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Posts Tagged ‘Barbel fishing on the river Wye’


As Hurricane Ophelia slammed into the shores of Ireland on Monday, Geoff and I headed to Robin Hood country to try and locate some late Autumn barbel.  We targeted a couple of Worksop stretches and another club water.

The forecast was pretty good prior to leaving but the imminent landfall of Hurricane Ophelia meant that the forecasters didn’t really know quite what to expect.  As we arrived at our first port of call, we were greeted by a dark and brooding sky.  It had an almost surreal look to it; ash coloured but not really cloudy.  It looked almost like a vast dust cloud.  Peeping through this gloom was a blood-red sun, almost malevolent in its appearance.  Was this the end of the world?  Only time would tell.  As we set up the rods, the winds gained in strength and gusted to over 50mph.  Although there appeared to be little threat of rain, the wind was causing more than enough problems.  Huge waves lashed at the banks and the rod tops bounced around in the gale like conditions.

It was a chilly day until at last, the winds pushed away the dark dust and the sun broke through, gently warming the air.  Apparently, the dust was, in fact, Saharan sand and was further flamed by the smoke of the Portuguese forest fires. Armageddon would have to wait it seemed.

We fished a very deep bend, possibly 12ft deep.  The river bed was clear gravel and promised much. For the first 90 minutes, I kept casting every 5 or 6 minutes to get some bait out. A 4oz feeder was ample to hold bottom and a 3-4ft hook-link with double 12mm caviar pellets finished off the set-up.  Sadly nothing materialised that day, not even a twitch on the rod top and as the wind had battered us throughout the day, we decided to call it an early night and headed off to the hotel for some dinner. Steak and chips soon improved the mood, along with a pint of Kronenberg!  The wind, it seemed, hadn’t quite died down and had somehow moved indoors!  However, it turned out to be Geoff!  He had obviously eaten something which was reacting in an unsociable sort of way with the environment (and me).  The next day he was long trotting, to coin a fishing analogy!  Luckily it soon passed and he was back fighting fit.

The next two days proved fruitful, for me at least.  I managed to bank 12 barbel to a new Trent PB of 11lb 10oz and around 8 or 9 chub to probably 4lb+.  I also had another double of 10lb 3oz and several 9s to 9lb 11oz.  All in all, not a bad few days.  The fish were taken on fairly standard feeder tactics; long hooklinks and double 12mm caviar pellets.  The barbel fought like stink. Some of the hardest fights I can remember ever having.  I lost another good double right at the net, as it powered away for one last dive and the hook pulled, despite a well-set clutch.  Gutted!

11lb 10oz

Geoff didn’t fare so well but still managed barbel to over 9lbs and some chub and bream.  We seemed to have struggled recently on the Trent and we’re not quite sure why.  Perhaps maggots may have been more successful in the clear water conditions?

We have done a number of trips up to the Wye this year and found that sport was also slow there, generally speaking.  I think between Geoff, Kevin and myself we have had the odd good day, taking upwards of a dozen barbel to one angler.  However more often than not we’ve been scratching around for 2 or 3 fish.  This is rather unusual for the Wye, to say the least!  Again it could be the conditions; apparently, the Wye has had the lowest oxygen levels for the past 70 years.  I don’t know how true that is but it obviously would have a severely detrimental effect on the fishing.  The other reason being a lack of ability!

A recent Wye fish

With the winter fast approaching the barbel rods will be hung up for the remainder of the season.  There may be an occasional barbel session if the weather proves to be mild enough.  Now I’m looking forward to some grayling fishing on the Frome and some chub and roach fishing on the Avon.

The Avon

 

 

 

 

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Day 4 of our Wye odyssey saw us back on a Wye and Usk beat and one that has produced big numbers of fish for us in the past.  I headed to the cribs with fellow Lone Angler team mate Marcus Joy.  Marcus was due to go home around lunchtime and I foolishly told him he’d have a few before he left, such was my confidence in the swim we were going to fish.  Sadly no one told the fish!  The swim is a beautiful gravel bend, which slowly shallows towards the far bank, with a deep run off of the crib.  It looks perfect and screams barbel.

