Sunday 31 December 2023

Grinding Out Results.


 What a washout this winter is turning out to be. God awful wind, insane amounts of rainfall is making getting out on the bank a chore, thats before a trot or cast is made. 

 Two visits to the R.Itchen and one to the R.Blackwater for Barbel have all been a total blank without more than a half hearted tap on the rod ( most likely a chub ) on the Itchen and one Chub off the R.Blackwater, not inspiring returns on substantial efforts and expense.

A very full and flooded R.Itchen.

 With the Barbel not playing ball I decided to target predators yesterday. With Pike and Perch in mind I packed light to try and find a fish or two using live and dead baits. My faith in the previous always has me keeping dead's in the bag until I've eeked out what I feel is possible and very quickly success was struck in the shape of a 9lb 6oz pike which was nice.

 Not to be content with that I went hunting for more and quickly found another a bit smaller which nailed the bait but unfortunately came off as it shook the treble violently enough that it came free, half an hour later I suffered the same fate with another Pike of similar size to the one I landed so I wasn't too upset about that and by 10am the float dipped and sailed away for the fourth time with what was a better fish.

 Watching the Pike slip out of its lair to stalk and snaffle its prey ( my bait ) is so exhilarating, the heart rate does shoot up and as I watched the gills flare and bait disappear I allowed it a couple seconds before setting the hook, a short but sturdy battle ensued before I slipped the net under this decent fish ( 13lb 4oz ).

 A good fish to build upon I thought. It took over an hour before anymore action was had as things looked to tail off but there was one last piece of action in store and that was in the shape of a good upper double that made no mistake in inhaling my bait as it drifted downstream on the pacy flow, I left it a couple seconds like I always do and the hook was set, a powerful fish looked to put my new Drennan Esox " Piker Bait rod" to the test, frustratingly for me the fight was very short lived as I could see my treble on the edge of it's snout and knew one shake would be enough to loosen its grip and with that, she shook her head and my float came hurtling toward me and the fish with one almighty flick of its tail was gone.

 Luck wasn't really on my side yesterday, yes I had caught two, I'm happy about that but it could and possibly should have been FIVE! Maybe another day I'll cash in on those chips ( preferably for an Itchen double figure Barbel?, just saying ).

 The Perch? They didn't show after three hours of trying at a different locale, but I'll keep trying.

Monday 18 December 2023

First Chub of the Winter.


 It's now mid-December and I have only just ( on Saturday ) got out for Chub, the conditions have been all wrong and no weather pattern seems to settle in for long enough to make a concerted effort at one particular species, by the weekend just gone I gave up waiting for that settled weather system and just went. An early start with Brian as we aimed to get to the river before sunrise...

 ...An hour later than billed we arrived. I decided to start on the float with my 14ft Acolyte Plus rod on the pin and my 11ft Acolyte feeder rod to chop and change if needed. Fishing towards a deep run along an undercut bank I started to feed little pieces of breadflake and a couple handfuls of mashed bread, once the free-offerings went out I let the swim settle for about 10mins before fishing it, when I did get a baited hook out the float slipped away fairly quickly and a Chub about 3½lbs battled away deep among the remaining weed, a good start.

 The good start got even better as within my first 5 trots I had three Chub, the third being a much better fish, broad and pretty chunky which I thought would go over the five-pound mark and so it was to be, 5lb 3oz on the digitals was a pleasant sight, always know when you have a better Chub on the end, they just get their heads down try to find every snag in the river but the power in the reserves of the 14ft rod allow you to give you all the help you need. 

My winter's benchmark, 5.03

And it behaved itself!

Nice start :) 

 Thirty minutes in the bites began to dry up, the amount time between the half-hearted pulls on the 7BB float got further and further apart. After 3hrs of fishing and a few Chub later I decided to move on, even though I knew more fish were present, they were just cagey. Issue was is the remaining hours spent on the river provided very very little and I really had to scratch around for a bite and an hour after sunset I finally got another Chub on the bank which was only a small one of 2lb or so.

 It was hard, but a good first Chub trip of the winter.

