An angler's journal

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Back amongst the barbel

The Avon, like most rivers, is crystal clear and pretty low resulting in few catch reports. That said, it is summer and fish have to feed so timing and location are critical. It was these components that came together in order for me to enjoy some summer barbel sport. Commitments mean I'm not hitting the banks until around 7.30pm and three hours is normally enough. I started by bait dropping some hemp and pellet and fished two rods as usual. I did bait the upstream rod with pellet for a change but stuck to boilies on the downstream rod. Not much happened for the first hour or so. A few inevitable chub pulls drew my attention away from the family of swans and a busy kingfisher making regular trips up and down the river. So it was almost out of the blue when the downstream rod arched round in
The first fish of the session
satisfying fashion. The following few minutes saw an entertaining battle before a barbel of around 7lb was in the net. Whilst big barbel are superb specimens, the fight from an average fish takes some beating. The rod went back out and I fed a few boilies every now and again to keep fish foraging. Half hour later and another savage bite saw a better fish connected. This barbel came to the bank in pretty straightforward fashion but was undoubtedly bigger. The scales proved this with what turned out to be the best barbel of the season so far at 9lb 1oz. It was pretty hollow too so it should make a double once it returns to peak, post-spawning condition. The next half hour saw a 3lb chub banked as well as another barbel of several pounds and a skimmer. By 10 o'clock the swim died.

9lb 1oz
However, big splashes 50 yards or so upstream could be heard. This has happened on a few sessions so I'm guessing the fish have moved through my swim giving me the flurry of action before continuing on their way. The next time this happens I intend to follow them to see if I can pick up a bonus fish or two.

Finally, a couple of things I feel have worked for me. The first is back leading. I have seen first hand the effects of line on feeding fish and how they shy away from the area where the line rises from the lead. To combat this I have been using 3ft hooklinks with a piece of plasticine 3ft above the lead to give me about 6ft of line on the bottom. I also keep my rod low and fish a slackish line to keep everything low to the river bed. I am starting to believe this prevents fish from spooking easily and is resulting in fish being caught before it gets dark. The other is feeding. I am not fishing over large beds of bait. I've been putting half dozen droppers out but actually think I might omit this in favour of PVA bags and a few hand fed boilies. I'm not too worried about tight feeding as I think getting fish to forage and search works in my benefit. We'll see how this pans out over the next few weeks.
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Saturday, 1 July 2017

Chub, chub and more chub

A typical sized chub.
Following my last post where the barbel put in an appearance I have managed two short evening sessions. The first was a little frustrating. It ended with two chub of around 3lb but was tainted by the loss of two barbel and another chub. The only positive I could take was that the barbel were still around and willing to feed.

A few days later, I was back out again from 8pm until 10.30pm. No sign of barbel this time but a string of chub at regular intervals kept things ticking over. Again, most were around the 3lb mark and I ended the evening with a total of six.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Barbel: Planned to perfection

If you have been following my blog then you'll know that my last offering [here] discussed the possibility of catching barbel on the Warks Avon from venues that had little form. With several venues attracting the majority of anglers I have grown tired of the crowds especially when all this pressure undoubtedly affects the fishing prospects. So with a new venue chosen I set off on the evening of the 16th June full of optimism. In my mind's eye I had imagery of picking up barbel in my carefully chosen pegs. My first cast saw some viscous chub pulls but none materialised into a fish. I stayed mobile but by 11pm a number of chub pulls was all I could muster. Nothing like crashing back to earth with a bump. Another visit a few days later saw slightly better results. I didn't blank courtesy of a 3lb chub but fishing new swims still failed to find the barbel.

Finally beaten 
I must admit it, my confidence did wane for moment. But this wasn't meant to be easy. After all, I was fishing a stretch that no one else targets for barbel. On Thursday evening, I drove near to a popular BAA stretch. With over a dozen cars crammed into the car park, it was a timely reminder of why I had decided to seek pastures new.

