Autumnal Splendor

After a very long enforced break from fishing, I was excited at the prospect to getting back on the banks again.  A shoulder operation had prevented me from fishing for around 10 weeks, so I missed the whole of August and September, which I can tell you was very frustrating.  Every time I looked on Facebook I saw lots nice barbel and chub being banked from all over the country.  I found myself drooling more and more as each day passed.

Still at long last I felt fit enough to make my return and I was fortunate enough to be heading to the Wye above Hereford.  I love this part of the Wye.  I find the fishing is normally very prolific and also the river here cuts through some beautiful countryside.  The beats between Hereford and Hay weave their way through farmland and cows tend to be the only thing to keep you company, such is the feeling of remoteness and tranquility here.

Autumn on the Wye

Autumn on the Wye

I was due to meet Ray Pulford, fellow Team Lone Angler member, for two days fishing and I was accompanied by Geoff.  We arrived around midday and immediately headed down to the river.  It looked splendid, bathed in it’s autumnal colours.  The trees were an array of colours and hues and the leaves almost sparkled in the sunshine of late autumn.  There was still some warmth from the sun and it almost felt like summer at times.

We met Ray and after catching up we headed off to a lower part of the beat.  We ended up fishing on a beach, which is very much a common feature of the Wye.  The water gradually deepened as it reached the far bank and a noticeably deep channel ran down to the shallows a few dozen yards downstream of us.  I donned the waders and intended to spend a few hours bouncing lob worms and paste around the gully.  Geoff opted for a more standard approach, feeder fishing the far bank.  As I waded out I felt those wonderful cooling waters of the Wye flowing around me.  In the heat of the sun it was really pleasant to be in the water again, rod in hand and full of expectation.  Ooh er missus!

I was using my LA barbel rod, which despite being 1.75lb tc, is actually very sensitive and soft enough to enable you to fish with light set-ups.  It is also very enjoyable to play small barbel and chub on, which is a testament to the quality of these blanks and Trefor’s design requirements.  I was fishing 2 lob worms on a size 4 hook tied to 8lb fluorocarbon and a 10lb mainline.  There are lots of rocks and sharp edges in the Wye and you have to be sensible when it comes to lines.  My set-up also incorporated a running link leger made with the 3xssg sized shot.  These are perfect for getting the exact amount of weight required to bounce the bait around and they have the added bonus of rarely getting snagged.

I started by casting upstream and allowing the bait to almost trundle downstream.  A slight flick on the rod top often sends the bait gently moving again if it gets stuck in amongst the stones and gravel.  It didn’t take long for something to home in on those tantalizing worms.  The tip banged sharply and then started to pull round.  A swift strike met with fierce resistance as a good Wye chub headed off to the tree roots.  Steady pressure won the day and a magnificent bronzed chub was unhooked and returned safely to fight another day.  Two more soon followed and they were all of a similar size, around the 31/2-4lb mark.  Certainly not monsters but more than welcome, particularly after such a long absence from fishing.

A beautiful Wye chub

A beautiful Wye chub

A few change baits were then used, including some cheese mania paste and maggots.  Both produced results and sadly I lost what felt like a reasonable barbel.  Unfortunately that seemed to kill the swim.  I decided to walk up to see how Ray was getting on.  I found him in a rather excited mood and I’m not surprised.  He’d just caught a couple of stunning fish and was rather jubilant.  A few quick photos and a chat and I was heading back down to Geoff.  He’d had a barbel whilst I was away and then lost one.  He decided it was time for a move and so I stayed put and decided to feeder fish for the last couple of hours.   I managed to tempt a nice barbel but sadly lost a couple of others.  The day ended all too quickly but the food and beer at the local pub later that evening certainly made up for that.

Day two saw a murky almost dreary start to the day.  Geoff and I headed down to the river about 10am, Ray was already there.  Geoff wanted to try the beach again but I opted for an area that Ray had fished the day before with some success.  Meanwhile Ray was upstream on a big u-shaped bend fishing the deep water on the far bank.  The flooded waters of the Wye have gouged out a deep gully on the far bank and this has resulted in a nice glide of up to 8ft deep, which always holds a few decent fish.

