Tuesday 9 April 2024

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 to bring in some stiff mild conditions, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get my 2024/25 season started. There was only one species in my mind, Bream.

 For the beginning of the season before casting out a rod I had set myself a few targets, some are probably going to pie in the sky, but you never know what the fishing gods have in store as the season progresses. I'll add one element of that list of targets here because it does have a relevance to what occurred over the weekend. That being a 15lb+ Bream.

 As the week ticked by on site I was keeping an eye on the forecast and twice said to myself I'm going to cancel, then convinced myself to still make the effort and go. In hindsight it was a brilliant decision.

 Winds of 45mph were shifting across the 25 acre pit I am targeting with only a few trees to break the constant barrage up, however that was for me to worry about in the night when the stronger gusts were predicted. On Saturday morning I could see the 17-20mph wind was blowing from the top end straight down the pit and I opted to fish off the back of the wind where I hoped the bottom wasn't as unsettled as I know at times it can cause issues with presentation and not knowing what the Bream like here I had to stick it out and stick to what I know.

 After setting up my basecamp around 9am I got to spodding a mix of 2mm and 6mm pellet to around 40 yards where I found a clear areas about the size of snooker table, to begin with I put around 15 spods out and would top it up if I caught a fish. It was however very slow and didn't get an enquiry until around 1830 when I had a steady drop back which is a very typical Bream bite and there was no hesitation to strike, or so my brother tells me, I happened to be dropping the proverbials off at the pool! Luckily Rich was there so I could leave my rods out, and I was only gone ten minutes, so when I arrived back he'd only just netted it.

Super start.

 A good start, 11lb 13ozs and first Bream of the spring for me ( Yes, of course I'm counting it! ). After that I watched a procession of Bream (some very big fish too) roll and frolic on the surface at varying ranges for a good hour or two as the light failed, this ordinarily would have filled me with enormous amount of confidence, however I have had this experience before and doesn't normally translate to bites and so it would seem this time around too. 

 For the next few hours Rich and I chewed the fat and had a great catch-up, ate some lovely food and as we neared bed time (around midnight) I got the first indication of what would turn out to be a frustrating hour or so, numerous gentle pick-ups not resulting in a hook-ups was not filling me with confidence at all, then in the early hours of the morning one finally committed and I had a steady bite that I did manage to hit, a dull nodding out in the choppy water had my mind wandering as to how big the Bream was, I know they get big in this pit which is why I'm on it. I forgot to get my headtorch so had to net it in the dark, thankfully it all went to plan and a big slab lay up in the net! 

 Without faffing around I unhooked the fish gently, loaded up the feeder and got it back out on the spot hoping for a quick bite with the fresh bait, as I popped that rod on the rest I had a bite on my other rod, the bobbin pulled up tight then dropped back, obviously standing over the rod I didn't wait for anything else to happen, I picked up the rod and away I was again! This fish even at distance felt heavy but with a dour fight the Bream inched closer to the net where I got my first glimpse and my god, what a fish it was too!

 I had a big fish in the net already and this Bream made it look small! I knew I had something special, I had surely smashed my personal best. The adrenaline coursing through me is such a buzz, what a feeling.

 Once I got myself together I weighed both fish and opted to pop them in the retainer and waited for sunrise to get some pics which were kindly taken by my mate and fellow Drennan man, Chris. We were all in awe, my brother was shocked, as was I. 

Bream no:2 - 13lb 7ozs.

 I got the smaller one on the scales first when I had caught them and she weighed 13lb 7ozs which would have made anyones trip, however the fish I popped on the scales next had me dreaming and my target for the spring ( 15lb+ specimen ) was beaten and achieved. 

My new personal best, 15lb 10ozs!

 Don't look at the hair, just look at that slab, its a fish I've wanted to get my hands on for a couple of years now, first go this spring, jobs a good'en. Still time to get some more hopefully before they get their rocks off. The rest of the trip dripped by without another touch and the intense winds continued to a point I decided to pack up. 

 With 15lb+ Bream being as uncommon as they are, I thought this target was one of those pie in the sky targets. Just goes to show on the right waters it is possible.

Now also own a barrow...😕😂

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Season Review 2023/24.

 

 Well, that was fun! I managed to get quite a bit of angling done over the last 12 months, as you could probably imagine alot of it was in pursuit of Barbel as I looked to reach 23 completed rivers for my challenge. I'm happy to say that I managed to surpass that initial target and settled on 24 completed rivers by the close of play.

