An angler's journal

An angler's journal

Friday, 19 October 2018

Autumn far!

With autumn upon on us, I set out to get some serious barbel fishing in before the cooler nights were thrust upon on. It's been a really mild autumn so far and aside from a few frosts here and there temperatures have been unseasonally warm. My hope was that this would coincide with a feeding frenzy and some big fish. But fishing is rarely that simple.

Fishing the Avon on a familiar stretch, I set my stall out for a double. A piece of meat was sent mid-river as light faded. Within 20 mins it was taken and a barbel was on. It felt a good fish, it looked a good fish but it fell 2oz short of a double.

With an influx of rain into the Severn during the third week of September I set off for a stretch not too far from Bridgnorth. The Avon had seen no change to its levels so I felt with the Severn offering more favourable conditions it could be the key to some good sport. It started well. Casting a piece of meat in one of my favoured flood swims a fish was hooked and landed on my first cast. A chunky 8lb 7oz barbel showed plenty of signs it had been on the munch. I sensed a barbel bonanza that afternoon roving to all the swims that have produced in the past. However, the fishing became really tough. The level started to drop, quite quickly in fact and it seemed to curb the resident barbels' appetites. One more fish of average size appeared as light faded but I have to admit to being slightly disappointed with the lack of fish that afternoon.
A few of the better fish of the last few weeks

It's about this time of the year that my interest in the lower Severn increases. It's never easy but if you're lucky enough to land a barbel there's a really good chance it will be a good fish. My first session only produced a blank saving chub. The next did yield a barbel but yet again it fell short of the hallowed 10lb, weighing in at 8lb 14oz. My two most recent evening visits have both resulted in blanks. This is one to come back to as the season progresses.

An autumn pike
In between these two blanks was a short evening session back on my local Avon. A bream and a chub sandwiched another nice barbel but again it fell short at 9lb 6oz. There's been several smaller barbel throughout this period as well as the usual chub that inevitably show up. I also had a few hours with the lure rod which threw up a few fish including a nice pike at last light.

As I write this the weather is getting cooler and the last couple of nights have been chilly. With this in mind I am planning a bit of predator fishing this weekend. The barbel can wait for a bit. There will be better conditions to come.
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Friday, 21 September 2018

August Catch Up - Wye and Warks Avon

August finally saw the heatwave leave our shores and with that the rivers were once again fair game. I love this time of year. You can sense autumn is on it's way. The nights begin to draw in and dusk sees the geese travelling to roost in their v-formations. It is also a great time to be on the banks fishing.

A failed barbel trip on an Avon weir pool did see me unlock some decent predator potential so I
A weir pool pike
returned a few days later armed with just a lure rod. It didn't take long to connect with a fish but whilst I was expecting perch and pike to be the likely targets it was indeed a chub that put in the first appearance. A small perch followed then a couple of fish were lost. Unfortunately, the weir pool has a large bed of underwater cabbages on the near bank and to land fish successfully I had to manoeuvre them over this obstacle. That was fine for the smaller fish but anything that could stay low used them to escape and there was little I could do. A decent pike that was certainly a double beat me this way as did a nice perch or two. I did manage a pike a few swims further down before the perch became active at dusk. Another decent perch was hooked but as before the near bank plant growth got the better of me. Maybe it's a chapter to return to when the weed dies back a little.

A Wye fish going 9lb 11oz
I don't fish the Wye too often, indeed it's been a year so as August came to its conclusion I once again found myself in wonderful and beautiful county of Herefordshire. Much has been said about the beauty of the Wye Valley so I won't attempt to convince you here. My swim was relatively shallow and laced with streamer weed. I had to do a fair bit of bank clearing to find enough space to be comfortable for the day. In swims like this I always fish upstream. That way you are not pulling your rig or fish back up against the weed which often results in inevitable breakages and lost fish. The bites will be drop backs and the fish will drop with the flow allowing you to bring them across the river without too much trouble. A couple of barbel showed up in the first hour before the daytime drought set in. I did attempt some trotting, wading mid-river but the slightly increased level meant there was a huge amount of weed coming down the river that hindered presentation meaning a biteless one hour. A bit of roving after lunch rewarded me with a third barbel before I settled in my original spot late afternoon. The bites started again and I finished the session with 9 barbel including a 9lb 11oz, 9lb 9oz and an 8lb 13oz plus a chub of about 4lb. By 8pm the level had rose by about a foot and the already problematic weed became impossible to fish on in. A good session was ended slightly earlier than intended but it was a super session in what became pretty testing conditions.

