for me to grab something. I reached into my bag to grab some Pringles and as I began to turn to face the rod with food in hand the rod sprung into life and even on a tight clutch, a fish made off downstream at some serious speed! Thoughts immediately turned to Barbel, but Carp couldn't be ruled out as the Colne is known for them.

 Same as Wednesday' fish I got the rod tip under the surface, almost grazing the gravel with the tip to prevent the line from running through the fallen trees all around me. The power was there for all to see, determined surging runs were followed by an almost dead weight, holding out in the flow. Given the nature of the swim I could not see how big the fish was until it was right in front of me, this however didn't happen for about 5 minutes as I continued to tussle with the fish at distance, the heart rate was through the roof, I was borderline petrified at losing it given the effort put in to get this far.

 Just as the first fish, this one came up right under my feet on the clear patch where she revealed all, thats when the knees started to go, I knew this was the one I wanted!! 

 A couple of strong tails slaps and deep lunges told me she wasn't far off from being beat, but wasn't prepared to let her have much more of the chance to escape, with the net ready I flung it out, just at the right moment and dipped the rim where she then swam straight in! A fist pump in the sky and a couple of joyous obscenities were uttered, they had made me work for that one, but a bit of luck along the way on the balance of play it was deserved.  

  I can't convey just how happy I am with this capture and could not wait to grab a couple of snaps, weigh her then see her swim back strongly to may never be seen again ( can't imagine many will put that effort in required.)

 On the scales she registered 11lb 7oz and checked off my sixth river on my 40RiversCampaign /  The Barbel Challenge.

 That felt very good and after a long rest in the net she powered away to whence she came. With that my task here was done. It had been hard and worth it in the end.

 Working on number 7 now and the aim is to have 10 rivers under my belt by November when the temps start to drop.

Sunday 11 July 2021

River Colne Revisited.


 I spent a large chunk of my winter campaign for Barbel on the River Colne as various work engagements had me just a matter of minutes away and snap sessions were easy to come by before taking the M25 home. I spent a total of 64.5 hours over 13 visits with only one Barbel to show for my efforts, I really thought I would have had more joy but given the conditions maybe I should have been less expectant.

 Knowing the Colne is far from easy I hoped that in time I would come across something impressive, but then the closed season came along and gave me the opportunity to reflect. 

 For me it was a prolonged closed season owing to a newly arrived addition to the Denison family which indirectly gave me even more time to hatch a plan, that plan would be when I got back on the tools that I'd grab short after work sessions, the sort of sessions I have come accustomed to owing to a busy life between work and family.

 That extended time off gave me the opportunity to do some homework and do some pioneering on what turned out to be an almost impenetrable stretch of river, but historical information regarding this stretch would suggest big Barbel were resident, so I knew I had my work cut out. Also there were no guarantees that my efforts would result in catching a Barbel. 

 Last week was my first wander down the river and decided that a roving approach would be best so I could check as much of the river as possible and possibly earmark potential areas to concentrate on. Given the nature of the stretch access was practically impossible for the most part as brambles, 8ft tall nettles and giant hogweed blocked the way, trying not to give the game away I made very small paths through and doing my best not to break any of the vegetation and tip off any other potential anglers to my movements.

 Last Wednesday was my first visit and with the football on at 8pm I knew I had to be gone by 6pm to give myself time to get home before kick-off. 

 A few areas were scanned with the polaroids and fished a few spots where I could get down to the bank or close enough to that if I made contact I could at least get close enough to land it! A couple of hours had passed by with nothing more than a Chub rap, a quick tug on the tip of Mark IV and brief screech on the pin, much too quick for me to hit! 

 Then as I reached a dense bank of fallen willows that were dominating the river a small gap in the foliage gave way to a small gravel patch in the main flow, no larger than a snooker table and on that gravel I could make out the shape of a fish immediately, that shape very quickly revealed itself as a big Barbel! just the Barbel I have been after! Certainly the double off the Colne that I crave and spent all winter targeting.

 Not knowing whether it had made me I decided to retreat and get my hook baited, resting the area a few minutes before the bait was then lowered and the lead made a nice solid "donk" on the bottom, I knew straight away that it was fishing. The sense of anticipation was so strong, it had to happen, didn't it?

 Over an hour had eased past as I watched the bottom through the unbroken nettles intently to see if that Barbel was back out on the dining table. Sadly, for me time wasn't on my side and stayed until 1815 when I knew I had to be gone as the M25 is so unpredictable.

 I simply had to get back as soon as possible!

 Fast forward to this Wednesday, my day was busy with plenty of work pencilled in and was super keen to plough through it to give myself plenty of time on the river. I got down around 3pm I think and made my way from the van, a mile away to the area I had seen that Barbel the week before. Much had changed in that time though, another tree had come down in the area in the high winds and the river was up about a foot with plenty of colour in it with debris coming through just to make presentation a bit more difficult. 

 I knew I had to just get fishing and hope for the best. The first twenty minutes didn't prove to be thrilling in any way but as the thoughts of moving to another bit started to cross my mind the rod tip started to show signs of life as a couple of "tap taps" showed me something was there and feeding, so my focus was firmly on the rod tip. A quick call to Brian to find out how he was doing on another river was brutally interrupted as the rod went into meltdown, I threw the phone to the ground and grabbed the rod, thrust it under the water as far as I could as the Barbel made off downstream on a tight clutch beyond the fallen willows where I knew I could run into trouble, experience certainly played its part for the following four or five minutes of that fight.

 A good 5 minutes passed before I saw the fish I was connected to and the fight certainly matched that of a big powerful Barbel, however the shape that came to the surface just inches from the nets rim was of a smaller fish than my imagination had painted, but I could not be unhappy in any way, the effort to achieve this fish in the grand scheme of things was surely worth it.

 Who would be unhappy with this Barbel?!!!! I definitely wasn't!.

On the Avon's she weighed 8lb 13oz.

 My river Colne best and firmly on my way to that milestone of 10lb+ and more importantly ticking another river off of my target of 40! 

 Suffice to say I did continue fishing and although no more Barbel came along a lovely Chub of 5lb 2oz made it to the net to add to what was already a bloody good result and only my 2nd visit to this particular stretch, the confidence was starting to bubble to the surface!

 Until next time.....will I find that big Barbel I spotted last Wednesday? and will I catch it? I guess that'll have to wait until the next session.

What A Start!

   Since the river season ended I've taken a 3 week hiatus from fishing, work as usual the excuse! Storm Kathleen however was predicted ...