Posts Tagged ‘river fishing blog’

The lure of the Trent drew Geoff, Kevin and I back to the Midlands for another sortie on the mighty Trent.  The only problem was the forecast.  From a spell of warm sunny weather to windy, chilly and possibly even rainy conditions.  When I say chilly I actually mean bloody cold, it had the potential to drop to 4c overnight and with a top daytime prediction of 14c, it was set to be long johns weather.

Still we decided to give it a go anyway, mad fools that we are.  Some would say idiots and who am I to argue.  We camp near to the fishery and after setting up we headed to the river.  Both Kevin and I opted for the long slog to the top end whilst Geoff (who was feeling a little under the weather) decided to stay a little closer to the car park.  Its a fairly arduous walk to the top along a narrow and overgrown path.  Numerous overhanging trees create obstacles along with an awkward sloping path, however we overcame these minor irritations and eventually arrived at the area we wanted to target.  We soon selected a couple of swims and as the light was fading fast, got on with setting up as quickly as we could.

I opted for two rods, 3oz Andy Witham cage feeders, 14lb mainline and Camfusion hooklinks.  I intended to fish double elips on one rod and the other would be double boilie. I started to cast out into the respective area with both rods every 5 minutes to get a bed of bait out.  After an hour I slowed that down to 10-15 minutes.   The light very soon faded and it didn’t take too long to get some action.  I had three barbel fairly quickly, all about 4-6lbs.  Then the chub moved in and I took half a dozen all over 4lbs topped off by a real clonker that looked well over 5lb.  I should have weighed it really as chub weights can be so deceptive, but I was confident it was a 5+.

Geoff seemed to be struggling his end although he also caught a big chub which he estimated to be a 5, plus a couple of snotties.  Kevin had a bit more luck on the barbel front taking four to over 8lbs and a couple of chub.  By 1am it was freezing and we decided to call it a day.  When we left the river it was 4c and I think it got even colder early hours.

After a good lunch at the local pub we headed back to the river.  I fished a little lower down this time and had more daylight hours to bait up.  So again casting every 5 minutes with both rods, I put out a good carpet of bait over the next two hours.  About 6.30pm I had a spell of action which produced three barbel to 8lbs quite quickly and then it died.  I eventually caught a small chub and another barbel late on but then that was it.

Kevin had another 4 barbel and a couple of chub and Geoff managed 2 barbel and another bream plus a chub or two.  All in all not too bad considering the conditions.  During the afternoon the temperature had dropped to just 10c and it was bitterly cold.  The river was very low and clear and has been fishing very poor of late, which was also confirmed by the bailiff.  So perhaps it was a good result, although poor for the Trent generally speaking.

During the night we had some prolonged heavy rain and the temperature rose quite considerably.  Better fishing conditions perhaps but not so good for packing up the tents!!  Ah well, hopefully we’ll get another trip in before the onset of winter, although a Travelodge may well replace the tents next time.

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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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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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Another annual event in the angling World took place on Saturday; the Barbel Angler Grayling Day.  Organised as always by the Mad Hatter himself; Mr Jez Brown and given the green light by Micky, owner of the Barbel Angler website.

We descended on the Winchester services for the usual over-priced and over done breakfast.  After recovering from the bill, we engaged in the usual banter and p taking.  Then a fight broke out between the Fantastic Four; Jez, Luke, Danny and his son Callum.  Luckily it was only a water fight but who knew what might kick off later!

We arrived at the river and everyone shot off up to the top end.  As the day included the word ‘barbel’ I thought it only fitting to try and tempt an Itchen barbel, as I’d never caught one before.  So whilst the masses set up their float rods, I found a lovely deep swim with loads of cover.   I baited quite heavily with hemp and maggots and then rested the swim for about 40 minutes.  A real strong, cold wind sprung up and the forecast was for some heavy rain.

I had numerous baits but opted for a boilie wrapped in paste.  I used this in conjunction with a 2.8oz blockend feeder loaded with hemp and pellets.  I swung the bait out into the swim and about 20 minutes later the rod was almost dragged in.  Barbel on.  It gave me a great scrap in the flow and was a beautiful, plump, golden barbel.  On the scales it registered 7lb 4oz.  I hoped for another after such an early success.