The Wye

The Wye

I stuck to my usual tactics I had used for the week; a long coated braid hook link, 2 x 8mm pellets and a small hook.  The feeder was packed with groundbait and lots of pellets and out it went.  Marcus fished downstream and I fished upstream.  We both kept trying different lines until we managed to connect with a barbel.  By the time Marcus left around 2.30pm he’d had 2 and I had managed to bank 4 plus a couple of nice chub.  Geoff then joined my on the crib for the remainder of the day.

A 4lb+ Wye Chub

A 4lb+ Wye Chub

The fishing improved, particularly once i changed my hook to a size 14 barbless and used 2 x 6mm caviar pellets.  I was now getting much more action.  Geoff fished upstream and I fished downstream.   Later on in the day Geoff noticed that every time his feeder dislodged and moved it elicited a bite.  So I started to touch leger again and lift the rod tip occasionally to move the feeder.  At one point I can honestly say as I lifted the rod, I felt the bait pop out of a barbels mouth, only for it to pounce on the bait once it moved.  It certainly made for some exciting fishing. By the end of the day I had managed 14 barbel to just under 8lbs and quite a few chub to 4lb 4oz.  Geoff finished on 12 for the day, although 4 of those were from further upstream.

A decent Wye Barbel

A decent Wye Barbel

I now felt that the 6mm pellets would out fish larger baits, so on the last day that would be my tactics.  We headed back to Hereford for our final session. Today was one of those red letter days you so often read about and think “why not me?”.  It was a bonanza catch of barbel and chub and right from the word go.  Geoff and I started out sharing a swim.  I fished upstream and Geoff down.  My first cast produced almost instant results with a nice chub and then a baby barbel.  I love seeing these small barbel; they reaffirm how healthy the Wye is for fish stocks.  Soon I’d had 6 barbel including a stunning 9lb 2oz fish and chub to 4lb 11oz.  At this point Geoff and I swapped places.  He was now fishing upstream and me down.  It made no difference to my catch rate and soon I was up to 13 barbel, whilst Geoff had taken 2.  I think the small hookbaits were really paying off but I also believe the fish had become preoccupied on the caviar pellets.

9lb 2oz

9lb 2oz

Geoff even cast back downstream in an effort to prove the point.  No bites were forthcoming and yet my first cast back into position produced an instant bite.  The power of the caviar strikes again.  Geoff opted to move and ended the day on a creditable eight barbel but included a stunning fish of 10lb 3oz.  It was one of the nicest barbel I’ve seen and Geoff was over the moon.  Meanwhile my action continued unabated.  Every cast was met with whacks on the rod top.  By now the swim was simply crawling with fish.  Sadly as the day wore on and the fish just kept coming I ran out of groundbait and swapped to a straight lead.  This certainly slowed up the results.  However by the end of the day I’d managed to land a total of 31 barbel and probably 25-30 chub!  I would say half of the barbel were 7lb plus and I had half a dozen chub over 4lbs.  Unfortunately my biggest chub, which looked well over 5lbs, flipped back into the water whilst I was getting ready to weigh it!  Still never mind.  It was a day to remember and only the second time I’ve managed more than 30 barbel in a day.  The fish were stunning as was the setting.  It’s what makes the Wye the theatre of dreams.

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The start of a new river season usually involves a long awaited trip to the river Wye.  Geoff, Kevin, Dan and I are normally raring to go by late June.  This year was going to be a bit different.  Jez Brown from Team Lone Angler had booked a week in a cottage near Hereford for the Lone Angler coarse fishing team and I was looking forward to getting together with the other team members.

