Friday, 30 September 2022

River Don Barbel Record!

 The elation of catching a R.Don double in such a short space of time was there for all to see, I was beaming! No one can ever confess to targeting a river to walk away with your prize within hours, but that luckily for me happens now and again. Now that I had caught that pristine 10lb 5oz specimen and river number 16 achieved on my challenge I thought briefly about packing up and leaving as mentioned in my previous post.

 However I decided to stay and with the rods lying dormant for a little while I decided to bring in one rod and roll meat around the swim to see if I could conjure another bite, that bite didn't take long, as I got pretty far down the run after a long roll in the slow paced water a tiny little pluck could be felt, which I struck and that was met with some force, your typical powerful fight at depth unfolded with lung busting runs upstream to where it would come on the inside line then charge back off downstream, stripping 20 yards of line off at a time. 5 minutes or so had gone past now and I still couldn't see the culprit in the torchlight, another run upstream had me hanging on and easing off my hold on the pin just so it wouldn't cause any issues such was the power, a break-off by this point would have been devastating as I knew by now it wasn't a small fish or even a medium sized fish for that matter, but throughout all of this fight I couldn't quite rule out a Carp.

 Another strong run was easily curtailed as it tired, then seized my opportunity to get it towards the net and into view, when she did come into view I nearly had a heart attack! this fish was big and it was a Barbel! Just how big I couldn't really tell but it was very big, enormous by Don standards, which at the time I didn't know about. I left the Barbel in the net to rest up after a brilliant fight and got my camera in position and sorted out the timer, sling laid out and scales ready to rock. 

 The next five minutes went past in a blur. When it came to lifting the Barbel out of the river it became apparent this fish wasn't 12/13lb etc, I had a sneaky feeling she was way over the fifteen pound mark and very quickly I got confirmation of this as the scales held on 15lb 4ozs!!! the second largest Barbel I've seen or caught ever! I was in dreamland but what made this even more special is two bailiffs who were downstream came along to witness this amazing capture who in turn once I cradled her for a few trophy shots made it fairly clear that this fish was actually a new river record which should be claimed, initially I was a little bit taken back and declined the opportunity but with some persuading I quickly came around to the idea and thought why the hell not! 

 So without further ado, here she is!

 And if the 10.05 cut it fine this blew it out the water! Two doubles in an hour off of a river I'd never stepped foot on before, I really was done now. I packed up, loaded the car before setting off for Wetherby to tackle the R.Wharfe, a river once again I've never seen nor fished before, could I keep this incredible run of form going? 

A fish of impressive proportions and on my new pin too!

***Update - The Barbel Society have ratified the claim for the River Don record, so I am officially a record holder :) *** 

 Happy as a fisherman could be !!!

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

River Don Double, That's a Wrap!!


 From the R.Dearne I travelled a bit deeper into Yorkshire and set about tackling the R.Don, now unalike the R.Dearne I have never seen it before, also I've done very little research on it but know a chance of a double is possible. Like most rivers across the country they have been out of sorts and rewards have been few and far between. Tried and tested is always the way to go on any new water so I treated the Don no differently.

So I followed some sound advice from my mate Ash who suggested giving this section on the DDAA book, I bought a two rod day ticket and plonked myself in a swim that looked good and planned to fish an hour or so into darkness to try and illicit a bite at arguably the best time of the day. Once settled I grabbed my camera out of the bag and marvelled at my Dearne double.

 I purchased my tickets around 6pm with the view of fishing a couple of hours and yes, I know it's not long but for a tenner I can't really complain and once I got building the swim with small pellet I cast out with a lump of meat on one rod and a boilie on the other, the area I fished to was around 5-7ft deep.

 I had no expectation. 

 I sat patiently waiting for an enquiry and to my surprise I got a decent pull on the tip that I struck, the resistance wasn't much so I suspected a Chub, but this little beauty popped up! A mini R.Don Barbel, what a pukka little scamp.

 One day that'll be big, maybe as big as the fish I hooked next! A short while later my inside rod on the meat went and this was a much bigger fish, it hung deep in the flow and made numerous powerful runs up and downstream before it gradually tired. In the torchlight she looked a decent size and felt this fish could be a double figure fish, could it be?

 On the Rueben Heaton' she registered a very very very pleasing 10lb 5ozs, in the space of 5hrs I had landed a double off of the Dearne, driven to the Don and now I had slipped the net under a R.Don double, how bloody good is that!!! I was firmly perched on Cloud Nine, how on earth could I top that? 

 I didn't think it was possible, but with a trip to the R.Wharfe planned for the Saturday up in Wetherby I knew I had a decent drive ahead of me to North Yorkshire. However, I had only been fishing an hour and a bit so I decided to stay for a while longer to see what may transpire before calling it an evening.

Monday, 26 September 2022

River Dearne Double, That's a Wrap!!


