Tuesday 29 August 2023

River Rother (Sussex) Double, That's A Wrap!!

 

 Well, what can I say? Last Sunday I had the absolute pleasure of achieving my goal of targeting and slipping the net under a R.Ribble double - seen in my last post. Just seven days later I have already added to that feat so here is how it went.

 I had a couple of plans running through my mind but in the end it was a toss up between the Kentish Stour or the Sussex Rother, it being a bank holiday weekend I assumed the KS would have been busy so after opting to fish the Rother I went to bed and had a lay in too. I finally got up around 0715 and loaded the car then made the hour journey down to the river. 

 I arrived in the car park to find two other cars so it was nice and quiet, this meant it gave me the luxury to move around. I walked downstream and fed some pellet and broken boilies into likely looking areas that I would fish on rotation. Every 20m has a feature that you know should hold fish but unfortunately there isn't many fish present, just handful throughout miles of river, it really is a needle-in-a-haystack kind of task.

Poised, waiting, unexpectantly.

 I stayed in each peg for anything between 45min to 1.5hr just to make sure if anything was present it gave them plenty of time to build confidence, but only one of those pegs gave me much of an indication which was almost certainly a chub bite that got me springing into action to strike at nothing, crafty fish. That peg however would feature again on my way back up to the car. Around 1400 I stripped down the rod and switched to rolling meat as the river has a decent bit of pace of it. Ideal for rolling meat. It's a tactic that has had its hand in a few successful missions and hoped it would do the same for me.

The rolling set-up ready to leave base.

 Around 1700/1730 I packed in the rolling meat to which I had no joy even though I covered some brilliant looking pieces of water. Once arriving to that peg mentioned previously I switched back to my static approach as it had been rested a few hours, before I set off rolling meat around 2pm I had thrown a few small chunks of meat in to hopefully stir something into feeding. 

 I popped the rod out off a nice steep slope where the river drops suddenly from 1ft to 6ft which seemed like a sensible place to position my bait, an hour or so later whilst munching through my sweets the rod savagely hammered round and my 70 year old match aerial pin roared into life as a big powerful fish steamed off downstream, I was in no doubt it was a Barbel from the outset.

 The initial run was extremely powerful and had my 1.75tc 12ft rod bent round to the butt as I put absolutely everything into stopping the fish from going under the trees as I knew even with 12lb line I stood little chance of getting her back out, the area I was fishing was gnarly, littered with weed, overhanging branches and a submerged tree which ran downstream that was about 50ft long, I was literally running the gauntlet with a fish in tow that knew it surroundings well and had no intention of making the battle easy. 

 I simply had to put the power and faith into the gear, thankfully for me I was slowly gaining on her after a few minutes, my heart rate couldn't deal with it much more, such an adrenaline rush when your backs against the wall. Slowly but surely I began to win and seconds later I shipped out the net on top of a weed bed and at the third attempt I got a glimpse of a solid Rother Barbel resting up, safely in my net. What a relief that was and my prize was this powerhouse, glistening in the sunset, its these moments is why I do it all! All the blanks, all the travelling, hot, cold, wet and windy, the expenditure on club books, fuel etc, every single penny well spent.

Sussex Sunset Seeker, 12lb 10oz!!! GET IN!

What an awesome beast, this sight never gets old.

 I had done it! For a moment I was speechless, every one of these fish are very hard won and some anglers don't see one of these Barbel all season! and those who are lucky to catch them 60 blanks a season are commonplace with just a couple of fish breaking up those blanks, utter madness. The winning formula, a big chunk of meat with a small PVA bag of little bits of meat. 

 I could not have been more chuffed, truly epic and this wonderful looking Barbel completes river number 21. 2 achieved in the last 7 days. How could I possibly top that. Time is tight in my life at the moment so I do need things to work out when I do get out fishing. It has done on my last two trips and very thankful for it too.

Tuesday 22 August 2023

River Ribble Double, That's A Wrap!!

