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Archive for July, 2015


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.

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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

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