Saturday 9 December 2023

Barbel Tactics.


 Over the last couple years I have been asked by a few anglers for my input into what makes a good rig for Barbel, this question doesn't really have a straightforward answer as different scenarios the travelling angler is faced with could and probably will dictate how you approach the fishing.

 My go-to and has been for probably a decade is flourocarbon ( referred to as "FC" from now on ), which is almost invisible in water and if we can't see it then you would like to think Barbel can't either, I have tested this out for a good few years and certainly think the Barbel are more confident in feeding on the deck when "FC" is being used instead of monofilament fished straight through or braid / coated braid. I find "FC" where it has it's stiff properties allows when the bait is lowered in or cast to be pushed away naturally from the lead and mainline, where braid or mono' can often coil up near the lead unless fishing pacy water where the line should naturally lay straight.

 The stiffness of FC does have a couple of drawbacks, however these can be combatted by taking a little more time in your rig preparation. One of these drawbacks being the lack of flex in your bait on the hair if one is being used. Where the FC is stiff it doesn't allow the bait to move naturally as you would expect in the flow for it to move around, I would prefer if the hook and hooklink be as fixed in position as possible but still allow the bait to move freely / naturally on the river bed, so what I do is not tie a hair in the FC but to use soft uncoated braid of a low breaking strain, say 8/10lbs and tie my hair loop in that and then whip that onto the hook when securing the FC to lock in place, most good quality hooks size 12 and larger should have enough eye space for the multiple passes. 

 This ensures that the hooklink is stiff, almost invisible and yet the bait on the hair can waft in the flow as freely / naturally as possible and it does work, this seen with my own eyes on my then local river which runs gin-clear approx 300 days a year. When Barbel are feeding with complete abandon then these finer details that may give you an edge one day may not be required. I do believe very much in the tackle selection being absolutely key, theres no point having a bait out there and Barbel not be tempted owing to poor presentation.

 I don't think these little edges above are as true in dirty water as visibility can often be really poor and the Barbel are honing on the bait predominately using their sense of smell. That said I still use FC in the winter as I feel that confident using it, why fix something that isn't broken! 

 Other little nuances I've picked up is rig length, I have spoken to many anglers over the years who swear by the length of their tackle!. Clear river fishing when I was growing up I opted to fish hook-links of just 7/8 inches long where I was hugely successful at times, but on other rivers I have deployed hooklinks of up to 2ft, however this is nothing compared to what some chaps use on the likes of the R.Wye and Severn where tails of 4ft to 6ft are opted for as some are convinced any shorter and the fish simply won't be fooled, I'm not so sure but again, it's all about confidence and if thats what delivers confidence which inevitably would be Barbel shaped then who's to say its wrong! 

 I seem to have sloped off a tad...just below is a sequence of images of my go-to rig for the entire season, easy to make, the components easy to source from most good tackle shops and only takes 30-45mins to knock up 8-10 rigs which should do you a few trips. I don't sharpen my hooks, nor do I decommission a rig once I've caught on it, I use it until the hooklink is fouled or I lose it! 

 So the components I use are in the next image, followed by a step by step of the rig.


The components.

A section of 10lb uncoated braid which will be the hair-loop.

Braided hair-loop threaded through eye and back 
on itself and then "fc" whipped on using a knotless

Cut off tag ends and will look like this.

The finished rig, 8 inches of 12lb FC used with a 
size 10 micro-barb hook and a size 8 swivel 
attached using an overhand loop and neatened up
with a silicone sleeve.

 Some may notice I'm using a size 10 hook for my rigs, I find at this time of year that smaller, more pungent baits work better, especially when the conditions are cold and the Barbel may only feed for short spells, I tend not to use any free-offerings and keep my hookbaits small so a size 10 or 8 is perfect for fishing a 12 or 15mm boilee on the supple hair. In the winter I do use paste too so I make my hairs long enough to allow the extra space the paste would require, I don't tend to fish the baits tight to the bend of the hook, this is to allow a little space for the bait to waft freely in the flow and also affords me the choice if I want to increase the amount of paste I use moulded around the boilee.