 Last week was a week of indecision, Brian and I were planning to head up to the Wye and Severn for a few days with the view of both targeting a double figure Barbel off of both rivers. Unfortunately for Brian his health isn't quite there to the level required to embark on a 4 day marathon of two demanding rivers, so given this development we decided to postpone it and then the cogs went into meltdown, over the 48hrs or so leading up to the planned departure I had all sorts going through my mind, finally a few hours before I set off the beginnings of a plan were finally in place, I was Yorkshire bound!

 I was loaded and ready to go at 3am, with a 211 mile journey ahead of me I chewed into the miles with the visions of big things, my last trip out was a total success as I managed to target a R.Mersey double successfully "My Mersey Double" and made good inroads on the R.Tame whilst also blanking on the R.Dearne. This was a case of picking up where I left off.

 Arriving around 0630 to a brisk but sunny morning I felt rolling meat would be the best approach, this would as usual enable me to cover miles of water and also initiating a response from a Barbel that could either be well hidden and drawn out of position or in plain view and the process of plopping a lead in would alert the fish thus potentially ruining the opportunity. My first few rolls across five pegs were ignored and I didn't see a single fish ( also just to put into context, the Dearne is not prolific at all, in fact it is a tough river with not a lot of Barbel present ).

 One peg I really did fancy the look of was a narrow run treelined on the far side with a canopy jutting out that looked like a good place for a fish to be held up, so I set about working the run and on my first roll the bait moved freely then through the back of the canopy without incident, that was until out the corner of my eye something moved in the murk but couldn't tell what, within seconds my bait disappeared and the flash of a substantial Barbel turned on the bottom and powered off downstream but more alarmingly to the next large willow canopy. 

 I had a good view of the fish and immediately knew it was a double, my heart rate shot up and I began to shake, just an hour in to the session and I'd found and hooked my target fish! My job now was to negotiate the myriad of trees and snags which looked at best perilous. In the tight peg I was shoving the rod tip under the water when she ploughed over the far bank treeline, then I got her out into open water I had to put side strain on it, then she shot under the trees again, the rod was sharply shoved under the surface again, this battle of wills continued for 3 or 4 minutes before I felt confident I would get her out, I leaned behind to grab the net that was made up and started to ship it out, but that last lunge for freedom is always one to look out for and regardless of how experienced you are they can catch you out with that raw power. She bolted across the river straight for a set of tree roots I had managed to avoid through the whole fight, this time I wasn't so lucky. She got under them so quickly I didn't have time to put the breaks on her and she went through the roots and came out the other side. Now I knew I couldn't put much pressure on her so I opted to let her drop down on her own volition, problem for me was I could feel the line grating through the fight and wondered how bad the line was (12lb), to my utter dismay and absolute disappointment she kicked hard and pushed on upstream further and this was the kiss of death as my line parted, the tension was lost and she continued on up river without me...I was distraught, I can't stress how tough that was to take knowing that may be my only opportunity of the trip to get one, but as you know from the title this wasn't true - at the time however I wasn't to know this so I worked tirelessly to make amends in the heat and near impenetrable banks, just trying to sniff out another opportunity.

Some wonderful looking areas on the Dearne!

Late September? Looks like mid summer.

A fresh Comma on blackberry.

 I lost that Barbel around 0700 and spent the next 4-5hrs covering 3.8 miles of river, most of which was beautiful, unfortunately in my case baron of Barbel, this really was a game of perseverance! But I consider myself a dab hand at finding fish even in tough conditions and I did just that. I found three Barbel in with around half a dozen Chub, and two of the Barbel were doubles! question I wanted to answer could I hook one of the Barbel and land it. You bet I could and what a fight it was too in the fairly clear water, and she looked like the biggest of the three Barbel too, a super fight ensued and made short work of it with very little to worry about in terms of snags, once clear of where I hooked it I enjoyed the rest of the experience.

Just what I was looking for!

An extremely pleasing 10lb 9ozs!

 On the Ruben Heatons she registered 10lb 9ozs and she was my 15th different river Double, the Dearne has been completed and what a beauty too! like a new penny.

 About twenty minutes after I released her my mate Ash popped along to say hello and bought along a celebratory ice cold beer! Much needed and even managed to get Ash using the centrepin and try to catch one of the other Barbel that were still present but unfortunately didn't commit to making his day too! 

 I was extremely happy with that, what a contrast in emotions, total deflation to elation, angling really does have it all and who says angling is a lazy mans game? 

I'll leave it there, what a start to the trip!

Sunday, 18 September 2022

New Gear and Preparing For My Wye/Severn Trip.


 Its all starting to get a little bit exciting now as Friday is getting just that little bit closer!, a trip over to the River Wye to begin with, then hopefully moving on to the Severn to bag a few fish with a double figure Barbel of course being the main target. 