 It wasn't all Barbel though and here are a few of my highlights.

Kicked it off with a brace of big Bream.

Then a big river Rudd!

No: 19 - Finally a Loddon double, 10.7 YEAHHH

No: 20 - A Ribble Ripper! 10.13 

No: 21 - Sunset Sussex Rother gem, 12.10 

No: 22 - ColnBrook mirage, rare beasts, 11.5

No: 23 - Severn (lower) powerhouse, 10.7

My only PB of the season, 3lb 13oz Perch, woah!!

No: 24 - My Itchen monster, 15.2 (season best).

Best Grayling of the winter, 2.8

Tuesday 19 March 2024

One Final Roll of the Dice.

 

 The pull of the Wye has had me travelling the 310 mile round trip to fish conditions that most would avoid, oddly I seem to love it! ( tongue in cheek ). I guess my rational for fishing the Wye in these conditions is that it is well documented that the bigger fish tend to continue feeding when smaller specimens batten down the hatches and switch off, also the time of year would suggest its the best time to try and target a double as all those high 8's and 9's during the warmer months would all now be doubles, I only want and need one!

 Frustratingly for me the only chance I've been faced with was the one I lost a few weeks back, that was put down to a stroke of bad luck, it happens to us all but I had tried hard to atone for that error even if conditions as I've said before aren't great. Rising cold water rushing down the valley never makes for easy visits, I simply had to grind out what I could. This time Brian would endure the visit with me, could he manage something that has so far eluded me? 

 We set about trying every spot possible with an eye on the gauges and weather forecast upstream, we knew fishing would be harder come the 14th of March ( last day of the season ), the impetus to catch a few on the 13th was strong. 

 My first taste of a Barbel unfortunately was a foul hooked fish that made life very hard for Brian and I as I simply could not control it, after plenty of persistence we managed to net the fish and safely release it, not long after that I finally got a Barbel that was hooked fair and square, this was quickly followed by another two Barbel, but nothing big, in-fact the smaller fish seemed to have switched on, not the sort of stamp I wanted to be seeing but better than nothing I suppose.

 The remainder of the day ticked by and by midnight I got my total up to 5 fish, everything was pinned on Thursday and that rising cold river which was going to be hard. Thankfully for me the final day wasn't a total washout as two more Barbel made it to the net, the best coming just 20mins before we packed up for home. 8mm pellet once again catching most of the fish.

 7 Barbel and 2 Chub, not the end I hoped for but the conditions this season have been very testing, fingers crossed it's a lot better upon my return.

Saturday 16 March 2024

Wading About for Ladies.

 

 As the season drew to a close I got an invite from Mike once again to join him on the beautiful Wylye, how could I ever say no!!

 Conditions apparently were testing and so it proved to be, when I arrived some parts of the fields were underwater! most areas I've fished previously were boiling torrents and the bank as treacherous as you could imagine given the levels, without waders it would have been a total waste of time. 

 The first 6hrs of the trip were very hard going indeed with just 6 proper bites and five of them were Grayling with the best just over 2lbs, I really did wonder whether it was going to get better in the evening and thankfully for me it did! 

 The final two hours provided much better sport, not sure why but glad it did switch on, that final stretch provided a further 13 Grayling with 2 of them over 2lbs ( another at 2lb 1oz and my best of the session weighing a pleasing 2lb 6ozs ), that was backed up with numerous decent 1lb+ fish with two 1lb 15oz specimens chucked on top for good measure.

2.06

 That did mean however that my quest for a 3lb+ Grayling rolls onto next winter, I knew it would be tough but it has not been easy at all, nevertheless the fish I've been catching of late are of a superb standard and one can never tire of runs of 2lb+ fish!

 Until next winter....

 Best fish: 2.6, 2.1, 2.1, 1.15, 1.15 & 1.14.

 Also after my recent trip to Drennan HQ I collected a couple of new bits to try and absolutely loved how easy the new 15ft Acolyte Specimen float rod managed in that pacy water, I can not wait to tackle some summer Barbel and Chub with this rod 😍.

Saturday 2 March 2024

Upcoming Events.

 

 With one eye firmly fixed on the end of season glut I'm hoping to sample I also have a couple of events that I have been invited to talk in.