A few days later I was on the Avon, keen to try a new area in search of some larger fish. I didn't arrive until about half past 7 and immediately baited three swims. A 3lb chub showed up quite quickly in the first of them before I moved to the area I had not fished much before. I am convinced there's fish to be had there but as yet they were not playing ball. By 10pm I'd barely a tap. Time was fast running out so I moved slightly upstream to probably the shallowest part of the stretch at about 5ft deep. I cast a chunk of meat mid-
Another 9lb 11oz barbel, this time from the Avon
river. About 15 mins later the rod arched round and I commenced what turned out to be an epic battle. The fish took me way downstream in an instant. I heard a splash as it broke the surface. I then teased it back upstream. There was a lot of reed growth between me and the river. I then saw the fish for the first time and realised I'd have a game getting it out. A few more powerful runs and she was beaten. I tried to net the fish with difficulty. My right leg went in upto my knee but I eventually netted my prize. I was convinced an Avon double lay before me. However, it wasn't to be as the scales settled at 9lb 11oz. Not to be grumbled at as it was a fine fish that won't be easily forgotten.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

When a plan comes together

With the brother-in-law up for the weekend the inevitable fishing trip was arranged. We'd been given most of the day to fish rather than my usual few hours after tea. Arriving late morning on the banks of the Warwickshire Avon, we set up in a new area that offers potential but had yet to bear fruit. I'm sure a fish will come from it this autumn but the middle of the day was probably not the best time to put its credentials to the test. After 40 minutes, a few sharp bends of the rod was all that could be reported. The plan was then to fish a maggot feeder further downstream to encourage a few bites during the warmest and brightest part of the day. Once Mike had his eye in on the casting front the bites started to arrive. Most of them were lightning quick but eventually some fish made their way to the bank successfully. Most were small chub although perch, skimmer bream and a roach all put in an appearance. One chub had a lucky escape when a pike tried and failed twice to launch an attack as it was brought to the bank.

An Avon barbel goes back strongly
By three o'clock, I decided to go and bait a swim with barbel in mind. I used a bait dropper to put about a pint of hemp and some pellets down. I also threw in around 20 boilies. It was then a case of leaving it alone for at least an hour in the hope that some decent fish would find it and grow in confidence.  Most of the bait had been concentrated in area slightly upstream with a lighter offering downstream and across towards cover. Quite often, larger fish spook when faced with a large bed of bait. Whilst it no doubt attracts fish to the area it is often the downstream rod that performs as the larger, more wary fish hang back. With both baits in place it was a case of seeing if the plan actually worked. Five minutes or so passed when Mike's rod twitched twice before slamming round. It was of course the unmistakable bite from a barbel and a fish of about 4-5lb gave him value for money with several surges towards both banks. He was very pleased with his first Avon barbel and I also took satisfaction from the fact the plan had worked so quickly. Soon after, it was my turn to do battle with an Avon's barbel. This fish stayed low and felt a better fish. Indeed it was at 8lb 4oz. We'd
This fish came quickly after giving the swim time
managed two daytime barbel from a crystal clear river within 15 minutes so things were looking up. Unfortunately, the fish had spooked and the action ceased. Ideally, we should have had another swim prepared to move into but we sat it out with us needing to pack up by 7pm. A barbel decided to jump from the water in front of us signalling they were still in the area. Time for a second plan to outwit them. I decided to change tactics to a blockend feeder with a short hooklink. The size 10 hook had a hair with 3 fake maggots attached and then the hook was baited with as many live maggots as possible. I then taped up the feeder to slow the release of bait. Thankfully this approach also came off as I hooked another barbel of around 5lb with not long of our session left. Mike went home happy although it would have been nice if he could have followed up that early barbel with another decent fish.