 I head to the rivers aiming to get river number 15 signed off on my challenge and maybe even more than that if I get very fortunate, I have also had Barbel off of 21 different rivers and the Wye isn't one of them having never tried my hand on the Barbel mecca.

 Preparations have already begun and around 20 rigs have been tied, some 10-12 inch, some 18-24 inch to hopefully cater for the different scenarios I may find myself in and with the rivers being snaggy, more notably the Wye with the rocks/boulders I needed a fair few as back up.

 For the terminal tackle I've gone with 15lb Flourocarbon (Kryston - Incognito) as river conditions continue to be low and clear, so giving myself that edge of near invisibility may be the difference between confident feeding and fish approaching very cautiously, I want as many fish as possible as the numbers game on these rivers needs to be played unless I get really lucky, which is not beyond the realms of possibility.

A snap from my previous visit to the Severn.

 The remainder of the gear is my usual go to's, strong pattern of hook in size 8 and 6, with size 8 swivels and fishing predominately on the hair but will also roll meat where the conditions allow. 

 For a number of years I have wanted to get myself one of these centrepins and finally decided to treat myself, the Purist II by J W Young & Sons Ltd is up there with the very best and have bit the bullet and bought one, its first outing will most likely be the Wye/Severn trip, but can I christen it with a beast? Only time will tell.

It spins forever! I can't wait to use it.

Thursday, 15 September 2022

Final Part of my August Northern Tour.


 After that great visit to the Mersey, the successful start on the Tame I decided to make the jump across the Pennines and target the R.Dearne, a medium sized river that flows through west Yorkshire that is home to some big Barbel, in the years gone by and even fairly recent it has produced fish over 16lbs with a few specimens over the magical 10lb mark.

 This view would be very nice to see!  

  So with plenty of research done and some good intel I headed to a section that was reputed to hold a few Barbel and some of the size I am looking for. I fished the Dearne last season once and found one Barbel that I failed to hook as it picked up my rolled meat and spat it before I could set the hook, so I set about banishing that memory and making a mends.

 Problem with the Dearne is it is loaded with features that scream Barbel and knowing exactly where to fish is a real head scratcher, so I went for the area that looked thee fishiest and set up shop there.


 Plenty of water to go at I gave each peg around 30min to an hour depending how much water was in each peg. Issue for me was the Chub were ravenous and seemed to be involved fairly quickly, even with the freebees. After four pegs I decided not to loose feed anymore and stuck with either a lump of meat or a boiliee with paste. 

 But the Chub just kept coming, even as pukka as this individual they really weren't my target, best in four hours was this one above. Just over 4lbs. I did see two or three Chevins that were possibly 5lb+ and as the sun dropped over the horizon I set up camp in a nice deep pool and hoped that a Barbel would come along. 

Would it happen for me?

 For me I had another day ahead of me and the night but I could feel my eyes closing as midnight closed in, the thought of catching a big Barbel from the Dearne had me wanting to stay but I was absolutely shattered and not sure if I could do another night without my bed. That thought sealed the deal, I decided I did have a great trip over the 4 days / 3 nights and it was time to call time, I will revisit this river later in the year. 

Tuesday, 6 September 2022

Opening My River Tame Account.


 Seeing as I had successfully targeted a double figure Barbel from the mighty Mersey in an evening I moved onto the next river on my list and what better river to target than the Tame, a river that reminds me very much of my apprenticeship river, slow in places with pacy areas, littered with areas that look like it would hold fish but just not clear enough to fish spot clearly. It is a river I knew little about but was clear from early research that the lower Tame is where the party is at.

 So with a location in mind it was all go on Friday morning after crashing on Jerry's couch (certainly beats sleeping in the car) with an inevitable spring in my step, I looked to find a Barbel to begin with but ultimately a double figure specimen was as always the target as river number 15 was locked into focus.

 Given the size of the river I thought it would be a foregone conclusion in regards to catching, I hoped to spot the fish too given the depths averaged 2-4ft, however the water is an odd colour and seeing even into ¾ft of water I really struggled, it wasn't until I got past the canopies that I could actually see the bottom, so god knows what I passed downstream. I opted to fish static although in hindsight a day rolling meat may have served me better but the meat I had was rubbish (don't use DAK luncheon meat for rolling), its dreadful. Tulip or Spam is best but needs to be cold, when warm they both don't fair well either.

 The areas to fish looked pukka on my first viewing and hoped I would be lucky again! 

 On Friday I fished numerous pegs and found fishing very difficult, I thought I was fishing well but didn’t even manage a bite, that was until I happened upon a spot that looks like it should be holding fish. The first 40 minutes went the same way as the other spots when out of nowhere I had a savage rap on the rod tip and a fish stormed off downstream then straight under a fallen willow where I shoved the rod tip under the surface to give me half a chance, before I created that half chance though the tension came off and the fish was gone, not a monster of about 7lb but would have been great to get one on the scoreboard and off the mark on the Tame.

