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Archive for August, 2013


The fishing seems to be particularly tough for us at the moment.  We are struggling on the river in Berkshire and I have yet to secure my first barbel on my local small river too.  There is some comfort in chatting with anglers bankside who are also reporting similar results to ourselves.  At least we know its not just us.  However I think we need to adopt a different style of fishing to try and beat the current doldrums.  I guess what I mean is perhaps a more roving style, targeting more swims and  using different baits in an attempt to make things work in our favour, rather than hoping that eventually things will improve anyway.  I have used a roving approach on the Medway and Kennet in the past and it worked extremely well.  If you know the stretch really well you can continue to rove throughout darkness too, although there is always the option of then sitting it out in one swim after dark and hoping the fish are present.

My latest trip with Geoff was a continuation of current form.  The Thames tributary we are fishing this season is proving very difficult.  However others are also struggling as I said, so we have to take some consolation from that fact.   We fished until midnight on Tuesday but staying in just one swim apiece.  Either the fish were not home or we didn’t fish the right baits/tactics because neither Geoff or myself had so much as a knock.  Throughout the evening and night I never head a single fish turn on the surface, which always disheartens me to be honest.  I like to hear movement because it signals life and activity.  You at least know that fish are on the move.

At one point a stamping noise behind me awoke me from my thoughts and when I looked round a roe deer was running away from me in the direction of the trees.  I could see its white tail bouncing up and down as it hurried off to find cover.  That was about it for me that night sadly.  Tiredness finally won the day, and at around 11.45 I packed up very much disillusioned again.  So a re-think needed for future trips.

The next day we decided that a change of scenery was in order and so we agreed after breakfast to head to the Kennet.  We popped into Tadley Angling so Geoff could pick up a night permit for Reading and District Angling Association and whilst there I bought some block-end feeders and some hemp.  Tadley is a well stocked and well run shop and the owners are very friendly and helpful.  It’s well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

There was only one car in the R&DAA car park and we decided to have a recce first.  We then loaded up with gear and headed off downstream to explore.  We walked some distance downstream, spotting lots of decent looking spots to fish on the way.   The level looked good and the river had a decent pace to it with a good tinge of colour.  In fact it looked perfect.   I decided to bait up a couple of swims with hemp and then fish a block-end feeder with hemp in and fish elips and paste on a 4′ tail.  By the time I cast out it was probably 3.30pm.  I had decided to fish this swim for a couple of hours and move if nothing happened.  I could always return later.  At about 5pm the rod top slammed round and my heart jumped into my mouth.  A three foot twitch never fails to get the adrenaline flowing and the pulse racing.  I pulled into what was obviously a barbel and it used the strong flow to full effect.

I could tell it wasn’t a big fish from the fight but a very welcome sight that fish made when I managed to slip it into the waiting net.  I hoisted it out and admired the colours and sleek, muscular form.  I would have taken a quick snap of the fish on the unhooking mat, however senile dementia has well and truly set in because the battery for the camera is still sat on the table at home after being charged up last week.  Doh!  Anyway the fish was slipped back and I opted to move into the other baited swim.  Geoff was also on the move, opting to fish further downstream from his original position.

A large tractor turned up in the field behind me and started to move hay bales from a huge stack onto a trailer.  The farmer had assistance from another guy in a car and two small dogs.  I could hear their excited yapping as they were let loose in the field.   They were tearing around the stack of hay bales, I guess looking for rats maybe.  At times they were almost in a frenzy of excitement and it at least proved a distraction from the fishing.  As darkness fell I wished the dogs were with me as the rats started to appear.   Several large rodents scampered through the undergrowth and out into the open, searching for food.  They could obviously smell my bait as despite my best efforts to scare them off they would soon return even more brazen.   I think those dogs would have made short work of disposing of the rats.

However despite another move on my part no further action ensued and Geoff had remained fish-less also, so we decided to call it a day around 10.15pm.  We both fancied a coffee at the services before the long drive home.

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It was that time of the week again; at last two days were available for me to visit the Thames Valley in Berkshire chasing those rather elusive barbel.  Not having fished for two weeks due to work commitments, I was really looking forward to getting out again.  The really hot, searing heat of the last few weeks had eased off and thunder, lightening and downpours seemed the order of the day.  It was still incredibly humid but at least we wouldn’t be roasted throughout the day as temperatures dropped to around 22c.

Kevin and I were on our own Tuesday evening.  Geoff would be joining us Wednesday morning.  We arrived in Berkshire to find huge puddles everywhere, some very deep.  Now we began to wonder what state the river would be in; high and coloured maybe?  We made a quick stop at some local stores for provisions before heading off to the river.  It was still warm but so much more comfortable than it had been of late.

We drove over the bridge and stopped to look at the river and surprisingly it looked no different from our last visit.  So all of these torrential downpours appeared to have made no difference to the level whatsoever.  There was a slight tinge of colour in the river but that was about all.  We pulled into the car park and made base camp.  I toiled away with my 18 year old bivvy which was like putting together a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle!  Kev kips in the car and so doesn’t have to go through this palava, he can just sit back and chuckle by my pathetic efforts at erecting this antiquated shelter.  Still it didn’t take too long and the kettle was soon whistling away, indicating a cup of coffee was on its way too.  A coffee does seem to help when your huffing and puffing over something a little challenging, it just seems to calm the rather frayed nerves a little.