Comments are always welcomed to help me gauge the reach of these posts so feel free to leave a few words.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Back to business

Having returned from holiday it was time to get back on my local Warwickshire Avon. Hopefully, the fish would be more obliging than their French cousins. My time away had seen the heatwave pass and with it the the bickering in the barbel world that had been taking place all summer. I didn't get to the river until until almost 7.30pm. A few baits were thrown in and a first cast was made some twenty minutes later. This summer had seen the river alive with chub leading me to start fishing with pellets again as they are not as easily stolen as my boilie baits. On this occasion, I set up two rods to see which bait would prove more effective.

Within minutes of casting a positive bite on the boilie saw a 3lb chub make its way to the bank. It seemed that the chub were still here and still hungry. That said, they were not as ferocious as they had been a few weeks earlier when it was almost impossible to keep a bait in the water for more than a minute. It was soon after that the boilie rod was signifying another bite and this time a barbel was on. A fish of around 4lb put up a great scrap before another chub took a liking for the boilies.

A pause to the action ensued as the evening began to draw in. It was only 9 o'clock but already the
A few barbel put a bend in the rod
sense that autumn is just around the corner is present. I then heard a huge crash in the water just upstream. I stood up to see the bow wave and the trail of something that had moved to the near bank. I suspected an otter so I walked slowly towards the commotion. It was then a deer spritely jumped up the bank before running away, pausing every so often to see if I was a genuine threat. It had obviously decided that the grass was greener on the other side.

The pellet rod now jumped into action with a rod wrenching bite that had to be a barbel. Indeed it was as another fish of around 5lb put up a spirited battle. Another barbel of similar size put in an appearance as light faded before sport stopped dead in its tracks. I was back home just after 10pm so two chub and three barbel was a decent return for just over two hours of fishing.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

French barbel fishing

With a family trip to south-west France planned I managed to pack the bare essentials to allow me the opportunity to fish a French river. The river Dordogne was in easy reach of our temporary home and it apparently had good stocks of barbel or barbeau as they are known across the channel.

Before my trip, I put out a few feelers and got some ideas as to where I might find some fish. Barbel are rarely targeted in France. Instead match fishing tactics and game fishing dominate although there is growing interest in carp, another species that inhabit the Dordogne. With a lack of interest in barbel, information was scarce but I had enough to to make a start.

My first view of the river came in Bordeaux, a huge expanse of water that flowed strongly towards
The Dordogne at Bordeaux
the ocean. A couple of days later a visit to a small town called Sainte Foy-La-Grande presented me with the middle reaches. Fast, shallow water with streamer weed that certainly looked ideal barbel habitat. It was almost a wider version of the Wye. I saw a carp close to the near bank almost immediately but much of the gravel bottom was devoid of all but small fish. A deeper channel under the bridge did give up the presence of barbel. Not huge fish with most a few pounds at most. The nearby eddy was also home to three carp, one of which looked to be approaching 20lb. Unfortunately, there was no access to this area so I would not be able to fish here. I also visited two further villages that had been recommended: Gardonne and Limonzie Saint Martin. I was able to stand on the bridge at Gardonne and again barbel were present. It was quite mesmerizing watching the barbel flash their golden flanks as they ventured away from their weedy sanctuary. The second venue had a railway bridge and although I couldn't look down into the river I had no doubt that this area would also contain my quarry. Deeper water was pushed into a rapid channel that shallowed as it rushed between the pillars of the stone bridge. It looked right and with this viewing I decided this would be my chosen venue.
The Dordogne at Sainte Foy-La-Grande
An early morning start saw me set up under the railway bridge. A barbel rolled which gave me great confidence. A simple running ledger rig baited with a pellet and small PVA bags would be my chosen tactic. Surely it was just a matter of time before the unpressured barbel succumb? Well, it didn't quite turn out like that. The barbel were not falling for my pellet bait. After an hour there had not even been a tap. I was convinced there were fish in the swim but they were certainly not switched on to modern day angling baits. I had decided that the fish were obviously feeding on natural food stocks and I had nothing that resembled these. I looked under the rocks for anything that might make a bait but drew a blank. A trip to the supermarket saw me return with two tins of ham, the first of which I managed to step on. It was going really well, not!!! The meat wasn't great quality, well not for
Finally a French barbel obliged
fishing at least. Keeping it on the hook was an issue but it eventually tempted a bite and a fish was finally on. It was a barbel too. As expected it wasn't huge but it certainly put a bend in rod in the fast water. Another fish followed soon after but the sport slowed and my ongoing bait issues severely hindered me