Geoff in action

Geoff in action

I baited up my swim with some 10mm and 14mm Cheese Mania dumbbells and 6mm Caviar pellets.  I then left the swim to rest for an hour.  At this point in time it was overcast and so fish spotting was a bit awkward, however I could see the occasional flash of a barbel feeding in the swim.   The water was deep close in and then became quite shallow on the far bank.  It created an area of smooth, pacey water with quite a bit of weed for added cover.  The average depth was around 3ft.  Below me were quite a few large overhanging trees, offering plenty of cover.  As the sun broke through the gloom the water remained in shadow from the towering trees.

I opted for a 3ft hooklink and two 10mm cheese mania dumbbells and a blockend feeder full of 6mm pellets.   The rod hadn’t been out long when a sharp knock on the tip signaled interest.  Suddenly the tip whacked round and a really hard fighting barbel fought in the fast flow. A stunning bronzed flank was soon on the unhooking mat and was quickly returned to the cool waters of the river.  I kept the bait trickling out all day and often rested the swim for 30-60 minutes when things went quiet.   I kept swapping bait size from two 10mm to 14mm dumbbells and even a couple of caviar pellets if things went really dead.  I had steady action all day.  It was not as prolific as it can be but I did end up with 6 barbel and 7 chub, bringing my tally to 7 barbel and 12 chub over the two days.  I did manage a couple of good chub towards the end of the day.  I weighed one at exactly 5lbs and the other looked around the same size.  I couldn’t find my scales or my camera.  Luckily Ray weighed the chub for me and took some photos.  Eventually I found the camera buried in the car and later the scales, which had fallen out of a jacket pocket.

A typical dark, bronzed Wye barbel

A typical dark, bronzed Wye barbel

Just after lunchtime I had a 3 foot twitch which resulted in a very powerful barbel being hooked.  It took some time to subdue and as soon as I had the fish in the net I could see and feel it was a decent size.  I guessed it was very close to double figures but with no scales, camera or mobile phone signal, I had no means of weighing the fish.  I was a bit gutted but fish welfare comes first.  I had no real means of safely securing the fish in the net to go and get help and so back she went, none the worse for her ordeal.  Of course I’ll always wonder what she would have weighed but c’est la vie as they say.

One of the locals.

One of the locals.

So finished my long awaited return to fishing and what a glorious couple of days it had been.  Lots of fish, good company and a few laughs along the way.  It all makes for a memorable experience.  I’m looking forward to the next trip already.


Coarse Angling Today

September’s issue of Coarse Angling Today is now available in the shops or online through Pocketmags.  It’s full of great articles from Kenney Parsons, Dr Paul Garner, Bob Morris, Duncan Charman to name but a few.

Mark Dutton and Jez Brown of Team Lone Angler detail their time on the Royalty, where Mark fulfills his angling dreams.  I write of recent times spent on the magnificent Wye and all that it offers and certainly not just the fishing.  By God they even put me on the front cover!  Pop that on your fireplace and with a mug like mine it should frighten the children away!!

I would like to thank Adam Fisher of Angling Dreams for his supremely well run fisheries, of which I was privileged to be able to fish on a day ticket basis.  He sets a standard that many fisheries would do well to emulate. My time spent there, which led to this article, was an amazing experience.

September's Coarse Angling Today Magazine

September’s Coarse Angling Today Magazine.

Wasing Revisited

It’s been a while since I have trodden those hallowed banks of the Wasing Estate’s Kennet beats.  I was warned that things are never as good the second time around, so it was with some trepidation that I re-joined this magical stretch.  I have lots of very fond memories of fishing here and with great friends too.  My time spent with Geoff, Kevin and Danny are treasured memories.  I also got to meet some great people there and some of them I still see on a regular basis, others seem to have sadly disappeared into the ether!

We visited here during the opening week of the season.  Sadly the barbel were still spawning, so things were going to be a little slow, to say the least.   Still it was a good opportunity to explore and see how things have changed.  Since this first trip we have been back twice and things have certainly changed.

On that first session we managed to explore some of the Dalston and Warren beats again.  The lower car park is still accessible, as are the ones throughout the Warren beat.  The gravel track still appears to be in good condition.  The place was far more overgrown than it once was.  I think perhaps less is done pre-season in terms of work parties.  I noticed that the left hand bank between the two foot bridges had only been partially cleared and was still the same on my last visit almost a month later.  That’s a shame because there are some great swims on that bank that currently can’t be accessed.  I also noticed a number of trees have come down across the paths and also quite a few in swims.  None appeared to have been cleared.  It could be there is a plan to do so but until I email Wasing raising these points, I remain uncertain of what Wasing now do in terms of fishery management.