We soon finished off the camp and grabbed the pile of tackle that seems to grow ever larger on each visit and headed off to find some swims.  The river looked perfect.  It was possibly up a fraction but if it was, it certainly wasn’t a lot.  There was definitely a touch of colour in the water and the flow looked very good.  After a good recce we settled on a couple of swims to fish for the remainder of the day.  It appeared we were the only ones fishing and I only saw one car leave the car park when we packed up at midnight, which is unusual for here and perhaps a sign that the fishing is a little slow.

I had opted for a deep marginal swim.  The depth was around six feet over clean gravel.  The area directly under my feet appeared to be a foot or two deeper than the area just a yard or two downstream of this position.  With overhanging trees to both my left and right it seemed to offer excellent cover and a deep channel for the barbel to travel both up and downstream in.  As far as I was concerned it looked perfect.   As always casting a lead around the swim will soon tell you what the river bed is like and what sort of depth you have.  Ten minutes doing this is invaluable to start to build up a picture of the topography of the river.  Of course it will also tell you where there is weed and even snags, often at the cost of tackle unfortunately, but at least you know for future reference.

I then bait dropped some very small pellets and left the swim for about 45 minutes.  We were in no real rush to start fishing as we both felt that things would be slow during the daylight period.  However having cast out I almost immediately started to get a few knocks and taps.  Shortly after I had a couple of really savage knocks and suspected chub to be the likely suspect.  It didn’t take much longer when the rod top jagged round and whatever was on the other end wasn’t going to let go.  On picking up the rod I was certain the culprit was a chub and it felt heavy too.  The fish boiled on the surface and it was indeed a very good chub.  I called Kevin and we soon had the fish in the net.

It was an immaculate, big chub.  I rested the fish and then weighed it at 6lb 1oz.  I grabbed my camera only to find that the battery was missing.  I then remembered I had put it on to charge and it was still sat on my table back home!  So my plans of taking a few scenic and hopefully fishy photos were soon shelved.  Silly boy.  So Kev did the honours with his camera and after a quick photo I popped it back and watched the bulky frame swim off into the streamer weed.  I love big chub and was over the moon with that capture.  It was a real bonus as far as I was concerned.  So it was back to the rod and this time hoping for maybe a barbel as the light started to fade.  I had opted for quite a large Andy Witham feeder packed with hemp and halibut groundbait and some mixed sized pellets thrown in to the mix for good measure.  Due to the amount of streamer weed I decided against a back lead and instead opted for a 4′ hooklength and a size 10 Gardner Target hook with two elips pellets glued onto the hair and a decent amount of paste wrapped around the pellets.

6lb 1oz

6lb 1oz

I love to just sit back and soak up the sights and sounds of my watery environment.  There is something almost hypnotic about streamer weed wafting gently in the flow.  I wonder what treasures lie beneath this mysterious waving and fluttering canopy?  Perhaps a few barbel concealed on the gravel runs underneath maybe?  Who knows?  A flash of iridescent blue brings me out of my reverie, as a kingfisher hurtles past.  The shrill and unmistakable yaffling from a green woodpecker breaks the peace and quiet and the ever present magpies and jays add to the cacophony of harsh noises that can be heard from time to time, although never enough to diminish from the tranquillity of this particular venue.    At one point we counted at least 12 Red Kites circling high up on the thermals and no matter how often I see these magnificent birds I just can’t get blasé about them.  I find them an awe inspiring sight and they always enhance my visits to the countryside.

As the evening wore on I had the odd tap on the rod top but nothing serious until around 10.30 when the rod tip slammed round and the baitrunner screamed.  If I’m getting tired or I stand up to stretch my legs, I always make sure the baitrunner is engaged.  If feeling sleepy, I will always touch leger so I can be alerted immediately to any bites.  I grabbed the rod and it took on its fighting curve and then went slack.  The fish had gone and I had no idea whether it was a good chub or a barbel that had taken the bait.  I think I may have sworn a little at this point!

That was the last of the action for me that evening and Kevin reported pretty much no indications at all for this session.  So we packed up and headed back to base camp and pretty much straight to sleep.

Geoff arrived early the following morning and both he and Kevin opted to fish on his arrival.  Me being a lazy git, stayed festering in my pit for another few hours.  I eventually surfaced and packed away the bivvy and enjoyed a coffee or two to kick start the brain into some sort of activity, which is never easy.  Geoff then turned up with a big grin on his face.  First cast and he had a 3 foot twitch.  A nice barbel of about 6lb resulted and the first for this river.  Well done Geoff.  Again Kevin had suffered with a motionless tip, although I believe you can get tablets for that sort of complaint now 🙂

The cafe beckoned and after a hearty fry up (oh the blocked arteries) we made our way back to the river.  We had thought of moving onto the Kennet but decided to stay put.  I opted for a swim where another small stream enters the river and fished under the overhanging trees.  After a couple of hours of a motionless rod top I opted to move just prior to dusk, for the last few hours.  Neither Geoff or Kevin had anything to report.  As the light began to fade I heard Kevin’s dulcet tones ring out in the quiet of dusk.  Words that cannot be repeated here wafted over the still night air.  He had hooked a barbel, only for it to shed the hook after a minute or two.  He was understandably gutted.

The night wore on and I had lost the will to live.  I was tired and ready to head off home.  It was now 11pm and we had a long trip back to contend with.  Geoff then reported he had landed a good chub and it was another stonking fish of 5lb 15oz.  However Kevin and I had had enough and we all three, decided to call it a day.

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