 That take was around 3pm and found myself, yet again, scratching around for a bite, I just could not conjure one up. Nearly 6hrs had passed and another 4 swim changes before I decided to settle back in the peg where I lost the Barbel earlier on. With the light failing I got some bait in and hoped after a few hours rest that any other Barbel that maybe present (Barbel of that size aren’t often alone) would be inclined to feed.

 Around 2130 I got a delicate tap on my rod tip before gently settling back down, so posed to strike on the next movement hovering over the rod-ready, but after a minute or so with no further movement I sat back into the chair to get comfortable again, then BAM! A savage take had me scrambling out of my chair and lifting into a decent fish that by the time I did have complete contact it was level with me having travelled some 30 yards upstream from where it was hooked. 

 In the torchlight I could make out a decent frame, however looking down a ten foot bank into 4ft of water the size wasn’t necessarily in my mind right now, I had so much more to do as these Tame Barbel clearly have a taste for a good battle, she did not want to give up and I really had to put my gear through its paces. Like most battles with barbel they have a blistering start, methodical middle section and a last moment dash to catch the uninitiated out by smashing them up on a slightly tightened clutch, but no sir, not me! I am too long in the tooth to fall for that trick, but 3 times? It’s a new one on me and testament to how strong this Barbel was, it did not know when to lay down and accept defeat, such was the battle I afforded it all the time it needed to recover before briefly weighing and photographing this immense creature. 

A beautiful 8lb 11oz specimen.

 At no point did I think she would go double figure and the scales confirmed this but clearly has the frame to achieve that toward the end of the season. On an Otter strewn intimate waterway this fish and the subsequent fish I would go on to catch were all in tip top condition. It may seem controversial to some but once the Barbel wise up the Otters ability to polish off the stocks becomes less and less effective and the fish actually are better for it, weak fish, diseased fish fall foul whilst the strong younger fish continue to thrive and hopefully bolster the stocks that are present. 

 A couple of photos later and she was ready for release, a short video was shot as she left the net to continue its journey to becoming one of the Tame’s future big girls no doubt, right shape and got the power of twenty fish. 

 My Saturday night was spent gradually feeding up the swim and over the next 3 hrs would take another three Barbel weighing between 4&6lbs, not a bad nights work and the following day I got back down and repeated the process, this time around I looked to rove around the section of river I was fishing and hope to catch some out of position, in the open water but oddly the fish were not there, even in the weir I found bites hard to come by, even if in the weir I couldn’t keep a rig on for more than 5mins such was the carnage that unfolded. I drove up north with 9 leads, by 2pm on Sunday I had none….a pack of swivels, hooks and beads all gone, 4m roughly of expensive rig material gone, it really was getting to me so I canned the weir and headed to the pub for dinner that my mate Jerry knocked up for me! Much needed it was too. 

A wonderful place to fish!

About to lose one of nine rigs.....
....nice place to waste time though.

I hung around in the pub for a couple of hours before getting back to the Tame, this time around I didn’t muck about, I got straight back to the “willows” and set about building the swim exactly the same way I did the night before. The expectation of a bite in the daylight was slim so hedged my bets on dusk onwards. By 10pm I got my first knock and that turned out to be a smaller fish around 4lb which wasn’t terrible, then I had a lull in sport until around midnight when I had a spell of 3 takes in 45mins when the Barbel clearly went on the feed, those going 6.2, 6.10 and 7.5. Not bad average sized fish but that elusive double that does exist was not showing itself. 

Best of the second night at 7lb 5oz.

 Having been fishing for 17hrs straight (minus dinner time) I was knackered and decided to call it a night at 430am, I headed back to Jerrys to get my head down for a couple of hours where I then had a decision to make, did I go back to the Tame where I knew I’d have to wait until at 9-10pm for any action or head north to the R.Ribble, or head across the Pennines to the R.Dearne in W.Yorkshire. The decision given the journey from the Ribble to home was 6hrs it didn’t fill me with excitement if I’m honest and the Ribble needs some serious water at the moment, it isn't in great shape like many rivers up and down the country, but the Dearne by most accounts fishes okay in these conditions so that was to be my next port of call.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

River Mersey Double, That's a Wrap!!


 If I am brutally honest with myself so far this season, it hasn't been what I hoped, there are obviously a few reasons for this that I am sure I have covered previously. A few weeks ago, on my thinking seat at home I got to researching the rivers that litter the NW of England. A few rivers that cropped up time and again were the Ribble, Tame, Mersey, Irwell and Dane. Catch reports on some of the rivers were more accessible than others; however, local knowledge is king and my good mate Jerry was very good with persuading me to come up and start my trip on the Mersey, they had had some rain recently and the peat had just finished running off, which was more luck on my part rather than judgement.

