Wednesday 26 October 2022

All About Balance.

 

 Something in modern day angling that isn't mentioned much is the trails and tribulations that are involved in a quest like what I am embarking on. The 1000's of miles travelled, zig zagging across the country in search of Barbel and of course other species, this blog is keeping with Barbel in mind.

 I haven't been out many times this season but when I have been out they have been in blocks of two to four days, with the odd night thrown in for good measure. Conditions this season have been patchy at best, rivers running on bare bones with sluggish flows and dense weed growth owing to the superb summer we had. When I have been out successes have been had as I am sure you aware if you read my blog on a regular basis, but its the blank sessions that people rarely speak of, for what reasons I don't know but that sense of balance has to be struck and gives a true reflection on numbers behind the successes.

 A few of the rivers I have targeted this season have been nothing short of incredible. However, the likes of the R.Rother, Itchen, Loddon and Kentish Stour (Great Stour) have been a real challenge. Fish spotting on the Rother isn't really possible owing to its colour throughout the year, finding the fish is hard owing to the masses of features.

 The Itchen so far has consumed a fair wedge of time, over 7 trips and 91 hours spent without a bite, but the other day that very very nearly changed as I had a large Barbel which had to be 14lb+ mopping up 6mm pellet that I was feeding but owing to the snags I could not get the Barbel to come further out the cover, the sight of the gills puffing out sediment whilst it was clearly seen crunching food was exhilarating, but after 10 minutes she slowly dropped down the run and out of sight, I was gutted to say the least when it dawned on me she weren't coming back up. 

Sunrise over the Itchen on Saturday morning.

 That is definitely the closest I've come to tempting one on the Itchen, the same certainly can not be said for the Kentish Stour as I recently racked up my tenth blank on the spin as I seek one of the unicorns that I know exist, 65hrs spent searching and hoping over that 10 trips something would come my way. The only thing is the Chub on the KS seem to be a little more obliging than on some of the other rivers so when things aren't quite going my way I have been catching fish and not to the detriment of the Barbel fishing, I don't think I'm close to getting one soon either but I'll keep going and hope one day that final piece of the jigsaw will snap into position.

The Great Stour at sunrise.

 The Loddon and S.Rother to be fair haven't had a proper crack of the whip and as conditions start to improve these rivers will come into their own and catching Barbel becomes more likely but trips out in summer months to take in all the sites and learn the sections will no doubt serve me well on what are notoriously difficult rivers with small stocks of big fish. So far on the Loddon two trips have taken up 25hrs of fishing and the S.Rother three trips totalling 35hrs, its clear plenty more blanks will be needed before successes will be tasted but I knew this would be the case when I started this quest back in October 2020.

A very low S.Rother in the summer.

 Now to just drive home the numbers for my efforts since October 2020 I have blanked 70 times in 93 trips in this 2 year period, so when I do catch it very slightly shines a better light on the overall figure that will one day read, 40 doubles out of 40 rivers! But the figure that does look pretty good is that over that 93 trips my sessions to doubles ratio is currently at 5.47, that does certainly make for better reading.

 I love the sense of adventure and know it won't be easy but I am enjoying it enormously, here's to river number 18! Hopefully it falls sooner rather than later.

Sunday 23 October 2022

River Taff Double, That's a Wrap!!

 

 After a very relaxing week away in Tuscany with the family over the first week of October I was pretty keen to get something pencilled in for later in the month. Well, that time had come and I was ready to go for Friday morning. My plans as always are constantly changing to suit the conditions and go with my gut instinct. The original plan was to hit the Severn and Wye, then it changed to the Teme and Severn. However my mate Jerry Gleeson had had some success on the River Taff in South Wales and after much deliberation this was what I settled on.

