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.


  1. Damn shame about that barbel James, I've had once before where you get sight of the big flanks and they next minute the lead comes flying towards you. The risk of using big leads on flooded rivers and suppose why lead clips were designed for the carpers. Won't be long before one is in your net the way you are going though, keep at is as I know you will. :)

    I'm looking for a new landing net handle so be nice to see how you get on with it. I've tried and failed via tackle shop and also via Drennan directly to get two twistlock handle bushes as have two the compact and standard size that just need those replaced as they have broken, so maybe a simpler design ( I assume) is the way to go.

    1. I was soooo close, I couldn't believe it in all honesty. Fishing has a habit of bringing oneself down to the ground with a massive thud!

      I will keep at it of course.

      As for Drennan, do you still need the widgets? If so, if you give me your address on Whats App, I'll send a message to the office to get them to hopefully send 3 or 4 out in the post, just so you have a spare or two. The twistlocks are pukka bits of kit, make fishing easy in fairly inaccessible locations.

    2. That would be brilliant James, will get it sorted

  2. Bad luck.losing the barbel, not often the hook fails on them. Still, nineteen decent chub and eight barbel is greT fishing in anyone's book.
    Plus, you have the "excuse to go back to the Wye again soon.

    1. A bitter pill to swallow for sure, rotten fortune. As you say though, I can think of worse places to go back to :)

  3. Ouch! You'll bounce back James, and that double is just a bite away.

    1. It was a tough pill to swallow, first hook-pull of the season. Just looking at my schedule to see if I can get back there before the season over.

  4. Replies
    1. Very tough one to take!

      Just looking at sections of the Swale in preparation of multiple Yorkshire visits next season!

      On the list is Wharfe, Swale, Aire, Ouse, Ure and Idle ( Nottinghamshire I think )

      I did think of trying the Tees but if I achieve 4 of those remaining Yorkshire rivers along with my other rivers I should achieve the big 40!

    2. Tees would be tough. Am sure you will get results on those other Northern rivers!

    3. I have done some pretty extensive sifting of info that I can garner. On the Tees there don't appear to be many sections where they are present and just think other North Yorkshire rivers would present me with a better chance of a double, I think the Swale should be a good one! Some huge Chub rubbing shoulders with the Barbel.


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