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.