However one thing is still the same; it’s a very magical place.  Still wild (perhaps a bit too much!) and still teaming with wildlife.  There is a sense of a land that time forgot here, such is its feeling of isolation and wilderness.  The huge towering trees still dominate the Warren beat and you could easily be hundreds of miles from the nearest civilization.  It is a great place to lose yourself and forget about the day-to-day worries of life.

Not surprisingly Geoff and I blanked on that opening week session.  As I stated earlier the fish were still spawning, however after wandering up and down the Dalston and Warren beats searching out likely looking swims I did at least manage to hook a barbel, which unfortunately came off after about 30 seconds.  Geoff suffered a similar fate.  However we felt that perhaps under the circumstances that was probably the best thing.

On our second trip we did an overnighter split between Aldermaston and the Warren/Dalston.  Aldermaston looked as good as ever; very overgrown in places but it still had that big fish look to it.  We’ve had some cracking fish here over the years and I was pleased to be treading the banks again.  The river was still very low and clear but at least that seems to have encouraged some weed growth.  Geoff and I opted to head off in different directions, he wandered off upstream and I stayed lower down initially.

The flow was still pretty good and I found myself in some great looking swims.  I had decided to work my way upstream dropping into swims as I went.  I decided to use a cage feeder, groundbait and pellet attack.  Despite fishing a number of very enticing swims I don’t think I had a bite.  Geoff fared a bit better and teased one out upstream somewhere, it wasn’t a big fish but more than welcome.  That proved to be the only fish of the two days.  Geoff had also brought along a float rod and he managed to find some decent roach and dace at Dalston, which was very encouraging.

Our latest trip coincided with a spell of very heavy and at times torrential rain throughout more or less the entire previous day and night.  We didn’t know quite what to expect when we arrived but were both delighted to see the river up at least a foot and with a bit more colour.  It looked spot on.  It takes quite a bit for the Kennet to flood; days and days of heavy rain normally.  Some rivers would have been bank high after the heavy rains of late but the Kennet remains at safe levels.

We were only here for the day and so after breakfast at Tesco’s we headed off to tackle the roach on the Dalston beat.  With the levels up quite a bit, float fishing was a bit tricky.  However we both managed to find some lovely roach, not big but in magnificent condition, plus chub and dace.  After a couple of hours we felt our time might be better spent hunting for a barbel or two.

I headed upstream and Geoff down.  We had spent an hour exploring the almost inaccessible left hand bank and finally gave up.  By now it was about 1pm so after a quick-lunch the fishing started in earnest.  My fist swim was an old favorite.  This swim was a deep bend on the river with a number of snags both above and below with the additional feature of some overhanging trees.  It looked about as good a barbel swim as you could find.  I baited with some 12mm Lone Angler Caviar pellets and used two of the same on the hair.  A 3ft coated braid hooklink and a size 10 hook completed the end tackle and a straight 2oz lead finished it off.  I kept a very slow trickle of bait going in, just single pellets every minute or 2.  It didn’t take long for the rod tip to wrap round in a furious arc and a hefty barbel headed for the snags.  I managed to ease it away and the fish headed off upstream.  It felt like a decent barbel and after an arm aching fight eventually I netted her and at 9lb 10oz it was the biggest barbel I’d had from these upper beats. I was delighted.  After a few more moves I finally settled into my last swim of the day.

9lb 10oz Kennet Perfection

9lb 10oz Kennet Perfection

Very little seemed to be happening.  The phone went and Geoff informed me he’d just had an 8lb 4oz barbel.  By now it was around 8.15 and a few minutes later my rod top yanked round again and after another tense battle I netted my second barbel of the day.  This was a smaller fish of around 6lbs but just as fit and as immaculate as the 9.  I had at least christened my new Shimano Ultegra XTC 5500 reel.  I had been looking for something slightly bigger than a 4000 but not quite as big as a 6000.  My Daiwa had just about given up the ghost and was making all sorts of clonking noises and the clutch was working poorly.   I had a look at the Ultegra in the shop and liked the look, feel and build quality so bought one.  It performed beautifully and casting is a doddle due to the spool design and playing fish on the clutch is a real pleasure again, it’s silky smooth and easy to operate.  It appears to be a very good purchase.

By now the light was fading and we needed to make an early move.  On my arrival back at the car, Geoff informed me he had seen a huge dog otter opposite his final swim.  At one point it came out of the water and onto the bank.  Geoff said it was a huge thing, before it eventually swam off downstream somewhere.  Food for thought I guess.