Jez Brown ~ Team Lone Angler

Jez Brown ~ Team Lone Angler

Due to the size of the cottage, Jez offered places to Geoff, Kevin and Dan and they duly accepted.  We were looking forward to some comfortable accommodation and hopefully some spectacular fishing on this great river.  Sadly Kevin was unable to attend.  His health has deteriorated recently to the point where he is unable to spend days out on the bank with us.  The fishing isn’t the same without him and we all wish him a speedy recovery and hope the day will come when he can join us again.

The Old Barn

The Old Barn

Jez had booked a number of Wye and Usk stretches and we also had a syndicate stretch near Hereford to fish.  I was fishing with the LA lads Monday and Tuesday.  For the remainder of the week I was due to fish with Geoff and Danny.  As it turned out we had the whole of Wye Lea booked on the Tuesday, so they joined us there too.

My first day started at the Creel, a Wye and Usk stretch.  I hadn’t seen it before today.  I arrived after visiting Morrison’s for a hearty breakfast and stocking up on a few provisions for the week.  My tactics this week was to fish caviar pellets and to compliment that I was using the LA Ocean Pride groundbait packed with 6mm and 8mm caviars.  The Wye level had been up the previous week but it had dropped quite a bit but still retained a touch of colour.  Cage feeder were the order of the day and in the 3-4oz range would be perfect.  I topped up at Woody’s in Hereford.  His feeder are simply excellent and great value for money.  They are also virtually indestructible too.   Hook bait would be 2 x 12mm pellets but if things were slow I had 8mm or even 6mm to try.

The Creel

The Creel

The fishing at the Creel was a little slow.  I found a few nice spots.  One was spoiled when 2 canoes moored opposite the island I was fishing to.  6 people got out and started a brew up and picnic right where I was almost casting too.  I decided it was best to move, which was a shame as I had taken several nice chub and a couple of barbel.  After a couple of moves I managed to sneak another barbel and a few more chub.  I think the final tally was 9 chub and 3 barbel.  I packed up and met Geoff and Dan at the KFC just outside Ross before attempting to find the cottage.  Despite a road closure, we managed to find the cottage without too much bother.  It was a magnificent barn conversion with 5 large bedrooms and a superb kitchen.  It was a bit too luxurious for us lot but made a great base for the week.

Wye Barbel

Wye Barbel

Day two saw us at Wye Lea.  By now there was Mark Dutton, Jez and Rob Swindells, with Marcus Joy and Ray Pullford joining us later in the week.  I opted to fish up by the old railway viaduct, fishing the fast water just downstream.  A few chub put in an early appearance and 1 barbel.  Mike the bailiff advised me to move right next to the bridge and after taking a look that’s exactly what I did.  The barbel were somewhat elusive but again the chub seemed active.  The day ended with  20 chub and 3 barbel.  Geoff was top rod with 9 fish and the other all caught plenty of fish too.

Wye Lea

Wye Lea

That night Mike O’Neill treated us to a fabulous meal at the Cottage of Content.  A slap up meal of sirloin steak and a few pints made for a wonderful evening in great company.  The landlady was, well, entertaining, I think!  It was certainly memorable.  I must say it’s the best steak I’ve had for a long time and I haven’t laughed that hard for while too.

Day 3 saw us at a private stretch near Hereford.  The river looked spot on, with a great flow and a touch of colour still.  Geoff and Dan headed off to do their own thing downstream and I opted to start off at the top.  The cows were in this field and there was a rather large and somewhat amorous bull present (and no I don’t mean me!).  Cows can ruin your car’s paintwork (just ask Ray) if they lick it and they do, all over if left to it.  So I had to keep one eye on the rod and one on the cows.  After taking a lovely. mint conditioned chub from a deep run under a tree I noticed the cows were gathering.  I opted to beat a hasty retreat and headed off to the lower section.