By 8pm I was ready to make my first cast on the newly discovered stretch of the Avon. With the swims I'd fished to date failing to produce I had decided to continue searching by fishing a new area on the stretch. I used a bait dropper to deposit a mix of pellets and hemp upstream of my position and decided two rods would be the plan of action. One upstream over the bait with another 20 yards or so downstream. Both were baited with boilie. Within ten minutes the downstream rod wrapped around and contact with a barbel was made. A fish of just under 7lb lay in the folds of the net. A sense of relief flooded through me. Barbel were here and I had finally found them. Next cast brought a 3lb chub to the net. Over the course of the next two hours a further three barbel found their way to the bank. All in the 6-7lb range although I did lose a slightly larger one as it approached the net. All gave great battles in the low, clear water but they were feeding without inhibition. Had I caught them on a good day or was the lack of previous pressure pivotal? I assume I will find out during the course of the next few months.

With four barbel caught in less than three hours I felt it vindicated my plan and opinions. Not only had I caught barbel, I had seemingly found them in reasonable numbers on a stretch that no one else seems to bother with. So next time you arrive at a venue with a packed car park try somewhere new as you might find the river has a few untapped gems.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Barbel: Are you brave enough to try somewhere new?

When the river season opens in around two weeks time, anglers up and down the country will take their new found optimism and high hopes back to the river bank. There will of course be a number of venues that get more attention than most based on past form and fishy tales. Take the river closest to me, the Warwickshire Avon. You can bet that the vast majority of anglers looking to land an opening day barbel will end up at of Marcliff, Salford Priors, Pershore, Fladbury or Barton on the Birmingham AA stretches with the day ticket stretches around Harvington also getting a bashing. This trend will continue throughout the whole summer until the leaves begin to turn brown with some
Summer on the Avon
swims being fished on an almost daily basis. I am sure whichever river you fish in the UK you can picture a similar situation so why do anglers persist in visiting so few venues when there's a whole river to go at? Well, there's a bit of a cycle at play here. Since the majority of anglers are fishing the same handful of venues, it stands to reason that this is where most of the fish are caught. When a barbel then has its picture posted to say, the BAA's homepage or a Facebook group, then of course more anglers flock to this venue in the hope of getting a piece of the action. In turn, the notoriety of these few venues increases and the under-fished venues get forgotten and labelled unproductive. The nettles grow, the pegs disappear and miles of river become ignored. Take a look at the BAA's list of Avon waters. Deduct the ones I have mentioned and ask yourself the last time you or indeed anyone else fished them with regularity? I remember turning up at Barton on one summer's evening to find no less than 15 cars parked up. As I drive to work, I pass a few venues that barely see anyone visit, let alone fish them.

My opinion is that aside from the upper reaches, the Avon's character and make up is not too dissimilar for much of its length. Punctuated by weirs that see an increase in flow, much of the river is medium paced and around 8ft deep. Obviously, there are areas where this is not the case but I don't think I am too wide of the mark. Now, why do barbel only live in the popular stretches? Why don't anglers target them in the less frequented venues? The reason you don't hear of any being caught at these places is because no one is fishing for them. I picked a random, under-fished venue and leaded around for a bit recently. What did I find? Clean gravel and perfect barbel habitat. If I fished there this summer would I face competition from other anglers for the best swims or would the fish be full up on others' bait? Not a chance.