 Bear in mind this is first time I've ever done anything like this so god knows what it'll sound like and be for the listening public, but I've been asked whether its something I'd like to do, of course I said yes, so now it's time to start prepping as the first one (21st March) is at the RDAA (Reading & District) Fisheries Forum where I will be chatting to like minded anglers about my angling but mainly about the "Forty Rivers Challenge" that you guys all know about by now!

 Details for this evening of festivities is available below. However, in June I have been asked to open "The Barbel Society'" annual show at Notts County Football ground, this may well be a bit more nervy as I suspect there will be a fair few people attending and public speaking is not something I've done before and only been in front of a camera a couple times, so I have quite a bit of work to do over the closed season.

 If any of you guys are coming it be great to see you and looking forward to putting faces to names and meeting new people too, it will certainly be an interesting chapter personally, we shall have to see if it is a total disaster or an educational and light hearted chat among friends both old and new.





Sunday 18 February 2024

Six Foot.

 

 Well, winter still hasn't arrived and the rivers are in a constant state of flood, now for Barbel that isn't the end of the world but now valentines day has passed my attentions typically turn to plump Dace, solid Roach and Gigantic Grayling, all of which will be close to their pomp. Issue is these conditions are not conductive to targeting any of the above. Therefore I still feel persuaded to target Barbel, can't say I am too disappointed of course!

 Once again I made the journey to the R.Wye, this time however it was via Oxford as I felt I was long overdue a visit to see the chaps over at Drennan HQ, I have had conversations with a few of the guys ( Chris, Ian and Foxy along with Jack and Richy who I have been filming with on the Wye ) however I haven't personally met most of the guys including the main man, Peter, who I had the pleasure of meeting on Thursday. Many many fascinating stories from yesteryear and many exciting things ongoing and new projects in the pipeline for all you anglers out there. 

 It was great to see machinery doing it's thing, whether its laves being used to make float bodies, machines cutting and profiling new bank sticks and buzz bars or creating small brass weights to fit on the bottom of floats for still water fishing, it was great to see manufacturing here in the UK and I didn't even see the main part, which I'll hopefully see another time. 

 It was a fantastic opportunity and left with a couple new toys in the shape of the new Acolyte 15ft Specimen Float Rod, Acolyte 9ft Commercial feeder rod which I'll repurpose most likely for close quarters Chub fishing and the new 2.8m telescopic landing net pole which feels great, for the roving angler who wants to keep gear to a minimum but not compromise on ability this may well be the bit of kit for you as for example this new pole compact is about 2ft long where as the middle of the range Twistlock is around 4.8ft compact, plus it is light too. 





 I am looking forward to using them. My tour of HQ at Drennan was done for now and said my goodbyes to all and set off for the Welsh border, the plan was to fish for the afternoon for a few hours and then fish on Friday, so I had a day and half planned. The level when I arrived was 3.4m and tanking through, the temp was okay at 9.4c which I felt was fine for a few bites and a few bites I got, the first two takes were modest Chub to 4lb+ and after 45mins the first Barbel of the trip slipped up, around mid-6 it gave a good account of itself and as evening drew closer my tally was inched up to 3 Barbel with the best weighing 7lb 9oz, a nice fish but bigger were sought after so she quickly went back. As soon as dusk came the river went dead and packed up at 10pm having not had a bite for 5hrs.


 Friday morning I woke up nice and fresh after a surprisingly comfortable night on the backseats of my Audi, I certainly can't lay straight at 6ft tall but was good enough. I started the day with a couple of bacon rolls and set about building on the previous afternoons work. Friday morning was not a bad affair as my 8mm pellet and small PVA bag approach certainly got the Barbel feeding swiftly as my rod was put into action, a couple of 6's followed by another 7lber was topped by a lovely hard fighting 8lb 5oz fish, which like all the others were in great condition.


 The Barbel sport dropped off a cliff around 1pm, but the Chub seemed to switch on massively, the utter carnage that ensued was glorious, every slack, crease and snag came alive and the tip was bouncing all over the place and wrapping round at regular intervals, nothing massive with the best around 4.08 but I quickly got up to 19 Chub, most of which were 4's before all of a sudden the bites ended, like the light had been turned off.