A Wye barbel fights hard

A Wye barbel fights hard

I found a nice swim in among some trees and within seconds hooked a barbel.  Sadly it snagged me and the fish was lost.  I then moved onto the beach.  I decided to put on the chest waders and get into the water.  It’s so much more rewarding to catch whilst in the water and seems more relaxing somehow.  It was a perfect day weather wise; overcast and humid.  My intention was to cast across to a deep run on the far bank, where there is an abundance of tree cover.  The barbel can be stacked up in here and the fishing can be explosive.  I had opted to use 2 x 8mm caviars and a feeder packed with groundbait and pellets.  I attached a strap to the groundbait bucket which meant I could fish effectively whilst wading.  The fish could be unhooked in the water and released very quickly.  If I latched into anything large I could simply wade back to shore and use the net.

The first hour was a bit slow, just a couple of barbel and a few decent chub.  I felt it should have been much better.  I waded out a little further and decided to fish across a large sunken boulder and into an area just above the shallows.  It would have been difficult casting from the bank to hear and even more difficult to extract the fish, due to the nature of the swim.  Obviously I had to touch leger, which I love and soon the rod tip was pinging.  I love it when that starts, as that’s a sure indication that fish are present.  Soon the rod tip whacked round and a barbel was on.  They are so strong here on the Wye, very powerful fights.  A couple of times I thought the fish were heading off to Ross, as they headed for the shallows downstream.  I lost a few fish to hook pulls but managed to land 14 nice barbel to around 8lbs and some cracking chub.  Geoff and Danny both managed some nice fish too, I think around 4 or 5 apiece.

Fighting Barbel

Fighting Barbel

 

 

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After a very long enforced break from fishing, I was excited at the prospect to getting back on the banks again.  A shoulder operation had prevented me from fishing for around 10 weeks, so I missed the whole of August and September, which I can tell you was very frustrating.  Every time I looked on Facebook I saw lots nice barbel and chub being banked from all over the country.  I found myself drooling more and more as each day passed.

Still at long last I felt fit enough to make my return and I was fortunate enough to be heading to the Wye above Hereford.  I love this part of the Wye.  I find the fishing is normally very prolific and also the river here cuts through some beautiful countryside.  The beats between Hereford and Hay weave their way through farmland and cows tend to be the only thing to keep you company, such is the feeling of remoteness and tranquility here.

Autumn on the Wye

Autumn on the Wye

I was due to meet Ray Pulford, fellow Team Lone Angler member, for two days fishing and I was accompanied by Geoff.  We arrived around midday and immediately headed down to the river.  It looked splendid, bathed in it’s autumnal colours.  The trees were an array of colours and hues and the leaves almost sparkled in the sunshine of late autumn.  There was still some warmth from the sun and it almost felt like summer at times.

We met Ray and after catching up we headed off to a lower part of the beat.  We ended up fishing on a beach, which is very much a common feature of the Wye.  The water gradually deepened as it reached the far bank and a noticeably deep channel ran down to the shallows a few dozen yards downstream of us.  I donned the waders and intended to spend a few hours bouncing lob worms and paste around the gully.  Geoff opted for a more standard approach, feeder fishing the far bank.  As I waded out I felt those wonderful cooling waters of the Wye flowing around me.  In the heat of the sun it was really pleasant to be in the water again, rod in hand and full of expectation.  Ooh er missus!

I was using my LA barbel rod, which despite being 1.75lb tc, is actually very sensitive and soft enough to enable you to fish with light set-ups.  It is also very enjoyable to play small barbel and chub on, which is a testament to the quality of these blanks and Trefor’s design requirements.  I was fishing 2 lob worms on a size 4 hook tied to 8lb fluorocarbon and a 10lb mainline.  There are lots of rocks and sharp edges in the Wye and you have to be sensible when it comes to lines.  My set-up also incorporated a running link leger made with the 3xssg sized shot.  These are perfect for getting the exact amount of weight required to bounce the bait around and they have the added bonus of rarely getting snagged.