 Given the drive ahead I needed to be patient as the inevitable traffic/crashes and diversions (one through the M6 toll) had to be endured before I finally arrived on the banks of the River Mersey. My approach was to fish static in a few likely looking areas and looked for depressions/holes which may exist with a bare lead, this is where Barbel maybe hiding. Leading around on new venues can build a fairly good picture of the topography and the presence of snags pretty quickly and with my five minutes of splashing around done it was on to setting up my rods and get fishing.

 Tackle for this trip is as always balanced as best as possible. 1.75TC Fox 12ft rods Shimano 5500 Ultegras loaded with 12lb Hypersensor, fished in conjuction with a 2oz lead, 12lb Fox Illusion flourocarbon and a size 8 wide gape hook. On one rod I used a lump of meat and the other used a single 15mm "Source" boilie with matching paste. 

 With my spots worked out I plopped the rigs out, sat back and took in the ruggish feel to the place, a sense of atmosphere and that isn't something that can be levelled with a lot of places I target Barbel as they are mainly in the countryside and most areas look fairly similar. With my left rod out toward the far bank in 3ft of water my right hand rod was in tight to a sprawling willow on the inside bank which looked the most likelier of the two to go.

Taken in the night.

 48 minutes after getting my first rod out my least likeliest rod (LH) tapped gently then shuddered before pulling round confidently, I lifted into the fish to find the line going really slack really quickly, it took a good few seconds to wind down before regaining direct contact, by this point it was level with me, some 35 yards from where I'd cast! I was surprised at the pace this fish came at me and once I had the tension back on she began to strip line as it continued on up river at an alarming pace. Not knowing where the snags were I feared she had a plan to ditch me somewhere and knew that if I gave her anymore leeway I may come to regret it so went for it and used my gear to the max to turn her before it all ended in tears.

 Five or so minutes had passed by now and I was still no closer to knowing what I was playing, the peaty colour still present ( only slightly ) meant I had maybe 6-12 inch visibility, even when she turned in front of me as the fight drew to its conclusion I still could not make out whether it was a Carp or a Barbel although I suspected the latter. Once I had reigned her in after that final flurry of power I finally got to see my prize and to tell the truth, as soon as she came over the lip of the net I suspected she was a double.

 When I lifted her out on to the mat I knew it was a double and gave myself a high-five and thought I bloody deserved that for my efforts and not just getting there on Thursday evening but for what followed over the coming days. I left her to rest in the margins as I got my camera setup and sling/scales ready so the Barbel was out the water for as least possible time. As I lifted her up for some shots I could not help but smile, alot! for I had my River Mersey double in my hands and river number 14 of my challenge achieved. Bloody brilliant!

10lbs 10oz of pure Mersey power!

 That battle really did my nerves no good, just glad I landed it and with good reason too. After releasing that fish I decided to have a little wander up after bringing in my other rod for a rebait and found two shopping trolleys pretty much where I turned that fish, it was a bit too close and could have ended up very differently and wouldn't have known what was on the end, my suspicions would have suggested something like this or a mid-double carp, thankfully for me it all ended up in the best way possible.

 A couple of hours later my left hand rod went off again as I awaited my mate Jerry to finish work which turned out to be a smaller fish of about 5lbs that I slipped straight back. Not long after releasing that fish Jerry and I nagged for a while before heading back to his to get some much needed rest! 

 River Mersey had been very good to me, 48 minutes to achieve that, but there is always so much more to it than that, a massive effort rewarded in the most empathic way possible.

Tuesday, 9 August 2022

A Change of Scenery.


 Finally we have a summer that everyone can be happy with! That said, the Barbel don't appear to be enjoying it much, in truth I haven't targeted them for about two weeks and haven't caught one in 6 weeks, so with those piss poor returns it was high time that I mixed it up a little. 

 And what better place to go than the wonderful endless skies of the Fens, a place I hold huge affection for. In the boat or walking the banks it never fails to ignite that intrigue and sense of anticipation not many places can rival. Pristine waterways, overgrown banks in many places means a boat is the only real way to fish effectively and search out big fish that invariably are never targeted. 

SS Rudd all cleaned up and gleaming!

 An afternoon of prep the day before meant I got the chance to scrub my best investment for another tour of the Rudd infested waters of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, I could not wait. The following morning I awoke at 0315 to finish loading the car and then set off to pick up Brian who of course was as excited as me if not more so given his current predicament, this soiree is just what both of us need and for very different reasons.

 By 6am we were at our slip and could already see some decent Rudd so inevitably the excitement level ratcheted up a couple of notches. By 0630 we were afloat and in search of fish, which didn't seem shy at all. Yes catching is the aim of the game but we both had designs on something a little more substantial than 8-14oz bars of gold, even if they looked amazing!


