Sunday, 20 March 2022

Another Season on the Bank.

 

 Well what can I say about the 2021/22 season. It was bloody brilliant, lots of lows but amongst those lows I caught some big fish to really keep me focused and well and truly on track with my target for a double figure Barbel off of forty rivers across England, Wales and Scotland. So here is how it panned out!

 May:

 I only fished once in April so there wasn't much to write about there and May wasn't too different, a single trip out in search of Golden Orfe and Tench resulted in a success on both fronts, a cold spring did make fishing difficult on the day but did finally come good.

A nice G.Orfe, but not what the lake used to produce.

7lb 7oz
 June:
 
 Again it was a very lean time for me fishing wise as the birth of my second child meant I was helping out at home and being Dad, I did manage two trips (1x Medway and 1x Mole) but these resulted in blanks.
 
 2 trips / 2 blanks / 6hrs / 0 Barbel / 0 Doubles.

 July:

 I found time slightly easier come by on the bank as I was back to work, this gave me the opportunity to fish a bit on my way home and did start to have some successes, two of the six rivers I had fished in the month of July produced double figure fish for me in the shape of these below. Apart from that I had the odd Chub too and three smaller Barbel to 8.13.

R.Colne 11.07

R.Medway 13.09

 11 trips / 7 blanks / 40hrs / 5 Barbel / 2 Doubles.

 August:

 Again, in August I found myself getting about quite a bit with most of my trips being conducted after work, but I did also manage a superb road trip up north where I struck gold on multiple fronts. Nothing could have prepared me for the achievement I was to receive. A tough start on the Mole did come good on the sixth time of asking with a stunning double figure Barbel slipping over the rim of the net, I also rocked up on the R.Derwent, having never been there before and had a red-letter-day to rival all!

R.Mole 12.10

R.Derwent 13.13

PB Chub 7.04!!! EPIC.

 Trips 12 / Blanks 8 / 51.5hrs / 4 Barbel / 2 Doubles.

 September:
 
 This was yet another lean month for me and considering its possibly the best month of the season to target Barbel I simply couldn't get away from work and family matters, which in the grand scheme of things is more important, said no angler, ever! When I did get out I had some successes on the river Lea and Nene, but most notably was my incredible capture of a R.Ivel Barbel and a double at that. A river touted by many as a river in serious decline over the last decade through varying factors, it only took me 11 hours in total to manage the feat...child's play this Barbel lark :). Plus I also managed a big Kentish Stour Chub of 6.01 whilst rolling meat for Barbel, quite a turn up as that's a huge fish for the river.

A big girl for the KS!

R.Nene 8.07 (not a double but a great start)

R.Ivel 10.14 (A fish I thought would take me years to catch)

 6 Trips / 3 Blanks / 35.5hrs / 6 Barbel / 1 Double.

 October:

 A few trips were made through October and I had high hopes for a couple of the trips, however things were starting to go against me as I found conditions weren't in my favour and was missing the good conditions to be on the bank, I was quickly finding out that learning new rivers in the cooler months was hard going as I found it difficult to locate and stalk fish/potential areas. This will be a recurring theme I'm sure and ended the month Barbel-less, in fact the only fish I did catch were off of a R.Test tributary in the shape of some beautiful Grayling to just over 2lbs.

The best of a dozen taken on the float.
 
 6 Trips / 6 Blanks / 37.5hrs / 0 Barbel / 0 Doubles.

 November:

 My Barbel fishing by this point had taken bit of a nosedive and given the cold crisp conditions I sought out other species to target and although I did try on the odd occasions for Barbel it was the Grayling fishing that proved most fruitful. Two trips to the splendid R.Wylye in Wiltshire provided some of, if not the best Grayling fishing I've had the pleasure of experiencing. Numerous two-pound plus specimens were caught whilst trotting with the best in November weighing 2lb 7oz. I did also manage a stonker of a R.Colnbrook Chub too weighing a massive 6lb 6oz which was taken whilst in search of the elusive Barbel that do call this river home, not that I can catch them!

R.Wylye 2lb 7oz.

R.Colnbrook breezeblock, 6.06

 4 Trips / 4 Blanks / 29hrs / 0 Barbel / 0 Doubles.

 December:

 Just two Barbel trips were embarked upon in the last month of the year and given how poor my previous couple of months were for the species I didn't hold out much hope, but what do you know! A mild spell just before new year produced a super looking R.Lea powerhouse which bought an end to my mini drought, but also my time on the river which to be fair had been tough, well earned and one of the hard ones taken care of. Also as the weather got colder I fancied a go for some river pike and was rewarded with a superb mornings sport, two Pike were landed but both well worth catching with the best just missing out on twenty pounds.

