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Archive for September, 2012


After a little bit of late summer crucian carp fishing at Marsh Farm I was looking forward to a new challenge.  I had been invited by a good ABF pal to fish his local stretch of river in Berkshire.  Its a beautiful, small, intimate river.  Quite narrow and rather pacey.  At each turn there was loads of overhanging trees and bushes and lots of thick reeds and vegetation.  The water was thick with cabbages and ranunculus which swayed in the fast water.  Underneath this exuberance of growth was a great deal of lovely clean gravel, which the barbel love to feed on.

We took a good walk along the stretch and each swim looked better than the previous one.  It was absolutely mouth watering and I couldn’t wait to get started.  We both opted for a swim for the duration of the session.  Mine had overhanging tress opposite, a thick raft to my left and a deep marginal run down to more overhanging trees to my right.  It just screamed barbel!

I set up a brolly as the weather was still quite unsettled.  The river was up a little with some good colour after the recent heavy rains.  It really looked spot on.  Tackle would be quite simple.  A running rig incorporating an Andy Witham cage feeder.  This would be packed with mixed pellet and plugged with groundbait.  I didn’t intend putting out a great deal of bait and would probably only recast every hour to an hour and a quarter.  I fished two rods.  One baited with elips pellet and the other boilie.  Around both baits I wrapped some of the Sonubaits barbel and carp hemp and spicy sausage paste.  This had been recommended to me and I have to say my initial impression was that it looked and smelled very good. Hooklength was around 3 feet and as always I like to use Sufix Camfusion in 10lb breaking strain to a size 10 hook.  I also incorporated 2 flying backleads to the downstream rod, just to make sure that the line was pinned down as much as possible.  I also tried not to tighten up too much to the rig.  Hopefully all of this was less likely to spook any foraging barbel.

To me the downstream rod would be my top pick to produce a bite and this is the rod I pinned my hopes to.  I very rarely fish two rods and I only did today due to the low density of barbel in this stretch.  Mind you if it did wrap round it was likely to be a decent fish at least.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day where there was no real pressure to start fishing.  I chatted with Paul throughout the afternoon, enjoying a cuppa and a natter.  Several times I wandered back to the car and soaked up the scenery and atmosphere of this beautiful spot.  It just looked so good and my confidence was high.  Paul was great company and he’s such a good bloke that it was just a pleasure to be out enjoying a fishing session with him on his local water.

Eventually the light started to fade and out went the baits.  It didn’t take long either.  After 30 minutes the downstream rod arched round viciously and on picking up the rod, a big barbel pulled back.  This felt really good and the fish just hugged the gravel bottom in the fast flow.  I eased the fish upstream but every now and then it would surge back downstream.  After a few minutes the fish turned on the surface and both Paul and I knew it was a decent fish.  After several heart thumping minutes Paul slipped the net under this magnificent fish and after resting it hauled her out for unhooking.

A magnificent bronze flanked fish lay in the folds of the net, glistening in the torch light.  We quickly unhooked her and weighed the fish.  It went 13lb 11oz and was a new PB by 7oz.  A few quick photos and she was put back safely.  After being rested for a while she swam away strongly and I felt ecstatic. What a tremendous result from a stretch I had never fished before and within spitting distance of another spot that had once produced a previous PB of 13lb 1oz a few years before.  I could have happily packed up and gone home grinning from ear to ear but we had agreed to fish until midnight.

13lb 11oz

13lb 11oz

I hoped that Paul would also soon be onto a good fish but it wasn’t to be unfortunately.  However at around 11pm with my eyelids feeling like lead, my baitrunner screamed as a fish tore line from the spool.  This fish also stayed deep and went on several short runs.  It turned on the surface a few times before I eventually slipped it into the net.  I called for Paul and we weighed this second magnificent bronze beast.  It was absolutely mint condition and weighed in at 11lb 5oz.  I was so over the moon I decided to pack up and was going to sit with Paul.  However I don’t think Paul could cope with my inane grin any longer and so also opted to call it a day.

11lb 5oz

11lb 5oz

It’s been a fairly slow season barbel wise for me, so this was a real highlight of my year and one I will never forget. My thanks to Paul for his great company and advice.

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The lure of the Trent drew Geoff, Kevin and I back to the Midlands for another sortie on the mighty Trent.  The only problem was the forecast.  From a spell of warm sunny weather to windy, chilly and possibly even rainy conditions.  When I say chilly I actually mean bloody cold, it had the potential to drop to 4c overnight and with a top daytime prediction of 14c, it was set to be long johns weather.

Still we decided to give it a go anyway, mad fools that we are.  Some would say idiots and who am I to argue.  We camp near to the fishery and after setting up we headed to the river.  Both Kevin and I opted for the long slog to the top end whilst Geoff (who was feeling a little under the weather) decided to stay a little closer to the car park.  Its a fairly arduous walk to the top along a narrow and overgrown path.  Numerous overhanging trees create obstacles along with an awkward sloping path, however we overcame these minor irritations and eventually arrived at the area we wanted to target.  We soon selected a couple of swims and as the light was fading fast, got on with setting up as quickly as we could.

