Sunday 29 August 2021

River Derwent Double, That's A Wrap!!


 On the quiet a plan has been slowly building to do a small tour of some of t' northern rivers, chiefly the R.Derwent but also one or two of the lesser known waterways where Barbel do reside and more importantly, double figure Barbel. The last few weeks I've spent collating info where I can and also a couple of local anglers have given me snippets of info to go on, for example what club books are hooey and what ones are worth investing in.

 Before I made the 204 mile trip to the Dearne sandwiched in between Barnsley and Rotherham an impromptu diversion was made to the R.Lea, of course good Barbel are known to live here so I really fancied my chances of getting off to a great start. After getting lost and costing me 40 minutes of extra walking I finally reached the area I had earmarked to fish ( google earth is your friend, that is of course the map is the correct way up....), with that very very blonde moment firmly behind me I got to finding the potential fish holding areas and not before long I had stumbled over a classic looking Barbel swim, decent gravel run, deeper than most of the section and plenty of cover.

 So when I settled into the peg all I could think about was how big and how many I was going to catch...the Chub however did not read the script and along with the numerous now deceased Crayfish decided my dreams of a Barbel would not come to fruition, nevertheless when they are this big one can really really not complain!!

 My first R.Lea six pluser and a back up upper five pounder ( 5lb 11oz ) to boot!.

6lb 2oz Crayfish muncher.
 After 5 hours of persistent Crayfish interference I decided it was time to get on the road and eat up those miles! 3hrs later I had arrived on the R.Dearne, a river not so well known but has the potential to throw up enormous fish out of nowhere, but more importantly some good back up fish to fall back on if my hopes of a 16lb+ specimen are dashed.

  Wonderful swims like this greeted me as I roved around in between moderate rain showers (on a 2/3day fishing bender, having wet gear ain't fun!!) with the hope of finding a Barbel but with the increasingly colouring up river my chances seem to be diminishing as the afternoon wore on. I am reliably informed that those conditions are not great at all, low and clear strangely seems to be the Barbel' preferred feeding time and they say every river is different! This is no different. Arriving from the R.Lea around 9am I set about rolling meat through the numerous weed beds to try and tempt a Barbel out of hiding. This process to find one took longer than I thought as the first 3 hours yielded nothing but one Chub (4lb+), but then my chance came in the shape of a Barbel around 8/9lb mark, not quite my target size but an opener on a new river some 4hrs from home, fortunately for the fish my technique was lacking and as its nose buried in the ribbon weed to take my lump of meat no bite was indicated until it was too late, I watched the Barbel then come up in the water column with the bait in its mouth but the bow in the line was too great and I didn't have direct contact with the fish and the opportunity was gone, in fact that chance turned out to be the only one on the Barbel front on the R.Dearne! 

 This beauty of a Carp however did also fall to a lump of rolled meat, something special !
What a little stunner.

 As 4pm approached I felt like I needed to get back on the road, with 55miles of unpredictable M1 south traffic and accident riddled roads I knew if I wanted to get into one of the good night pegs I needed to get there a couple of hours before dusk, so I could set up and get settled, hoping for a sleepless night! 

Base Camp and waiting for Ol' Bertie.

 This section of the Derwent is heavily fished and not before long I was flanked by anglers up and down of me, not my kind of fishing but given my limited knowledge of the river it was the best I could do, assured it was a good night section I stuck it out and waited, waited and more waiting when I decided at 0130 that it wasn't going to happen and with a distinct hint of Autumn slowly creeping closer I retreated to the car for some much needed sleep. 37 hours, no kip, hundreds of miles driven, work, fishing etc. 

 I awoke from my uncomfortable sleep in the car to a bright sunny morning with that chill in the air still present but easing off as the sun got higher, plan for what is now yesterday (Saturday) morning was to travel light, simple rolling meat gear and a camera, do what I do best and seek out the fish. The main river looked excellent but didn't carry enough flow for my tactic so I had to seek out swifter water to execute my plan and that was to try and find a Barbel as I did not feel confident that a static approach would be wise. 