Time flies by so quickly these days.  It seems like only yesterday we had our first ever trip to the Wye Valley in search of those legendary barbel.  It proved to be pretty productive and I think we were all captivated by the beauty of the area.  I’m pleased to say nothing has changed and even when the fishing is a bit slow, the scenery and wildlife of the Wye Valley never fails to leave you in awe.

It was that time of the year again and after a slow start to the season, the upcoming trip to Hereford was a much needed confidence boost.  The Wye has consistently produced good quality barbel over the years and although generally not big fish they make up for that in their fighting qualities and appearance.  They are exquisite fish to behold and I feel very privileged to be able to fish for them.

Summer on the Wye

Summer on the Wye

Geoff, Kevin and I headed up to the Wye via that car park known as the M25 but eventually arrived at our destination, despite the highways maintenance program trying to make it as hard as possible to get there.  The final hurdle was the closing of the A40 which involved a diversion through Gloucester.  It was mind numbing to say the least but we finally overcame these almost Satanic setbacks and arrived pretty much unscathed at our destination for the next 5 nights.

Swanee, how I love you, how I love you My dear old Swanee

Swanee, how I love you, how I love you
My dear old Swanee

The caravan and awning were soon sorted and we were keen to get down to the river for a recce.  The levels were very low, probably as low as we’ve ever seen them.  However the river looked stunning as always.  We were soon heading off to our preferred areas to fish, wishing each other good luck as we went.  I opted to start at the lower end of this particular stretch, fishing in amongst some weed beds.  Sadly in 2 1/2 hours I never had a bite.  I opted to move to a fast, deep gravel run.   Again after a similar amount of time no bites materialized.   My final move was early evening and again no barbel showed themselves but a few chub put in an appearance and we packed up at about 10.30pm.  Geoff had managed to entice 4 barbel whilst Kevin and I remained barbelless.  So ended the first session.

The following day we headed to Middle Ballingham.  We had fished here once before and had fared pretty well.  I think I caught 16 barbel here previously.  This is one of the prettiest stretches that we fish.  As usual we were not disappointed by our surroundings.  Between us we spotted the usual buzzards plus willow tits, chiffchaffs, willow warblers, yellowhammers and peregrine falcons to name but a few.  They offer a pleasant distraction from the fishing, which was just as well as it was proving very difficult.  I started at the extreme top end, which is a tough walk on a hot day and then slowly worked my way back.  Yet again no barbel showed for me but I did manage a few nice chub.  Kevin was the only one to secure a barbel and so we ended another day feeling it was going to be a very challenging week ahead of us.

Middle Ballingham

Middle Ballingham

The river was very low and rain had been forecast, which we hoped would breath a new lease of life into the river with a good flush through. We at least got the rain, fairly heavy overnight and for some of the next day.  It did push the levels up and made a massive difference to the fishing.  On our third day we experienced another stunning beat.  This was a day ticket stretch and although it entailed a long walk to get to the water, it was well worth the effort.  Yet again the surrounding scenery was absolutely stunning and I found myself soaking up the sights, often oblivious to the fishing itself.  I found a perfect looking swim to fish; it was a deep run just off of a bend with trees to my left overhanging the water.  Below me the level became much shallower and led to a weedy gravel run.  In front of me there was around 4ft of water and it looked ideal.  The other two guys headed upstream for a recce.

Buzzards on the Thermals

Buzzards on the Thermals

Within only minutes of casting out the rod top started to dance.  I had a feeling that this was going to be one of those hectic days and I wasn’t wrong.  The rod top was barely motionless.  I had mixed up some of the Lone Angler groundbait and packed it with 6mm and 8mm Caviar pellets.  I wanted a nice stodgy consistency that wouldn’t drop the bait out immediately.  The flow was pretty pacey here and so a firmer mixture would help to keep the groundbait and pellets in the swim.  I switched hook baits on a regular basis to keep the fish occupied.  I was using both 8mm and 12mm Caviar pellets and the new John Baker 10mm Ocean Pride dumbbells.  I swapped from single to double baits on the hair and kept changing sizes.  The chub were particularly active today and I ended up with 19.  Fortunately the barbel managed to get a look in occasionally and I ended up with 7 beautiful specimens.  I kept things simple with just a 2oz cage feeder and a 3ft coated braid hooklink.  Regular casting kept the swim fed and the fish active.  Geoff and Kevin managed to find a few more barbel than me ending up with 11 apiece to 9lb 7oz (I think).  A great day on a magical beat.

