Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Witham Feeders’

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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It was time to set the Sat Nav to ‘oop north’ and head up the A1M to Nottingham.  Robin Hood had his merry men.  I was stuck with, er I mean in the company of me old (very) mates Geoff and Kev.  And I’m only pulling their legs. Well it’s a bit like pulling the leg on a Christmas Turkey but without the stuffing.  Anyways, I digress.  They are great company and I’m lucky that they put up with me to be honest.

We had decided to fish the mighty river Trent for a few days.  I fished it earlier on in the season with Geoff and we had a reasonable result.  Now we were in to late September and with the river low and clear, we weren’t sure quite what to expect. Still we were looking forward to it, it’s a great river and the rewards can be quite astonishing sometimes.

We arrived late afternoon and after sorting out the caravan, made our way to the river.  It was early evening when we finally got bankside and so had to select a few swims fairly quickly.  My tactics were to use large open end feeders (Andy Witham’s) which are perfect for the Trent.  They would allow me to deposit quite large amounts of bait into the swim.  Using a 3 foot hook length and a size 12 hook, I fished 2 medium elips on the hair.  The feeder was stuffed with groundbait and pellets.  I then set up a second rod.  This was a light quiver and this time I used a single medium-sized elips, on a hair rigged band.  It was at this point that Geoff proudly showed us his home made feeders.  They were made from a golf club tube.  They certainly looked the part.  He was extolling the virtues of these wonderfully pliable feeders when he gave us the squeeze test on the tube of the feeder.  One gentle squeeze and the feeder exploded like cemtex, pieces flying everywhere.  After several minutes of choking laughter, we decided it was best to keep buying them for the time being!

The evening proved slow for me.  Both Geoff and Kevin kept in constant contact via the walkie talkies.  They were doing reasonably well, catching fairly regularly.  I on the other hand, was struggling.  The first bite turned out to be on the quiver and a hard fighting barbel put up a great struggle on the light tackle.  Still, eventually I managed to get it in.  It turned out to be a nice fit barbel of about 6lbs.  Later I took a further 3 fish and 2 chub on the main rod.  Meanwhile Geoff was bagging up.   It was like fishing with Bob Nudd or Bill Nuddy as Dan would say!  He ended up with 10 fish including a stunning Trent barbel weighing in at 10lb 11oz.  Kevin managed 8 fish to well over 8lbs.

So the following afternoon, after a rather large lunch, we waddled down to the river again.  Fortunately the chair held out and the fishing commenced.  It was a very windy day, to say the least.  Still we stuck it out until about 11.30pm.  This time I managed to just pip the others, taking 6 barbel.  Geoff ended with 4 and Kevin just the one.  So it was an early night. Back to the caravan for a cuppa and a bowl of cereal.  Oh yes, we know how to live the big time!

Day 3 saw us arrive after yet another gut busting lunch.  I felt like the Cholesterol Kid.  Still a walk up river would burn off at least 3 calories, so all was not lost.  I like to maintain an athletic physique.  Well it’s hidden under several layers of fat obviously.  I selected a swim (I could walk no further) and first cast produced a very fit 6lb+ barbel.  Then I never had a another bite over the next 3 hours.  Geoff had headed to an area that I wanted to fish the night before with Kevin.  However age and unfitness got the better of us and we decided not to bother.  What a mistake.

Geoff had 7 barbel, whilst Kevin and I struggled.  I couldn’t get a bite, so decided to move to the swim I had fancied the previous evening, only to find Geoff ensconced in one just above it.  I checked to see if he minded me fishing below him.  He didn’t….well initially.  First cast and I was in.  Second cast and I was in.  Whilst reloading the feeder, the other rod went.  Then after re-casting both rods, they both went.  After sorting that mess out, one of the rods whacked over yet again.  That was six fish in what seemed like 5 minutes.  It wasn’t, obviously, but it sure did feel like it.

Shortly after I had another barbel and whilst playing it Geoff lost a big fish.  He was already cursing and mumbling and chuntering away as I kept hooking fish.  At this point it was getting dark and I felt compelled to move before Geoff re-enacted the Texas Chain Saw Massacre with his pen knife on me.  However there were no decent, accessible swims close by.  I offered to swap places with Geoff but he declined.  The fishing continued but luckily Geoff got in on the action too.  By now I had dispensed with the cage feeders and opted for a 70g blockend.  I filled this with a mixture of pellets, but mainly large ones.  The idea being that the scent would draw the fish in, rather than groundbait.  The problem with groundbait is it gets dispersed very easily, after being washed away out of your swim.  By using the blockend you are guaranteed a scent trail just a short distance from your hook bait.  It can be very effective.

It was at this time Kevin called to say he had a nice double in the net.  I popped down to do the old Lord Snowdon and the fish was a beaut at 10lb 6oz.  Well done Kevin.  I returned to my swim and by the end of the night I ended up with 18 barbel to about 8lbs and around 7/8 good-sized chub.  Geoff finished with 14 and Kevin 11.  All in all, not a bad nights fishing.  We headed back to the caravan feeling pretty satisfied.  Geoff felt a bit deprived as I had pinched a few of his fish.  Sorry mate.

We headed home on the Friday already looking forward to our next adventures in Robin Hood country.

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