 Conditions for rolling meat were actually spot on, clear sunny skies, light warm wind and a clear river allowed me to scan the river bed with my polaroids. I decided to walk up to the very top to begin with to a weir, but in just the second swim I checked I found a big Barbel just holding station on the gravel run, a certain double and my Derwent target just sat there, waiting to be caught! Without hesitation I was fishing and my rolled bait was heading closer to the fish, for me I was poised and ready to strike imminently, the meat inched ever closer to the awaiting fish when it began to back away from the bait and then turned away to the far bank margins where I lost sight of it, for the next 20 minutes I rolled that 15 yard section real hard but it didn't happen for me and the chance by this point was gone, a pretty painful one to take, so close yet, so far.

 Having not been able to make that sighting count I trudged off upstream looking in every nook and cranny, hoping to find another as the sense of potential failure began to play on my mind. There is however not many better ways to settle a score than to get another chance! downstream of said weir there was a large canopy that I rolled down to and on the first roll the bait got down maybe 30 yards and then I had a violent tug that was struck firmly and the power in the flow would suggest a Barbel was now battling away in the strong flow, my heart was in my mouth big time! 

 As the fish began to come out of the main flow the battle slightly weakened and quickly became clear as to why those powerful downstream runs didn't happen, it was a Chub, but a big Chub. Slight sour taste to begin with that it wasn't a Barbel but I was fairly delighted when it cruised into the net.

6lb 7ozs, Certainly can't be disappointed with that fish.

  A very nice Chub indeed and another six on my travels since Thursday night. I released that Chub and then continued on downstream, fishing hard and pretty well too as the cobwebs in my rolling meat technique were being blown away well and truly. Roughly 45 mins later I found myself rolling a very tight run with a raft of floating vegetation on the far bank and got the chance to tuck a bait under the raft and then roll the bait down the gravel gully where I could feel the bait bouncing freely in between the weed beds that I found a couple of times, even without seeing the bottom as I was at water level I was beginning to picture the topography mentally and knew if there was a fish present I stood a chance in between the weed beds, then out of nothing! I got a little tap on the finger, felt the bait stop, so I gave it a tiny lift when the rod immediately responded with a sharp lurch down stream! 

 This, was no Chub and I knew it straight away, my polaroids steamed up as my heart rate and body temp shot through the roof, panic was not quite settling in to begin with but the weight of what I was connected to started to worry me though, then it came up under my feet as it cleared the marginal reeds about 3 minutes into the battle and strewth!!! A huge dirty great big Barbel and my god, what a sight! but no sooner did I see it she powered back off downstream and stripping 30 yards of line, she did this twice and the entire time I spent trying to keep my knees steady, this really was a shot I couldn't pass up, she simply had to come in. Playing her steady every time she went down I gradually allowed her line, but not too much that I was in control for the remainder of the fight and then the time came to ship out the net, one last wind down and lift which guided the head into the net and in one giant scoop my R.Derwent target had been achieved, I didn't even need to weigh it to know that :-) 

That smile is still etched across my mush now.

 I HAD DONE IT AND IN INCREDIBLE STYLE TOO!!! On both sets of scales she registered 13lb 13ozs and true river monster, a fish I will not forget in a hurry, it was turning out to be my very best mornings fishing in a long time. River number 9 has been achieved, I can't still believe it. Some river, some fish, some trip!!

 In a state of shock that I only had just gone and done it again I sat down, had a steak and ale pie with some water and laid back on the very uncomfortable ground, looked at the sky and thanked the Barbel gods for continuing to sponsor my efforts. However, that was going to be that, I was ready to pack up and head for the car and make the journey down to the R.Lea once again to make the most of this purple patch before the blanks start to pile up again, there was one last thing I wanted to check out and that was that Barbel I didn't get earlier on in the morning and what do you bloody well know! I peered into the swim and she was in the exact same position, no two invitations were needed to give it a quick go and the first cast was a travesty, thankfully it didn't spook her, second roll was right on the money and as it approached the Barbel the fish began to slowly ease up to the bait (maybe 2ft away) when another black shape came from downstream marginal reeds and head butted the Barbel out of the way to take the bait, I couldn't make out what it was to begin with and then I saw it in front of me, it was THEE biggest Chub I've ever seen in my life in the flesh, 2/3ft down in the water column it looked huge and as she came up to the surface it just kept getting bigger, THIS WAS A MONSTER!