Lone Angler Caviar Pellets

Lone Angler Caviar Pellets

The last two days were spent on one beat that we fished last year.  It’s a long stretch of around 2-3 miles and had some really good mixed water to go at.  There are lots of gravel runs and streamer weed, as well as some deeper areas to target.  Sadly Kevin was taken ill and stayed in the caravan all day on Thursday.  His condition didn’t improve and so he headed home on Friday morning.

X marks the spot?

X marks the spot?

So which is better? Man made or the real thing. There's only one way to find out.....FIIIGHT!

So which is better; man made or the real thing? There’s only one way to find out…..FIIIGHT!

Geoff and I explored a lot of the river.  The levels were up and the river had a tinge of colour.  I opted for a fast gravel run with a far bank deep gulley.  There were lots of trees on the far bank offering plenty of cover for the fish.  Geoff headed upstream to a croy to start with.  Due to the increase in water levels, there was a great deal of weed coming down the river.  There is a very simple fix for this, swim permitting.  Rather than stick your rod top skywards as we so often do, cast out, leave slightly less bow in the line than you would perhaps normally do and sink the line as quickly as possible, keeping the tip of the rod just under the water.  Then touch leger. You will find as the line sinks to the bottom the pressure eases on it and the rod tip will spring back.  You will also find that you can hold with even less weight than normal and most importantly of all you will not be bothered by any weed.  Obviously this is swim dependent but it is a highly effective way of fishing in these conditions and you may well prefer to fish like this when there isn’t a weed problem.  You will feel every pluck at the bait, the feeder bumping downstream and anything touching the line.  It is a very organic way to fish and far more rewarding than just staring at the tip.  You have the added bonus of being able to dislodge the feeder with a slight flick of the rod tip and send it trundling downstream a bit.  This often provokes a bite from the feeding fish.

Another immaculate barbel from Angling Dream’s Lower Hill Court

Over the next two days I was treated to some quite amazing wildlife sights and sounds.  I watched in amazement 3 peregrine falcons overhead and remarkably close, certainly the closest I’ve ever seen them.  There seemed to be either 2 adults and 1 juvenile or 2 juveniles, I’m not sure.  They are quite noisy birds.  They were screeching pretty much all day and kept putting in an appearance over the 2 days we were there.  I was also treated to the sounds of the ravens.  There were two on the opposite bank.  They would occasionally fly over head, sometimes circling their way up and gliding on the thermals a bit like the buzzards.  Ravens are huge birds, certainly as big if not bigger than a buzzard.  Best of all are the noises.  They are quite difficult to describe and unique to a raven.    You can listen to them here: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/common_raven/sounds  Well worth a listen.  Fascinating to hear them up so close and see them soaring up on high.

The fishing proved to be as excellent as the wildlife here.  I was soon into fish; both barbel and chub.  Some were good size barbel too.  Again I was swapping baits to ring the changes and kept plenty of feed going in, although again a slightly stodgy mixture to try and hold the bait in the swim.  The barbel and chub seemed to love the caviar pellets and when bites dropped off a switch to Ocean Pride dumbbells proved fruitful.   I ended up with 34 barbel over the two days and probably 25+ chub.  The barbel ranged in weight from just a few ounces (a rare sight but one of the best in barbel angling; a sign of healthy reproduction) to 9lb 1oz.  Both Geoff and I caught quite a few barbel around 1lb-2lb which again is very positive to see and makes me hopeful that the Wye’s barbel population are thriving well when it seems apparent that many rivers are not.

9lb 1oz

9lb 1oz

I think over those last two days between Geoff and myself we had 63 barbel and about 40 chub.  The last few days had offered some of the best scenery, wildlife and fishing we’ve ever experienced on the Wye and I certainly hope to re-visit this area again in the future.  A big thank you to Adam Fisher of Angling Dreams for 2 really well run stretches of the Wye.  They certainly set a high standard on how the Wye can be run, in terms of both the excellent sport that they offer and how controlling numbers really does keep the fishing at its very best.  So after a lackluster start to my week I never thought that I would end the week with over 40 barbel and around 60 chub.  The saddest part was Kevin wasn’t there to share in our enjoyment.  Get well soon Kevin.