 On my hooklink also use a small amount of tungsten putty, this is just to pin the hooklink tight to the bottom making the rig even more discreet, again other anglers pinch shot on the hooklink but I have found this can cause a weak point and when you are targeting Barbel of potential British Record proportions you do not want to find yourself in this position, putty is the best way to pin the hooklink down if you feel it might lying across an uneven bottom and is easy to remove if you feel it isn't needed anymore.

 During the summer months I rarely static fish as rolling meat is my go to method unless conditions do not dictate that be the best approach on that given day. When I do static fish during the summer months where the rivers are clear and the Barbel see a lot more angling pressure then little edges like those above in terms of the rigs may well put more fish on the bank, I certainly believe its benefited me in the past and will continue to do so. 

45mins of work...another 8 fresh rigs tied.

 In terms of FC breaking strains I opt for 12lb as a standard but will up that to 15lb should If I feel the bottom or surroundings are unforgiving. During the winter ( when it's coloured up ) I don't usually fish to snags anyway as I like to use the pull of the bait/paste to bring them upstream away from the potential danger, during the summer months the rivers are typically a lot clearer so you can see the topography and snags present which gives you a better indication of how light / heavy to fish, in the winter there tends to be more water coming through and stronger currents which again would dictate stepping up the tackle which would include mainline, test curve of the rod/s and of course leads / feeders etc.

 Most of you may have your own views on this and would be intrigued to know what your go to's are on this topic and how you feel your tactics fare across a season. 

 A bit random I know but got an hour spare thought I'd scribble this up.

 Tight Lines all and look forward to seeing your catches!!

Monday 4 December 2023

Feel It In My Toes.


 Hmmmmmm.....winter.....I spend months looking forward to it then you remember it's never easy fishing, even when you think you have sussed out a venue. The question I asked myself, can you ever have somewhere truly sussed out? Rivers always like to keep you on your toes and the winter just makes you focus your aim that much more acutely.

The Perch water that I'm currently blanking on.

 In a week where I went fishing for Perch, Grayling and Pike all in separate sessions. For the Perch I have a venue that I've been targeting recently and with that initial success I thought I was on to a winner but have subsequently blanked the following 4 trips and left somewhat uninspired, I put it simply down to the sharp downturn in temps. However my next target shouldn't suffer from a dose of the "I don't wanna feeds", and with that I made the 109 mile drive back down to the Wiltshire countryside for another go for a Grayling of my dreams.

 The grass was crunchy underfoot, the river still up but crystal clear given the drop in temps and my maggots lay almost dormant in their tubs as -5c temps kept them subdued, I could only hope they would all either be useful feed or the single maggots that would tempt a lady onto my size 16 wide gape hook.

 All the previous sounded perfect, problem was the Grayling very quickly seemed to be off the feed, a couple of very good looking swims that have done fish for me in the past were devoid of Grayling and to make matters worse the sharp decrease in temps meant the Trout were feeding in ravenous fashion, buggers could not be avoided! 

1lb 14oz.

 It took me hours to finally find an area where Grayling were feeding and they took ages to tempt, hours of trying and numerous runs trotted I finally started to get some decent fish but the effort put in this time wasn't rewarded in the fashion I usually experience, that was until I connected with a big Grayling just minutes before dusk, a big powerful fish made its way very slowly up the run and in hindsight should have walked downstream to intercept it knowing how many fish I'd lost throughout the day, alas I didn't and the frame of a mid-2lb specimen showed itself in the gin clear water just a rod length out before it came off, I was just a little bit pissed off, that fish would have made my day and in the famous words of Rex Hunt, " Yibbidy Yibbada that's all folks". Not the day I was expecting but, that is winter fishing, it rarely plays to the script and Friday was no different.

1lb 13oz

Prime trotting country!

Oh and a dead Otter in the margins.

 So given that tough day on Friday I decided it would be a good idea to go deadbaiting on the Rother for the day on Saturday. Taking my new Drennan E-Sox Piker 12ft dead-bait rods out for a maiden fling I hoped they would get a beating! 

