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Posts Tagged ‘Aldermaston Beat’


Autumnal hints are clearly showing themselves. Leaves are turning brown already, as we approach late September. This week it was only Geoff and I that headed towards Aldermaston in search of those Autumnal giants that frequent the gravel runs here. We have always found this time of the year very rewarding for big barbel. We hoped that this would be the week they showed themselves at last to 2 very determined Kenneteers.

The Kennet at Aldermaston

We set up camp as ever and wandered off for a look. I fancied a swim at the lower end of the stretch (aka near to the car!!). There was lots of cover, a nice flow and a deep hole in this swim. I baited up with hemp and caster and left the swim alone for an hour. Geoff had decided to fish much further upstream. This week we had decided we should give it until much later before calling it a night. We talked about packing up around 2am, if we could stay awake and the temperature wasn’t too chilly. Brave talk for a couple of wimps.

At about 7pm I had what looked like a persistent chub bite. On striking I discovered one of those Popeye chub on the other end. After a really good fight I netted the culprit, a barbel of around 6lbs. I re-baited the swim and decided to have a wander. As I left the swim, I noticed about half a dozen Roe Deer in the field. I took a few photos, but the deer were a bit too far away. I slowly and carefully inched forward, trying to get closer. The deer were alert and soon noticed me. They stretched their necks high and their ears twitched at my approach. I stopped and then slowly moved forward again, taking a few more shots. Suddenly they were off. That lovely, high prancing movement that Roe Deer do, reminiscent of gazelle on the Masai Mara. I then popped back to the car, only to see two more hinds in the field adjacent to the small car park. Again I tried stalking them and managed to get much closer due to the cover afforded me by the trees and bushes. Sadly though, it was by now getting dark. So the pictures were of no use. Still, lovely to see.

Kennet Barbel

I returned to my swim and carried on with the usual routine of bait dropping hemp and caster every 20-25 minutes. Finally at about 11.20pm the rod tip whacked round and another feisty barbel was subdued. Again a smallish fish, especially for Aldermaston. It looked around the 6-6 ½ lb mark. I called Geoff. He hadn’t had a touch, but we both felt we should carry on and see whether the later finish would produce. At 1.15am we both decided it hadn’t! We headed back to camp for a well-earned cup of tea. This week I had forgotten something else of course. The milk, eejit that I am. Luckily Geoff had a small bottle of some soya milk muck that sufficed under the circumstances! 😉

The following day we kicked off by going to the small village stores and purchasing a few provisions, including some milk obviously. They do some great chunky sausage rolls here. Heated up, they make a great breakfast. A decent cup of take away coffee finished off our transactions and we headed back to the river.

Wadda you looking at?

We packed away the tents, made a flask of fresh coffee. I then loaded up with fishing tackle, like some sort of over-burdened pack-horse and headed upstream looking for a likely swim. On finding one, I baited up and read Coarse Angling Today for 45 minutes. I then wandered up to see Geoff, whom it turned out hadn’t gone where he said he was going, so I found an empty swim. Still, the walk did me good….!!

It turned out to be a reasonable day for me. I didn’t exactly empty the river, but did manage 3 more barbel to about 6 ½lbs. They were all in immaculate condition. I also missed a wraparound bite! I spotted a few more deer in the field and again managed to get reasonably close and take a few shots. Geoff managed a trout and a 4lb+ chub. He’s finding it tough at the moment and I know it hurts when other’s seem to be catching and you’re not. I’m certain he will turn it around soon though.

Hemp and Caster caught Barbel

Perhaps one of the highlights for me was watching a Crow and a Kite doing an impersonation of a World War II dog fight. They twisted and turned almost in harmony, as the Crow badgered the much larger and more impressive Kite. They soared and rolled, dived and turned. Occasionally, when the angle was just right, the Kite would suddenly swoop at the crow and they would disappear. We were certain the Kite had engulfed the crow with its mighty talons, but they would just as suddenly reappear and the aerobatics would continue. It was wonderful to watch.

Anyway, next week we are on the Trent for 3 days. So here’s hoping for some decent fishing weather and a few wraparounds to go with it.

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After our sojourn to the great Ouse last week, we decided it was time to stick to the job in hand and try to catch a few fish from the Kennet.   I have always liked September on the rivers.  It’s a month which has historically produced some of my best fish.  I’m sure that statement would be borne out by most angler’s experiences.  The barbel are starting to pack on a bit of weight during the Autumn months in readiness for the onset of winter.  I tend to get more doubles at this time of the year than any other, with the exception perhaps of late February and March.

The Kennet

So with this in mind Kevin, Geoff and myself felt that Aldermaston was the place to concentrate our efforts on.  This would give us the opportunity to fish a few hours into darkness on the first night and an early start the following day.  We are getting conflicting information regarding the best periods to fish.  Some advocate night-time, up to 1 or 2 in the morning.  Others are saying their catches are coming early morning up to 9 or 10. So we decided to try both, although we would probably only fish until maybe 11.30 or 12 on the Tuesday night. I do need my beauty sleep, as anyone who knows me will testify, often telling me that it’s quite obvious I’m not getting enough!