Meanwhile reports were that the fishing was tough.  I guess the strong wind didn’t help.  A call from Dan informed me that he had just caught a salmon of around 4lbs and lost a much bigger one.  Later Kevin also reported a salmon, this time 4lb 11oz I think.  Geoff was managing a few grayling but that was it from the boys.  Little else came through to me.  Then a certain Northern ‘gentleman’ arrived somewhat later than expected after suffering from a pretty rough night in a noisy hotel.  The Association of Barbel Fishers very own Conrad Farlow.  Having just been co-opted onto the committee for the ABF myself,  it was great to meet the driving force behind the group at last.  We had a quick chat and off he went to catch a barbel.  I was pleased to have caught barbel from approximately 12 different rivers.  This pales into insignificance when compared to Conrad’s 37 rivers!  Sadly he didn’t make it 38 but his new target is 50, so good luck with that one!

Then that angling legend and Grisly Adams lookalike Keth Speer moved in just above me and did his thing with a stick float.  I knew I was in for a treat when almost the first cast led to a nice chub.  Numerous chub and roach followed in fairly quick succession.  Without doubt he is a master at this float technique and a pleasure to watch.  Later on he even hooked but sadly lost a decent barbel.  I also sadly lost a better barbel when the hook inexplicably pulled out.  I also managed a nice brownie and lost a chub.

Conrad wandered down with a fish in the net and called me up to Keith’s swim.  In the net was something quite unusual; an albino Orfe or a Blue Orfe (te he-blue orfe-school boy giggle) which won him the ‘Big Ook’ trophy.

The results were hard earned.  Many found it tough.  There were a few nice grayling out and reports of some near 2lb roach by the ‘right raving looney party’.  All in all another great day with the lads.  Lets hope there are many, many more to come.



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As I sit here eating my porridge, I am just about thawed out from the sub zero conditions of my last grayling trip to Wales. We had temperatures down to -10. I believe the term is brass monkeys.

The heavy snow that fell in Kent Saturday night was a bit of a shocker. I was driving back from a day on the Itchen and was caught in the ensuing blizzard. Most of the trip back was in heavy snow and it was becoming apparent the snow was laying quite quickly. By the time I arrived at Reigate, the motorway was covered. Luckily on reaching the Sevenoaks area, I had managed to get ahead of the snow and arrived home safely.

With a trip planned to Wales for 5 days on the Monday, things were looking a little tricky. On awakening Sunday morning, I found we had had maybe 4-6 inches of the white stuff. Lots of phone calls ensued. It seemed my roads were pretty good. The gritters and ploughs were out in force and the roads from about Swindon onwards looked clear. By the end of the day on Sunday, we had decided to go for it.

We headed over the Severn Bridge and cut across the Brecon Beacons. The Black Mountains were covered in snow but the roads were good and eventually we arrived at our destination. We managed to find a cafe in a small village and stuffed our faces with the local health food. You know the sort of stuff; eggs, bacon, sausages etc etc. Low cholesterol and fat free.

A big grayling

We arrived at the river and hoped it would be in good sorts. It was actually quite coloured and up about a foot from our last visit. Despite this it still looked fishable but it was bitterly cold, however at least snow free. We decided to give it a go and explore the section as best we could. I headed up stream with Dan, whilst Geoff and Kevin opted to go downstream.

It was a tough start. I started out fishing a deep pool. I lost a fish almost first cast and then despite numerous moves, I couldn’t muster a bite. I decided to leave Dan to it and move downstream. Bit by bit I worked my way down to the other two guys and ended up fishing in between them. Kevin had found a few fish and was doing reasonably well, considering the conditions. The area was just off of a bend and was smooth water with a reasonable depth. I think in really cold conditions you will struggle to find grayling in very deep water, they seem to prefer the shallower parts. This area was about 3 foot deep.