 Wrong....I spent the day trying to no avail and ended up as ghillie for his royal highness Brian-of-Nazareth, shame Brian didn't hook the one prior to his Erling Haaland look-a-like as that would have been turn up, alas he didn't catch it and I blanked....Where did I leave my golf clubs? 

Sunday 26 November 2023

River Severn Double, That's A Wrap!!


 Success on this river has taken some time and in time I knew it would come, 300-mile round trip and 5hrs of driving makes it one of my less local of venues but it provides me with a better chance of a double over the tougher and lesser stocked venues like the Kentish Stour and the Arun for example. 

 I had about 24hrs to fish as a cold northern front was due to settle in from Friday evening and the sudden drop may affect the fishing through Saturday. A water temp of 11.3c upon arrival had me feeling quite confident of fish. Still pushing hard and up around 4/5ft but falling I thought it was just a case of finding fish and the rest would follow suit. Once I was set up and fishing I got to making some scran for myself which was bloody lovely. 

Not a bad view for the night.

Maple glazed chops and rice 😍

 The hours rolled by without a sniff and a move around 10pm didn't yield anything until I got to sleep when I got a tentative pull on the rod which sounded the Delkim, I was up and ready but nothing happened so I lay there star gazing and watching on as the shooting stars came across the sky by the dozen.

 Finally at 0315 I got what I was waiting for, the rod hooped over and I found myself rushing out the bivvy to lift into what felt a decent fish in the strong flow where we fought for a few minutes before landing my first Barbel of the trip, not a big one but nice to see.

8lb 7oz, Severn best at the time.
 Once the rod went back out I nipped back into my shelter and had to wait an hour for the next enquiry which came by way of a pretty docile nod of the tip and gentle peeling of line, this had to be a Barbel, totally unaware it was hooked! I lifted the rod and the fish was heavy but couldn't really gauge much from it, that was until I cranked it up to the surface in the torchlight, thats when my knees went, it was big and certainly a Severn double, by some considerable margin ( I estimated around 12/13lbs ) when on the third lunge for freedom turned to disaster, for it found something submerged not far off the bank, it didn't find it the first time around but this time it did and within seconds my 6oz lead came flying out the water, the fish had broke me off around 3 inches from the hook, I was fuming beyond belief, I was seconds from landing it, the net was out and ready, this was most likely its last lunge I could not believe it.

 I got that rod set up and back out in the spot that had now done two bites, I hoped for more action. Unfortunately for me that did not happen and dawn came and went without another touch. I had planned to move stretch so I went along with that plan. I set myself up and got my first rod out before putting a lump of meat on the other rod when out of nothing my rod that I had just put out starting lurching to the river and line peeling off the spool! I couldn't believe how quick that was!

 I wasn't ready, the net weren't even set up but its so easy to pop the arms in on the new 36" specialist net that I could do it with one hand and jam the pole between my legs. The fight didn't last long and very quickly the body of a substantial Barbel broke the surface, I thought to myself that's going to be close but when I lifted it out the water I felt quietly confident I had achieved what I'd set out to do and this one wasn't escaping at the very last moment.
Pristine lower Severn double.

River No: 23 completed 😎

 It took a few trips, mainly staring at motionless tips or blank rolls with the meat. It all finally came good and exercised those demons from what transpired overnight, a solid framed Barbel which weighed on the right side of ten pounds at 10lb 7oz! That will do nicely indeed.

 Release video of that Barbel just here 👉👉👉 Release Vid'

 I breathed a massive sigh of relief to have caught that fish and instead of packing down I decided to stick around and see if I could add to the tally of two fish and although the tip did go around again it was only with a modest Chub which was all I conjured up before leaving around 5pm. Job done, that will do me and maybe my last trip for Barbel this year unless conditions are too good to ignore.

At 6pm it was -1c and the frost had settled on the car.
This time I was successful.

Sunday 19 November 2023

Ladies, Ladies, Ladies.