 

 While taking a break up in the Lakes with the family I knew that could present an opportunity to take the gear up north in the car and seeing as we crossed the Ribble on the M6 heading north it would be rude not to give it a go at some point, the Ribble is one of my most northerly target rivers and to achieve the unthinkable would be immense.

 The only time I ventured on to the Ribble previously was back in March and the river was in a terrible state where 5oz leads didn't hold bottom in the margins. This time around things were very different. 

Slightly less benign.

What I was greeted by on Sunday evening.


 Sunday evening I made the 50-mile trip south with the gear and made my way up to an area where it was reputed to hold Barbel and somewhere that I felt I stood a chance. With such a big river it was a bit daunting as to where I should start exactly. So I leaded around briefly to try and find any gullies or drop-offs where Barbel might patrol and within 5mins I found a good gully in between two shallower banks, this was to be where I would set my traps.

 A single 12mm robin red pellet with a small PVA bag on one rod and a large lump of Spam on the other rod was my go-to, all I could do now was wait and hope that there was something moving around. As mentioned above, the conditions on my previous visit were not ideal. However, they weren't fantastic this time around either as the river was really sluggish and barely moving owing to very little rain where it matters. I just hoped it wouldn't hinder me and around thirty minutes later as I was staring at the shooting stars arcing across the skyline my pellet rod went into meltdown, nearly losing my rod in the process!

 Immediately I had to loosen the clutch as the fish really fought hard from the get-go and knew I was attached to a Barbel or a Carp, obviously, I was really hoping that a Barbel was pulling on the other end and once I finally got it out of the gully and over the rocks I saw what I was attached to and knew it was my target fish, all that was left was the small task of coaxing it into the net which it was not happy about, she stripped around 30yards of line off and was back in the middle of the river before I could blink, such was the power of this fish I was not in complete control for around a minute, once I finally got it under control she came in gently with no more than a plod for the bottom, the battle was over and even better still it was a double! The scales were readied along with the mat, but oddly not the camera...yes, I bloody well left it at home in the middle of the bedroom floor. I could not believe it, but thankfully for me my iPhone is pretty decent and the couple of images I got were sufficient.

 My first and last Ribble Barbel weighed a very pleasing 10lb 13ozs and represents the 20th different river across the U.K that I have managed a double figure Barbel from and the halfway stage of my epic journey.

Very happy man!! No: 20!

 That. Will. Do!!

 The mighty Ribble conquered in very quick fashion indeed, it was the fish I needed and the hard work was mainly done before I had even stepped foot on its banks. Once she had left the sanctuary of the net and back home I sat back thinking about the achievement that's just been made, that sense of success is so good when I calculate all those times that I fail, every day is a school day!

City lights with Mars shining as bright.

 The rest of the 3hr session passed by without more than chublet pecking at the Spam and a small chub falling off as it was coming to the bank on the pellet rod, Mission Complete, on to River Number 21!!!!!

Wednesday 16 August 2023

A Gap in the Nettles.


 After opening my account on the Blackwater a few days later my next trip was beckoning. This time I was heading back up to the Nene where I hoped that my run of poor form was turning the corner, a 9+ off a tough river like the BW gave me a bit of confidence whilst making the 288 mile round trip up towards Peterborough. 

 A decent run up there meant I managed to get fishing before witching hour in a spot my mate Ross knows holds a couple of fish around late-summer, we hoped this would be the scene of success and finally chalking off my 20th river. We sat chewing the fat and as bite time came and went we wondered what if..., so many ideas running through our heads but you could only fish one spot at a time. At kicking off time we packed up with nothing to show for my efforts.

 The next morning I woke up at 0430 and headed over to a spot that I felt maybe worth fishing for a couple of hours but unfortunately someone was already in there and had THREE! rods out in a small mill pool, really not necessary but that's fishing, I felt he was doing himself a huge disservice having three lines out in what is a tight area and quite likely the Barbel were on high alert before he finished setting up.