 For the hour leading up towards dusk I was back to manning a motionless rod/s ( which became 2x rods on nightfall to double my chances ) and as the light gave way to night my luncheon meat rod bounced a couple times to which I became alert, a few minutes passed without further incident, well that was until the rod went into meltdown, even stripping line off the clutch which was fairly tight. I knew it was a good fish and by the way she hung deep in the flow I had a feeling it was big, the first 3/4 minutes were played out in the flow and barely got it off the bottom. 

 The fight was slow, strong and on the stout gear felt that I was just in control, my main issue was I was fishing beyond a concrete landing stage and throughout the fight had to keep my rod tip high to prevent the line from rubbing on the concrete lip but also get the fish up and over the lip into what is usually dry but currently 5ft or so deep. It wasn't until it rolled a rod length out that I got to see her and knew it was a double, the fight pretty much cemented that thought but seeing it just confirmed any doubts, however things did not go to plan from that point on as I knew I was nearing the end and was seconds from chalking off number 25 of my Barbel challenge, the next phase of the fight was agonising, she rolled on the surface again in front of me and all of a sudden my gripper lead came hurtling out the water toward me, it took me a couple of seconds to work out what just happened, then it dawned on me, she was gone! I thought the grating of the concrete on the hooklink had parted the 12lb flourocarbon but turned out that the hook hold had given way. 

 I was THAT close....just six-foot between a R.Wye double figure Barbel and me....that was tough to take.

 My first hook pull in over 12 months and only the second Barbel I've lost all season. The remaining hours drifted by without another touch as the stars emerged from behind the clouds, the Owls chorus grew louder and louder and the thunderous echo of the turbulent river emptying out of the valley. 

 150 miles back home, I will have to do it all over again. 19x Chub to mid-4lbs and 8x Barbel to 8lb 5oz.

 Below is a little look through my rigs / tactics for most of the trip.

 

A starter bag, used in swims I have just started in.

Running 2oz gripper lead.

8mm Robin Red with fake maggot tip, size 10 hook.

Saturday 10 February 2024

Local Action.

 

 On Tuesday just gone I dropped the kids off at school and nursery, that left me with a dilemma as to what to do, chill at home for a few hours before heading back out to get them at 3pm or go fishing... 

 It was an easy decision of course 😂, not a big one at just over 7lbs but a healthy bend was put in the rod as I aimed to keep that feisty Barbel out of the snags in the far-side undercut which it did visit momentarily but the well balanced tackle did it's job well.

 Release of that powerhouse below ⬇⬇⬇⬇

 Available via YouTube where there are other videos too ----) Chalk stream Barbel 

 Before the Barbel downstream I did have a surprise Brown Trout that was easily over 3lbs, very good to see them frequenting the lower reaches. Half past one came and that heralded my exit so I can make the 13 mile journey back home in time to collect the kids, t'was a nice way to spend 3hrs.

 Not quite the elation felt a few nights previous, that capture will be remembered until the day I kick the bucket. Still perched on cloud nine and smile everytime I see the pics.

Sunday 4 February 2024

River Itchen Double, That's A Wrap!!

 

 Well, I can honestly say the R.Itchen really made me work hard and it very nearly didn't happen, sometimes angling is a game of chance and I played my hand a few times on this trip and came up, in the end, with a royal flush.

 I originally planned to head down Friday night after work and fish through to sunrise then head home, but the mrs unbeknownst to me had plans so my trip to the Itchen had to be put on ice a night. Conditions were still good on Saturday night so I chose to go then instead. 

 A day was spent at the sister-in-laws before heading home where the youngest decided to puke everywhere in the car, not once but twice. Time was spent sorting that out, however the smell lingered for the duration of my journey down to the river, even with windows partially open the smell was still there, thankfully an hour and half later I was at the river and getting myself set-up.

 I opted to fish two rods, one on meat with a 5oz cage feeder and the other on 8mm (Robin Red) pellet with bouyant maggot tip. The plan was to set-up base for a while and move if things did not materialise and after 5hrs thats exactly what happened. Oddly the level rose and the colour was getting heavier which I didn't know if it would help or hinder me. The only negative thing I was faced with was debris coming down and at times my 5oz feeders were being swept out of position, so I had to re-evaluate my approach.

