Friday 30 June 2023

River Loddon Double, That's A Wrap!!

 

 What can I say! This was one hard earned fish and over the frigging moon to have finally achieved my Loddon double, in fact I just wanted a Barbel, just to prove to myself that a can still catch them. Even when you are getting bites at least you have a sense of confidence that it just might happen, but I didn't have a single bite across "Eight" entire trips and had to wait 13 hours for my bite yesterday.

 Rewind a little back to Wednesday evening, I finished work and had dinner with the mrs and kids, then loaded up before making the 62 mile journey to the banks of what was a real thorn in my side. The Loddon has a reputation for being a very difficult river anyway, but the last 3-4 years catches have tailed off enormously and anglers are blanking for Barbel for entire seasons, I know how that feels!

Ready and waiting.

 With a closed season behind me and enough time elapsed since my last visit here I went with a new sense of hope and oddly I felt that it was going to happen, don't ask me why, sometimes you get that gut feeling and have to act on it. I arrived at the river around dusk and got a march on to the river which is quite a wander, once finally into my first cutout I got the rods out and the plan was to sit and wait with my traps out for a Loddon ghost.

 Not long after the rods went out the rain began to fall and very quickly found myself hunkered down under my brolly ( Drennan Specialist Brolly 50" version ), all I needed was a fish but the hours ticked by and soon enough I had moved, dawn had come and gone with nothing more than the odd Crayfish nibble. 

The first Buff Tip moth I've seen, joining me under the brolly,
along with a bit of subtle advertisement.

 With thick cloud still lingering I crept into swim number five. I got both rods out and sat back, breaking little twigs and flicking them in the river, then out of nowhere I noticed a couple of bangs on the rod tip! It had only took me 9 visits for that, which I thought was a very Barbel looking bite, experience told me to keep myself ready.

 A few minutes later my phone pinged with an email from a client and I was half way through responding when my rod savagely ripped around, there it was! Straightaway I could feel the weight on the end, but she wasn't doing much, slowly heading upstream hugging the bottom, all the hallmarks of a big fish. My impatience was getting the better of me having not seen a fish on this river for over a season! So I wound down hard to get the fish up and a few seconds later the frame of a good fish came up and rolled on the surface before powering off up river then straight down to where I hooked it, it was a bloody Barbel!!!

 Seeing it did my heart rate no favours, now I knew what I could lose! 

 Thankfully there was to be no bitter ending, on the second attempt I slipped the net under the frame of a good Barbel and was not sure if it was a double, upon lifting it out the river it was a lot heavier than it looked and that was the key factor in my 19th river of my challenge being completed! 

I punched the air in celebration and utter relief it has to be said, I got on the phone to Brian whilst she was still in the net recovering from her exertions, GET IN!!!

My River Loddon double - 10lbs 7oz.

  



 A magnificent fish that took a lot of effort to catch, above is a shot of her going back into her world obscurity. I was also smiling, the nettles up my arse were bloody uncomfortable! I am elated more than you could imagine!

 Now that's all done, here are some numbers behind my quest for a Loddon double.

 I embarked on 9 trips (mainly nights between work, across different conditions), spent 102hrs fishing, drove 1116 miles in search for 1 double figure fish, in the end I got ONE bite, ONE fish and it was my target! I had a sneaky feeling if I hooked and landed a Barbel it would be a double, it was just a case of finding a fish. 

That. Will. Do. River number 20, I'm coming for you :)

Sunday 18 June 2023

Ruddy Fabulous!

 

 With a start of the season planned in search of Rudd I have a few venues earmarked, these venues vary from narrow pacy waterways to wide expansive river systems, neither straightforward to extract the sized fish I desire. Now the target has been a three-pound specimen for a few years now from a river. Back in my youth I was lucky to have access to a public lake at the right time when a handful of old Rudd reached peak condition and weight where my father and I caught specimens to nearly 4lbs (my best weighing an incredible 3lbs 13oz with back up fish of 3lbs 11oz and 3lbs 8oz, where my father went one better with a specimen of 3lbs 14oz, unfortunately we lost these images from 1996 and were never found (the digital days are so much better for this reason!).

 But those moments in time are still etched in the memories museum forever. One day I hope to emulate that special time in my angling life once again. However on the rivers I don't think such specimens exist but you just never know. 



