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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.