 The Barbel was massive, this was equally as massive, my head and mind were totally blown, fried, mashed god I didn't know what had hit me, what I did know is that I love the Derwent! I had a very strong feeling that when that Chub finally slipped over the rim of the net I had caught my first 7lb+ Chevin! And I was not wrong, if I wasn't already in dreamland I was certainly dancing on the moon now! 
 Well, I just could not hide my delight of what I was holding, 7lb 4ozs. It was huge! long, wide and deep, nothing else for me to say. I had had the best mornings fishing of my life, period and I've had some red letter days over the years, this has to be number one, bar none.

A real pretty place, I felt quite privileged to be there.

 I could not have asked for a better outcome on the R.Derwent, the drive back down to the R.Lea from Derby was fairly uneventful and soon found myself trudging the banks of the Fishers Green section in search of a Barbel, but nothing materialised, I could not be unhappy with that ending and the Lea is very close to a lot of my work, so I'll get plenty of time to bag a R.Lea double yet. Until then I'll feed off the positives of this wonderful trip that I had embarked on, it'll live long in the memory.

Wednesday 25 August 2021

Undisclosed Success.


 A slightly strange one for me to not disclose the river, but its small and any pressure on there in the short term could really hamper my efforts to locate and catch my double figure target, once I have achieved what I am after then I'll update my blog to reveal the river. The campaign on this diminutive river has begun pretty well, my first visit last week was primarily a wander to get an idea on what to expect and my second visit yesterday was to roll meat in the still murky water to search out a fish.

 That plan to search out a fish worked wonders, within half an hour the rod hooped over with a small common carp in tow which unfortunately slipped the hook, having seen it was a carp I wasn't too annoyed. That loss was followed by two very sharp tugs on the tip that I missed, somewhat by surprise as I was holding the rod both times, however the bite that really mattered came around an hour into my visit and the bite was just what I expect from a Barbel; savage, violent, brutal and what other adjectives you want to use! 

 Thankfully after a short weedy battle my first Barbel from this small river was in the bag, 7lb 8oz, not much more I could ask for really given the fact I've barely scratched the surface and already got a respectable sized fish on the scorecard! Let's hope that Barbel isn't too far away!!

Sunday 15 August 2021

Finding My Feet on the R.Itchen, R.ColnBrook & R.Bourne.


 As my quest takes me on to my 9th river the net is being cast just that little bit more as I learn the likes of the ColnBrook, Bourne whilst continuing my quest on the Itchen and Kentish Stour. Setting about fishing each of these rivers has their own little challenges, the ColnBrook remains to be a tough nut to crack, having now fished it three times I'm yet to catch a fish and on my first visit I spotted three Barbel, from that moment I thought a double maybe on the cards and catching a Barbel quite likely, that hasn't been the case and the aforementioned Barbel have vanished.

 My first trip to the Bourne was probably not in the best of conditions as it was chocolate brown and typically runs like tap water, the purpose of this visit was first of all to see how the stretch looked and whether it held the capabilities of A; producing Barbel and B; producing double figure Barbel, after all that is the benchmark for each river on my challenge. So I didn't get to see the river properly but have earmarked a revisit in better stalking conditions and hopefully give me the opportunity to see something worth targeting.

 As for the Itchen, it still continues to make me work very hard, with a single Bream to my name in 4 visits since October last year, yes its not a lot of trips, I still feel given the conditions I've fished in that I'd have had more than just one fish. At one point on Friday night I did have a very good bite that I thought would have resulted in a fish, instead it was a fresh air hit and that was the only action for me. I will be back down in a week or two once I get back from a family holibobs.

