Posts Tagged ‘hemp’

The fishing seems to be particularly tough for us at the moment.  We are struggling on the river in Berkshire and I have yet to secure my first barbel on my local small river too.  There is some comfort in chatting with anglers bankside who are also reporting similar results to ourselves.  At least we know its not just us.  However I think we need to adopt a different style of fishing to try and beat the current doldrums.  I guess what I mean is perhaps a more roving style, targeting more swims and  using different baits in an attempt to make things work in our favour, rather than hoping that eventually things will improve anyway.  I have used a roving approach on the Medway and Kennet in the past and it worked extremely well.  If you know the stretch really well you can continue to rove throughout darkness too, although there is always the option of then sitting it out in one swim after dark and hoping the fish are present.

My latest trip with Geoff was a continuation of current form.  The Thames tributary we are fishing this season is proving very difficult.  However others are also struggling as I said, so we have to take some consolation from that fact.   We fished until midnight on Tuesday but staying in just one swim apiece.  Either the fish were not home or we didn’t fish the right baits/tactics because neither Geoff or myself had so much as a knock.  Throughout the evening and night I never head a single fish turn on the surface, which always disheartens me to be honest.  I like to hear movement because it signals life and activity.  You at least know that fish are on the move.

At one point a stamping noise behind me awoke me from my thoughts and when I looked round a roe deer was running away from me in the direction of the trees.  I could see its white tail bouncing up and down as it hurried off to find cover.  That was about it for me that night sadly.  Tiredness finally won the day, and at around 11.45 I packed up very much disillusioned again.  So a re-think needed for future trips.

The next day we decided that a change of scenery was in order and so we agreed after breakfast to head to the Kennet.  We popped into Tadley Angling so Geoff could pick up a night permit for Reading and District Angling Association and whilst there I bought some block-end feeders and some hemp.  Tadley is a well stocked and well run shop and the owners are very friendly and helpful.  It’s well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

There was only one car in the R&DAA car park and we decided to have a recce first.  We then loaded up with gear and headed off downstream to explore.  We walked some distance downstream, spotting lots of decent looking spots to fish on the way.   The level looked good and the river had a decent pace to it with a good tinge of colour.  In fact it looked perfect.   I decided to bait up a couple of swims with hemp and then fish a block-end feeder with hemp in and fish elips and paste on a 4′ tail.  By the time I cast out it was probably 3.30pm.  I had decided to fish this swim for a couple of hours and move if nothing happened.  I could always return later.  At about 5pm the rod top slammed round and my heart jumped into my mouth.  A three foot twitch never fails to get the adrenaline flowing and the pulse racing.  I pulled into what was obviously a barbel and it used the strong flow to full effect.

I could tell it wasn’t a big fish from the fight but a very welcome sight that fish made when I managed to slip it into the waiting net.  I hoisted it out and admired the colours and sleek, muscular form.  I would have taken a quick snap of the fish on the unhooking mat, however senile dementia has well and truly set in because the battery for the camera is still sat on the table at home after being charged up last week.  Doh!  Anyway the fish was slipped back and I opted to move into the other baited swim.  Geoff was also on the move, opting to fish further downstream from his original position.

A large tractor turned up in the field behind me and started to move hay bales from a huge stack onto a trailer.  The farmer had assistance from another guy in a car and two small dogs.  I could hear their excited yapping as they were let loose in the field.   They were tearing around the stack of hay bales, I guess looking for rats maybe.  At times they were almost in a frenzy of excitement and it at least proved a distraction from the fishing.  As darkness fell I wished the dogs were with me as the rats started to appear.   Several large rodents scampered through the undergrowth and out into the open, searching for food.  They could obviously smell my bait as despite my best efforts to scare them off they would soon return even more brazen.   I think those dogs would have made short work of disposing of the rats.

However despite another move on my part no further action ensued and Geoff had remained fish-less also, so we decided to call it a day around 10.15pm.  We both fancied a coffee at the services before the long drive home.

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This is far from being just a barbel fishing blog, but big barbel have been somewhat elusive so far this season.  I think my best to date has been 10lb 1oz from the Trent.  The Kennet doubles have proven to be even harder to come by.  We normally take plenty of big fish from the Kennet. I think my best day was 3 ’12’s’ two seasons ago.  A season where I managed 14 doubles from the Kennet.  This season has been the hardest start on the Kennet I’ve had in 5 years.  It’s strange because everywhere else I go I seem to catch plenty of barbel.  I’ve had the best part of 140 fish this season and only 15 have been from the Kennet.  Still hopefully it will get better…….!

So it was that Geoff, Kevin and I packed up the tents and moved to Aldermaston.  We know this stretch well and in past seasons have fared well here during daylight hours.  Rather than fish during the day on the other beats, this week we had swapped around a bit.  Fishing the evening and night at Dalston and today here at Aldermaston.  We hoped that this change in tactics might just produce some fish.

Base Camp

The water was still quite coloured and the river an inch or two up, maybe.  The river looked good.  We each headed off up river in search of some likely spots.  I ventured in to a very boggy swim.  Luckily I was armed (or legged) with my Simms waders.  So if I did have to wade into a few boggy spots, I could.  There is a lovely deep gully in this swim.  It’s flanked on one side by beautiful, flowing ranunculus and on the other by lots of overhanging trees and bushes.  It looks perfect.

