An angler's journal

Saturday, 7 October 2017

The barbel keep on coming

The last two weeks have seen me continue on the Warks Avon. A bit of rain a fortnight ago lifted the level a few inches and added a tinge of colour. Nothing much to get excited about but compared to recent months it was a definite change. As a result, I was confident when I arrived on the bank and my optimism was soon confirmed. No sooner had I cast in with a boilie hookbait and PVA bag  a few indications told me fish were present. It was no surprise when the rod wrapped around and my first barbel of around 7lb was in the net. A great start as I had literally only been fishing a matter of minutes. The bait was straight back out and again I was soon into a barbel albeit this fish felt better. A chunky looking barbel was landed and the scales registered 8lb 11oz. It was a great looking fish. A period of activity then followed before the chub moved in. Three chub were landed in succession before the swim died.
A beautifully conditioned barbel of 8lb 11oz

With river levels back to their low, clear and normal self, I again pursued a bigger fish. My second session was eventful even if it ended rather frustratingly. A barbel of around 6lb was landed within ten minutes, which promised a fruitful session ahead and indeed it should have been. However, lady luck was not on my side on this occasion. Another barbel was hooked but the hook quickly pulled and the fish was gone. Worse was to come when I later hooked a fish that was of much better quality. I had it right under the rod tip where it thrashed giving off an enormous splash. It then powered off downstream and found the sanctuary of a snag. I tried everything to get it moving again. I could feel it kick but nothing was freeing my rig from the its solid hold. Therefore, the inevitable happened and the line parted and with it the swim was killed. I gave it half hour but it was all in vain.

Another short trip (my visits tend to be 2-3 hours) saw me move slightly downstream of my newly found snag. After twenty minutes, a small barbel of around 5lb was hooked and landed. There was a definite chill in the air that reminded me that autumn had definitely arrived. Having being spoiled by some mild temperatures recently, the now cooler temperatures were sure to have affected the barbels' appetite. I had changed tactics slightly in so much as presenting a meat bait on one of the rods. It was this bait that was picked up by a chub, which was played to submission when it inexplicably found its freedom. Nothing happened for the next forty minutes and the session was ended.

There's a definite feel that winter is around the cornier. Having said that, I am determined my new stretch will produce some double figure barbel in the right conditions. A return of 33 barbel so far is a decent result compared to previous seasons' efforts although the really big fish are eluding me. I'll keep trying as I am convinced it's just a matter of time. However, we are reaching that time of year when other species start to distract and chub, pike and perch become the focus of my thoughts. Plenty to go at but so little time!
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Monday, 4 September 2017

River Wye - Double Delight

Every so often a session will come along that sticks in the memory for a while. I had opted for a change and chosen the Wye for a few evening hours in unfamiliar surroundings. It's not a river I have fished often, indeed this was only my fourth visit, with my last being over two years ago.

I arrived at the venue around 3.30pm and decided to have a look around. Although I had an outline plan in my head I am a firm believer of not being too regimental. Within 10 minutes I had a completely new approach mapped out. Greeted by a gin clear and low river together with bright sunshine, I had originally envisaged feeder fishing in the slightly deeper areas hoping the darker pools would offer sanctuary. However, my walk found me drawn to the shallow, weedy areas. Although only a few feet deep, I found myself bewitched by the beds of ranunculus weed that stretched as far as  the eye could see. It hypnotically waved with the current revealing clean gravel runs and was convincing enough for me to settle confident a fish or two would be hiding amongst it. With this decision came a new approach. If I was fortunate enough to hook a fish then the weed would create a barrier with regard to landing it successfully. Therefore, the feeder was ditched. I didn't want a heavy feeder dangling about and creating an obvious snagging point. Instead I would fish a straight lead of 3oz together with PVA bags which would deposit enough pellets to hopefully entice a barbel or chub to forage and find my hookbait, which began as two 8mm Dynamite Source pellets on a size 12. The other decision came in the shape of fishing upstream. Firstly, there appeared to be a slightly deeper area upstream but I also hoped any hooked fish would hopefully drop downstream with the flow and therefore not see me trying to drag it against the weed. Going with the flow so to speak made it pretty painless.

10lb 11oz - A great start
I made my first cast just after 4pm. After 15 minutes or so I reeled in having received no obvious interest. I changed the hook bait to two regular 8mm halibut pellets and again cast mid-river to my chosen area. The bait had hardly been in the place for a minute or so when a thud on tip resulted in a definite drop back. I took up the slack and struck into my first barbel of the session. It felt a decent fish in the strong current. By now it had dropped directly in front of me and I was keen to keep the rod high and the fish moving to prevent it from getting snagged. I caught a glimpse of the fish in the clear water and was able to watch it as it eased ever closer. Steady pressure got it under the rod tip where it made several lunges for the main current. Eventually the fish was netted. It looked a nice fish but most Wye barbel tend to be in the 4-7lb class and although it looked slightly better than that I was not expecting what lay in the folds of the net. As the fish was laid onto the unhooking mat I knew instantly that I had landed my first Wye double. The scales soon confirmed this with a reading of 10lb 11oz. It was a beautifully conditioned fish with its golden flanks glistening in the September sun and had plenty of room for further growth. What a start after 25 minutes of fishing. My first Wye double!  Another barbel came to the next cast albeit of the more expected proportions. The next few casts saw me admiring the surroundings. Much has been written about the beauty of the Wye Valley and with the sun beaming down there was nothing to dispute this. A lone buzzard soared above the far bank woodland. The water glistened and sparkled as the odd strand of weed broke surface every so often. It was truly a moment of contentment.

