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 ...