 The best option for me I thought was to rove around and give each spot 20 minutes as the bait and wait approach wasn't working. I spent the next hour and a bit hoping around slacks and creases to try and illicit a bite, 3am had come and gone and I was just tidying up the boot of the car which I was now fishing next to when I caught the glimpse of the rod tip tap and hold about two-inches which grabbed my focus, I crouched down to see if it would materialise and as I was about to pick up the rod it ripped round, giving me no doubt as to what it was and within the first few seconds I knew it was a very big Barbel. 

 The way the big ones hold out in the flow on the bottom is mighty impressive and took me 2/3 minutes to gain some control before it cruised up into the back-end of a weed bed where it got temporarily jammed before easing back down and under full contact again, it really was a hairy battle but knew the kit was up to the task. 

 A couple of minutes later I could sense my time was coming close to wrapping it up and it didn't dawn on me how big she was until it came into full view through the coloured water and steam from my breath as my BPM possibly reached 140+, my fixed rim 26" net never looked so under-gunned for a fish, until now.

 Somehow I managed to land her and allowed her to rest after her exertions, I staked out the net in the margins so I could get my mat, camera, sling and scales all set-up. Once that was done it was time to lift her out the water, I did honestly think I was gazing at a new personal best Barbel, she really was that big!

A fish I never thought I'd lay eyes on.
  

I was in awe at first when I laid it on the mat, but when cradling it for photos I felt privileged to have managed such a feat, the words captioned in the title were words that I didn't think I would be writing, this was my 13th trip to the Itchen and the previous 12 trips resulted in blanks across 140.5hrs.

It was a true Itchen beast.


 As the digitals settled it obviously confirmed it was a double, that was never ever in doubt as the scales read 15lb 2oz and river number 24 of my epic challenge has now been completed, it's a fish that made me work bloody hard but the result of all that hard work could not have been better! 

Cigar time!!!!

Saturday 27 January 2024

Made to Graft.

 

 I challenge anyone who thinks angling is a fair weather sport and one that requires to be sat down all day eating sandwiches under a brolly. Angling for me is so much more and yes, the mantra " you get out of it what you put in ", certainly rings true, no time spent sat around wasting time, there is always a plan afoot, even when things aren't going the way you'd expect or hope.

 Brian and I on Thursday morning set off early before the motorways had the chance to scupper our progress, a three-day bender on the Wye was in the offing, we did not want to be held up! This trip was planned a good few weeks back as clients needed to be moved around to open up the gap and this was the best I could do, problem was the Wye was shooting up and with a full water table the levels shot up rapidly, equally when the rain stopped the river struggled to offload the extra water and when we arrived we were greeted with a strong tea coloured and powerful river, 2.8m on the gauge we knew it was going to be hard.

Around 2pm on Thursday.

 I began with a single rod and fished a small chunk of luncheon meat in the slacks and creases as I hoped in the coloured water the Barbel would be relying on smell and scent, what could be better than meat! 

 Well it turns out after a full day of roving around, none of them wanted it. 9 hours spent working every little slack I could find came up short on the Barbel front ( just one Eel ). As the night rolled in so did the rain and wind, which did turn out to be alot more than I thought would come down and typically the forecast was wildly inaccurate ( surprise surprise ), however, I wasn't just enduring the weather empty handed. As night settled in I set up a second rod which I fished with 1x 8mm Robin Red pellet with a tiny bag of 2mm and 6mm pellet in the margins, this decision turned out to be an inspired one as it provided me with my first fish of the trip around 1830. A strong battle in the flow provided a much needed bit of excitement!

8lb 5ozs

 I really wanted to get on the scoresheet having made a massive effort to be there, first blood wasn't a double but a sight for sore eyes as the digi's registered 8lb 5oz, it was a start. 2 hrs later I got another bite and I was away again, quickly I could feel it wasn't big and so it turned out to be, around 3lb but wasn't all the action for the evening as the best was yet to come. Sat there, cowering away from the rain and driving wind I noticed a tiny tap on the tip, almost instantly the tip wanged around I was in again ( Pellet rod again ) and this fish felt much better in the extra flow but is often quite difficult to gauge, some fight harder than others but this felt good. 3 or 4 minutes of tooing and throwing I finally got a good look at her and couldn't tell if I had done it.

