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!!!!

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 ...