I started by casting upstream and allowing the bait to almost trundle downstream.  A slight flick on the rod top often sends the bait gently moving again if it gets stuck in amongst the stones and gravel.  It didn’t take long for something to home in on those tantalizing worms.  The tip banged sharply and then started to pull round.  A swift strike met with fierce resistance as a good Wye chub headed off to the tree roots.  Steady pressure won the day and a magnificent bronzed chub was unhooked and returned safely to fight another day.  Two more soon followed and they were all of a similar size, around the 31/2-4lb mark.  Certainly not monsters but more than welcome, particularly after such a long absence from fishing.

A beautiful Wye chub

A beautiful Wye chub

A few change baits were then used, including some cheese mania paste and maggots.  Both produced results and sadly I lost what felt like a reasonable barbel.  Unfortunately that seemed to kill the swim.  I decided to walk up to see how Ray was getting on.  I found him in a rather excited mood and I’m not surprised.  He’d just caught a couple of stunning fish and was rather jubilant.  A few quick photos and a chat and I was heading back down to Geoff.  He’d had a barbel whilst I was away and then lost one.  He decided it was time for a move and so I stayed put and decided to feeder fish for the last couple of hours.   I managed to tempt a nice barbel but sadly lost a couple of others.  The day ended all too quickly but the food and beer at the local pub later that evening certainly made up for that.

Day two saw a murky almost dreary start to the day.  Geoff and I headed down to the river about 10am, Ray was already there.  Geoff wanted to try the beach again but I opted for an area that Ray had fished the day before with some success.  Meanwhile Ray was upstream on a big u-shaped bend fishing the deep water on the far bank.  The flooded waters of the Wye have gouged out a deep gully on the far bank and this has resulted in a nice glide of up to 8ft deep, which always holds a few decent fish.

Geoff in action

Geoff in action

I baited up my swim with some 10mm and 14mm Cheese Mania dumbbells and 6mm Caviar pellets.  I then left the swim to rest for an hour.  At this point in time it was overcast and so fish spotting was a bit awkward, however I could see the occasional flash of a barbel feeding in the swim.   The water was deep close in and then became quite shallow on the far bank.  It created an area of smooth, pacey water with quite a bit of weed for added cover.  The average depth was around 3ft.  Below me were quite a few large overhanging trees, offering plenty of cover.  As the sun broke through the gloom the water remained in shadow from the towering trees.

I opted for a 3ft hooklink and two 10mm cheese mania dumbbells and a blockend feeder full of 6mm pellets.   The rod hadn’t been out long when a sharp knock on the tip signaled interest.  Suddenly the tip whacked round and a really hard fighting barbel fought in the fast flow. A stunning bronzed flank was soon on the unhooking mat and was quickly returned to the cool waters of the river.  I kept the bait trickling out all day and often rested the swim for 30-60 minutes when things went quiet.   I kept swapping bait size from two 10mm to 14mm dumbbells and even a couple of caviar pellets if things went really dead.  I had steady action all day.  It was not as prolific as it can be but I did end up with 6 barbel and 7 chub, bringing my tally to 7 barbel and 12 chub over the two days.  I did manage a couple of good chub towards the end of the day.  I weighed one at exactly 5lbs and the other looked around the same size.  I couldn’t find my scales or my camera.  Luckily Ray weighed the chub for me and took some photos.  Eventually I found the camera buried in the car and later the scales, which had fallen out of a jacket pocket.

A typical dark, bronzed Wye barbel

A typical dark, bronzed Wye barbel

Just after lunchtime I had a 3 foot twitch which resulted in a very powerful barbel being hooked.  It took some time to subdue and as soon as I had the fish in the net I could see and feel it was a decent size.  I guessed it was very close to double figures but with no scales, camera or mobile phone signal, I had no means of weighing the fish.  I was a bit gutted but fish welfare comes first.  I had no real means of safely securing the fish in the net to go and get help and so back she went, none the worse for her ordeal.  Of course I’ll always wonder what she would have weighed but c’est la vie as they say.

One of the locals.

One of the locals.

So finished my long awaited return to fishing and what a glorious couple of days it had been.  Lots of fish, good company and a few laughs along the way.  It all makes for a memorable experience.  I’m looking forward to the next trip already.