...And no, not those kind of ladies, I mean these! battle worn, hard fighting and smelly...well that could relate to some of the human type but this time around I am talking of the Lady of the Stream (Tymallus Tymallus or Grayling). Around mid-November I tend to get the Grayling itch and dust off the trotting gear for a day out chasing a 3lb specimen which still eludes me.

 The day started off in less than ideal fashion when I got about 6miles into my 104 mile journey the break heat shield on one of my wheels came completely loose after going over a series of potholes, I had to jack up the car, remove the wheel, remove the heat shield, refit the wheel and tighten up the bolts, that cost me a good 20mins which had a knock on affect as I hit the beginning of rush hour traffic on the A303 which was slow with people heading toward Salisbury and neighbouring towns for work. I on the other hand had fishing to get on with and this was all a bloody inconvenience!

As anglers we really are lucky.

 Finally I arrived, about an hour later than I wanted. However I still caught the captivating sunrise which is of stark contrast to the dross we've put up with for weeks now! The river was high and waders were a necessity to fish half of the runs, the high water bought other challenges too as the water was really turbulent and Grayling aren't usually keen on staying in unstable water, problem was a lot of the river was like this and did limit the amount of water I and later on Mike would have to fish.

 That said I got off to wonderful start as my 14ft Acolyte Plus float rod was put into action with a 2lb 6oz specimen which was swiftly followed by a smaller fish of around 10oz then the float sailed away for a third time in as many trots with what turned out to be another two-pounder weighing in at 2lb 4oz, quite the start!

2.6 BOLM!


  The sun was lovely and warm and the fish continued to come to the white maggot, reds really weren't working and in the end gave up on them, when the white maggots were going through the sport was steady. A few more average sized fish came to the net and the total was steadily rising past the twenty fish mark and another two-pounder (2.01) joined them, which was then followed by a slight lull in sport before I contacted what turned out to be the biggest of the day, a strong fight in the pacy main flow which made for a good video opportunity, see link here → Locked into battle!

Best of the day at 2lb 8oz.

 A pristine male Grayling, so not quite "a lady" but a fine specimen all the same. As said previously fish were not east to find and sport became really patchy, nevertheless I was still catching the odd fish and as dusk was fast approaching my tally steady increased to 31 Grayling with another three fish over 2lbs ( ending up with seven over 2lbs and two others that weighed 1lb 15ozs ), it was my best haul off the Wylye yet, a special place and feel very privileged to get the opportunity to fish it!

Another low 2...

...Followed by another...

...Finished off with this lovely 2lb 4oz female.

Saturday 18 November 2023

Bourne to Blank.


 That late August / early September glut is a distant memory now and used to reassure myself I am actually capable of catching Barbel, ordinarily things do get tougher this time of the year but I am still very happy to try. 

 With the Bourne being one of the last "local" rivers left for me to chalk off I've dropped on there a few times this season, hoping to cross paths with a Barbel which is something I've not seen in over two years of trying, my first and last Barbel came in August 2021 and was on my first attempt, I've since realised that that was a classic case of beginners luck because since then I have drawn a Barbel blank which spans 7 visits over 2 years.

 Last night I hoped that would change. I arrived late afternoon and immediately took a temp reading which settled on 10.2c, for me that is still less than ideal but Barbel will be caught if I could only find them. The river was still up really high, which did mean I could fish it but the flow was so quick it limited my options as to where I could fish, slack water really is hard to find on this river owing to its course, which is quite straight for large sections with a couple sharp bends thrown in for good measure.     

A couple of shots from my previous

 My first swim was a dud, 45min spent in there without a touch but the next swim about 40 yards upstream looked promising as I received a couple of half-hearted touches before the pulling began, nothing savage which suggested an Eel had found my bait, a couple of minutes later that Eel finally came back for the bait and had it away, about a pound n half it wasn't small but not what I was after, it was clear though that something was feeding, I drew a little confidence from that and continued to fish in the remaining slacks.

A typical floodwater bait, big and bold!