I started off by putting out about 3 pints of hemp and caster.  Leaving the swim to rest for half an hour whilst I got organized.  The swim was certainly boggy, but I managed to find a firm spot for the chair.  Once that was all sorted a cup of coffee was in order and then I tied up a new rig.  The previous week I had fished casters on the hair, but due the the colour this week I opted for pellets for bait.  Hoping that the additional smell might make it easier for the fish to locate them.  A 3 foot braided hooklink was tied up with a 12 hook and 2 large elips pellets superglued to the hair.  The feeder was a 3 ounce Andrew Witham cage feeder.  This was packed with a mixture of pellets and Hinders ‘barbel bomb’ groundbait.

The bait was swung out into the gully and I sat back to await events.  I took this opportunity to nose through the weekly fishing papers.  A 4lb 10oz crucian carp had been caught from a Verulam AC water.  The picture looked good.  The fish, at a casual glance, looked like a true crucian.  They are not easy fish to identify.  The colour looked pretty good: dark bronze and orange tints to the fins.  The mouth didn’t look quite right, but it was open and extended, so nothing conclusive there.  I didn’t do a scale count, I think I’ll leave that to the experts.   I hope it is genuine and well done to the angler that caught this beautiful fish.

Anyway back to the barbel.  At last I had what looked like a persistent chub bite, so decided to hit it.  It was a chub, about 3 1/2lbs.  Then  a little later, another persistent chub bite, so I hit this one as well.  This time though it was a chub on steroids, 3 shredded wheat and a tin of Popeye’s spinach.  What is technically known in fishing circles as a barbel.  Not a big fish, but a really good fight.  A fish of about 6-7lbs.  Later on I had the full on 3 foot twitch.  It felt like a good fish on the other end.  It stayed deep and thumped around for a few seconds before snagging me on some unseen obstruction.  Steady pressure from numerous angles and plenty of swear words usually does the trick.  Sadly though everything went slack and the hook had pulled out.  At least I got all of the tackle back and the fish had escaped safely.

The rare Wasing lesser spotted Kookaburra

The warm weather was having a soporific effect on me and I kept drifting off into a world of naked women and British record barbel.  What a combination! Luckily, this was interrupted by the phone going and an excited Kevin on the other end informing me of a very good barbel in his landing net.  Assuming it hadn’t swam in there of its own accord, I hurried down ready to do the David Bailey impression, although I was sober!

Kevin lifted the fish out of the water and we were confronted by a very big, fat barbel.  It looked about 12lbs and this was confirmed on the scales, as she went 12lb 2oz.  A new PB for Kevin and the smile said everything.  Well done buddy, great result.  It was nice to see a big fish on the bank at long last.

Kev's PB Barbel 12lb 2oz

Despite a move, on Geoff and my parts, we couldn’t muster any further action.  So we ended the day with 2 barbel, plus the 5 from the previous day. 7 barbel and a new PB isn’t a bad couple of days fishing.  Oh and we also stopped by the road side to watch 2 Red Kites and 2 Buzzards sharing the same air space.  Lovely to watch such impressive birds glide and swoop just overhead.  Ah well, until next time. As Arnie would say “I’ll be back”

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Kevin and I decided to have another crack at the Kennet this week.  Geoff had gone AWOL, using some sort of family holiday as an excuse. Mind you when I spoke to him on Wednesday he was trying to catch roach at Britford.  Hmm, family holiday? My foot!

Anyway the real anglers headed to Aldermaston and were taught a very valuable lesson.  Don’t pretend to be real anglers when you can’t catch fish! Unfortunately it was another tough session here.  One or two fish rolled, just to prove there was some life down there.  I was fortunate to catch a barbel of around 7-8lbs and that was my only bite.

I did change tactics this week.  I dropped the pellets (they went everywhere!) in favour of a more traditional approach.  I cooked up some hemp (peace, man) and mixed in a good helping of casters.  I superglued 4 casters onto a hair and masked the size 14 Pallatrax ‘The Hook’ with another one.  I then coupled this with a longish hooklink and a 2.5 ounce Preston blockend feeder.  This was then filled with the hemp and caster mixture.  First part of the attack was to bait dropper 10 loads into the swim.  Leave it for 45-60 minutes and then fish over the top.

It did produce some interest early on when a really nice dace pulled the rod top round and then a little while later a barbel  did an impression of  Usain Bolt and ripped the tip round whilst tearing off down stream.  The fish put up a good fight and looked around the 7-8lb mark. It was an awkward swim to fish and I decided as dusk was approaching, I would move into an easier swim.

Kennet Barbel

I adopted the same tactics but this time nothing was forthcoming.  I decided to call it a day about 10.30pm as I was totally cream crackered.  Kevin was happy to turn in for the night as his rods had remained motionless since arrival.

The next day we decided to move to one of the other beats.  Again, adopting the tactics of the night before I decided to be a little more patient and move a few times into baited swims.  The first swim which is a really nice shady spot only produced a few dace and a roach.  The next move proved more productive.  Just as I opened a packet of crisps and took a bite out of my Tuna and sweetcorn sandwich (and you thought I was unhealthy) the rod tip slammed round and my lunch went about 7 feet into the air! The result was a small barbel of about 2.5-3lbs.  Nice result and I moved on feeling a little more pleased with myself.

The 3rd swim had a lovely big bush opposite.  This time I decided not to use the bait droppers.  This was a small, narrow section and I thought it may cause too much disturbance.  So I kept recasting a smaller feeder out at regular intervals, to keep some bait going in.  This seemed to work, as over the next couple of hours I had 3 more barbel to about 5.5lbs.  Then the swim died.  I would have moved but the heavens had opened and it was tipping it down.  So at around 8pm we decided enough was enough and we packed up and headed back to Kent.

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