I had decided to go all out on the hemp and caster route.  Armed with about 12 pints of hemp and 6 pints of casters for the loose feed and then using 4 casters superglued onto a longish hair.  I hoped that by having a long hair, I’d hook less dace and roach and therefore create less disturbance in the swim.  It’s not a cheap excercise, as casters are £3.25 a pint, but it might prove worthwhile.  We arrived in the lower car park and found it empty.  After setting up camp we headed off to find a few suitable swims.

The largest loaded bait dropper

My intention was to stay put and bait the swim up throughout the duration of the session.  Kevin and Geoff found a couple of swims, but would consider moving if they felt it was appropriate.  I found the swim that I fancied and after bouncing a lead around, just to double-check the depth and weed situation, I used the largest bait dropper to deposit about 2 1/2 pints of hemp and caster into the swim.  I then intended to leave the swim to rest for an hour.  I tied up a new hooklink for my main rod and went about setting up the chair and oh yes the landing net.  Now where is my landing net handle…oh not in the quiver…..must have already taken it out…..er no….not in the car either……ah, think I left it at home.  What a total wazzock!  I had already realised that I had forgotten my fleece top as well.  Things were looking a bit dicey.  It was going to be one of ‘those’ sessions.  Luckily Kevin was just a few yards upstream of me, so offered to stay there during the duration of the session, despite my comments about him and Geoff missing the Junction on the motorway last week!  I just hoped that I wouldn’t disturb him too much.  Well, chance would be a fine thing!

So after much cursing and coffee drinking, I finally swung the bait out into the swim.  My intention was to bait dropper 3 loads every 20 minutes using the medium sized dropper and re-bait and re-cast every 40 minutes.  In the event of a fish, I would bait dropper 6 loads and rest the swim for 30 minutes.  This is very much a Steve Pope method of fishing hemp and caster.  If it’s good enough for him, it is certainly good enough for me.

6lb Kennet Barbel

15 minutes into the first cast and the tip whacked round.  A strong fish fought like a tiger on the other end.  I knew it wasn’t a big fish, but what a great fight.  The barbel was around 6 pounds and went back very strongly.  I did the 6 dropper thing and enjoyed a coffee.  Out went the bait again after 30 minutes.  A little while after, the rod tip went round again and this was a small but strong fish.  It felt too strong for a roach or chub, so it had to be a small barbel.  It was.  A perfectly formed and pristine fish of about a pound in weight.  Very encouraging for the future.  At about 10.30 the rod tip whacked round again and this time a really nice fish of close on 8lbs resulted.  Both Geoff and Kevin had not had a bite.  Maybe there is something to this hemp and caster lark after all.

A near '8'

At 11.30 we called it a day.  It was still warm and I could have fished on for another hour or so, but we wanted an earlyish start.  So we headed back to camp for a cup of freshly brewed tea and the usual late night chin wag, then off to bed ready for day 2.

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Kevin and I decided to have another crack at the Kennet this week.  Geoff had gone AWOL, using some sort of family holiday as an excuse. Mind you when I spoke to him on Wednesday he was trying to catch roach at Britford.  Hmm, family holiday? My foot!

Anyway the real anglers headed to Aldermaston and were taught a very valuable lesson.  Don’t pretend to be real anglers when you can’t catch fish! Unfortunately it was another tough session here.  One or two fish rolled, just to prove there was some life down there.  I was fortunate to catch a barbel of around 7-8lbs and that was my only bite.

I did change tactics this week.  I dropped the pellets (they went everywhere!) in favour of a more traditional approach.  I cooked up some hemp (peace, man) and mixed in a good helping of casters.  I superglued 4 casters onto a hair and masked the size 14 Pallatrax ‘The Hook’ with another one.  I then coupled this with a longish hooklink and a 2.5 ounce Preston blockend feeder.  This was then filled with the hemp and caster mixture.  First part of the attack was to bait dropper 10 loads into the swim.  Leave it for 45-60 minutes and then fish over the top.

It did produce some interest early on when a really nice dace pulled the rod top round and then a little while later a barbel  did an impression of  Usain Bolt and ripped the tip round whilst tearing off down stream.  The fish put up a good fight and looked around the 7-8lb mark. It was an awkward swim to fish and I decided as dusk was approaching, I would move into an easier swim.

Kennet Barbel

I adopted the same tactics but this time nothing was forthcoming.  I decided to call it a day about 10.30pm as I was totally cream crackered.  Kevin was happy to turn in for the night as his rods had remained motionless since arrival.

The next day we decided to move to one of the other beats.  Again, adopting the tactics of the night before I decided to be a little more patient and move a few times into baited swims.  The first swim which is a really nice shady spot only produced a few dace and a roach.  The next move proved more productive.  Just as I opened a packet of crisps and took a bite out of my Tuna and sweetcorn sandwich (and you thought I was unhealthy) the rod tip slammed round and my lunch went about 7 feet into the air! The result was a small barbel of about 2.5-3lbs.  Nice result and I moved on feeling a little more pleased with myself.

The 3rd swim had a lovely big bush opposite.  This time I decided not to use the bait droppers.  This was a small, narrow section and I thought it may cause too much disturbance.  So I kept recasting a smaller feeder out at regular intervals, to keep some bait going in.  This seemed to work, as over the next couple of hours I had 3 more barbel to about 5.5lbs.  Then the swim died.  I would have moved but the heavens had opened and it was tipping it down.  So at around 8pm we decided enough was enough and we packed up and headed back to Kent.

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