R.Lea 10.05

19lb 9oz river Pike in the winter morning sun.

 2 Trips / 1 Blank / 17hrs / 1 Barbel / 1 double.

 January:

 A month of almost seemingly endless frosty mornings, could only mean one thing, Grayling! A return to the R.Wylye produced my best ever days sport for the species and taking no less than 7x 2lb+ fish to 2lb 9oz, quite a day it was. The Itchen was also on my radar and although the Grayling didn't show for me in numbers the Roach put in a surprise appearance and managed a few to just under 2lbs.

R.Wylye 2.09 - (2nd best ever)

R.Itchen 1.14

 0 Trips / 0 hrs / 0 Barbel / 0 Doubles.

 February:

 A couple of trips out for Barbel were had, one on the R.Severn and one on the Colnbrook as I hoped with the slight increase in river temps would begin to stir the Barbel into feeding. That didn't happen. All I can remember was an expensive night trying to get out of a field....


 2 Trips / 11.5 hrs / 0 Barbel / 0 Doubles.

 March:

 At the turn of the year I had my sights firmly set on having a 7-10 day assault on the rivers towards the back end of the season to try and find myself another river double to boost my tally even further, and it could not have started any better as I joined friend and fellow blogger George for a morning (wasn't planned this way) on the Warks Avon to target a Barbel, I left the river at 1pm having not only bagged a monster Chub for the river, but also a big Barbel too. The blanks that had mounted up were all but forgotten, it was a brilliant mornings fishing and to share it with George was wonderful! 

 I then went on to fish the R.Severn, R.Bourne, R.Dorset Stour, R.Itchen all with the view to maybe adding one last fish to that now very impressive list, much to my dismay however I drew almost a complete blank on all of those barring a few modest Chub. It wasn't until the penultimate evening on the R.Wey that I got a chance to wrap up the season with a bang, that said the Barbel I hooked had no inclination to stick around and after a brief battle a large unseen fish smashed me up in a nearside tree, thankfully for me whilst still cursing my rotten luck and thinking of drowning my sorrows did my rod hoop over again to produce another double figure Barbel, I got that grandstand finish I had dreamt of. It was not the way I planned it, but when does it ever go to plan aye? What an end! Eight different rivers chalked off my list in just this season alone, which now brings me up to 13 rivers out of my overall target of 40. Can I reach 20 and the half way point by the end of next season? That will be my target.

R.Warks Avon 12.06

R.Warks Avon 6.03

R.Wey 10.04

 9 Trips / 75.5hrs / 2 Barbel / 2 Doubles. 

Monday, 14 March 2022

River Wey Double! That's A Wrap!!!

 

 Well, as you can tell from the title I have done it, a River Wey double on only my second trip ever to the river and my first trip to the river for Barbel was over 9 years ago Blog Post when I had a 9lb 2oz Barbel whilst rolling meat at night as the river was up high and pushing. When I arrived yesterday morning I found the river in similar condition as the river was about 1.5ft up and gently dropping throughout the day. 

 This section was a place I had never fished so it was a learning curve and sought out areas that looked like I would find Barbel present. Most areas looked amazing and really was spoilt for choice. I fished one rod in the tighter swims and two rods where the bends would open up, alternating between meat and boilie/paste I hoped to find a feeding fish and as the hours ticked by and pegs were worked I was starting to feel it wasn't going to be my day!

Staggering temp at midday and it went up to 10.7c by 5pm.

   Given the temps I felt confident of a fish and as dusk approached and the rod remained motionless I was already starting to think of where to go next as the section of river I was on doesn't permit night fishing and kicking off time is an hour after, so if it was going to happen then it had to happen soon and as I settled down into the second peg of the day I barely got the chance to tidy the peg when my rod whipped around with such power, the rod came off the rest and belted downstream momentarily before thundering off upstream power that I simply could do nothing with it, it was no power that I think I have ever experienced from a Barbel, it was certainly a big powerful fish and all of a sudden with shaking legs and racing heartbeat the tension was off and the unseen beast was gone, I bought back my rig to find a clean cut about 1 inch above my hook, I was absolutely distraught and threw my rod to the ground in frustration.

The river just looked in such great condition.

