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A two day trip to the Wye had been planned a month or two ago and I was due to take an old mate up for some autumnal barbel and chub fishing.  Sadly he had to cancel but I decided I’d go anyway, albeit alone.  The Wye really does look fabulous at this time of the year and this particular beat is spectacular anyway.  It’s also in the middle of nowhere and you can often feel like you the last man alive, such is the solitariness and remoteness of the stretch.  This of course makes it all the more special and when you’re taking in the beautiful scenery alone, it often seems more acute and one’s senses seem more attuned with nature.

The Wye

The Wye

I had decided to go back to some more simple fishing over the two days.  I’d stopped off at Woody’s and picked up some lob worms, maggots, groundbait and a few feeders.  The idea was to have a dabble with the float and therefore have an opportunity to test out the new reel; a Daiwa 125m with rear drag.  I was looking forward to this.  I’ve owned a few close faced reels but have never really taken to them.  I like to play fish off of a drag and I have found the ABU’s wanting in that department in all honesty.  I love a centrepin and if the fishing is close to you, they are superb.  However when casting a bit father I find a centrepin more restrictive.  So this should be fun to test out the reel.  I also intended to link leger with lob worms, hoping to tempt a few chub and maybe a perch or two.  With so many great spots to target on this stretch I was confident of a fish or two.

So I came armed with a float rod, a 12ft 1lb TC Avon and the usual barbel rods.  First up was the float rod.  Fishing the Ocean Pride squabs directly on a size 12 ‘the hook’ unusually didn’t produce a bite.  Unfortunately the wind had sprung up and was a very breezy downstream affair, which made presentation extremely difficult.  Normally this method scores exceptionally well here and big bags of good quality chub and barbel can be taken.  So a change of plan was in order.  Out came the Avon rod, close faced reel and a simple triple swan shot link leger, size 6 ‘the hook’ and a big, fat juicy lob worm.  The idea was to simply cast around the pools and runs, allowing the bait to bounce around with a small lift of the rod top.  I was hoping it would entice a big stripey but it seemed the barbel had other ideas!

The first three casts produced 3 lovely, golden barbel and oh boy did they fight!  On the light Avon rod and close faced reel the fish fought well but I was never under gunned I can assure you.  After that the chub put in an appearance.  I started to move around and I was picking up seriously good chub in pristine condition.  They were all 4lb plus fish and weighing a few put them close to 5lbs.  By the end of the day I’d taken 15 chub and 8 barbel.  As the afternoon wore on I decided a rest was needed and so swapped to the more familiar feeder tactics.  As always this season I opted for the Caviar Pellets and some of the LA groundbait.  They seem to be a pretty deadly combination and as ever produced the goods with 5 barbel to almost 9lbs being taken.

Cracking Wye Barbel

Cracking Wye Barbel

It had been a wonderful first day back on the Wye.  We’d had quite a bit of overnight rain on the Tuesday and maybe this had helped a little.  The nighttime temperature was up and the rain had maybe breathed some life back into the river.  The following day was another story though.  I was joined by Danny Collins and Pete Robinson for the day.  Having had such a productive day yesterday, I was hopeful they would have a  few fish.  Sadly the fish didn’t comply.  We tried a number of swims and numerous methods and baits.  I took a number of big chub to worm again, including three fish on the bounce going 4lb 10oz, 4lb 12oz and 5lb 1oz.  However there was no sign of any barbel.  However I did tempt a couple of nice perch with the biggest touching 1lb 8oz.  Meanwhile Danny and Pete were struggling.

5lb 1oz

5lb 1oz

They moved swims after lunch and feeder fished a deep run with lots of bankside cover opposite.  Eventually their perseverance paid off and they had a barbel each plus a chub or two.  I ended up with 5 good chub all on worms.  I’d had a lovely couple of days on this wonderful river and in all honesty its a privilege to be able to fish here in these amazing surroundings.  I think the two guys enjoyed the visit albeit in one of it’s less productive moods.  Still I’m sure we’ll be back at some point over the winter for the quality of the chub fishing if nothing else.

4lb 10oz

4lb 10oz

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It was that time of the year again. The new river season having just passed its first fortnight, it was time to head to Ross on Wye for some early season barbelling. It can be a bit of a lottery when it comes to river conditions on the Wye. It can be low and clear or carrying 8 foot of extra water if it’s rained up in the Welsh mountains.