Dan does it again

I watched as Kevin landed a few fish but sadly lost several big fish. We couldn’t be certain what they were but he felt confident that they were big grayling. I fished the inside line and trickled in a constant supply of maggots. After a couple of runs through the float buried and I hooked into what felt like a bit of a zoo creature. It quite literally towed me all over the river. It was heavy and very powerful. I decided it must be a decent chub and this stretch does produce some clonkers. The fish broke surface and I caught a quick glimpse of it and it looked like a grayling but I couldn’t be sure. After another spell, again the fish broke surface and I saw that long, sail like dorsal rise out of the water.

It was indeed a big grayling and is why we come to this region. Eventually, after a touch of jelly legs syndrome, I managed to net the fish. It looked huge and as I called for the guys, I was convinced it would be close to 3lbs. I was a little ambitious and on the scales it went 2lb 11oz and 3/4. It was weighed in a small plastic bag and so I settled for 2lb 11oz. It equaled my PB and was a magnificent specimen. I was over the moon. It’s been a long time since I landed a grayling of these proportions and was worth the wait.

2lb 11oz Grayling

We carried on fishing. Kevin ended up with a good tally of fish but sadly lost several very big fish, one close to the net. He estimated the fish to be over 2 1/2 pounds and having seen mine, it’s likely to have been so.

The three of us ended up catching a few but not many, whilst Kevin made double figures I think. It was a tough start. Still we headed off to the cottage for a nice cuppa and some food. Our hosts Jane and Richard were there to welcome us and we booked in for a breakfast with them on the Wednesday morning. They are wonderful hosts and make our stay here all the more special.

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It was time to set the Sat Nav to ‘oop north’ and head up the A1M to Nottingham.  Robin Hood had his merry men.  I was stuck with, er I mean in the company of me old (very) mates Geoff and Kev.  And I’m only pulling their legs. Well it’s a bit like pulling the leg on a Christmas Turkey but without the stuffing.  Anyways, I digress.  They are great company and I’m lucky that they put up with me to be honest.

We had decided to fish the mighty river Trent for a few days.  I fished it earlier on in the season with Geoff and we had a reasonable result.  Now we were in to late September and with the river low and clear, we weren’t sure quite what to expect. Still we were looking forward to it, it’s a great river and the rewards can be quite astonishing sometimes.

We arrived late afternoon and after sorting out the caravan, made our way to the river.  It was early evening when we finally got bankside and so had to select a few swims fairly quickly.  My tactics were to use large open end feeders (Andy Witham’s) which are perfect for the Trent.  They would allow me to deposit quite large amounts of bait into the swim.  Using a 3 foot hook length and a size 12 hook, I fished 2 medium elips on the hair.  The feeder was stuffed with groundbait and pellets.  I then set up a second rod.  This was a light quiver and this time I used a single medium-sized elips, on a hair rigged band.  It was at this point that Geoff proudly showed us his home made feeders.  They were made from a golf club tube.  They certainly looked the part.  He was extolling the virtues of these wonderfully pliable feeders when he gave us the squeeze test on the tube of the feeder.  One gentle squeeze and the feeder exploded like cemtex, pieces flying everywhere.  After several minutes of choking laughter, we decided it was best to keep buying them for the time being!

The evening proved slow for me.  Both Geoff and Kevin kept in constant contact via the walkie talkies.  They were doing reasonably well, catching fairly regularly.  I on the other hand, was struggling.  The first bite turned out to be on the quiver and a hard fighting barbel put up a great struggle on the light tackle.  Still, eventually I managed to get it in.  It turned out to be a nice fit barbel of about 6lbs.  Later I took a further 3 fish and 2 chub on the main rod.  Meanwhile Geoff was bagging up.   It was like fishing with Bob Nudd or Bill Nuddy as Dan would say!  He ended up with 10 fish including a stunning Trent barbel weighing in at 10lb 11oz.  Kevin managed 8 fish to well over 8lbs.

So the following afternoon, after a rather large lunch, we waddled down to the river again.  Fortunately the chair held out and the fishing commenced.  It was a very windy day, to say the least.  Still we stuck it out until about 11.30pm.  This time I managed to just pip the others, taking 6 barbel.  Geoff ended with 4 and Kevin just the one.  So it was an early night. Back to the caravan for a cuppa and a bowl of cereal.  Oh yes, we know how to live the big time!

