An angler's journal

An angler's journal

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.
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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.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

A cracking tench session

A near 1 pound rudd
For years I have been trying to find a reliable tench venue. Unfortunately, they are thin on the ground in these parts. You either have to be content with temperamental venues or head for the large Cotswold pits and sit it out. I had been planning a tench trip for a few weeks but as ever the choice of venue was the sticking point. A few inquiries had been made but nothing was definite. I had pretty much decided to travel to Leicestershire in search of tench but I have to be honest, upon waking up I just couldn't summon the motivation for the almost 2 hour drive. Instead I chose a pool a bit closer to home. It's one of several at the venue but it's a pool with very little information and was not one I had fished before. The owner had emailed me to say it was worth a go with tench in mind so I thought I'd go for it.

I arrived just after lunch to find the pool empty but for a father and son. They soon packed up leaving me alone. The pool itself was reed lined but a walk around its perimeter showed no signs of feeding tench. A few rudd broke the surface and by now the sun was beaming down and the day was becoming pretty warm. With no obvious area to target I chose a small bay. It was about 4ft deep just off the rod tip and seemed as likely as anywhere. I set up a light waggler and shotted it so just a dimple was on show. Tench can be finicky biters so I wanted to reduce resistance to a minimum. With the pool's inhabitants unknown, I started cautiously feeding a few maggots regularly to build the
One of the 5 pounders
swim up. It was a quiet start but eventually a bite came and a small rudd was swung to hand. With the bright conditions, sport was slow but punctuated by the rudd to keep things ticking over. Some of these rudd were chunky specimens, the best went 1oz shy of a pound and as always, their colours are stunning. As late afternoon approached the first tench was finally landed. It wasn't huge at approximately 2lb but it was a start. I began to up the feed and it appeared to work as bites became more regular and with it the size of the tench increased to 4lb+.

You cannot beat the anticipation of a traditional tench bite. The float rises. It then returns to its starting position before inching one way then another. This can continue for what seems an age until eventually it slides from view and a tench is hooked. Then that paddle-like tail propels the fish on several powerful runs before it it can be safely netted. Then you are able to admire the olive green flanks and red eyes. They are a great fish to catch and the next two hours of my session was no stop. I ended with ten tench, three of which were over 5lb with the biggest weighing in at 5lb 10oz. It was easily the best tench session I had experienced for a long time and all from a pool that had promised little upon arrival. I am already plotting a return visit.
A 5lb 10oz tench

Friday, 1 June 2018

Spring catch up

It's been a while since I have posted. The reason? Well, I've done very little fishing. The heatwave during early May saw my son and I visit a local fishery to target some surface feeding carp. We managed five to just into double figures, all taken on dog biscuit. My assistant kept the feed going in and hung on to a few of the fish which put up a good battle. We saw a hedgehog and a deer on the way home which added to the experience. 

Next up came a trip to the Birmingham to Worcester canal. I didn't intend to fish but set my son up with a 2m whip and half pint of maggots. Sport was unexpectedly slow with a long wait before the first bite arrived and saw a small perch landed. Unfortunately, bites were not too regular but we were lucky that a family of ducklings kept us occupied. Several more perch arrived as did a beautiful looking rudd of a few ounces that added some variety. Then he hooked something altogether different. Despite hitting the bite brilliantly and hanging on, the fish snapped the light tackle and escaped. I suspect it was a larger perch but he already wants to return with 'thicker line'. It might not be a bad idea as there could be some big perch in residence.

With just two weeks until the rivers opening no doubt attentions will start to turn to running water. I still enjoy the build up and hope that we have a few more years of the close season to go before any changes are implemented. In the meantime, I have promised myself a tench session or two. I have a couple of venues in mind so I will hopefully bring some news in due course.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

An afternoon down the canal

What a contrast to seven days ago. This time last week the UK was gripped by sub-zero temperatures and a covering of snow. Today was a glorious spring day and by far the warmest of the year yet. With some maggots left over from last week's perch session I decided to have a few hours in the afternoon sun. The Birmingham to Worcester canal was the chosen venue. In all honesty, I rarely fish canals these days but I fancied a change and was intrigued as to what might turn up.

I dusted the pole off, it's first outing for quite some time, and set up to fish down the centre of the canal. It was about 4ft deep. The single maggot was dropped into place and a little and often feeding approach was employed. Bites on the canal are not usually difficult to come by but today was different. After an hour, I was starting to doubt there were any fish present. However, in the warm sunshine with the sound of new born lambs not too far away there are worse ways to spend a Sunday afternoon. I decided to go for a short walk when I noticed a 25 metre stretch of the margins was home to population of breeding toads (I think). As the afternoon wore on I was still fishless. In fact, still biteless. It had just gone 4.30pm and I remember setting myself a 45 minute target. If I had still to register a bite I was going to call it a day. It was just so strange to have not encountered any fish after a couple of hours that I had begun to think the stretch was barren and maybe they had shoaled up somewhere else after the cold weather of the last few weeks. Then a couple of fish topped and restored my confidence.

The 11oz roach
At just gone 4.50pm my first bite of the day saw a dace landed. Only a few ounces but more than welcome given the circumstances. Then a steady trickle of roach appeared with the odd small chub and a solitary perch. Things were looking up at last. I then connected with a better fish which turned out to be an 11oz roach. It was in immaculate condition and much bigger then its predecessors.

The hybrid
It was heading for half past six now. The change to British Summer Time afforded me an extra hour of daylight. The sun had dipped now but was causing havoc off the water's surface meaning seeing my float was tricky. The bites continued. It wasn't frantic sport but a bite every so often kept my interest. The float dipped from sight one more time and this fish saw the elastic stretch from the pole tip with purpose. It was a much better fish but what was it? I caught a glimpse beneath the surface and it looked bream like but the fight was anything but bream like. Instead of coming to the net like a wet sack, this fish wasn't going to give up easily. Finally, it was beaten and it silver flanks showed it was a roach/bream hybrid. It was a bit of an ugly work of nature to tell you the truth but it did weigh 1lb 10oz so was a decent fish for the canal. I gave it another 40 minutes or so but the commotion killed the swim and I called a halt to proceedings on what had been an enjoyable afternoon.