Posts Tagged ‘Barbel fishing on the Kennet’

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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The last few weeks have been rather busy, so fishing has been limited.  In fact this season I have fished far less than normal.  Hopefully next season I’ll get the night tickets sorted out and start to put a bit more time in for the barbel.

I have managed a couple of sessions on the Kennet near Thatcham.  It’s a beautiful, overgrown stretch in places, with a really good, varied mix of shallow gravel runs, deep glides and pools and plenty of ranunculus.  The whole stretch has loads of bankside cover, lots of overhanging trees and bushes offering a safe haven to the barbel population.  Sadly a bit too safe of late, as most anglers seem to be struggling.  There has been the odd purple patch, but by and large the fishing has been tough going apparently.

During the first session I had set-up in a swim to fish a deeper run under some near side trees.  Further out there was plenty of weed fluttering and swaying in the flow but closer in and under the shade of the overhanging branches it was nice clean gravel.  This spot produced a most savage bite around mid afternoon and a really feisty barbel eventually found the folds of the landing net.  It was no monster but at around 6lbs had obviously been on Popeye’s spinach diet!

The remainder of the day had remained quiet and so eventually I decided to wander down into the jungle of woods and brambles and see if I could spot some fish in the shallow gravels lower downstream.  This area is a wild and overgrown area and rarely fished.  I soon managed to get a few barbel feeding on some pellets.  Eventually I had half a dozen barbel feeding quite confidently.  Most were only about 4 or 5lbs but one was a little larger and may have gone 8.   Of course I should have grabbed my gear and had a go for them but to be honest I was quite content to remain hidden by the flora and just watch the barbel’s behavior unmolested by a hookbait.

I returned to my rods some time later and remained fish-less until leaving time.  The bailiff popped down and it seemed that after visiting numerous stretches to check tickets, mine was the only fish caught so far that day.  That is rather solemn news when you think about, in what was once such a prolific river where numerous fish could be caught in even the brightest of conditions during the day.  Geoff sadly had no luck and so we finally called it a day.

The following week we had hoped to go to the Hampshire Avon for some summer roach fishing.  However the weather forecast wasn’t good with heavy rains and high winds the order of the day, which really doesn’t suit delicate float fishing.  Instead we headed back to the Kennet.  This time I decided to fish down in the jungles and see if I could catch one of those feeding barbel from last week.

So armed with just the bare essentials I set-up a rod and net and started to watch the river closely with some polarised glasses.  After about an hour or so I managed to get a few fish feeding.  So I finished setting up the rod and continued to feed the growing number of barbel that were now foraging just out in front of me.  It was then I felt the first few spits of rain.  The clouds looked dark and menacing but I decided to persevere.  I waited for the barbel to vacate the swim and then dropped a baited hook out and thew in a few more freebies.  Then the heavens opened.  The rain became very heavy very quickly and the river’s surface was soon pounded to a maelstrom of impenetrable white water.  I could no longer see what was happening or where to cast and water was cascading off of my hat and running down the inside of my waterproof coat.  Luckily I had put my Goretex trousers on and so at least my lower half was dry.

I rushed back to where I had stashed the remainder of the gear and quickly setup my brolly and then shot back to my swim and got the rest of my tackle under cover.  However by now I was soaked through to the skin on the upper half of my body.  The rain continued unabated for several hours.  It eventually eased off mid afternoon but by now the damage was done.  The temperature had dropped quite considerably and both Geoff and I were soaked through.  I had setup camp in a very nice looking swim though, with a lot of far bank cover and completely out of the blue, the rod top knocked violently and then dragged round.  Initially I thought I was on to a half decent chub and then the fish woke up and it was now obvious what the culprit was.  After a nice fight I weighed the barbel and it was just a tad under 7 1/2lbs.  It was the only action of the day and by 7pm I’d had enough and managed to persuade Geoff to call it a day and head to Max’s cafe for a well earned hot meal- 4 rashers of bacon, 2 fried eggs, chips and beans.  Lovely jubbly.

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