 With plenty of miles (171 to be precise) to eat up I left in the early hours of the morning and when I did finally arrive in Wales I opted to grab a couple hours sleep in the car with my alarm set for first light. The alarm went off and slowly got myself together, initially the plan was to fish 2 rods static and build a swim and hope for the best, problem for me was that I couldn't hold a bait out in the flow even with 5oz leads, the amount of leaves coming down in the swift current quickly forced a change in my approach!

Dawn on the Taff.

 There could only be one tactic, yup - you guessed it. Rolling meat.

 Rolling meat needs no introduction, I use it all the time and it is arguably the most effective way to target Barbel, regardless of the type of watercourse. Given the fact first light was going and the birdsong was growing louder I set about my task. The swim I chose was a wide area, quite pacy throughout with plenty of eddies and swirly water, the sort of place Barbel might be sat.

 I had been rolling around for maybe twenty minutes before I got my first indication, a quick double tap on my finger as I coerced the bait along the gravel bottom, the initial touches were subtle, the second enquiry about 10 seconds later was anything but! A vicious pull on the rod that near pulled the line into and through my indicating finger! For the first minute or so I was met with pure power in the flow and suspected a Barbel simply from the bite, but given its fight I didn't think it was particularly big, it dawdled around the back of the eddies and dithered in the slacker water when the fish did come closer, after 3-4 minutes she finally showed herself and I was pleasantly surprised, plus it didn't take me long to pop the net under her.

Beautiful! 

 Measured, no frills, calamity free, perfect. But how big was it? upon first glance when I calmed down it became clear very quickly that I was staring a R.Taff double figure straight in the eye! a conservative guess I thought 11lb+ and was not wrong, 20minutes of fishing the Taff and I caught a big one, how very fortunate for me 😆 proves you should always trust your gut feeling.

My R.Taff double @ 11lbs 10oz.

 River number 17 completed and all before breakfast time too!! What a superb result.

 What a fish, what a journey, all over in no time. If any locals reading this or anglers who frequent the Taff will know its by no means an easy river, blanks are very much commonplace and areas where the Barbel live are pretty condensed from what I gather, so I felt doubly chuffed with myself and taken on my favourite method. Executed correctly it is devastating!

 Once I released that fish I wondered where to go next, before I did move off I met up with one of the bailiffs (Graham) where we chewed the fat for a while and got to learn a bit more about what is now a fairly clean river, like many across the united kingdom they were worked endlessly for various processes. 

 Once Graham had left I hot footed it to the Bristol Avon for a look about and then moved on to the R.Itchen which will be on my next blog post.

Saturday 15 October 2022

My First Soiree on the Banks of the River Wharfe.

 

 One doesn't know how 34 miles can pass by so quickly. I left S.Yorkshire and arrived in W.Yorkshire in a haze, I could not have been prepared for what had just transpired, who turns up at a river they've never seen before, fishes for 2½ hours, catches three Barbel, two of which are of the target size and blitzes the river record? Never heard of it happening before and I for one am pretty sure I'll never experience it again, as I write this (long overdue) entry the gravity of the catch is yet to fully settle in, its obscene.

R.Don - 15lb 4ozs

R.Don - 10lb 5ozs

R.Dearne - 10lb 9ozs

 Angling dreams are certainly made of moments like these and indeed much less. Now the R.Wharfe was playing host to my gigantic golden spherical plums, would she give up one of her treasures like the Dearne and Don had done in the previous 24hrs? 

 Before I was to find out I looked for somewhere comfortable to park up the car and set about grabbing a few hours kip in the motor before embarking on what I hoped would be yet another incredible days fishing. Given my mammoth effort the previous day ( Driving up from my home on the Kent/Surrey border to Barnsley in the early hours of the morning, roving around the Dearne all day before catching my target around 2pm, then I drove to the Don, had a leisurely and enormously rewarding couple of hours before slipping off up to Boston Spa near Wetherby, it had been a graft but I am used to this sort of fishing, real hardcore business. 