 It had been a long tough day and that was not the outcome I needed nor wanted. But being a positive guy I decided to just try above where I lost that fish as I knew there was a nice deep gully around 8ft deep and if there was one in the area others should also be present...I had about 5 minutes to ponder that loss before out of nowhere I got a couple of swift taps on the tip, but instead of the rod recoiling on each occasion the rod would remain held in that position, after the third such action I just lifted the rod and struck, solid weight was then met and the rod tipped thumped as a fish made its way upstream but with the same strength as the first one, the reason for the odd fight was to become apparent when I finally got her in the landing net, although I was seriously thinking she was around 8-9lbs, it was only when I lifted it up was I convinced I had actually landed a double from the river Wey on only my second visit! 

 What a way to heal the wounds of a big lost fish, to go and catch your target, the sense of loss didn't have too long to settle in and glad that was the case and job done with a day and night spare! Bloody result :)  

Stu was on the phone to me whilst I was cursing losing the first and still on the phone when I landed this Quasimodo!

 My first S-bend Barbel for many years and the fight should have told me what it was! 10lb 4oz on the scales, thick as tree trunk and thought it would weigh more but never mind, it got over the line and that meant that I had achieved my thirteenth river of my 40 Rivers Challenge ! I start my new season trying to extract a double from the Kentish Stour and will be scooping out the river and baiting up over the last 3 weeks of the closed season (going all out for this one!) 

This link below is the release of my Wey double.

https://youtu.be/Ub8I9LAOTFI

10.4....over and out.

Sunday, 13 March 2022

Running Out of Time.

 

 Its been a trip that was well overdue, the Dorset Stour and an Itchen return were finally back in my plans and with an upturn in conditions it was hopefully going to be a successful trip which I was making with Brian (of Pike Blog)...3 days of bog talk and blanking was in-store for us both!

 We started on the Dorset Stour as conditions were on the up after a cold spell that would have meant sluggish sport, within an hour of fishing on the float I had conjured up 4 bites, losing one that was a good Chub in the six pound bracket, missing one and landing two. Not the Barbel I was after but fish all the same, Brian set about Piking and had some success with the Jack's but the big girls eluded him on day one.


 My sleeper rod during the day showed little signs of life and as the sun set and the night sky provided wonderment I hoped that dark would give the Barbel more confidence and setup using one rod on the meat and the other with boilie and paste. Within a couple of hours the tentative knocks began and soon enough a fish hung itself, unfortunately for me it was a Bream of 7lb+ not what I was after but a fish I guess. 

Settled in for the evening/night session.


 The next bite didn't come until 0430, for me that was a bad time as I was having a little snooze and the rod melted off, in a daze I got to the rod but the culprit had dropped the bait and I struck thin air...bummer! Moral of that story is don't snooze, it'll happen then.

Into action!





Eat like Kings!

 The next morning we awoke to a freezing cold morning that I slept outside in cozy in my suit wedged into my chair, my feet like blocks of ice, fingers immoveable, I needed some early morning sport! I suspect overnight the temps dropped to about 0c and I really felt it. Because of that the sport on the wednesday was pretty sluggish and apart from three average sized Chub I could not make anything happen. A change of section would hopefully breath new life into the trip for us both, unfortunately this wasn't to happen for me as my only enquiry over 6 hours was a very attentive Eel that kept coming back for my ledgered meat, and after an hour I gave up and we made the drive down to Southampton to fish the Itchen where I hoped to find a large Barbel to check off this river that has been very tough and having packed up the following morning we were Bourne bound...

One last hurrah, before heading off to the Itchen.

....quite the marathon, but yet again, I remained Barbelless and firmly with my tail between my legs I reluctantly called it a day, three days, two nights with very very little to show for my efforts. Maybe another time aye!

Sunday, 6 March 2022

Warwickshire Avon Double, That's A Wrap!!!

  As we approach the final throws of the 2021/22 season I am almost at a point in time when I reflect on what I have achieved over the past twelve months and on the Barbel front it has been a real mix of highs and lows, tough blanks on certain rivers and total elation on others, it has been brilliant overall and if you had told me I would have caught double figure Barbel from six different rivers this season to put me on 11 out of 40 I'd bitten your arm off for that. 

 So, I have had an eye on the last week of the season for a proper blow-out and see if I could potentially add another fish to my challenge and having looked at my options, the current forecast I thought that the Warks Avon would be in good nick and a few messages with George Burton of Float, flight and Flannel over the course of the week we decided on a visit on Saturday and I could not wait as it was to be my first ever visit to the river and it couldn't come quick enough.