Whitehouse

Whitehouse

On our arrival this time we found the river looked pretty good. There was a touch of colour and a sensible summer level. So we’d struggle to come up with any excuses for not catching, judging by these conditions.

After setting up the caravan we managed to get down to the river around 4pm. Due to a mix up over the booking we had to fish the lower field at Whitehouse, which we hadn’t really fished before. The depth was a bit lower here and normally very weedy. I think the huge floods over the winter have really scoured the bottom of weed growth, as this year there was only minimal weed showing.

Whitehouse

Whitehouse

I had decided to try out Lone Angler’s Caviar Pellets in sizes 8mm and 12mm as hookbaits and to also mix them into my groundbait. I use a 50/50 mix of the LA groundbait and a hemp and halibut one. Into that I add a liberal amount of 4, 6 and 8mm pellets. I firmly believe you need to feed the right amount of bait into a big river like the Wye to draw the barbel in and keep them feeding in your swim. Most people don’t feed enough in my opinion, not that I’m advocating piling in kilo upon kilo of pellets either. I certainly wasn’t going to pin my hopes on just one particular bait and so had a number of other options at my disposal. As it turned out I needn’t have worried!

Initially I started on the straight lead as I knew there was weed present. After an hour of no action I opted to swap to a cage feeder packed with the groundbait and pellet mix and use 2 x 8mm caviar pellets on the hook. The results were instant. Within a few minutes the rod hooped over and a feisty Wye barbel was netted. I packed up at 9pm but not before securing a further 12 beautiful barbel and a few chub. It seemed that the pellets were to the barbel’s liking. Geoff was fishing around 6 yards below me and only managed a solitary barbel. Meanwhile Kevin was about 15 yards above me. Having watched me catch a few, he asked to try a few of the pellets and ended up with 3 barbel! Geoff was convinced it was just that all of the barbel were in my swim and so we swapped places. I bagged two barbel in his swim but sadly the fish had vacated my swim by then and it failed to produce. So a big thumbs up for the pellets on this first session.

The 1st fish of the week

The 1st fish of the week

The second day saw us on a new beat at Lower Hill Court. What a stunning place this is; heavily wooded banks thick with foliage and a back drop of Goodrich Castle. The beat was around 2 miles long and had a really good variety of water. There were some lovely gravel beaches to fish from around half way along, where with waders you could trot the far bank. Both Kevin and I opted for this method and soon were catching chub and dace. Kevin eventually latched into a barbel and netted a stunning fish of around 5/6lbs. Sadly I couldn’t tempt a barbel on the float and so decided an afternoon nap was in order!

Lower Hill Court

Lower Hill Court

With Red Kites, Buzzards and a plethora of other wildlife surrounding us it’s not difficult to feel like you’re the richest man in the world to be lucky enough to experience places like this. We are so lucky to be fit and able enough to indulge ourselves in such pleasures. Geoff had wandered to the upper limits of the fishery and was fishing from a croy. There was a deep run on the inside but it didn’t seem to produce anything and so he cast right across to the far bank. This made all the difference and he was soon into some barbel.

Not one to miss out, I set up the barbel rod with a cage feeder and this time 2 x 12mm caviar pellets and was soon fishing the opposite bank. I like to use a 3 foot fast sinking coated braid hooklink and a barbless hook. Generally I use the Pallatrax ones as they are extremely strong and a nice pattern. The results were immediate and I ended up hooking 11 barbel and landing 10, along with around 14 or 15 chub. Kevin was having a chub fest and took nearly 20 plus 5 barbel. Geoff just piped me with 11 fish, one of which went 9lb 11oz. What a cracker.

Goodrich Castle

Goodrich Castle

We will certainly be back to this beat as it’s just such a stunning spot. There was so much variety as I said and access is brilliant, you can drive right along the banks of the whole stretch. The only downside were the number of accessible swims, with only around 6-8 being feasible to fish. When you’re on holiday you don’t tend to pack strimmers, machetes and the like, so I’d like to see the owners or the Wye and Usk just add a few more swims.