 With that disappointment I went back to the car and drove about 3 miles downstream to another section where I static fished for around 3hrs in an area known to hold early season fish, but again I had nothing but a couple of tentative Chub taps. Once those 3hrs had passed I had decided to completely change tact and opted to stalk Barbel in the backwaters, only travelling with the basics. 

Wonderful looking bits of water.

 I covered some superb looking areas with numerous areas that I thought would hold Barbel, it wasn't until 2/3pm that I finally found a Barbel and it was my target fish, a long thick set Barbel came cruising downstream past me and held up in a clump of ribbon weed before coming up in the water and flanking twice on some clear gravel, this fish of about 12lbs was the fish I really wanted and it was within reach. 

Stealth mode activated.

 I rolled meat continuously until it became apparent that wasn't going to work so I pinched on a couple shot and allowed it to gently come to a stand 8-10 yards downstream, alongside a bed of lush ranunculus, a modest sized piece of meat was just waving enticingly on the gravel and as the initial minutes drifted by I was very confident of a take, as the minutes turned into my first hour my confidence that the fish was still in the area was on the wane. Given the fact I hadn't seen it I changed my tactic again, by replacing the meat with a 2ft tail of 10lb flourocarbon and size 10 hook along with a scaled down 15mm boilee and small PVA bag of 4/6mm pellet with a tiny lead to minimise disturbance and up stream put another rod out around 20yards to see if it had passed me by and was sat just above me.

The rolling gear :)

 I spent the next few hours hoping she would come back but after a good 4/5hrs I finally gave up and decided to try somewhere else for dusk which was the spot I fished the evening before. Unfortunately night fishing is not allowed on the sections I was fishing so I was reliant of the witching hour doing the business but there was a familiar lack of action and by 9pm it was almost time to call it and another visit to the River Nene ended in a blank. This wasn't before an Otter showed itself cruising the far margins in search of dinner. 

 Just to make matters worse my 1hr 49min journey turned out to be 4hr 20min as the Dartford crossing was down to 1 lane and when I was approaching the roadworks the signage and my App said 20mins delay, that I can stomach so decided to ride it out, WRONG! that 20min delay ended up being 2hrs 31mins!!!! I was fuming to say the least and when I finally got on to the bloody bridge it was down to one lane for one bloody van! Absolutely disgusting. It made what was a tough trip and blank even worse. 

 I think I'll leave the Nene now until next season and create a plan of attack for an earlier season leviathan.

Wednesday 9 August 2023

Go Big or Go home.

 

 That's quite often a phase I mutter to myself whilst pondering my misfortunes, the lack of bites does have me thinking whether my approaches should be refined, or if refined go bigger and bolder. That was something I had been thinking about between visits to the River Blackwater.

 At home, whilst driving around on my way to jobs and whilst on the tools that nagging feeling of what was I doing wrong. I couldn't seem to get a Barbel to commit to my highly nutritional offerings perfectly placed, in positions where I felt they would be home, not to mention hours of rolling meat too. None of which seemed to arouse one iota of interest, I couldn't be getting it that wrong could I?

 So I decided to rove around on Tuesday for the day, in the rain and try to search out a fish. A single rod, tin of meat, bag of essentials and I was away, just add Barbel. For around 2 miles I rolled and searched for fish, under trees, through the endless beds of ribbon weed and occasional metalwork, I just couldn't muster a touch, by this point (3pm) I'm thinking there must be next to no Barbel around and I seriously thought about packing away and heading to another stretch I have an eye on, but I wanted to try one more spot.

Playing hide and seek.

 This spot looks the bollox and with the persistent rain hammering down I opted to hunker down under the brolly and see if something would come to me, a sixth of a tin of meat went out on a nice hard slither of gravel flanked by dense ribbon weed. A game of patience began and in between phone calls with friends about three hours had drifted by without a touch, then, out of absolutely nowhere my rod thumped off downstream to what can only be described as a typical three foot twitch, IT HAD FINALLY HAPPENED.