I finished with 7 barbel in a frantic 4 hours or so
Half an hour passed without me even noticing. I reeled in twice to find my bait gone, probably from small fish, so I changed to a boilie which I find a bit more robust. I broke a few bits off to make an irregular shape and off I went again. By 8.30 it was almost dark. I had manged seven barbel. Most in the 6-7lb mark although two were probably around 8lb. Despite fishing a heavily weeded area, I suffered no tackle loss and only lost one fish to a hook pull. Even better was the small amount of bait I used. Although I had packed 6 pints of hemp, corn, pellets and boilies my total for the session was a few 8mm pellets, 2 boilies and the contents of around 15 PVA bags. Who says you need loads of bait to catch barbel? I was obviously fortunate to have stumbled upon them so bait was not required to draw fish to me. It proved just how important location is as well as not turning up with preconceived ideas. Had I stuck with my original plan I would have no doubt struggled with maybe a fish as the light faded. However, the main lesson I learned was not to ignore this majestic river for so long. There are few better places to spend a few hours catching fish.

My first Wye double

Friday, 1 September 2017

Tales from the lower Severn

Having found a consistent supply of barbel this summer, I was keen to try and up the average size. Therefore, a trip to the lower Severn was the order of the day. I planned to fish two days. With conditions less than perfect I figured that darkness would give me my best chance of sport. I have already managed a couple of evening sessions on the lower Severn this summer packing up around 11.30pm and both have resulted in blanks. Would staying a night improve my chances?

I arrived at the river mid-afternoon and chose a swim that provided comfortable access to the water's edge. I was mindful I could be on the bank in the middle of the night and I didn't want any unwelcome surprises. With base camp set up, I finally started to bait up around 6pm. Out went 4 pints of mixed hemp and pellet around a third of the way out. I also catapulted a few pouches of boilies. It's a big river with a lot of hungry mouths to feed and I am certain the barbel are quite nomadic at times so I needed to give them a reason to stop if they passed.

The first barbel of the trip
By 7.30pm, I had two rods in position. To be honest the evening was quiet like my previous sessions. I had a few runs which I suspect were from chub with one fish dragging me to a snag around midnight. Tackling up is so much fun under a headtorch!!! With action slow I tried to get some sleep but found it difficult. An otter then appeared in my swim, it's piercing eyes staring straight at me as they reflected my torch light. At about 2.15am I had a screaming run which woke me from my slumber. Surely a double figure barbel? Not quite. A chub of about 3lb was the culprit but at least I was off the mark. It was just over an hour later when I was woken up by the alarm screaming as line peeled off the reel. My first barbel was on. Welcome as it was it was not a huge fish at around 6lb. And that was that. I didn't see anymore action for almost three hours. Another screaming run saw me connected to another barbel. It put up a good scrap but again it was not the big fish I had come for. It was a better fish though and was probably edging towards the 8lb mark. It was well built and has obviously been feeding well in recent times. I put the kettle on and took in my surroundings. Dawn is a great time to be out in the English countryside and fishing affords us an excuse to experience what many people ignore as they rush around failing to see what surrounds them. The next hour proved to be quite entertaining too as the fish began to move. I hooked and landed a couple of skimmers, and a beautiful looking roach, or was it a roach hybrid? At around a pound it certainly had lots of roach genes.

An early morning barbel
The mouth isn't quite roach enough for me
The downstream rod began nodding. Not enough to strike at but there was some interest. This intensified briefly prompting me to lift the rod. There was a small fish attached. As I reeled in a roach of around 6oz came into view. It had a gash on its flank and a number of scales were missing. It had obviously been attacked by one of the river's many predators. Unfortunately, on returning it to the water it became apparent that this fish was not going to survive. Therefore, I used it to try and catch the culprit. I cast it out on a trace attached to a single size 2 hook. It was picked up almost immediately but the hook failed to connect. This happened again next cast so I decided to use a set of trebles instead. There was no mistake this time as a fish was hooked. Was it a huge zander? It took line and gave a spirited account of itself. The resultant fish however was a pike. It was probably the same one that had attacked the roach originally. It was a lovely looking fish that again was well built with it taking advantage of the many juvenile fish that inhabit the river at this time of the year. It was carefully returned where it sulked for ten minutes before shooting off to leave a cloud of silt.

A welcome distraction

Most of the second day was spent sleeping and sorting out bits of tackle as the daytime fishing was pretty chronic. As evening approached I carried out the same plan as the previous day. I planned to fish till around midnight and then return to the comforts of my own bed. That evening saw a bream and a chub, both around the 4lb mark landed, but as with my other evening sessions on this river recently the barbel failed to show before midnight. As I packed away, a mouse appeared in my swim to take advantage of the grains of hemp that had been dropped. It was more than happy for me to approach it with my torch where I sat for 5 minutes no more than a foot away watching it go about its business. And that was that. An enjoyable 36 hours or so even if my search for the big barbel this summer continues.  

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Summer catch up

After a summer break, I have spent the last two weeks catching up by fishing the Warks Avon and the middle Severn. I've fished some lesser known stretches as well as some more popular beats and pleasingly caught at them all. There's a satisfying feeling to catch when everyone else is reporting blanks. I was greeted by one chap on the Severn who told me I was wasting my time as seven anglers had caught about six fish between them. I always prefer to find out for myself.

As for the fishing,  I have continued to find barbel although a double still eludes me so far this summer. Chub have been plentiful and one 4 pounder gave me an epic battle even on barbel gear. Perch were the main target on the Severn and I found some nice fish over a pound as well as a few barbel, a pike and plenty of silver fish.  All great fun. Now my attention turns to finding a double figure barbel. Wish me luck!










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.

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.