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.

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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.

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 ...