I opted for two rods, 3oz Andy Witham cage feeders, 14lb mainline and Camfusion hooklinks.  I intended to fish double elips on one rod and the other would be double boilie. I started to cast out into the respective area with both rods every 5 minutes to get a bed of bait out.  After an hour I slowed that down to 10-15 minutes.   The light very soon faded and it didn’t take too long to get some action.  I had three barbel fairly quickly, all about 4-6lbs.  Then the chub moved in and I took half a dozen all over 4lbs topped off by a real clonker that looked well over 5lb.  I should have weighed it really as chub weights can be so deceptive, but I was confident it was a 5+.

Geoff seemed to be struggling his end although he also caught a big chub which he estimated to be a 5, plus a couple of snotties.  Kevin had a bit more luck on the barbel front taking four to over 8lbs and a couple of chub.  By 1am it was freezing and we decided to call it a day.  When we left the river it was 4c and I think it got even colder early hours.

After a good lunch at the local pub we headed back to the river.  I fished a little lower down this time and had more daylight hours to bait up.  So again casting every 5 minutes with both rods, I put out a good carpet of bait over the next two hours.  About 6.30pm I had a spell of action which produced three barbel to 8lbs quite quickly and then it died.  I eventually caught a small chub and another barbel late on but then that was it.

Kevin had another 4 barbel and a couple of chub and Geoff managed 2 barbel and another bream plus a chub or two.  All in all not too bad considering the conditions.  During the afternoon the temperature had dropped to just 10c and it was bitterly cold.  The river was very low and clear and has been fishing very poor of late, which was also confirmed by the bailiff.  So perhaps it was a good result, although poor for the Trent generally speaking.

During the night we had some prolonged heavy rain and the temperature rose quite considerably.  Better fishing conditions perhaps but not so good for packing up the tents!!  Ah well, hopefully we’ll get another trip in before the onset of winter, although a Travelodge may well replace the tents next time.

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I’m very proud to be a part of the Barbel Fisher’s team (www.barbelfishers.com), which means I’m directly involved in the day to day running of the Association.  I’m proud because of the amount of charitable donations they make.  As part of the ABF’s constitution, fundraising for its various nominated charities, has become a very big part of the group and they raise large amounts of money for various Hospices and the MacMillan Cancer Support as well as Air Ambulance.  Sadly, cancer has affected many of our lives in way or another, so this is something the ABF’s members can do to fight back.

Recently we have just enjoyed a charity fish-in on the river Loddon near Wokingham and we have Simon Bartlett at Wokingham District Council to thank for his sterling efforts in allowing us to use this venue.  He wanted all profits raised by the event to go to MacMillan and we are more than happy to oblige.  The event ran from late afternoon on Friday  through to Sunday lunchtime and was held at Dinton Pastures Country Park.

The Loddon

The Loddon

The river loddon cuts through part of the park as it winds it’s way towards Twyford.  Its a beautiful clear river, with thick water cabbages and flowing ranunculus and a plethora of bankside cover.  Overhanging tress and bushes abound, along with numerous rafts and offers enticing cover  to the canny chub and barbel the stretch is famous for.

The Loddon

The Loddon

I arrived early to meet Simon Bartlett and Micky Holtom from the Barbel Angler website (barbelangler.co.uk) but prior to their arrival decided to enjoy the culinary delights of the on-site cafe.  After demolishing a full English breakfast (and jolly good it was too) I had a cuppa with Micky and enjoyed the sights of the park.  Lots of young mums to keep the brain active!

Simon arrived and he kindly offered to show us the whole stretch of river so we could start to gauge which swims we could fish.  A few of the guys had already arrived and so off we went for a recce.  It was a bit of a trek from the car park but without the gear hardly noticeable.  However once loaded up it was like trekking across America just to get to your swim!  We discovered lots of great looking swims that screamed barbel.  So we opted to list a dozen of the best looking ones and then have a draw for the pegs.  It worked well and everybody ended up with a peg they felt happy with.  In all there was 9 of us on that first night and we were joined by Paul Whiteing the following morning.

Fishing started in earnest as the light faded.  I think all of those leads and feeders being cast out in unison spooked the Hell out of the fish because only one bite came during the opening night to Crooky and he promptly lost whatever was on the end, although he felt it was only a chub.  The temperature dropped quite sharply overnight and so eventually I turned in for a decent nights sleep.

Early the next morning Micky was up and within a short space of time had his first barbel bite of the weekend.  A feisty 9 pounder being the culprit.  I felt this was a great result, for someone to catch a barbel in these conditions ( sweltering hot during the day with temperatures to upper 20s and bright sunshine to bloody freezing at night) was icing on the cake.