 Unfortunately for me that was all I could find, or that's all that found me! Another blank on the Bourne, something that I am expecting everytime I fish it now, that 7lb 8oz Barbel I had over two years seems to be one of just a small handful of fish that call the river home although I do know doubles do come out and seen photographic evidence that they exist with some being resident fish and some transient fish that have entered the river from the Thames when it's in severe flood. 

 I will just have to keep going, the journey there and back isn't terrible and it's a lovely little river to spend some time on, prospecting, hoping something will finally happen!

Friday 10 November 2023

R.Wye Return.


 It's been roughly a month since my last visit to the Wye and really wanted to get back this year before things got tough. Recently we have faced vast amounts of rain and most rivers across the country have been in flood and not just a little bit, some rivers like the Wye have been very very high, highest that some areas have experienced in a generation! not to be deterred I made plans to get up there and fish for Barbel.

3.1m on, nice!

 Of course my prime target was to catch a double figure Barbel and chalk off the R.Wye but given the conditions I did feel that I would be aiming at just a handful of fish across the time I set aside which this time around was 3 days ( I looked to divide that across the Wye and Severn ). After completing a very long drive to the Wye via the office of Drennan HQ to collect the key for the section I'm currently targeting I got a glimpse to what I would be faced with and even I was a little surprised at how high it was.

 For about 4/5 days leading up to Wednesday I'd been religiously watching the levels of both rivers at various stages in the course to build a picture of how it should look come midweek. With high levels on the Lugg yet to pass and stubborn main river levels the Wye barely dropped and indeed at times began to rise again during my time there. This did however make one part of my trip easier, the amount of water to target had been drastically reduced to half a dozen good looking marginal slacks, 6oz didn't reach the bottom out in the flow such was the force of the river, so I was left with the margins.

 I opted to hedge my bets across two baits, one being the ever-faithful Spam and the other boillie and paste combo to try and put a decent and consistent scent trail in through the murky water which I hoped would lure a tentative Barbel into the area and snaffle one of the baits. Owing to the colour and the water temp of 10.1c on Wednesday I opted to move the baits around each slack every 30-60min just incase in the colder water they became more slovenly. 

One of the rare moments it wasn't grey and grim.

 I fished numerous good looking slacks over the course of the ensuing 7hrs without more than a tap from what I suspect were very subdued Chub of the small variety, that was until I was halfway through a phone-call with Brian nattering about the goings on or lack of on the Wye when my paste rod absolutely slammed round with no indication that something was afoot, all out savagery and the battle was very impressive in the current as the Barbel made its presence known. For the first minute or so I was quite worried as I could feel what turned out to be the hook-length and line rubbing on a rock, at the time I could just feel grating but wasn't sure until I got it in to inspect it all. 

 This fish which was certainly a Barbel and a good one at that as it just kept going, fully charged and gave a superb account of itself, long lung busting runs up and down but completely measured at the same time with nothing remotely erratic at all, typical traits of big Barbel, problem was I left my torch in the car, so I had to do it all in the dark which was not easy, luckily for me my night vision is bloody good, upon the second time of asking I slipped what looked like a good Barbel over the cord of the net, she was mine and bloody well deserved if I may say so myself, I worked hard for that bite which actually turned out to be my only bite of the trip! But I'll touch on that afterwards.

 I staked the net down with a bank-stick and hiked back to the car and back, not knowing how big this fish actually was I was still chatting with Brian the whole way through, a running commentary if you like, the sense of anticipation was building, would it be pure elation or an anti-climax? From the title of the blog you have probably already guessed it missed the mark.

 Not to feel down it still is a big Barbel for the Wye at 9lbs 10oz, just not quite as big as I really hoped, she looked like it could be when I lifted out of the water for the first time, but just not filled out enough but such as life, I go again!

A new R.Wye PB, the weight of my lead off the magic mark.

 I took a couple of pics and a short video of her disappearing into the murky waters before recasting where I hoped there would be one or two more holding steady in the slacker water, unfortunately for me the rest of the evening passed by without incident, which was pretty much how the first part of day two unfolded.