 About an hour or so afloat we were making our way up the narrow corridors in search of some bigger fish as a pound seemed to be the threshold to begin with, that was however until we came across a few half decent fish with one almighty beast at the tail of the shoal, it was enormous and the target in my mind is a 3lb+ specimen, I assure you this fish was that and more! If I had to hazard a conservative guess I'd say 3.04 - 3.08, she was massive and immediately we eased up and tried to keep an eye on where she was heading as the shoal had seen us before we saw them, what with ample bankside vegetation and untold pad systems everywhere it very quickly disappeared. 

 For about 15 minutes we continued to search around for it and fed a couple slices of bread around to try and tempt anything still present into feeding but our efforts were in vein and I feel she either held up in the cover waiting for us to go, or they had pushed on up under cover and we never did see that again, the very fact I had seen a huge fish, the "one" I have sought after for 6 years now on the Fens had been located, I now know its not a pipe dream and that it really is possible!

 Notwithstanding the day did pan out nicely as we coasted around in the glorious sunshine for hours, catching fish with the odd bigger one coming to the net until my battery died and I had to resort to rowing instead ( Not so relaxing by this point ). Hundreds of smaller swirls and slurps at the floating crust would be punctuated by a bow wave and smash out of the blue as bigger fish looked to capitalise on the copious amounts of food we pumped out, they really were mopping it up.

My best of the day, a gnats todger under 2lbs.

 Brian did manage quite a few fish but nothing massive, the simple fact we got out on the boat was great, we will be back soon for another bash for sure! Next time we head out I may have a new engine and battery to try out, even more of an excuse to get back up there, it really is heaven and if you are reading this having never fished the Fens I urge you to give it some thought at the very least, its possibly my favourite place to fish, even if it is difficult to locate bigger specimens amongst the hoards of smaller ones.

What a view :) 

  Tight lines all and be lucky! 


Friday, 8 July 2022

Back to the Kentish Stour, Again.


 Session 11. Why am I struggling so much on this river? Much like the ColnBrook there is plenty of water but you just can't access most of it for one reason or another. Now I have seen the odd fish on the KS, locating Barbel just seems to be a challenge in itself rather than the catching part. I know many with myself included know that when it comes to Barbel location is 80% of the game, once found typically it is just a matter of time. On this intimate river you would think sightings would be common. 

 So I got back to it on Sunday afternoon and planned to do the night then the first few hours of daylight.

 A single bait approach was opted for and moved swims / sections fairly regularly to give myself plenty of opportunities to see fish. By fish I actually mean Barbel, the Chub were literally everywhere and I found avoiding them very difficult, their very nervy nature when the sound of a plop went in ( couldn't be avoided ) everything would just go dead, funny thing was more often than not I'd fish snags and when those Chub spooked it would take everything out the back, so I got to see exactly what was present and at every occasion, it was just the big rubbery-lipped Chub that were making an appearance, still no Barbel.

 I fished all through the night whilst moving around and fishing static boilee with matching paste to hopefully tempt an incredibly guarded Barbel from its watery lair, in turn by midnight I'd only managed 6 Chub to about 4lbs. Just gone half past midnight the rod quivered and then slammed around, was this what I was after? The initial 30-40 seconds would suggest so, then right on cue a decent sized Chub came up to the surface, trying to ditch me in some ribbon weed at the last moment before the net got shipped out and mugged the Skelly before it could smash me up in the weed.

 It certainly wasn't a Barbel but I wasn't too displeased as it looked well over 5lb even just hanging down in the net, I set up the camera gear and weigh sling/scales to see what this summer Chub would go. 

A good heavy Chevin at 5lb 8ozs.

 The bite certainly had me fooled and as of 0033 (when I hooked that Chub) three stupid Pike in the morning were taken whilst rolling meat was all I could conjure up. It really was a tough trip, again.

Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Hard to Come By.


 During this 40 rivers challenge I knew there would be times that fishing would be tough, especially on rivers that I am not familiar with. This was in truth a large part of the lure of undertaking such a task, easy fishing is not challenging for the mind and yes, in lean times there is always a little part of me that thinks about just swinging by rivers I've already chalked off just to get fish on the bank. Thus far I have resisted as I see it as time not spent on rivers I should be on.

 On the ColnBrook for example I didn't think I would struggle, wrong again (seems to happening a fair bit of late). Six sessions down ( as of June 20 something ) and still not managed one, this scenario didn't at first appear to be in the balance as I spotted two Barbel last season within 30 mins of being on the river, unfortunately for me they disappeared quickly once a bait went out and since have found myself searching for the tell-tale bronze shapes caressing the swift and plentiful gravel beds. Inevitably if something is present and I spend enough time looking I am bound to find them, last week I did just that, one about 5lb and another quite possibly the very fish I sought.

Lightweight roving is so important to 
tracking down small pods of Barbel.