Day 3 saw us arrive after yet another gut busting lunch.  I felt like the Cholesterol Kid.  Still a walk up river would burn off at least 3 calories, so all was not lost.  I like to maintain an athletic physique.  Well it’s hidden under several layers of fat obviously.  I selected a swim (I could walk no further) and first cast produced a very fit 6lb+ barbel.  Then I never had a another bite over the next 3 hours.  Geoff had headed to an area that I wanted to fish the night before with Kevin.  However age and unfitness got the better of us and we decided not to bother.  What a mistake.

Geoff had 7 barbel, whilst Kevin and I struggled.  I couldn’t get a bite, so decided to move to the swim I had fancied the previous evening, only to find Geoff ensconced in one just above it.  I checked to see if he minded me fishing below him.  He didn’t….well initially.  First cast and I was in.  Second cast and I was in.  Whilst reloading the feeder, the other rod went.  Then after re-casting both rods, they both went.  After sorting that mess out, one of the rods whacked over yet again.  That was six fish in what seemed like 5 minutes.  It wasn’t, obviously, but it sure did feel like it.

Shortly after I had another barbel and whilst playing it Geoff lost a big fish.  He was already cursing and mumbling and chuntering away as I kept hooking fish.  At this point it was getting dark and I felt compelled to move before Geoff re-enacted the Texas Chain Saw Massacre with his pen knife on me.  However there were no decent, accessible swims close by.  I offered to swap places with Geoff but he declined.  The fishing continued but luckily Geoff got in on the action too.  By now I had dispensed with the cage feeders and opted for a 70g blockend.  I filled this with a mixture of pellets, but mainly large ones.  The idea being that the scent would draw the fish in, rather than groundbait.  The problem with groundbait is it gets dispersed very easily, after being washed away out of your swim.  By using the blockend you are guaranteed a scent trail just a short distance from your hook bait.  It can be very effective.

It was at this time Kevin called to say he had a nice double in the net.  I popped down to do the old Lord Snowdon and the fish was a beaut at 10lb 6oz.  Well done Kevin.  I returned to my swim and by the end of the night I ended up with 18 barbel to about 8lbs and around 7/8 good-sized chub.  Geoff finished with 14 and Kevin 11.  All in all, not a bad nights fishing.  We headed back to the caravan feeling pretty satisfied.  Geoff felt a bit deprived as I had pinched a few of his fish.  Sorry mate.

We headed home on the Friday already looking forward to our next adventures in Robin Hood country.

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This week Geoff, Kevin and I decided it was time we took the trip to Bedford and fished the famous Great Ouse.  The Ouse is a river once famed for its huge barbel, chub and perch.  There have been many times when I have seen this great river in action on programmes like Go Fishing with John Wilson and a number of shows with Matt Hayes and Mick Brown.  On each occasion, I was very impressed with how the river looked.  It looked like a ‘proper’ river and I had always hoped to fish it one day.

The Great Ouse

Sadly I probably left it about 5 or 6 years too late.  It seems from reports that the Great Ouse is merely a shadow of its former self.  Well that’s in terms of the fishing.  The river itself is truly stunning.  Even better than I had expected.    It is a fairly narrow river.  The water flows over clean gravel and is full of thick, flowing streamer weed and cabbages.  The water’s edge is lined with dense bulrushes and reedbeds, and these even appear mid river sometimes.  There are countless overhanging trees and bushes to offer tantalising fishing spots.  Overall it is probably the nicest, healthiest looking river I think I have ever seen.  If the fishing was even half as good, we were in for a real treat.

The river here is a fair trek for us, coming from the heart of Kent.  We had one of those adventurous trips up.  Kevin is the main driver and due to Geoff’s excessive height, he always gets to sit up front, riding shotgun as they say.  I, of course, am relegated to sitting in the back.  Often I end up dozing off as I can’t hear a word of what the other 2 are saying (well that’s my excuse anyway!).  So it was that whilst the two in front nattered about all things fishy, they missed the junction on the M1.  So a 20 mile detour ensued.  Then we came off the motorway too early but was at least treated to a tour of Luton Airport.  Of course we all did the customary Lorraine Chase impression, screaming “Luton Airport” as we went past!