The following day was more of a social.  The cafe was the first port of call followed by the local pub and then back to the cafe for dinner.  It was an opportunity to chat, enjoy some banter and hear some great stories regaled in time honoured fashion whilst enjoying a pint or two.  I was also treated to a Wallis casting lesson from Paul Whiteing and with his guidance soon had something that almost passed as a Wallis cast.  Crooky on the other hand……well what can One say!!

Again as the light faded the serious fishing began.  Before long a call came through that Micky was in again.  This time it turned out to be an 11 pounder and really was icing on the cake.  What a great weekend for Micky and a good result for the ABF.  The only other bite was to Lee Sinfield who sadly lost a big fish on free lined luncheon meat.  Still it didn’t spoil what was a very enjoyable and very successful weekend.  The ABF raised another £150 for charity and we all got to meet both new and old friends alike.  That is the last of the planned fish-ins for this year but with more initiatives in the pipeline, we hope to raise far more over the coming months to support our nominated charities.

 

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The last few weeks have been rather busy, so fishing has been limited.  In fact this season I have fished far less than normal.  Hopefully next season I’ll get the night tickets sorted out and start to put a bit more time in for the barbel.

I have managed a couple of sessions on the Kennet near Thatcham.  It’s a beautiful, overgrown stretch in places, with a really good, varied mix of shallow gravel runs, deep glides and pools and plenty of ranunculus.  The whole stretch has loads of bankside cover, lots of overhanging trees and bushes offering a safe haven to the barbel population.  Sadly a bit too safe of late, as most anglers seem to be struggling.  There has been the odd purple patch, but by and large the fishing has been tough going apparently.

During the first session I had set-up in a swim to fish a deeper run under some near side trees.  Further out there was plenty of weed fluttering and swaying in the flow but closer in and under the shade of the overhanging branches it was nice clean gravel.  This spot produced a most savage bite around mid afternoon and a really feisty barbel eventually found the folds of the landing net.  It was no monster but at around 6lbs had obviously been on Popeye’s spinach diet!

The remainder of the day had remained quiet and so eventually I decided to wander down into the jungle of woods and brambles and see if I could spot some fish in the shallow gravels lower downstream.  This area is a wild and overgrown area and rarely fished.  I soon managed to get a few barbel feeding on some pellets.  Eventually I had half a dozen barbel feeding quite confidently.  Most were only about 4 or 5lbs but one was a little larger and may have gone 8.   Of course I should have grabbed my gear and had a go for them but to be honest I was quite content to remain hidden by the flora and just watch the barbel’s behavior unmolested by a hookbait.

I returned to my rods some time later and remained fish-less until leaving time.  The bailiff popped down and it seemed that after visiting numerous stretches to check tickets, mine was the only fish caught so far that day.  That is rather solemn news when you think about, in what was once such a prolific river where numerous fish could be caught in even the brightest of conditions during the day.  Geoff sadly had no luck and so we finally called it a day.

The following week we had hoped to go to the Hampshire Avon for some summer roach fishing.  However the weather forecast wasn’t good with heavy rains and high winds the order of the day, which really doesn’t suit delicate float fishing.  Instead we headed back to the Kennet.  This time I decided to fish down in the jungles and see if I could catch one of those feeding barbel from last week.

So armed with just the bare essentials I set-up a rod and net and started to watch the river closely with some polarised glasses.  After about an hour or so I managed to get a few fish feeding.  So I finished setting up the rod and continued to feed the growing number of barbel that were now foraging just out in front of me.  It was then I felt the first few spits of rain.  The clouds looked dark and menacing but I decided to persevere.  I waited for the barbel to vacate the swim and then dropped a baited hook out and thew in a few more freebies.  Then the heavens opened.  The rain became very heavy very quickly and the river’s surface was soon pounded to a maelstrom of impenetrable white water.  I could no longer see what was happening or where to cast and water was cascading off of my hat and running down the inside of my waterproof coat.  Luckily I had put my Goretex trousers on and so at least my lower half was dry.

I rushed back to where I had stashed the remainder of the gear and quickly setup my brolly and then shot back to my swim and got the rest of my tackle under cover.  However by now I was soaked through to the skin on the upper half of my body.  The rain continued unabated for several hours.  It eventually eased off mid afternoon but by now the damage was done.  The temperature had dropped quite considerably and both Geoff and I were soaked through.  I had setup camp in a very nice looking swim though, with a lot of far bank cover and completely out of the blue, the rod top knocked violently and then dragged round.  Initially I thought I was on to a half decent chub and then the fish woke up and it was now obvious what the culprit was.  After a nice fight I weighed the barbel and it was just a tad under 7 1/2lbs.  It was the only action of the day and by 7pm I’d had enough and managed to persuade Geoff to call it a day and head to Max’s cafe for a well earned hot meal- 4 rashers of bacon, 2 fried eggs, chips and beans.  Lovely jubbly.

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