Perfection in minature

Perfection in miniature

Kev's Wye 9

Kev’s Wye 9

Yes that dreaded 4 letter word….work.  The bane of many an anglers life I’m sure.  Still it pays the bills, as they say.

I did manage a trip to Wasing on the opening week.  The fish appeared to still be spawning, so understandably the fishing was slow.  Despite trying lots of swims, baits and methods I could only muster one bite which resulted in a lost barbel.

Since then I’ve been working solidly each day and can’t get bankside until next week.  On the 6th August I’ve got a shoulder operation that could knock me out for up to 4 months.  I could quite easily go mad!

Fortunately I’m on the Wye from the 13th July for 5 days and should be able to squeeze in a couple of trips to Wasing again before the forced hiatus.

To all those that have been out, I hope you have been doing OK?

The glorious 16th is just around the corner and I’m starting to get a bit excited! I have fished very little this closed season.  I suppose it was a combination of things that kept me away.  The weather played a large part in that decision, particularly the first couple of months when the weather conditions and temperatures were somewhat lackluster.

However with the new season just on the horizon, new challenges have been set.  I’m not too bothered about catching big fish, I just like to see (or feel) that rod tip yank round in the furious way that it does, when a barbel powers off with the hook bait.  I think it is the ultimate in angling for me.  It’s so exhilarating to see that tip whack round, not knowing what’s on the other end.

This season I have three main venues to target.  Most of my fishing will probably be on the Kennet and I have rejoined the Wasing Estate.  I have yet to fish anywhere that is quite as beautiful and captivating as this area of the Kennet and after a few years away I have really missed it.  My time spent there over the years bring back some very fond memories because it’s such an evocative and mesmerizing place.

I will also be dabbling occasionally on the River Wey in Surrey and a few trips to the magnificent Wye and the breathtaking views that the Wye Valley offers.  I also love the peace and tranquility that are on offer there, far from the beaten track with only the wildlife to keep you company.  It truly is a magical place.

This season I’m going to try and mix up the fishing a little bit.  I will be adopting a more roving style, particularly on the Kennet.  My thoughts at the moment are to fish slightly lighter (where feasible) and fish in a more natural way.  By that I mean free lining and very light link legering.  Baits will be paste or pellets with a back up of lob worms and possibly small squabs and casters when float fishing.  The new John Baker baits from Lone Angler are just amazing.  The paste is incredible I can’t wait to get out and start using it.  The squabs are much softer than before and I love that.  I’m not a fan of rock hard baits and much prefer something softer.  They look, smell and dare I say even taste amazing.

John Baker's Range of Lone Angler Baits

John Baker’s Range of Lone Angler Baits

There will be times when I will be feeder fishing or using a slightly heavier weight and adopting the more familiar bait and wait tactics but I really miss the roving style and dropping into likely looking spots and tempting the odd fish here and there.  I don’t want to sit in one swim all day staring at a motionless tip.  I’m really looking forward to getting back on the river and the challenge that Wasing will bring.

Still, armed with decent baits, sensible tackle and a few ideas I’m hopeful for a good season.  Nothing beats good company, wonderful surroundings and being free to do want you enjoy.  With all of the madness going on in the World at the moment I feel incredibly grateful and privileged to be able to pursue the things I enjoy in life, without the fear of any consequences.  We are very lucky people and long may it continue.

Good luck to you all and may 2015-2016 be the season you hope it will be.

Another season draws to an end and all too quickly.  The years seem to fly by.  I remember, as I’m sure we all do, when in my younger days the adults would always proclaim that years pass far quicker when you’re older.  At the time it seemed a silly notion but I’m beginning to see the truth of that statement.

Geoff and I decided to see out the last session (for me anyway) on the Trent.  We have been fortunate with the weather over the last week or so; much better day time temperatures often reaching well into double figures and not too much rain.  The downside seemed to be close to zero night time temperatures which would obviously keep the water temps down too.  Despite that, a river like the Trent always gives you a chance of a fish or two.

I particularly like using maggots at this time of the year, providing the water isn’t too coloured.  A few pints of maggots with a liberal spray of Ocean Pride or Sausage Sizzle, can really produce a mixed bag; roach, dace, chub, bream and barbel love em too.  If you can keep a good steady trickle going in, it won’t take too long before the barbel move in and start hoovering them up.  To do this successfully you do need 5 or 6 pints though.  Down here in the south that would cost a small fortune.  Maggots are around £3.20 per pint at my local shop, compared to Nottingham where you’ll only pay about £1.50, less than half price.

