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Posts Tagged ‘Barbel fishing blog’


The last few weeks haven’t produced much opportunity to fish due to work commitments.  So I’ve had to do the work thing and the family thing, visiting numerous family members (which is certainly no hardship) and basically be Mr Grumps due to the lack of fishing.

I did manage an afternoon and evening trip a couple of weeks backs on the Kennet, which produced just the one bite and resulted in a small barbel of about 5lbs.  After that I did a short evening session on the Lea and despite the river looking very good and the swim also giving me those vibes that make you think you’re definitely going to catch, I only managed one bite which turned out to be a chub of about 4-41/2lbs, a small one for the Lea.

Again this week I found my usual two day session truncated and only managed to get out on the Wednesday.  I had planned a trip with Kevin and we decided on route to try Rainsford Farm on the Kennet.  As we pulled into the car park we realised we had a problem.  There were already 8 or 9 cars present.  We decided however to at least go for a recce and see where people were fishing.  The river looked stunning it’s summer finery.  Rich colours adorned the banks, as thick foliage offered an abundance of cover to wary fish.  The river was relatively clear and through the flowing ranunculus  we could see lovely, enticing gravel runs.  This was the first time we had seen this section in it’s summer regalia and we were very impressed.

However having walked the banks and discovered around a dozen people fishing, we felt a move elsewhere would be better and so we headed off to the Reading and District Angling Association’s controlled section of the Benyons.  We arrived around 2.30-3.00pm and so I decided to fore-go the meat rolling and find a couple of swims to feeder fish. Kevin found a nice spot quite quickly but I carried on downstream for some distance.  Oh for a pack horse in these circumstances, especially with this hot, sticky weather at the moment.  The sweat was pouring from my brow and stinging my eyes as I headed off to an area I had seen previously.  Luckily Kevin had offered to help, otherwise I might still be there in a heap on the banks.

I found a lovely swim on a bend.  The river flowed in from my right and under an overhanging tree and cut a deep marginal gulley right through in front of me and as the bend straightened out it ran under numerous overhanging trees down to my left.  There was a good flow and depth and I felt very confident.

The Kennet

The Kennet

I decided initially to cast downstream and let the bait swing in under the tress.  I used a light feeder and hoped that this would present the bait where and how I wanted it, or more importantly how the fish wanted it.  As I pushed in the rod rests I started to feel stinging on my legs.  I brushed the feeling aside but the stings were getting worse. “Bloody stinging nettles” I thought.  As I looked at the swim I started to realise two things.  Firstly there were no stinging nettles and secondly my legs felt like they were on fire.  It then dawned on my what it probably was and yes there they were-red ants.  I was covered in them and the ground was swarming with the little red blighters.  I had to whip my trousers off to get rid of them (fortunately no women were present, otherwise they may have swooned beyond the point of recovery) and move right back out of the way.  Eventually they calmed down and by moving across I manged to avoid them for the remainder of the day.  My legs were a constant reminder for some time that red ants are not to be messed with!

The downstream rod never produced so much as a twitch, so throughout the remainder of the day I tried numerous positions in the swim.  At one point I dispensed with the feeder and put on some swan shot and flicked the bait upstream of a huge overhanging tree opposite me.  The bait swung right under it and I thought this would give me a good chance of a fish.  However it was not to be and despite trying several other things, I seemed unable to tempt so much as a rattle on the rod top, let alone anything resembling a barbel bite.

As usual I found myself captivated by the scenery and wildlife.  I heard and then spotted a beautiful Red Kite soaring overhead and an array of other bird life.  Then a scrambling sound in the tall grass to my right drew my attention and out popped a stoat.  It stopped to look at me and with total disinterest carried on with it’s foraging.  A few minutes later more sounds of a similar nature pulled my attention to the left and I spotted two stoats running up the path about 4 feet from me.  They were squabbling in the way stoats do and springing into the air as they squealed and screeched at each other before disappearing into the thick tall grass of the adjacent meadow, never to be seen again.  Well by me at least.

Coxless Fours?

Coxless Fours?

Several times throughout the afternoon I was treated to the spectacle of swans plowing through my swim at breakneck speed, as they seemingly chased each other up and down the river.  I was amazed at just how fast they would swim upstream, let alone downstream.  Then a mother and 5 cygnets passed by.  I was convinced in the end they had been watching the BBc’s coverage of the Olympics with Claire Balding (I know how she feels!) and were all fired up for some canoing or kayaking of their own.  Still we have all gone Olympic mad, so why not I say?