 

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After finally recovering from a touch of mountaineering the previous day, we managed to tackle a far more muscle friendly stretch. We headed just above Ross to fish a club water.  Initial appearances were good.  It was quite overgrown in the most part which would indicate a lightly fished stretch.   Obviously nearer the car park there were more signs of human activity but once you started to walk upstream a bit, that evidence grew less and less.

The Wye

The Wye

I wandered up to what appeared to be the upper limit of the beat and found a couple of very nice swims.  Access wasn’t too bad and I had soon cast a lead around the swim to see what the bottom was like.  It appeared to be pretty good, although I did get snagged a couple of times.  I was fishing just off of a bend and a nice crease went across from the nearside bank right over to the opposite bank.  I particularly enjoy these swims, especially if using two rods (which I very rarely do) as it gives you plenty of room to work with on these bigger rivers.

Using two decent sized open end feeders packed with pellet and plugged with groundbait, I started to build up the swim.  It didn’t take too long to get a response and I soon bumped a fish off but followed it up with a couple of nice barbel.  They put up a very spirited fight and were in tip top condition.

It was a very hot day and I needed to keep getting up and wandering about, otherwise I find myself just dozing off in the heat of the day.  Anyway another couple of fish quickly followed, including one just over 8lbs, plus a couple of small chub.  Then the swim just died.  So during a quiet spell I went for a walk with Geoff.  After a bit of investigative work we found that in fact the beat finished quite a bit further upstream.  We wandered up and found several really fishy areas.  By now it was getting a little late and due to the heat and near exhaustion from the previous day, I just couldn’t find the energy to carry my gear another 1/2 mile upstream to what looked like the best area on the river.  However it’s there to be explored another day.

The Wye

The Wye

So eventually we arrived back at our swims and said that the next day we would travel much lighter and visit this newly discovered Eden.  In the meantime it was back to the barbel.  For some strange reason my swim had completely died as I said previously.  I did manage two more barbel and a couple of chub but otherwise it was pretty quiet.  Geoff was not too far below me and struggled to find any fish.  Kevin also seemed to be having a difficult time with just one small barbel.  Hero of the day was without a doubt Danny.  He had setup lower downstream.  After taking a couple of chub we heard his somewhat excited voice on the walkie talkie.  He had caught a very big fish.  The first time he weighed it, it went 9lb 14oz and the second time it went 10lb 4oz but he needed some assistance to weigh the fish properly.  Kevin was the closest and he eventually confirmed the weight at 10lb 4oz.  Danny was over the moon and rightly so.  Doubles from the Wye and comparatively rare, when one considers just how many fish are caught from the river.  We must have had many hundreds of barbel and this was the first double.  So well done Dan.

Danny's 10lb 4oz

Danny’s 10lb 4oz

We decided enough was enough and grabbed some food from Ross before retiring for the night.  The next morning we awoke with the intention of fishing the same stretch.  However about 8am the skies became quite dark and a huge clap of thunder shook the caravan.  Then the skies quite literally opened and the rain came down in stair rods.  It was torrential and lasted nearly 3 hours.  This would ruin the fishing today.  The influx of coloured water would simply make fishing almost impossible.  So we resigned ourselves to a fishing free day and so decided to eat, drink and be merry, well almost.

After the storm had passed

After the storm had passed

We wandered down to the river once the rains abated.  Low and behold there was an angler!  We ventured along the rather soggy banks looking at the deep red/brown raging river.  As I approached the angler I realised it was Trefor West.  After a long chat, we left him in peace to carry on with his fishing.  Before the rain had started he had caught a couple of small barbel.  We saw him again much later and he had given up as the river conditions had worsened.  So at least we had made the right decision.  We were due to be on the river for our last session the following day but it was above Hereford.  After driving up to Hereford we saw that the river was in much better condition here and after talking to Woody, we felt much more confident that we would be able to fish on the last day.

 

 

 

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