My first outing was on the glorious 16th of June and my task, to find a big Rudd! I only had a few hours as I had to collect the other half and kids plus spend a few hours at the beach to chill out. When I arrived at this specific location I was surprised to see how little had changed since I last visited, back then big Rudd existed and very few people knew they were present, I didn't at that time manage any massive Rudd but had a few good ones, but the reeds now are even bigger and very little access can now be gained along the windy narrow waterway, it really is a lovely looking piece of water and although after 5hrs I didn't see a single Rudd I did manage to locate a solitary Common carp of about 20lbs which after much persuading I did manage to hook and after an epic five-minute battle my fight was finally lost as the hook pulled, a gallant effort to get that far but thought the fight was nearly done and the net was readied, shame I could not get it over the rim of the net. 

 For the 16th, there wasn't to be a grand opening, so all eyes on to the 17th as I went up north in search of big Rudd instead. To somewhat familiar grounds where ghosts of epic proportions show themselves for just a heartbeat before vanishing to never being seen again. 

All cleaned and ready!

The new equipment for SS Rudd.

 So Brian and I set off yesterday morning for a couple days in the boat, boy was I excited, a new engine, new battery held much promise and it didn't disappoint, much more powerful, for much longer. I was having so much fun and the Rudd didn't disappoint as we both found good fish early on to 1lb 11oz but we were really hoping to find bigger fish, with plenty of smaller fish showing and long dead patches where no fish were present, the task was to try and find the small pods of big Rudd and once found to get them confident into taking the bread before the smaller ones could intercept it, a tough task as you couldn't get too close as it would put them on edge so it was a gamble each time as to whether the big fish stuck around or shot off downstream beyond our trotting capabilities (which happened often). 

Upper 1 in the bag :)

 But, a five minute spell unfolded that we have both dreamt about. We found some good fish rising at crust but we didn't see anything much over 2lb, but a couple of the swirls seemed to be made from decent fish, so we both trotted down to the "hot zone" where my float slipped away after the crust was steamrollered.

 Initially I thought it was a good fish but when it rolled about 20m from the boat as it headed for some lily pads I got a glimpse and I knew it was a very big fish and she wasn't coming in easily as I played her in and out of pads and thick eel grass before finally succumbing to the net and I breathed a deep sigh of relief, my best Rudd in years and a river PB weighing a superb 2lb 11ozs, that will certainly do.

EPIC!!! my best Rudd in 27 years!
And river PB.

 But that 5-minute spell wasn't just mine, Brian also got in on the act with a beautiful specimen of his own Brian' Report. It is these moments we make all this effort for. 

 We fished on for the remainder of the day up to 10pm where we still had a little light on the horizon but the mozzy activity meant we had to call it a night, by which point we were planning on doing Sunday (today) but the weather was not what was predicted and heavy rain / thunder and lightning storms meant we had a decision to make, either risk it and stay out for Rudd until it got to risky or wrap it up last night and back home which reluctantly we decided upon, somethings are not worth risking and yes there was no guarantees it was going to be terrible weather, however I think we made the right call and will go back up in a couple weeks in search of more!!!

Tuesday 13 June 2023

Counting Down the Days!

 

 Spare time has been very hard to come by this spring, so much to do and money to be earned. However with June 16th fast approaching now I can forget about all that and go catch fish. I must be honest I do miss the rivers, a lot! Yes we do have canals and stillwaters to target big fish, for some reason they just don't have the same appeal and never have to me. 

 Yes, there are certain aspects of stillwater fishing I enjoy but boy does pitting your whits against weary river monsters is an altogether different proposition where your quarry could be 10/20 miles away and you just don't know it. The ever changing mystery of a river is what I believe separates the two types of water.

 With just a little over 2 days remaining before the starting gun sounds plans are afoot, Rudd are the target for the first few days and if the conditions improve for Barbel I will start targeting them as I look to resume my "40 Rivers Challenge" where I have currently completed Eighteen of the Forty rivers.

 By the end of the season I would (yes I know its 9 months away and no, I am not wishing it away already) like to reach a target of 25 completed rivers. For what rivers these maybe I have an inkling, some of it will be targeted ruthlessly to plough through numbers, other rivers will be angled acutely to winkle out individuals on the lower stock rivers which are a world away from the Wye, Severn, Trent etc where numbers are much healthier than the extremely low stock rivers such as the Sussex Rother and Itchen where a bite from a Barbel will most likely be an animal! Finding one however will and has been a huge challenge already where over 120hrs have been consumed with nothing more than a brief sighting across both rivers!

 So thats my plan, what might yours be? and what are your targets if any have been set?

 Tight Lines, 

One of just 26 Barbel caught over 25 trips last season.
This fish broke the River Don record by 15ozs!
15lb 4ozs.

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 ...