 I set my alarm for 6am and awoke wondering had I dreamt that all up. A quick scan of the pics once again was just the tonic to get me fired up and hopefully continue on what is a great spell. I grabbed my day-ticket from the shop and then got lost....half an hour slipped by with me buzzing around in the car trying to find the entrance to the river! After I wasted some more time I finally got my act together and found the wet stuff, what I was met by is a rolling meat wonderland!!!! I knew I would be in my element and so it would prove.


 The river was fairly clear with a reddy/brown tinge to it and within 20 mins I found Barbel, I got straight to work and got my lines on point from the get go, funnily enough the Barbel seemed to know what I was all about and the first two fish I found (both around 6lbs) seemed to spook pretty quickly and never returned. To begin with this seemed to be the way they all behaved, clearly rolling meat is a technique used here quite a bit given their reaction. The first 4hrs slipped by very quickly and had the shot at 8 Barbel by this point without even getting a sniff. 

 Around 2pm I decided to go back to the car, drop off the rolling gear and grabbed my bucket of goodies and the static gear. A change of tactic I hoped would eek out a fish. I wandered a 200 yard section first and put around 6-8 bait droppers of hemp and 6mm pellet in 4 swims which I planned to fish in rotation. My first swim was a very deep undercut bank that screamed fish, lovely gravel bottom with a swift inside line, it had all the hallmarks of a good Barbel holding area. 2hrs later and I gave up. I then decided to shorten my time in the other pegs to an hour as I was slowly running out of time ( kicking off time is around dusk ).

Amazed the rod remained motionless!

 The next two swims looked awesome and know they do hold Barbel from chats I had with friends and fellow anglers met on the day who fish it, but I could not muster a single touch! By 6pm things were looking bleak, I hadn't even snared a Chub!

It looked so good for it too!

 My last ditch attempt at a Barbel was to go back to the peg with the deep undercut bank and put a single bait over the top as I suspected the droppers of bait I put down around 2pm would either still be there or mopped up by fish that should still be in the vicinity. Sunset was fast approaching and by this time I had been in situ for around an hour, I really had gone from feast to famine, but these returns on away days have to be expected. I leant over to grab something out of my bag and out the corner of my eye see the tip bounce enough to get my attention, seconds later I was reaching out for the butt of my rod! Totally savage and typically Barbel-esk I knew I was connected to a Barbel, the deep powerful runs up and down stream played out in front of me without seeing it, possibly five minutes had gone by with me picturing various different sized fish on the other end, was it one of those rare Wharfe doubles that I sought after? or was it one of the great pretenders? When I finally got it close to the net I thought the previous! I muttered to myself "I couldn't could I?".

My first view of the fish.

 Must admit when I peered down the 10ft to the net I really thought I had! A hat trick of double figure Barbel in a little over 29hrs. She had it all, even hoisting her up to the mat the weight felt good! But could she go over 10lbs? 

 This time around she didn't, a very respectable Barbel all the same at 9lb 5ozs that could not be sniffed at, a Wharfe 9+ is a very good Barbel and took that gleefully! A very tough day worked out well in the end and knew I was close to time out too so after I took some lovely photos of my prize I slipped her back home to the depths of the mighty Wharfe and I scarpered!. Another river visited and yes, she wasn't a double and yes I will be back to try again but it was a very successful visit, even if it was challenging. 

 Being flexible in approaches to Barbel can be paramount to success and this scenario certainly highlighted that, never stick to one tactic if it's not working out. Mix it up, they may well be there, just not playing your game! play theirs.

Close, but no cigar this time around!

A superb specimen all the same, I was very happy 
given my effort!

 Once packed up and back at the car I had a dilemma, did I stay and fish the following day or head elsewhere and upon speaking with numerous other anglers during the day it was clear the Wharfe was in fact fishing quite poorly, so I decided against staying and drove down south to the tough R.Loddon which needs no introduction. A couple of hours back south via Donnington KFC was in order where I grabbed a few hours sleep...

Feel It In My Toes.

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