Eventually we arrived at our destination and took a recce.  We were just blown away by this stunning river.  It screamed barbel at every turn.  We knew of its current reputation as being void of barbel, but desperately hoped it was all a bit exaggerated. How could this place not be teaming with barbel and chub?  We couldn’t wait to get started and see that rod top whack round from a Ouse giant.  Oh dear, if only it was that simples.

We saw and heard the odd small fish as we settled into the evenings fishing.   I saw several kingfishers zoom past and Kevin was treated to a rare sight, as a Kingfishers took dragonflies from the surface of the river with a sploosh each time. Both he and Geoff were also lucky to watch a barn owl quarter the meadow behind them.  I was hidden in the trees so missed the spectacle.

I had baited up a deep pool.  The river flowed in from under a small bridge and the flow was fairly strong.  It left a tantalising run available with a big tree on the right hand side.  The bottom felt like gravel and there appeared to be just the odd spot of weed growth.  I baited the swim up with about 10 droppers of hemp and then proceeded to set-up the rod.  I opted for a small feeder loaded with hemp and fished two small Hinders Elips pellets on the hair. Having left the swim for around 30 minutes, I swung the bait out and into the run.

Almost immediately I started to get very fast, sharp knocks.  I decided this was probably roach or dace.  I do like to get this type of indication. I feel any activity is a good thing and it often draws in bigger fish that have become interested  in what is going on by this small fish activity.  Just before darkness fell I put out another 4 bait droppers of hemp.  We had decided to fish untill about midnight.  At around 10pm no action had ensued, but Kevin saw what he believed to be an otter swimming past.  This didn’t exactly fill us with confidence.  Whilst chatting with Geoff on the walkie-talkie, my rod tip wrenched round and as my hand got to the rod, it sprang back.  It looked like being a full on barbel bite, but we’ll never know.  Nothing else really happened so at 11pm we decided to call it a day.

The following morning we decided to look at one of our other club stretches , still on the Ouse.  This looked superb.  Quite a long and straight section but with lots of cracking swims.  So we decided it was worth a go.  However we had the same problem as the day before.  We were getting lots of sharp pulls, sometimes quite big, but nothing developed.  I moved swims after a few hours and decided to give this last swim a go untill darkness.  This time Geoff called to say he had just seen an otter as well.  This didn’t bode well.  They must spook the fish and unsettle them.

Again I think we all had some pretty good tugs, but nothing really hittable. We packed up at around 8.15pm.  Slightly dejected by the lack of action.  I think we expected too much, but a chub would have been nice if nothing else.  I’m certain that I will at least give the Great Ouse another few goes.  The problem is that it’s quite a long journey for us.  If we were closer we could target these stretches on a regular basis and I’m sure find a few barbel eventually.

One things for certain though, it will remain one of the nicest, most beautiful and intimate rivers I have ever fished or ever likely to.

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I fished a gin clear river recently for barbel.  I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who do this week in week out and so will already know what observations and opinions I am about to express.

Firstly I am often surprised how much feeding fish will tolerate from an angler before finally giving up and spooking out of the swim.  Providing an angler is sensible in his concealment (or not as the case maybe), feeding barbel will continue to do so despite the obvious presence of an angler.  Slow, deliberate movements don’t seem to cause too much alarm.  I would still put a great deal of importance on stealth of course, but not to the extremes that some may think.

What I think is far more important is how the bait and tackle is presented in the fishes environment.  Let me quantify that.  I have seen on several occasions barbel moving into the baited area and then suddenly spooking off.  Now its fairly obvious to me that this was due to the mainline being either visible or coming into contact with a fish.  When one spooks, it does tend to spook the others.  The fish then tend to retreat, but will often return to the swim to continue foraging for the food that they know is present. However the more spooky those fish become the less confidently they seem to feed.

