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Posts Tagged ‘Barbel fishing Symonds Yat’


I had the opportunity to visit the Wye with a couple of good mates recently, who although anglers, had to my knowledge never fished a river and certainly had never caught a barbel before.  The Wye offers stunning views in unspoilt countryside and a healthy barbel population for us to target.  We also had at our disposal the chance to fish a private beat near to the spectacular Symonds Yat Rock.  Sometimes life can be grand and I happened to know the owner of this beat and he had been in touch to offer me access to the water.  Although I have fished much of the Wye right up to it’s upper beats in Mid Wales, this would be the lowest stretch I had fished.

I desperately wanted my two mates to get stuck in to a few barbel.  For me barbel are one of the most majestic fish in our rivers, powerhouses that beggar belief once hooked.  They fight to the net like their very existence depended on it.  Once out of the water their symmetry, muscular design and colours leave the captor spellbound by their beauty.  It’s very difficult to get that across to someone who hasn’t caught or seen one on the bank and do the barbel any kind of justice.  In the end you just have to experience it for yourself and so it was that I would be taking Alex Watson and Frank Scott with me on this trip.

Stunning Views

Stunning Views

We booked a holiday cottage in Symonds Yat and it proved to be an ideal base for our stay.  With a couple of good eating and in Alex’s case, drinking establishments almost within walking distance of our accommodation, we were neither going to go thirsty or hungry for too long.   Although we were only here for two nights we wanted to make the most of our time here in terms of fishing but also the chance to visit Yat Rock and see the spectacular views across the Wye valley.  I think all three of us were blown away by the incredible vista that opens up from on high and we could even see the stretch of river we were fishing too.  It’s quite simply stunning here and I highly recommend you visit if you’re in the area.

Eating again

Our first day started at about 3.30am.  This was about beating these extreme temperatures that we’re experiencing at the moment.  With the thermometers stuck at around 28-30c, fishing during the afternoon wasn’t really an option for us.  With the sun blazing down from a cloudless sky, we didn’t want to be roasted during the hot and sweaty afternoons.   Neither did we feel it was ideal for the fish either.  The water has been denuded of oxygen during this extreme heatwave and so the fish would be exhausted after even a short fight.  So it would be very early mornings and evenings only.

After a Frank breakfast (I knew we had brought him for a reason) we headed off to our first venue at Symonds Yat.  We crossed Huntsham Bridge and soon found our way along the Forestry Commission track and down to the river.  We entered the meadow and was greeted by the spectacular backdrop of the high cliffs of Yat Rock and the sweeping water meadow and forested banks.  It really was a breathtaking spot and we felt very privileged to be able to fish here.

A view from Yat Rock

A view from Yat Rock

The river was very low, probably a couple of feet down on normal summer levels.  I knew this would make the fishing tough, especially with this oppressive heat too.  I soon had Frank in a nice fast gravel run.  I set him up with a 12′ Fox barbel rod, Shimano baitrunner and 12lb mainline.  We used Andy Witham feeders, which are without doubt the best on the market, a Sufix Camfusion hooklink of about 3 feet in length and the hooks, beads and tail rubbers were all from the Gardner Target Specimen range.    Two elips pellets superglued to a hair finished this simple but effective set-up off nicely.

We mixed up some groundbait using hemp and halibut off the shelf mixes and added 4mm and 6mm elips and halibut pellets.  Once wetted down this can be crammed into a good sized feeder and with regular casting, a good carpet of bait can be laid down but without fear of over feeding.   This particular swim was around 4′ deep over clean gravel and with a good pacey flow. We needed to fish oxygenated water but also deep enough not to be overly warmed by the extreme heat of the sun.  Often people head to shallows in these conditions and they can fish extremely well, however I have found during this heatwave more fish in slightly deeper water, where the fish can find some respite from the burning heat.

After half an hour or so I left Frank to it and went and found Alex who was quite happy with what he was doing.  So after a brief chat I decided to walk the whole stretch and see if I could find a few more likely looking spots to fish.  With the water level so low some areas seemed a little too slow for my liking and so I headed to the upper limit.  Here the water shallowed and a couple of croys stuck out into the river.  The depth looked good and the flow seemed ideal.

I wandered back down to the boys and Alex was biteless and Frank had had a few knocks.  I dropped in just above him and soon the rod top whacked round and I had a nice barbel of around 5-6lbs.  No other bites came our way and so we drove to the top of the beat.  We fished the fast deep water but only 1 chub came my way.  By now the canoe traffic was building up and we decided to call it a day and return around 7pm for another go.

The local Wildlife

The local Wildlife

So after a good afternoon nap and then a very tasty dinner at the local hotel, we headed back to the river around 7pm.  Frank plumped for the swim I had fished in the morning and caught from.  It looked the best swim in this section and I was confident Frank would catch.  Alex headed a little further upstream and I decided to fish just below him.  I then bumped into Andy the owner and we had a long chat about things.  I am eternally grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to fish such a wonderful spot and I have no doubt I’ll be back for another go soon.  By now it was about 8.30pm and I felt I ought to go and check on Frank before I commenced my own fishing.

Frank was telling me he’d had 5 barbel.  I thought he was pulling my leg, as he’s a bit of a wind-up merchant but then his rod hooped over and he was in again.  It turned out to be a barbel of about 6lbs.  His previous fish had all been around 5-7lbs but one had been much bigger.  Unfortunately this area has virtually no phone reception and he just couldn’t get hold of any of us.  I managed to get hold of Alex and tell him to come and have a go in this swim.  I walked back up to my swim and packed up my gear and headed back down to the boys.  Frank had another barbel making it 7 and so he relinquished the swim for Alex to have a go.

Alex's 9lb 1oz barbel

Alex’s 9lb 1oz barbel

It didn’t take long for the rod top to start bouncing around and after a really good fight (of which Alex rightly got loads of stick for milking it) a very fine barbel was landed.  For a first barbel it was an impressive creature and weighed in at 9lb 1oz.  A very happy, smiley Watson made way for me to have a cast but the swim had given up all of her treasures for today.  No more bites emerged and it was time to call it a day.  However as I sat there and took in the scenery; the stunning heavily forested banks opposite, the rolling meadow and wooded hills behind and the magnificent cliffs of Yat Rock to our left I felt completely at ease and sated by the day and what it had generously given us.  To watch and hear the screeching Peregrine falcons and see them drop like bullets from the skies around the cliffs rounded off a truly rewarding day for me.  Hopefully the guys felt the same way as I did.

As you can see photos of fish are few and far between for the simple reason that fish welfare comes first and the fish had to be returned to the water as soon as possible.

The stand off

The stand off

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