As the evening arrived the familiar sound of a hot air balloon being fired up could be heard somewhere behind me.  Eventually the culprit appeared larger than life and steadily rose silently into the sky.  Just the occasional burst from the burners could be heard as the balloon soared high into the evening sky.  With barely a breath of wind it made slow progress through the still evening sky but eventually disappeared from my viewpoint.

Up, up and away

Up, up and away

Earlier on Kevin had contacted me with that delighted sound in his voice that indicated some action and indeed it was.  He had just caught his first Kennet fish of the season, a lovely 8lb+ barbel in near mint condition.  He was overjoyed and I was delighted for him. I wish I had been a bit closer to Kevin, so I could have seen the fish.  Nothing else happened and we had to depart by 9.30pm and head for home.

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The call of the mighty Trent was too strong to ignore and so Geoff and I made arrangements to do a couple of nights.  It’s a bit of a trek from Kent but the rewards and scenery well make up for the distance.  As always we got to see plenty of Goldfinches which just add some really rich and vibrant colour as they dart about, resplendent in their gold plumage.

Goldfinch

Goldfinch

Whenever I think of Nottingham, it always reminds me of that great line from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves when the Sheriff of Nottingham (played by the brilliant actor Alan Rickman) says to a young wench “You. My room. 10:30 tonight.” and immediately follows it up to another young wench with “You. 10:45… And bring a friend.”  Brilliant.

The weather forecast was (not surprisingly) mixed; sunny period interspersed with some heavy rain and thunder storms.  That pretty much summed up the whole of the summer so far.  Still undeterred by such things we arrived at the river early evening on the Tuesday.  She was carrying about 3 foot of extra water and looked really good.  We headed upstream and settled on a couple of swims.  After a few bite less hours in what looked a perfect spot, I decided to move lower downstream.  Geoff hadn’t had a bite either and we really couldn’t understand what we were doing wrong.   Just before packing up around 1am my rod finally slammed over and a small barbel of about 5lb was returned safely to fight another day.

So 1 barbel between the two of us was pretty appalling and we both felt rather inadequate.  Quite what we were doing wrong wasn’t glaringly obvious to us, other than maybe we hadn’t found the fish.   So Wednesday we returned after enjoying a rather hearty breakfast at the local farm shop, which had a superb cafe.  This time we opted to fish a little lower down.  I found a few fish, taking four during the afternoon and I moved lower down again early evening and managed a further two from close in on very small pellets.  Six was certainly better than yesterday but far from good.  Geoff still hadn’t managed a fish.

As darkness fell I got chatting to one of the locals who pointed out the error of our ways.  During high water the barbel shoaled up lower downstream leaving much of the upper stretches devoid of fish.  He proved himself right by fishing the evening and catching over 30 barbel.  We decided to try a couple of swims lower down and Geoff managed four and I had three more.

A lesson learned as they say.

The next morning the heavens opened and we had to pack away the tents in heavy rain.  We couldn’t even have an early morning cuppa.  So this is what Hell’s like then…..bugger!

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We arrived at our next venue quite excited having met an angler who had fished here the day before and said the river was in good sorts and he’d ‘had a few’.   However all expectations were soon dashed when we clapped eyes on the river.  Although only maybe 18″ up it was very coloured and pushing through a bit.

It was a stunning piece of river though and part of it ran through the National Trust property – Weir Garden.  There is also a magnificent white mansion that overlooks the stunning gardens and river and is now a care home.  As the title says ” If Carlsberg did Nursing Homes…….” it would look like Weir Garden.

Weir Garden

Weir Garden

I felt a good wander was in order.  First swim up and several casts equaled several lots of lost tackle.  So back on with the gear and I marched up to the end of the fishery.  It was much wider and slower here, with a clear bottom.  However after about 20 minutes I decided I didn’t like it for some reason, so opted to head back downstream nearer to where I had started.  So off I marched again and with sweat pouring off me in the heat of the summer sun, I finally found somewhere that looked more suitable.