 Peering through virgin nettles is always exciting as you know no one has been there, then to see two Barbel sat hugging a small branch on the bottom in the first hour of trip 7 to the river, I knew I had to be stealthy and quick, I opted to put out a single SSG link ledger with a lump of meat on and in no time of the bait hitting the deck both Barbel left their holding point and charged upstream to the bait, I was poised to strike and simply hoped the bigger one would take the bait. Nope, that didn't happen.

It's a start, beautiful too.

 It was my first ColnBrook Barbel but really wanted the other fish, that could have meant wrapping up my efforts and moving on to another river, 5lb 6ozs of pure muscle and in immaculate condition, I do wonder if that fish had ever been caught before.

 Once that pocket rocket was released I continued my search which included locating the other Barbel that tore off downstream out of view. With fairly limited amount of time as I wanted to avoid the M25 peak rush hour my time swiftly came to an end. Another 3hrs spent on the river and some more solid evidence to go on, I am in the right places.

Nettles are good rod rests too.

But it takes a while to build up sting tolerance.

 Since that capture I have revisited the banks with a new sense of urgency, those two fish might not be around long and knowing that one had been caught would the other fish vanish owing to that pressure? It's certainly something thats gone through my mind as I searched low and hard for a fish and excluding the odd tit bit there was nothing to be seen and yes it is heavily grown over in alot of places hence my stealthy approach and roving with very little tackle, but the sense that there simply isn't many Barbel in the ColnBrook is growing ever stronger. Can I find that leviathan? or is the ColnBrook not going to be one of those rivers and eventually pull the plug and if so, when do I make that decision, and is that for the short term and revisit it in the future or never step foot on it again? That bigger Barbel I saw may just be the sighting I required to keep the interest.

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Third Time Lucky?


 At least I was hoping so, 177 miles each way with diesel now costing a years salary to fill up the tank I needed to make it worth while, I needed to catch fish and catch well, preferably get my Severn double, the taste of defeat on my previous two visits and £80 lesson on why not to park in fields was still very fresh, I really wanted to banish those memories and kick off proceedings with some Barbel. 

 So I set off from home in the early afternoon and arrived in Holt for my first port of call. My first venue was Holt Fleet on the BAA book which as a side note is an extremely good value for money membership to have, varied waterways across the midlands to try your luck on. For me, flowing water and plenty of oxygen was my original thought, with the Severn flowing sluggishly I thought a weir would be a good place to start, I couldn't get any closer if I tried. 

Very comfy!!

A nice place to spend some time.

 I started off getting a load of 4 & 6mm pellet out about 2/3's of the way across where I found a deep gully beyond a gravel bar that was very weedy - which I was to find out later on to my dismay. Fishing both rods to begin with on banded 8mm single pellet I set the traps 15 yards apart on the same line, first up, Chub and quite a few of them. The rigid tips on my 1.5TC Korum All-Rounders were pinging constantly and knew it was Chub, but I knew at any point a Barbel could come along and snaffle my hookbait.

 Wrong. A procession of Chub came to the bank with alarming regularity which wasn't filling me with hope that actually the Barbel would get a chance!, they seemed ravenous, but out of nowhere the rod hooped over and knew immediately that this was a Barbel, she rolled over the gravel bar, showing herself completely before ramming into the weed bed I eluded to earlier, nothing I could do and even with fairly stout tackle the game was up, after a few seconds of the pressure coming off of the fish I felt a brief thud, then it went slack as this fish came off, annoying to say the least, but if I can take any positives from it it wasn't a double and likely to be around the 8lb mark.  

 By 2245 which was nearly kicking off time I found myself head scratching and where I was going to go next. With a lovely sunset beyond the horizon I set about moving on to the next leg of my journey, which was to do the night in Bridgnorth on the town section, a stretch I kind of know and hoped would finally break my Severn duck.

 26 miles north of Holt and 40mins later I arrived in Bridgnorth and got straight on with unloading the gear, I was a man on a mission. A quick 5 minute trudge upstream bought me too a peg I was shown by a friend last year and remembered roughly where it was, by midnight I was fishing but had to wait an hour and half for my first bite, when it did come there was no doubt what it was, a powerful take followed by a powerful fight, I was at last on the winning end of a Severn Barbel and not long after it was resting up in the net. 

6lb 3oz and off the mark, at last!

Link for release video here ----->  6lb 3oz Barbel Release

 Finally done, now it was time to get that double figure specimen I really want, chalking off another river early season will give me a huge boost of confidence in which I think will be a very challenging season.

 Unfortunately the remainder of the short night bore no more fruit, so at 4am, I packed up again and headed downstream to Knowlesands to fish a few spots where again I know Barbel do frequent. I made the long walk down the hill and downstream on the fishery some way before finding the peg I was looking for, a nice deep churned up hole littered with big rocks, a risky move but I felt it was the deepest peg in the whole section and fish would be seeking some cover in the bright sunlight.