I intended to fish one rod with a big maggot feeder with 6 or 7 maggots on a size 12 and on the other rod a double caviar pellet and groundbait feeder.  During the winter months I would introduce less groundbait than I would in the summer, however where maggots are concerned I tend to pile them in, so regular casting with a big feeder will start to pull the fish in.  In my groundbait mix I will put in  6mm and 8mm Lone Angler caviar pellets which I just mix into the dry groundbait and then add water creating a nice sticky mixture.  This stays in the feeder a bit longer and that way I don’t need to cast as much, perhaps every 20-30 minutes.  In the summer I would be casting every 5 minutes for the first hour and then down to 15 minutes after that.

Lone Angler Groundbait and Pellets

Lone Angler Groundbait and Pellets

My first choice of swim was between some trees, which offered me shelter from a very strong, chilly wind.  The temperature today was actually pretty good; around 12-15c but the wind chill made it feel much cooler at times.  Sadly this first swim was very tight and on a steep slope.  With heavy rain forecast for that afternoon I decided to move into a safer swim.  I moved upstream into an area I’ve done well in before.  By now it was around 1pm and with rain predicted for about 3pm onwards I thought I would quickly pop upstream to another stretch where pals Danny and Pete were fishing.  After a good chinwag, I returned to my swim to get some bait in and hope it would produce a fish or two.

On the way back I could hear the sound of a hunt horn sounding.  It seemed the hunt was on the other side of the river and I stopped to watch the dogs in action.  Several large stags broke cover and headed across the meadows followed closely by the pack dogs, which were by now baying like crazy as their excitement reached a crescendo.  The huntsmen were furiously blowing their bugle and eventually the dogs returned.  It certainly added a bit of excitement to the afternoons proceedings.

I returned to my swim and cast out both rods.  The noise opposite had died down and I watched what looked like a red kite flying just over the tree line.  I had a good view of the bird and I’m 95% certain it was a kite.  Geoff only caught a brief glimpse and he also felt it was a kite.  If so, it is the first we’ve seen of them here. (we saw a further one on our way home but not far from where we were fishing, so it makes it likely that the first sighting was indeed a kite).  Suddenly the left hand rod banged and the tip started dancing.  This was the maggot feeder rod and I pulled into the culprit.  It was a very spirited fight and resulted in a small barbel.  A couple more followed and they seemed to be getting a bit bigger.  Geoff reported that he too had caught a couple, one of which was 8lb 15oz.



It was great to catch and we hoped for maybe one or two more before the end of the session.  The forecast was not good, with heavy rain predicted between 3-6 pm.  However we were lucky, other than some steady drizzle and showers we passed the session more or less dry.  Suddenly my maggot rod whooped over and as I was playing the fish, the other rod went too.  A double hookup, always a bit of a commotion when this happens.  I lost the first fish in a snag, for a while I could feel the fish and then the fish was gone but I was still caught up in something.  Eventually it went solid and I pulled for a break.  I did however manage to land the 2nd fish.

I finished the session on 8 barbel, with the best two going 8lb 7oz and 9lb 6oz and a couple of 4lb+ chub.  Geoff managed five barbel to 9lb 10oz and chub, roach and bream.  Quite a mixed bag.  By 8.30 it was raining steadily but certainly only a heavy sort of drizzle.  We headed back to the car fairly pleased with the results.  Danny had tempted the only fish on the upper section but at 10lb 14oz it was a good ‘un at least.

After a hearty breakfast where fellow guest Dave aka Meddy Man joined us, we headed back to the river for just a couple of hours before heading off.  We were doubtful of catching much but thought it was worth a go for a short time.  The weather was good and the temperature at 9.30am was already around 12c and rose to 15c later in the day.  Out went two rods and I pinned my hopes on the maggot feeder.  I soon had a couple of roach and dace landed when my next strike connected with something much stronger and angrier.  After a really hard fight I landed and released a lovely 7lb 8oz barbel.  A couple more promising bites failed to produce a fish and it was time to go.

Ready for Action

Ready for Action

We attended Keith Speer’s funeral on our way home.  Keith did a huge amount for the Association of Barbel Fishers and both Geoff and I wanted to say our farewells to this great man.  We were astonished at the number of people attending, it must have been several hundred.  That really is a fitting tribute to a much loved and admired man.


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