 I wasn't home and hosed just yet though as this fish had no intentions of coming quietly, numerous strong lunges downstream and runs upstream into the ribbon weed this fish knew what was up! and it was a good fish too. In the relatively clear water I could see the fish constantly turning and flanking before disappearing from sight once again, it was a tricky 4-5min battle (or so it seemed) before she finally came to the net before resting in the folds, I had, at last caught a R.Blackwater Barbel and she wasn't bad either.

 A piece of meat was the winning formula this time around, who knew! :) the ever faithful luncheon meat.

Excellent!

 A few record shots were taken and a weight taken too, I didn't think it was the double I am angling for but knew it was a good Barbel and at 9lb 1ozs I was not disappointed, third trip to the river and I have lift off!


Mint conditioned Otter dodger :)

  The rest of the evening passed by without incident, I shall have to wait for another visit to chalk the Blackwater off my list, number 20 is pending, watch this space!!!

Saturday 5 August 2023

Toughing It Out.

 

 Since my trip to the R.Wye I have struggled to get a Barbel and not through the want of trying. It's been one of them seasons where I feel the conditions are largely in favour of targeting Barbel given the lacklustre summer we have experienced so far. Typically in summer I am looking for times of heavy rainfall following on from a prolonged spell of heat and little rain, as for this summer we are spoilt for choice with conditions very much akin to late October!

 A couple of visits to the R.Blackwater have produced nothing more than tentative enquiries from small chub. The area of the Blackwater I've been targeting I know holds Barbel but not entirely sure of numbers, however having walked and fished it twice I would have thought if there were good numbers of fish that I would have seen them ghosting across gravels or hanging out the back of the plentiful ribbon weed or overhanging bushes. 

 It certainly looks good for a Barbel and Brian managed to extricate one from its watery home at the first time of asking (8lb 0oz), which gives me hope going forward, as with everything time will tell as to whether it'll happen here or if indeed I look elsewhere on the Blackwater, for now I will concentrate where I am currently fishing in the vein hope a double slips up!

Intimate and weedy!


Stealth is key!

 On Thursday I also returned to the R.Nene hoping to wrap up this river at the third time of asking. Things aren't looking good for what used to be a superb river, the Barbel seemed to have in the main ridden the Otter onslaught and now good sized Barbel are coming through between 8-12lbs and look pristine which bodes well and the river looks amazing, however given the amount of rain the Nene valley has seen I was shocked to find the river clear, in fact tap clear! Now I was expected it to have at the very least a tinge to it. Extraction is stripping millions of litres out of the river and water being diverted in extraordinary programmes to avoid new developments going under when the river will inevitably flood, plus the gates further the down the river are constantly open to prevent this, problem is the height of the river has dropped a lot too. The environment once again being exploited and damaged for human gain. Not that it looks terrible to me of course not knowing the river, but locals who know the river well and have done for 20/30 years have seen the decline.

Sunrise on the Nene.

 Yes it meant I could spot fish in the carriers and spot fish I did, good Pike (one very big Pike too), a couple shoals of Chub, again, some very big ones with one either over 7lb or just a little under along with a few friends that were over 6lbs themselves! I did find one Barbel that I estimate to be around 8lbs, however its positioning was making it almost impossible to target, when I finally managed to get an angle to enable me to get the bait under the tree the small plop of my half/ounce shot spooked it down river and out of sight, I knew the chance was gone but gave it half hour anyway. 

The Barbel' lair, Gnarly!

Beautiful stretches of river!

Tap clear, even after all the rain we've had.

Majestic!

 Chances of a fish were coming at a premium and later on the day I was joined by my mate Ross for the final few hours which we both knew was the best time for a bite from one of the Nene warriors, with baits out in the areas I felt a bite would come, I felt confident all the way up until the rods had to come in and pack up. Smaller fish such as Dace and Chublet were causing issues as they were whittling down my luncheon meat with consummate ease which meant at times I was fishing bare which I knew was not helping my cause so I've got to find a solution to that conundrum. 

 So another 3 blanks to add to my stats....

Brown Hawker.

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 ...