9lb 0ozs

 When lifting her out she felt heavy, however once on the mat Brian and I both thought she just wasn't long enough to be a double and so it was confirmed on the scales, 9lb on the nose, slowly getting bigger but was that double figure fish I so badly want in front of me? only time would tell. 2230 was the cut-off time for us as we had had a long day and needed some grub, so not long after that 9lber we decided to get out of the wind and rain and eat some food.

The winning formula, 10lb Acolyte flourocarbon, size 12 hook,
1x 8mm RR tipped with bouyant maggot, 16inch hooklength,
size 8 swivel with buffer bead and 2oz gripper lead to 10lb mainline.


 Problem was my poor shelter was tormented all night in the gale force winds and driving rain, it made for a poor nights sleep so when the wind finally abated around 4am I got 3 hours unbroken sleep, not enough for me but I managed. The new day was started with bacon rolls, a cup of tea and a new sense of direction for the day. The previous nights action of the pellet meant I was going to stick with one rod, a 1.5tc 12ft Twin Tip Duo as I was finding bites during the day really fine and on the 1.75's I could barely see the indications and had no time to react as the blanks aren't as sensitive as 1.5's, all those changes bought me a little more joy over the course of the day as I got amongst a fair few Chub, most of which were giving very gentle touches which now I could hit and was converting. 

A fair few this size.

 Around 1pm I got a swim rocking on the Chub front and hoped a Barbel would be present as it looked ideal for a few to be held up in. Well, my hopes were answered as I got a couple of taps on the tip before slowly pulling round and I didn't need two invitations to that party! I was finally in again to a Barbel, first of the day and when I see it roll I thought it could have been threatening the 10lb mark, I couldn't wait to get it up the bank to reveal my prize for my persistence. 

9lb 2ozs


Sadly, she did not make the cut, but a nice fish all the same, not to be sneezed at. Bites were by no means easy to come by but at least I was getting them. A few more Chub came before dark and then the bites dried up. Dusk came and went but there was one more bit of action for me for the night in the shape of another hard fighting floodwater Wye Barbel.

7lb 9ozs

 As the evening wore on it became increasingly clear to us that the river level was rising rapidly and the amount of debris on the lines was increasing too, the clear sky meant a frost was very quickly descending and made for an uncomfortable last few hours to which we decided enough was enough, our 3 day bender was going to be a 2 day bender instead, we headed back to the car at 9ish and packed everything down and drove back to Kent, a tough trip but feel I made the absolute most out of what morsels I was offered.

 Scorecard read, 5x Barbel ( 3ish, 7.09, 8.05, 9.00 and 9.02 ), 12x Chub to 4.11 and 1x Eel. 

The final straw.

Tuesday 23 January 2024

Barbel Saves The Day.

 

 I had a few hours burning a hole in my day as I needed to run my van down to the service centre, so naturally I took the fishing gear with me and wet a line. The plan was to start on the float and fish for Chub, however the deluge we endured overnight turned the river from a benign stream to a raging torrent...seems to be my luck recently. 

 After persevering with the float for an hour I finally jacked it in without a touch. My mate Stu popped along for a wander and chat for the day in the vein hope he'd see some fish. Knowing the river as well as I do I opted to change over to a very simple link ledger set-up and fish 5lb line straight through, most would feel this a bit light for Barbel but it's not much lighter than I used (6lb) for about 15 years on this specific river and very rarely lost a fish, in fact I would go years without a line break. Of course you had hook pulls occasionally but that was no reflection on the lines capability.

 First spot that we dropped in looked decent but could feel it was very snaggy and quickly thought better of it. Second spot I tried was a bit more like a floodwater Barbel swim and thankfully it didn't take long! 

Wonderful looking fish.

 A spirited battle ended up with a nice plump floodwater Barbel lying in the net, this was followed by another not long after which was great sport in the powerful current where they both decided to hang for a majority of the fights. As the session was drawing to a close, I dropped into my penultimate spot on my way back up to the garage and before I could get comfy the rod tore off as it quite often does when they really want it, no subtlety in sight!. I do like the smaller ones for that reason, they really put the gear to the test.

 On another note...

 ...Soon, it will be time to hopefully put the River Wye to bed and complete river number 24, with a river best of 9lb 10oz I'll be hoping to beat that by 6ozs or more 😎. Only time will tell.

Sunday 7 January 2024

Looking Back on 2023.