 2hrs up to the midlands was chalked off and finally I was bank-side with George and after a leisurely chat and set-up I got the static rod out which was rigged up using a 2oz gripper lead to keep my rather basic rig in position in the main flow, the rig consisted of a size 6 Korda wide gape XX hook, tied to 12lb Fox Illusion (1.5ft length) and a size 8 swivel, the bait was a lump of Spam and a PVA bag with small cubes of meat to hopefully create a large scent trail and try to woo a Barbel into feeding at some point during the day. 

 With the other rod I decided to roll meat and work the area immediately upstream and run it down towards my static bait, on my first couple of rolls nothing materialised but that all changed on the next roll when half way down I got a swift bang on my finger but not enough on it to connect with, too quick! I followed the roll through with no return and the next run through halfway I had to throw the rod into the bush as my static rod double tapped and then slammed around with a peeling clutch! I was on it in a flash and instantly I knew it was a good Barbel. In the deep water I played the fish slowly and giving it what it wanted within reason, my legs were wobbling all over the gaff and my heart rate doubled as I was trying to picture what it might be on the other end, I knew what I wanted to be, but was I going to get that lucky?

 Then she surfaced like a breaching submarine, at that moment I knew I was connected with my target fish, as quickly as she appeared out of the murk she vanished again, nicking 25 yards of line off the spool in no time at all and I had to slacken off the clutch quickly as I could have lost her such was the power of the run which she actually made twice before the signs of tiredness began to show, I was impressed by the power and even more impressed when I saw her lying in the bottom of my net! I knew she was a double so I called George to come and have a look, to which I was met by surprise! I was warned that it could be a long day or two.....51 minutes is all it took. Incredible how sometimes those golden plums shine when so often I'm kicked in them.

 George did the honours with the photographs and we weighed her at 12lb 6ozs, a Warks Avon double within an hour of starting my quest on the river and river number 12 of my challenge completed, I was stunned and what a beautiful Barbel she was too!

Fin perfect winter double.

 If Carlsberg did trips on the WA!.....Well, to be quite frank, it got even better with what happened next.

 Relatively speaking this capture is bigger than the Barbel in terms of the river, rather a personal achievement.

 Half an hour roughly after releasing that superb Barbel I had another take on the static rod and a powerful fish quickly lunged downstream taking a fair bit of line, straight away I thought Barbel, plenty of power and stayed middle of the river hanging low to the bottom, so after about 2 mins you could imagine my face when I saw a large Chub surface and roll straight back down to the bottom, this fish clearly didn't read the "How to fight like a Chub" book! 

 Sure enough after another minute or so I was calling George again to come and have a look at a 6lb 3ozs Chub that by Warks Avon standards is massive! I couldn't quite believe the morning I was having, George was speechless and knowing how rare these are here I felt honoured to have fluked it out!

EPIC!
 
 That was not in the script and to be fair, nor was the Barbel, having been filled in with the details as to how difficult the river can be I guess all the struggles I've had this was a reward for sticking with the fishing in less than favourable conditions over the winter.

 That was not expected and by midday George left to attend to matters elsewhere so I took the opportunity to drive out to the Severn and look to continue my run of form that I was clearly on, a quick 45 min drive saw me driving through the Worcestershire countryside and my first sight of the river was about half mile from the river itself, the road leading down to the actual watercourse was marooned by floodwater, quite a sight and it wasn't long ago when the river wasn't fishable as it started up at the main road! Thankfully for me it was nearly back within its banks although pushing really hard I opted to fish the slacks.


 I decided to drop straight into a peg with a large inside slack and where my 4oz feeders could hold bottom, amazingly even on the crease 7oz gripper was swept straight into margins, it was running hard and fast, that however didn't bother me, it was the water temp that didn't fill me with any confidence at a measly sub 6c, but having made the effort I stuck it out until kicking off time without a tap ( I wasn't surprised ) so I weighed up my options and in the end decided to back east to the River Bourne where I have heard of the odd recent rumour of big Barbel smashing Roach anglers up, it was time for me to improve upon my summer 7lb 8ozs Barbel and get something bigger.

Nearly time!

Prime time!

 I arrived after a 97mile journey across Worcestershire, Wiltshire, Hampshire and into Surrey to find a very pacy river and carrying lots of colour still after recent rains, again, much like the Severn it was the water temp that I was a little concerned at which measured 6.1c, not ideal but I suspect its been that for sometime and hoped given my recently acquired knowledge of the river that I'd get some action, then three hours slipped by without incident and had decided to save the peg I thought would produce until last thinking I would come across something, unfortunately I got to 0130 and decided it wasn't going to happen so I buggered off home, cutting my trip a day short as I planned to be out until Sunday evening, oh well, I chalked off another river and could not have been happier with my start to the last week of the season.

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, ...