I decided to move to the swim at Gardonne but this saw me suffer the same issues with no interest in pellet baits and problems keeping a meat bait on long enough for it to be found. The barbel were there, I could see them from the bridge although there were in one very tight area that needed a very accurate cast. The slack water behind the stanchion also revealed some of the biggest perch I have ever seen. Unfortunately, the heaviest lure I had in my armoury fell just short to tempt one of them. It was pretty frustrating stuff.

It had certainly been a learning experience. It was never going to be a serious session on a family holiday but it certainly made me reflect on what might have been. Having found the fish I expected them to be easier to catch but the lack of angling in this area certainly had an impact. If I had managed to squeeze another session in then I would have gone down the maggot or worm route as I feel these baits would have been more readily accepted. It would have also been useful to have a bit more tackle with me as then I would have been able to make a few changes that might have made a difference. As it was I managed a peaceful morning, a couple of fish and taste of what the Dordogne has to offer.

N.B. Fishing French rivers is essentially free from day permits/club books. All you need is a permit that is essentially the equivalent of our EA licence. This can be bought in tabac and tackle shops as well as online. They can be bought in a variety of formats: day, holiday, annual, etc. Once you have this then you are able to fish any publicly accessible river bank. If the bank crosses private property then you will of course need the landowners permission.  Day permits in addition to the licence above are needed for private fisheries which generally are aimed at the carp angler.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

A brief catch up

It's been very quiet here since the first week or so of the river season. With the country baking in a heatwave it's been pretty difficult to face the heat and summon enough inspiration to do anything other than hide away. That said I have been been out on the Avon for some short evening sessions as the sun begins to lose its strength. No blanks since my opening day debacle courtesy of the obliging chub. Inevitably, a few barbel have showed up along the way although nothing big.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Season up and running

As ever, the 16th was earmarked for a return to running water. It had been a busy week leaving me a little under prepared compared to recent years but I was all set to hit the Warwickshire Avon after lunch on the opening day. I was in no rush and managed about 15 minutes in a new swim with no result. Then a series of events occurred curtailed the session. The result of this was meeting up with friends on the lower Severn instead. To be honest I had lost my enthusiasm for the opening day by now so much of my time was spent chatting and catching up. I did manage a couple of hours fishing but one tap was all I could muster. That said, there were some cracking fish caught over the weekend with some saying it was the best opening weekend on the lower Severn for some years.

As for me, I tried the Avon again on Sunday evening. I simply threw a few boilies in the swim and
made my first cast at 7.30pm. After 15 minutes, a chub of a couple of pounds got my season up and running. I then decided to get the bait dropper out and put in about 8 deposits of hemp and pellets. My boilie baits were recast and I waited. About half hour had passed when the downstream rod wrapped around. A fish was on. An initial screaming run left me in no doubt as to the culprit. The fish stayed low, now moving upstream with purpose. It went on to be a great battle before I was able to catch sight of the fish. It looked a decent specimen and it was soon netted. A cracking looking barbel lay in the folds of the net. It came out at 9lb 10oz which was a fair return for the first barbel of the season and more than made up for the previous day's disappointments. I fished on until just gone 10pm but no more fish appeared. The fish itself was an outstanding example of a barbel. There was not a blemish on it and it's one I'd like meet again later in the season.