 

2023, where did it go? It seemed to fly by.
Looking back on it I think it was a successful year, plenty of blanking endured as a majority of my angling was focused on Barbel and trying to put a dent in the 40 Rivers Challenge.
January, I continued my year long run of blanks on the Loddon for a Barbel but the Kennet was a lot kinder to me with the 18th river chalked off my challenge in the shape of a hard fighting 11lb 12oz specimen at last knockings on my first ever visit to the river. Total of 3 trips across the month.


February heralded a new chapter in my angling when Drennan contacted me as to whether I'd like to join their specialist team, I of course said yes! Who wouldn't?. Fishing wise I blanked on the Ribble and grafted for a 7lb Tame Barbel over a 3 day period. Total of 2 trips across the month.

March is always an odd month with just a couple weeks left on the river, the Itchen was true to form and held out on me with nothing to show for my 194mile round trip, but the Grayling fishing on the Wylye was superb with my haul topped by a 2lb 11oz specimen. The Chub fishing was good too but nothing over 6lb was had. Total of 4 trips across the month.


In April I only fished once as work was super busy and I thought it was going to be a car crash as the Bream simply weren't in my area on a big reservoir, on my way home I swung by a canal with the stalking gear and tempted a beautiful 24lb 1oz mirror off the top.


Again, May was a very lean month fishing wise as I only headed out once with work touted as the excuse for not getting out but did have a return for reservoir Bream and this time was more successful, a brace of 12's was my reward for ringing in the changes.


June I started the season with Rudd as I always do and was a brilliant trip out with my mate Brian. With plenty fish caught it wasn't until I slipped the net under a 2lb 11oz river Rudd that I felt truly satisfied, it was wonderful to see and hold and my best off a river ever! But that wasn't the only good fish I had in June as I finally located and banked a river Loddon double, a thick set powerhouse which tipped the scales to 10lb 7oz which represented river number 19 being completed on my challenge, what a finish to the month. 3 trips out.




July saw me get out a bit more and a few after work trips to the ColnBrook which were mainly blanks did result in another Barbel albeit a long way short of my 10lb+ target. Another trip to the Fens was a success with a few good Rudd to just over 2lb. I did return to the Wye and upped my rivers PB to 8.4 but know there's some way to go. 6 trips out.

August is usually a good month for me and it was no different this year, 3 blank days on the Nene were followed up by a Blackwater 9.1 which was great to see, I am certainly in the right area. The last week of the month proved to be incredible. A family holiday to the Lake District gave me a great excuse to pack a bit of gear as the Ribble was only 40min down the M6, within in an hour on my second ever visit I landed a 10lb 13oz fish, river number 20 done! The following Sunday I was on the banks of the rock hard Sussex Rother, this time however I got it right and after an epic battle I clapped eyes on my Rother double! 12lb 10oz and river number 21 complete! That was a tough one. 6 trips out.




September turned out to be very busy with work so I didn't have much time out on the bank, but what time I did have out I took full advantage of as I finally chalked off the ColnBrook which had been a thorn in my side (3 seasons much like a few other rivers) a solid 11lb 5oz Barbel lay on the mat in its full glory! River 22, done! I revisited the Thames for a chat up with my mate Richard and managed 3 Barbel to 10.9 which was nice. 2 trips out.


October saw a total of 3 trips for Barbel and 3 blanks, but it was a PB Perch that was the highlight of the month, at 3lb 13oz it beat a long standing best of mine and a fish I've wanted to catch for years. A 4lber next on my radar!


November see me buzzing around the Severn and Wye as I looked to turn the screw on both, two rivers I know doubles are possible and nearly achieved it on the Wye (9lb 10oz) and did it on the Severn with a 10lb 7oz hard fighting lower Severn Barbel. River number 23 completed! It wasn't just Barbel I targeted, the Grayling also got a day of my attention and had numerous fish over 2lbs topped with a fish of 2lb 8oz. 7 trips out in total.


December has been a washout for the most part and two trips to the Itchen have resulted in blanks as has a trip to the Blackwater. I've certainly got around this season when I've had a chance to go fishing and to have caught double figure Barbel off of 23 different rivers so far is crazy to think, it has been tough but glad I have chosen such a challenge, I'm getting to see so much of the British Isles because of it and soon I'll be planning a trip to tackle the River Clyde as a Scottish double is also on my wanted list. 5 trips out in total.

Happy New Year to you all, I hope 2024 is a kind and prosperous year. 

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 ...