 Prolonged showers and strong gusty wind made for a miserable few hours on Thursday morning where I again, tried those slacks I tried yesterday, with the water temp falling further ( now below the magic 10c mark ) and rising river levels once again I decided it wasn't worth anymore of my time and opted to target the Severn instead which, just like the Wye was up and very coloured but in a better state than the Wye.

 I targeted a section I've spent a bit of time on now and know some of the good floodwater swims from friends who frequent the river and found myself hopping from spot to spot every hour to try and land on a Barbel before kicking off time. I took a temp reading and it proved grime reading, 9.2c and the river was rising upstream once again, that for me was the end, conditions and fishing were only going to get harder and felt by remaining on the river I was running a fools errand, so I loaded the car and made the 163mile journey back home to delight of the mrs a whole 24hrs early! I'll keep that 24hrs in credit 😅

A beautiful autumnal riverscape.

 That was bloody hard, but very nearly pulled it out of the fire. Even as I write this on Friday night as the kids sleep my gear is drying out, it really did piss it down, thank god for my 25k suit! bailed me out.

Saturday 28 October 2023

Keeping up Appearances.


 Barring that Perch trip last Sunday the last month has been very hit and miss, a couple of visits to the R.Itchen for Barbel (primarily) have resulted in blanks and along with a visit to the R.Blackwater I have stared at motionless tips or rolled hundreds of times without incident. Unfortunately for me time is tight, so many of my trips this season have been shaped around my work or this instance taking my brolly and bed-chair out and grabbing a couple of hours kip whilst trying to eek out a Barbel from what is turning out to be a bloody difficult venue on a work night ( getting back home for 5am to get showered and dressed for another days graft ), I know stocks on the Itchen are very low with around 30 Barbel estimated among the locals in over a mile of river. Real needle in a haystack kind of job.

Working the weedlines.

 During the day of my first trip I opted to fish for the Barbel where I remained biteless whilst sat in the expensive seats, by midday I'd given up. I then decided to go and join the boys (Keith Jobling, Danny Everett and Brian) who were sampling the wonders of chalkstream delights. I have to admit I'm quite spoilt that I can be on some of the very best chalkstreams in just over an hour and have access to some wonderful beats, some free, some paid for. The LIF is something of an enigma, because its a beautiful place to go fishing and you should feel that you are on an exclusive bit of river with the chance of big Grayling etc. Neither of those are true unfortunately as the Grayling rarely top 2lbs there anymore and its certainly not exclusive, £31.50 paid in advance is enough to have anyone wondering the banks!, plus the constant pressure once the coarse season opens. 

 For me when fishing the LIF it's never about PB'S, simply the catch-up with friends and the chance the bend some carbon. Going back to the Barbel, the more I go I know I'm just one step closer to what I want, the odd fish is coming out here and there but invariably anglers blank, that's just the nature of the beast and being a free-stretch it gets a lot of pressure. I must admit I can not wait to chalk off the R.Itchen, its taken long enough now. Think I'm 11 sessions deep now having spent around 120hrs without a Barbel, the sooner this one falls the better I'll feel!

 As for the R.Blackwater it seems that the stocks of Barbel, albeit small again are pretty transient, so my efforts have been mirrored and barring time spent in the peg I had my 9.01 Barbel I've only spent around 30-40 mins of my time before moving off to another spot if I've had no indication of fish present, it's a fairly narrow river and spent quite a bit of time peering in, in the vein hope I'll spot an unwitting target, thus far that hasn't paid off, fingers crossed that changes for me over the next however many trips it takes to finally come away successful.

 Moving away from Barbel I had a quick visit between jobs to the area I had that magnificent Perch last weekend, with just four live-baits I got to moving around a fair bit and let the gonks do their best to find me a massive Perch. The issue was the Pike were of a ravenous disposition, I managed four takes, using all four of my baits to all of which managed to swim off. I lost three of the four fish, with two looking / feeling decent (over 10lbs for sure) and a little jack, the one I landed again was a jack of possibly 6lb which was in great condition but not the species of predator I wanted, next time I hope that those big old soldiers are in a feeding mood and the Pike stay at bay.

No wonder why the perch are big!

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 ...