 I set up in the same manner as Holt Fleet, but instead of bait dropping freebies out I decided to use PVA bags for a more compact feeding pattern, with the turbulent water a bait dropper would have been much less accurate. I set up the first rod and flicked it out just into the main flow, then set about getting rod number two ready when the first rod screamed off, nearly bouncing off the rod-rest and into the river! pure power and as I lifted into the fish I knew it was big, it stayed low in the current and headed at pace downstream, unluckily for me I don't know the exact topography of the swim, but the Barbel did! Very cunningly it headed for a big rock and decided to smash me up on 15lb hooklength that was freshly tied, no imperfections present, a clean cut and a lost fish that could have been any size, I do fear given my extensive experience targeting the species that it was probably the one I wanted, but such as life.

Smaller one around 5lb.

 After plenty of swearing and more swearing I finally got myself together and now fishing with two rods, from this point on I was converting all the action which was roughly coming at a fish an hour, not exactly prolific but amongst that was another six Barbel with the best weighed 8lb 1oz and in post-spawned out condition as to be expected, the others averaged 6lb with a little one thrown in for good measure. 

Long lean fighting machine.

 Around 5pm the peg went quiet and thought about moving pegs when a Barbel rolled in front of me, two rod lengths out, so naturally I bought a rod in and hoped it was feeding. 7pm came and went and still no more bites, I decided to call it a day and head to the ColnBrook for a go there, but the weather was foul and remained on the M25 homeward bound. 

 So I didn't get my double but felt like I was close, I think to be honest I am going to wait a little bit before going back, give the fish time to bulk back up, because it'll just be my luck to have a spawned out 9.14/9.15 on my next trip! A nice fish but would not be the one, so I am going to be patient on the Severn, think that's a wise move.

 Also ordered a ton of hemp from Monster Particle and the heat seals went on two 10kg bags of hemp, the juice was everywhere and seed took me ages to get cleaned up, possibly lost half a pint in the clean up...

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

June 16th, Glorious June 16th...


 Every moment of the river season whilst conditions allow I will be in pursuit of Barbel as I restart my quest to achieve a feat completed by no man! For those that don't know, or aren't familiar with this blog then it's a quest to catch a double figure Barbel off of forty (40) rivers across England, Wales and Scotland. Yes it is an epic task, it's a task that might defeat me. 

 STOP! right lets nip that pessimistic mumbo jumbo right now! This is no place for failure and I will catch exactly what I am after and that begins on the Kentish Stour! 15th of June I was walking the banks in the heat armed with polaroids and cap, the mission was simply to find Barbel and get them to feed. Only one Barbel was found and annoyingly she was surrounded by a hoard of hungry Chub, yaaaaay. Just what I wanted to see.

Such a beautiful river, but heavily weeded throughout.

 Anyway, I went back to the area I earmarked to do the darkness hours and at dawn move around, as I couldn't do the night in the other area as the mosquito's were ravenous even though I was covered in Jungle Formula ( strength 4 ) which is their highest rating, one later on did slip through and get me, right on my "Adams Apple". I can still feel it! So I settled in the overnight swim and fed steadily through the evening and hoped by midnight that I would be in prime position to snare a Barbel at the first time of asking. 

 Midnight came after a few very long hours and within four minutes of the midnight gong the rod began to show signs of life, I prayed for a Barbel and got a Bream...hmmmmmmmm, not what I wanted to see! Then twenty minutes later a 2lbs 1oz Eel stormed the party, followed by another two Bream. Where were the damn Barbel?! In fact I don't expect to catch one when on the KS, its a tough river with a reputation for being just that.

Funny looking Barbel.

Break of dawn at exactly 3am,
complemented by a chorus of Tawny Owls.

 By 5am it wasn't happening so I decided to pack away briefly and go for a walk with the glasses for an hour or so, just in the vein hope I would get a chance, just one. Again though a few hours passed without seeing anything more than Chub, that was until I decided to check out the location where I saw the Barbel the afternoon before and it was quickly apparent that there were now two! One about 6lb the other 8lb or so, not quite the double I seek but would get me off to flyer for sure. One problem I had to encounter though was the sentries that responded to anything hitting the water, my hookbait would be engulfed in seconds, everytime. The Barbel stood no chance and after 7 Chub from that one swim it was abundantly clear I was not going to manage one of those fish and soon after conceded defeat, the temps just got too high and thought better of it. 67 miles back Barbel's almost a case of cut and paste from my previous 9 trips.

Best Chub was 4lb 5oz

A very dosile Red Admiral lapping up
minerals off an ash pile.

 I will be back of course to give it yet another go until I get what I want, looks like I am in it for the long haul on this river. 

River Don Barbel Record!

 The elation of catching a R.Don double in such a short space of time was there for all to see, I was beaming! No one can ever confess to ta...