Are fish after sunset the result of pressure?
Now, think about the effect of angling pressure on the more heavily fished venues. Anglers casting at regular intervals on a daily basis, each putting bait into their chosen swims before packing up and going home. Soon after, along comes another angler who sets up in the recently vacated hotspot. Out goes more bait to attract the fish. Remember, all this is going on during the summer when the river is most likely low and clear. The barbel, especially the experienced ones are holed up where they feel safe. Angler's habits have had an effect on the feeding patterns of these fish. Therefore, is it any wonder daytime fishing can be next to useless in these conditions? You will probably pick up some 'shoalies' who have much to learn and maybe strike gold with the odd better fish but there will probably be nothing consistent about your catches. I know, I have been there! Once darkness falls, the fish then begin their patrol route knowing that the BAA's night fishing ban gives them relative sanctuary to mop up all the beds of bait unhindered. They can then sidle off to their snaggy hide outs and wait for the next dollop of freebies to be deposited. The end result? You end up with certain stretches where barbel have had their habits changed due to the angling pressure. They have learned that the noise from casting means fishermen and therefore danger. The barbel know that they are able to find food very easily and as a result are rarely hungry. No need to go searching for food on this stretch and last but not least, they know they can have a free, safe meal that very night. Fishing for pressured and full up barbel is not the best scenario for consistent catches.

This has been on my mind for a year or so and I am ready to make a break for it, a leap of faith if you like. I am planning to spend my summer on the quiet, hardly fished venues where I hope barbel live unmolested. Their feeding habits are hopefully that of a wild barbel that has to forage and search for food to keep up with its big summer appetite. With a sensible baiting approach, I hope to prove that barbel can be caught up and down the river. I have to admit to being quite motivated about this and quietly optimistic. I am sure many of you that read this will be able to apply the same logic to your own river so perhaps you too could give it a go and see what turns up. Of course, I could be completely wrong on this in which case I'll be queuing up for the best peg with everyone else by August.

I would be really interested to see what other people's opinions are on this topic so share, like and comments would be most welcome.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Carp off the top

This spring has seen a distinct lack of fishing trips but the recent sunny weather afforded me the opportunity to fish for carp using my favourite method: surface fishing.

A trip to a local stillwater saw me settle in a quiet corner that is rarely fished yet always has a few fish present. It always amazes me how many anglers choose their swim by proximity to their car rather than where the fish are. I was in no rush to set up so started feeding dog biscuits. It wasn't long before a few fish started showing interest. By the time I had set up I had a number of confidently
The 11 pounder
feeding carp in front of me. I cast out using an imitation biscuit with nothing else on the line. The weight of the biscuit was enough to get me a couple of rod lengths out and I had no need to go any further. It was no surprise that a fish was hooked soon after and after a spirited battle on a 1.25lb Avon rod, a common carp of around 9lb was banked. This of course sent the other fish to cover and I spent the next half hour feeding to regain their confidence. The next fish arrived in the shape of another common at 11lb 7oz. As the sun set, the fish became more confident and a good fish was hooked that shot for the nearside cover. On this occasion, the fish won its freedom but it wasn't long before I found myself connected to what turned out to be the best fish of the session. The fish rarely displayed any rapid runs but instead stayed stubbornly low. A fat common came to the net and troubled the scales at 16lb 7oz.
The best fish of the session
Two more fish came to the net at around 7lb and 4lb respectively but their splashing about killed the swim and at just gone 9pm I wasn't going to hang around for another one. An enjoyable three hours in the sunshine!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Roll on June

I never really enjoy this time of year as far as fishing is concerned. A dirth of tench options near me and the closure of the river season means that I spend more time plotting for the 16th June rather than actually chasing fish.

That said, I have managed a few trips since mid-March. These have resulted in my one and only
tench so far, an enjoyable couple of hours one evening catching some hard fighting carp to 8lbs or so and a dreaded blank.

I'm sure I will manage a few more sessions in the coming weeks but I am already starting to plan for the opening of the rivers when I can get underway doing what I enjoy most.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Tough Times

It's been a bit quiet on here and it's fair to say that's a reflection of my fishing exploits so far in 2017. A run of blanks and being unable to take advantage of the few mild spells mean that fish have been few and far between.

The last few weeks have seen me visit the Warks Avon, the middle Severn and the lower Severn. It's been hard work but a few fish have graced the net including chub, barbel and pike. Hopefully, with a couple of weekends still to go before the river season closes I can still manage a few more.