I stumbled across a nice swim in amongst the trees.  Fast water dropped off into a deeper gully on a bend, offering a deep crease swim.  However this was a tackle graveyard.  After loosing several items of tackle I was close to giving in and moving, however the swim looked so good I had to just try once more.  I swapped to a lead and started to cast upstream slightly with a heavy lead so it wouldn’t move and then slip into another snag.  This seemed to work and suddenly the rod top slammed round and a very fit and healthy barbel was soon subdued.  This gave me renewed enthusiasm for the swim.  So again I cast slightly upstream and catapulted some bait out.  Very soon the rod top whacked round again and another very hard fighting barbel resulted.  I swapped to a feeder again to get some bait going in. I ended up with 6 or 7 good sized barbel, all ranging in weights from about 6lbs to nearly 8lbs.

Then casting in exactly the same spot I began to loose tackle again.  Numerous casts resulted in numerous lost feeders.  I swapped to a lead and ended up with the same result.  So this time I cast slightly downstream and further out.  Again I found a clear spot and this accounted for several more barbel.  Then, quite bizarrely I started to loose tackle here too.  I was close to moving but had one more trick up my sleeve.  If this worked I would stay put, otherwise I was off.  I used the same setup but instead of a feeder or lead, I used a string of the 3 x swan shots on a piece of line.  I used 8 of these shot, which held bottom nicely.  The reason was that if they were to slip into a crevice in the bedrock, they would just bend and pull straight back out.  It worked a treat and I lost no more tackle and ended up with 16 beautiful barbel.  I also had a run of good chub taking 3 different 5 pounders on the bounce at 5lb, 5lb 1oz and 5lb 6oz.  I was over the moon.

The other guys were struggling.  Geoff had 4, Dan 3 and Kevin just a couple.  It’s all about swim location and I got lucky finding this one before the others did.  Get it right and you can end up with a shed load, get it wrong and you can struggle for a bite.  However the conditions were tough and that had some bearing on results.  I’m certain we’ll return but hopefully in better, clearer conditions so that we can see what the make up of the river bottom is like.

So another week passed.  A pretty good result for me and I did genuinely feel bad for the other three guys.  It’s a bummer when you go all of that way and look forward to it so much, only for the fishing to be poor.  Still it was good company, great scenery and some amazing wildlife and you have to take that into account too.

 

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After a fairly tortuous wait for the new season to start, it finally arrived and soon the glorious 16th quickly passed .  Sadly I couldn’t get out until the following Tuesday and Wednesday.  I quite enjoy fishing the opening night.  The setting up of base camp, the anticipation and excitement and the company.  As night draws in you begin to feel the excitement grow, finally as the clock strikes midnight, out go the baits.  This year though, work prevented an opening night campaign.

However I arrived at my destination on the following Tuesday, eager to explore a new stretch.   After setting up base camp, eventually I managed to tackle up a rod and go in search of a few likely swims.  Prior to this we walked the whole stretch and I made a few mental notes of areas that looked interesting.  It was quite a warm day and the walk was about 3/4 of a mile,  luckily nothing too arduous though.

The weather of late has been decidedly wet, to say the least.  It does get a bit boring after a while, I have to say.  The upside though is that the river levels were excellent and the general countryside looks so green and healthy.  The bankside foliage is full and vibrant.  Life is sustained by water and when you get an abundance of the wet stuff at this time of the year, everything looks and feel so incredibly healthy.

The Kennet

The Kennet

It’s always great to see a few Buzzards and Red Kites wheel overhead but it’s also great to see the somewhat demure wildlife that abounds the riverbank environment.  I spotted a small bird which I then managed to identify as a Marsh Tit, a first for me and then a Green Finch.  Plus of course the humble Bumble Bee buzzing around.  I was already lost in a world of escapism and the stress and strains of the humdrum daily routine seem to dissolve away very quickly.

Marsh Tit

Marsh Tit

This was a new stretch for us and we were keen to explore.  The first half of the section appeared to be deeper and a little slower.  The levels were good and there was plenty of bankside features in the way of trees, bushes and reeds.  Despite fishing through to around 1am, we had only one lost fish between the 3 of us and that was sadly Kevin.  So the next day I grabbed a rod and started to plumb the river.  I just stuck to the lower half and soon found that a deep channel ran along the nearside margins.  The depth varied but in places dropped to 7 feet.  There seemed to be little depth from the middle to the far banks, so the margins seemed to offer the best opportunities.

The Kennet

The Kennet

It was tough going.  Only Geoff managed a fish, a small barbel of 5.8lbs.  Other than that nothing else really happened.  It was a scorching hot day and both Kevin and I were sporting rather nasty headaches and so we called it a day much earlier than expected.