 Here are some images of the rivers I have begun to frequent, most not well know at all, the Itchen possibly alot better known amongst the Barbel angling fraternity. Achieving river number 9 I hope is just around the corner. Funny feeling it will be the ColnBrook but yet to find a fish even close to magic 10lb mark.

Typical areas on R.Bourne


Ditto, hoping for a 3ft twitch.

Dusk settling in over Surrey.

A view experienced by many Barbel anglers.

Sunrise over the Itchen

Shallow runs with cover on the R.ColnBrook.

Lovely gravel runs but no Barbel.

Although there is alot of hiding places!

Some really pretty, but choked parts.

Saturday 7 August 2021

River Mole Double, That's A Wrap!!


 With that loss on Monday still very raw I wanted to get back down as soon as possible at the very least try and get a bite, on Wednesday I shot down to the river after work to find that in just two days the river level had dropped more than 8 foot!, I didn't think it would happen so fast, seeing as I was there I tried my luck anyway, unfortunately I fished a few pegs but without a touch. 

 When I had got home I looked at the forecast for the next few days and the next few days looked pretty squalid, with a decent bit of rain the river could well rise again. Whilst at work yesterday and chipping through my schedule the persistent rain showers had me thinking that the Mole could potentially rise a little and with a bit more water in the river I may stand a chance of a bite, maybe even a fish. 

 About 1530 I left south-west London and headed for the Mole, shrouded in drizzle to moderate rain the whole way down I felt like I stood half a chance. When I arrived the rain was teaming down, the march across the fields was hard work but good to get back down again, the more I fished it the more chance I stood of catching my target. 

 I made a bee-line for the swim I lost the two fish and landed the 7lb 13oz Barbel, I knew at least at some point this week Barbel were present so used that as my base, given the fact it was hammering it down I didn't fancy moving much either so I sorted a rod out and sat behind it in my rain suit.....the monotonous rain kept falling for another 45 minutes when I decided to have a change of tactic. As I could see the river was beginning to rise I bought in my static rod and took to rig off, tied a size 6 wide gape hook straight to the 12lb line and placed a large lump of meat out in the flow and began rolling the long gravel run.

 First roll through lasted about 3 minutes or so before it came to an end, I then went downstream 20/30 yards to a nice back eddy off a 4ft pacy glide under two large oak trees and worked my bait at the top and down through the crease, a few little knocks were felt to begin with as the meat bounced over a few stones and possibly little snags poking out the bottom before it again, came to an end. I repeated the cast but slightly further upstream and out, so I could cover different water and as I got down roughly half way I felt a tiny pluck on my finger tip that felt odd, so I struck it and instead of expecting the strike to pull through the bait the rod went solid and slammed downstream, I had definitely pissed something off! I sure hoped it was a Barbel, conditions were now perfect for it!.

 Powerful surging runs in the increasingly strong current made for a spectacular battle, that was until all of a sudden, just like Monday the fish went solid, I couldn't believe it was happening to me again, this time though I did not allow any give in the gear and without a lead and other components to perhaps hinder my escape I applied pressure from all the angles I could muster, however in the pouring rain I was losing grip on the rod and struggled to do much with it, only when I scrambled behind me to grab my towel could I dry the gear off and regain some modicum of control, this was only going to end one way, I was determined of that and after three or four minutes I felt the fish kick and then I went for broke, I cranked down on the fish and kept the pressure up.

 The snag could be felt grating the line as the fish slipped slowly past it when, much to my delight it came completely free and the whole weight of the Barbel was once again on the rod, as it came away from the snag it came to the surface briefly and rolled, thus showing its deep, board flank, I had no doubt in my mind this was my R.Mole double and with one almighty pump down on the rod she came across the crease and into the slack where I was gleefully waiting with my now somewhat small net (30'' Fox pan) for the Barbel to cruise in, once half the fish was in I scrambled the rest in, I HAD DONE IT!!!!!!! 6 visits equating 20.5hrs in somewhat unfavourable conditions for humans I had done it. What a fish she was too.