How can we overcome this problem? My set-up has evolved over many years of fishing for barbel.  It works for me although not 100% of the time.  I doubt anything works 100% of the time and there will be many occasions where you have to think about what you are doing and alter it to suit on any given day.  Keep ringing the changes as they say.  However I like to use a long, coated hooklink.  I particularly like the ones made by Suffix.  The one I use, is a fast sinking one and lays on the riverbed very nicely.  I also like it because it is available in lower breaking strains, which is unusual for this type of line.  I don’t like the idea of using 15lb hooklink with say a 10lb mainline. Anyway, above this 3 foot hooklink I will use a backlead.  Sometimes a standard flying backlead sometimes though, depending on the river and flow, a standard in-line lead of an ounce.  This is an important addition to the set-up.  Why?  Because it pins your mainline down on the deck so the barbel can’t see it as easily and more importantly can’t swim into it.  Nothing seems to spook barbel more than touching a tight mainline, that is often not actually visible to them, in the case of a flourocarbon mainline.

They are occasions when adding a further backlead would be beneficial, I think.  Sliding one off of the rod tip, so it pins the line down from the rod tip.  What you have to remember though is what the riverbed is like.  If there is quite a bit of weed, this becomes a bit pointless.  But its worth playing with the set-up to see what works.   I also like to keep the rod tip as low as possible.  What I won’t use is leadcore.  I don’t like the idea of large lengths of leadcore being possibly tethered to a fish.  The thought of leaving a long hooklink attached to a fish is bad enough, but heavy leadcore leaders as well is just too much for me, so I won’t contemplate using them.

Anyway the end result of this is less spooking of fish.  Perhaps not entirely but a significant improvement.  But of course this is geared towards people fishing a static bait with either a lead weight or a swimfeeder.  We all know that there is more than one way to skin a cat.  Float tactics, rolling meat, free-lining etc.etc all work well on their day too.  That’s what makes fishing so enjoyable.

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I didn’t find Sherwood Forest on my last trip to Nottingham, or the Sheriff for that matter but I did find a few fish in the Trent.

Its a big river and with a bit of extra water on, it can be pretty daunting, especially when you are used to fishing small southern chalk streams.  The level in itself is not a great problem.  The weed on the other hand is a pain in the proverbial! It just seems to be everywhere when the river rises.

On a recent trip with Geoff we found the river as described: high with just a touch of colour.  Things looked good and we couldn’t wait to get started.  However on casting out we found we had got a problem.  A big problem.  The weed was a nightmare.  Within a couple of minutes the rod tops were dancing as the feeders were being pulled round in the current by the weed.  Tons of the stuff, all over the line, feeder, everything.  Oh dear, now what?

Well the answer was simple; fish in a bit closer and out of the main flow.  Here the weed problem was better.  Not cured, but better.  At least like this it was fishable.  So setting up with a decent feeder and 4 small pellets on a hair, I swung out the bait, just off of an overhanging tree.  It was slow at first but at least the bait tended to stay in position, at least for a while.  After a few casts of getting some bait down, the rod tip slammed round.  A hard fighting Trent barbel was attached to the other end.  After a spirited fight I managed to coax it into the landing net.  Not a big fish but a real confidence booster.

Well the action kept coming.  By around 10pm I had taken 10 barbel to about 6 or 7lbs.  The action really started to hot up and by the time we packed up at around 2am, I had taken 23 barbel to just over 10lbs.  Wow what a session.  Most of the fish were in excellent condition and fought well.  Lots of good, rod wrenching bites too.

Geoff was just up from me but found it slow going.  I think all he was achieving was to bait up my swim for me, so the bugger moved.  Typical.  Once he was far enough away, he started to catch and ended up with 8.  Of course he wished he had taken the decision to move earlier.  Had he have done so, I’m sure he would of had twice as many.  Luckily he didn’t 😉

So after visiting the local boozer for lunch the next day, we headed back to the river.  I was stuffed after having fish and chips and just fancied a snooze.  However it was time to fish.  The river level had dropped and the water looked clearer.  The weed problem had lessened, which was a relief.

Sadly though, the fishing was pants.  I managed a couple of smallish barbel and then we decided to pack up, as we had a long drive back to Kent.  It was a very enjoyable visit and I hope we can return soon.

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