Overall it was an informative first visit, but just somewhat lacklustre in terms of the actual fishing. Still in good old Arnie fashion and with heavy Austrian accent; “I’ll be back”. 🙂

 

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Just to let you know that the Association of Barbel Fishers have numerous fish-ins planned for the coming season.  There is a 2 day event on the River Wye at Bishopswood, a 3 day event on the River Trent, a 2 day event on the Severn and a 2 day event on the Loddon.  Plus there is a stick float clinic with Keith Speer on the Trent and an evening talk in Basingstoke with some really great guest speakers planned.

Check out the ABF website for info on how to join and what events are planned.

 

Association of Barbel Fishers

Association of Barbel Fishers

Association of Barbel Fishers

 

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Although I’m sad to see the season draw to a close, it does make the return in three months that much sweeter.  The banks will be looking fresh again and the flora and fauna have a chance to regenerate and take a rest from us anglers.

I tried hard over those last three days to get a big chub from the Lea.  I was there in hot pursuit on the Monday and Tuesday.  Sadly I drew a blank.  Geoff managed to tempt a nice chub on the Tuesday which was about 4-4.5lbs.  A great result for him as it’s only his second or third visit and its a tough venue.  We bumped into a mate in the car park who had just caught a 13lb 12oz barbel, so his season ended on a high.

The Lea

The Lea

The final day saw us for the last time on the Wasing Estate’s section of the Kennet.  We have taken the rather difficult decision not to re-join next season but instead try our hands elsewhere on the Kennet.  I will miss the tranquility, solitude and the rugged, wild feel that it offers.  Anyways, this time there was Kevin and Dan joining Geoff and I and we decided to try Aldermaston, hoping for a big finish.  It was a nice day.  A little chilly perhaps in the morning but it gradually warmed up as the afternoon wore on.

4lb 11oz

4lb 11oz

I managed to tempt a couple of chub on bread crust, the biggest going 4lb 11oz and a trout on maggots.  Sadly though I couldn’t persuade any of the resident barbel to show their faces.  They just didn’t want to know.  Still we saw a couple of Buzzards circling high overhead, a Red Kite flew past and a startled Roe deer hurtling across the field opposite.  Kevin then witnessed it going headlong into the river and it swam across and clambered out the other side, shook itself off and then legged it.

I think Geoff also caught a decent trout but sadly Kevin and Dan saw no action, unless you include their sandwiches and pack lunch!  So we bid a fond farewell to the Wasing and will no doubt return one day.  Until then, we’ll miss you.

The Wasing Estate

The Wasing Estate

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Geoff, Kevin and I headed to a new stretch of the Kennet.  We joined earlier in the year and went for a wander along this particular stretch about a month ago. It’s a beautiful stretch.  Quite narrow and winding with lots of features, especially as you approach the end of the beat.

Geoff opted to fish the weir at the upper limit of the stretch and both Kevin and I decided to explore lower down.  I ended up right at the lower limit, in amongst the woods.  Its a beautiful spot down at this point, very intimate with bundles of overhanging trees and other features to fish to.  Sadly though it lacked some depth, averaging only 2′ 6″ to 3′ at best.  So after chub fishing and a spot of plumbing for a few hours, I felt compelled to move back upstream to find some deeper water.

The chub rod didn’t produce, so it was time to get on the barbel, so out came the Torrix.  I found quite a nice, deep swim just off of a bend.  I had around 5 feet, with numerous snags to fish to.  I opted to fish a boilie with a paste wrap in conjunction with a small block end feeder loaded with maggots or hemp. I had plenty of time to admire the scenery and bird life, as the tip never moved!  Unusually I didn’t see any Red Kites or Buzzards today, which is a rarity these days in this area.

With only 10 minutes left to fish, I jumped into a swim that had been vacated a few minutes before.  The guy had caught 4 barbel during his session and had kept a bit of bait going in.  So I thought it was worth a chance.  I didn’t have time to mess about and so wherever the first cast landed it would have to do.  It landed just about perfect.  I didn’t know the swim so couldn’t be certain how snaggy it was, so just had to hope for the best.  I had two knocks almost immediately and I started to worry that I may be caught up, when the rod top slammed over.  Fish on.  After a good scrap, a nice fit 7lb barbel was released.  A great end to what had been a beautiful but tough day.

Sadly Geoff and Kevin could only muster a couple of trout and a bullhead!  Shame. 🙂

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