Just wow!!!

 Now it was time to briefly marvel at my hard fought prize, on the Rueben Heatons and Avons, she weighed a superb 12lb 10ozs, pure River Mole awesomeness! Another very tough venue chalked off.

 River number 8 out of 40 - Done! Ignore rolling meat on a rising river at your peril, I'd love a pound for every Barbel I've caught when faced with those set circumstances. I would be a full time angler I suspect.

Soaked through to the bone, I couldn't have cared less!

 After I slipped this incredible creature back I went home to get a nice warm shower and dry clothes for I had returned victorious!!!

Thursday 5 August 2021

River Mole Barbel Quest Part II


 Back on the R.Mole again as I look to improve my understanding of the watercourse and how to successfully target a big Barbel. Running murky just about every minute of the year its very difficult to work out where snags, depressions and weed runs are, it does make locating fish just that little bit more difficult. 

 Having landed a Carp on my second trip I had a couple of spots in mind, however when myself and Brian - who came along for a few hours - arrived, we found the river way, way, way up and pushing through really hard, this gave me another thing to overcome as I'd not had the challenge of 6-8ft of floodwater and over the course of the day continued to rise. With no real pressure, Brian and I had a good catchup as my fishing recently has been predominately after work snap sessions so we haven't had much time on the bank. 

 Given the extra water I couldn't fish the swims where I thought we stood a chance of a bite so we ended up dropping into a couple of pegs that we fancied as deep sweeping inside bends gave way to shallow (in normal conditions) glides. The rods for the next couple of hours lye completely lifeless with just the odd the bit of debris pinging off the line. After a couple more moves I didn't think much was going to happen but I did have a conversation in a shop earlier fresh in my mind and that was another angler on another ticket stretch had had a 9.11 Barbel out and suggested the river was in fine fettle and prime Barbel conditions.

Roughly 8ft on by this point.

 So I knew that if I could find a fish that they may well be feeding and 45 mins in on another peg my rod finally sprang into life as it slammed round and inexplicably I missed the bite. I couldn't believe it but now camped next to the rod if I got another bite I would be on it, not long after, the bite came. A proper savage bite, with calculated lunges downstream a big powerful fish held steady in the current and for a few minutes I tried to get its head up into the upper layers but all of a sudden the fish just went solid, the sinking feeling of dread settled in straight away and although I tried to remain calm I was shaking so much, I knew just through experience, this was the one I wanted! 

Rising swiftly, this run approx 13ft deep now.

 For ten minutes I continued to apply pressure in different directions to try and release the fish to continue the battle, but after a while I had admitted defeat. I got downstream of the snag (whatever it was) and pulled gradually down on the snag to release the rig, as the rig parted just above the hook the fish came free and kicked...all the pressure came off, but so had the fish! A few choice words were uttered but nothing could make it right, well apart from getting a bait back out and hope one took pity on my misfortune.

 Not long after the rod hooped over again! I couldn't believe it, the fish were found and feeding! the floodwater must have really turned them on. This time around I got the rod up and didn't afford it much space but somehow managed to get parallel with me and once again, the pressure was off and the Barbel was gone, I couldn't believe it, what was I doing wrong and how many snags were in the damn river!!!

 My misfortunes did mercifully come to an end as I got yet another bite of cherry, this time not affording the fish any room for manoeuvre at all! Not my target size but my first River Mole Barbel so it was most certainly welcome. 7lb 13oz it was a start!! 

 Not long after I released that spooky looking Barbel one more bite did materialise, however once again I hit fresh air and felt I was slightly too hasty this time around. After that botched attempt my chances had all passed me by and the journey home was punctuated by the sense of what could have been.....

Blackwater Returns.

   Throughout my teenage years I spent many thousands of hours targeting Barbel in low gin clear rivers and really hammered home my love for...