The following day saw us on another new Wye and Usk beat; Fownhope 5. This turned out to be another stunning part of the Wye. On the downside it did involve a massive hike up and over a mountain, well OK, a hill. But believe me with all of my fishing tackle on I did feel like Sir Edmund Hillary climbing Mt Everest. At one point you climb up some steep steps and find yourself in someone’s garden! The owners were enjoying a lunchtime coffee overlooking the magnificent Wye below. Wow what a view they had. Still they had one to remember now; me loaded up like a Sherpa with sweat pouring off of me and me huffing and puffing as I pulled myself up the steps. I just about managed a “good afternoon” although I’m sure it sounded inaudible due to my physical exhaustion at this point! Anyway they told me I was going the right way and looked with a raised eyebrow at all of the gear I was carrying and said just keep going up! “Up?” I said. Crikey this must be heart attack hill.

Sadly they neither offered me a cup of coffee or to help me up with the tackle and so we parted company. Eventually I made it to the top and the walk down to the river felt like a blessing. Still now I had to make my way through a heavily wooded hillside before eventually clambering down a steep bank to the river. Then I had to traverse my way along rocks and boulders that were strewn along the bank, before eventually finding a swim about 50 yards below a huge boulder weir that crossed the river. In front of me was a gully cut through the bedrock and looked to be around 4 feet deep of smooth water. I was cut, bruised, stung and generally exhausted but excited at the prospect of fishing such an enticing looking swim.

I cast a lead around and it seemed relatively clear from snags. Oh, sadly not though, as I was to find out. I have to say at this juncture that I’ve never had such a hectic days fishing as I did this day. From the minute I cast out to the last cast, the rod top never stopped knocking, tapping and whacking round. It was unbelievable. They were even taking the bait on the drop. I lost countless fish to hook-pulls and some snags and I missed a horrendous amount of bites. I think sometimes they were actually grabbing the feeder and giving false bites. There were more snags than I originally thought but luckily they weren’t a constant problem. By the end of the day I’d landed 9 barbel and somewhere in the region of 30-40 chub. Most of the fish were 3½ to 4½lbs but I had a couple that may have gone 5 but didn’t weigh any. The barbel were all around 6-8lbs and I weighed one which went 7lb 14oz just to give me a benchmark to judge the weights by. These Wye barbel look huge but they are lean and muscular with massive heads and mouths. It’s very easy to misjudge the weights.

The Swim

The Swim

Meanwhile Geoff and Kevin were struggling. I think they’d had a chub each. Towards the end of the day they tried my swim and both lost a couple of barbel and so at around 8pm I called it a day. It took me over an hour to work my way back along the bank, through the woods and over the mountain to get back to the first field. I was cream crackered, however what a great day. I’ve never experienced so much intense action before. What a river the Wye is and combine that with some of the finest views and wildlife you’re ever likely to see and its little wonder this is such a popular destination for anglers, walkers, birdwatchers and canoeists alike.

 

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Well it’s been a tough old season, that’s for sure.  Geoff, Kevin and I have been targeting a Thames tributary and thus far it’s proven to be a tough nut to crack.  Although both Kevin and I have lost one barbel apiece, only Geoff has actually managed to bank a small barbel of around 6lbs.  I guess I must have done around 8-10 sessions here, comprising of a Tuesday evening and pretty much all day on Wednesdays.  We have at least had some nice chub, thank goodness.  I have managed a nice brace of mid ‘5’s’ and one really good chub of 6lb 1oz.  I love catching chub and to me they are a real bonus.  I’m really looking forward to fishing here throughout the winter with simple link leger tactics using breadcrust or lob worms or trotting a float through a few mouthwatering swims.  Maggot and caster never fail to produce a chub or two in the right conditions, so we’ll see what the winter brings us.

6lb 1oz

6lb 1oz

I did have a short break from the rivers due to the poor sport and headed off to Marsh Farm in search of some tench and crucians.  I only did two short evening sessions.  The first gave me a few crucians to 2lb 7oz (I think, although it may have been 2lb 9oz) and a solitary tench.  The second session proved much more productive with 8 crucians all around the 2lb mark.  I weighed one which showed 2lb 2oz on the scales and the others all looked to be of a similar stamp.  I also had numerous tench to well over 4lbs.  So all in all some good sport and it made a pleasant change from the blanks on the rivers!

2lb 7oz Crucian

2lb 7oz Crucian

Geoff and I also decided to make the most of the benign conditions and head to Britford on the Hampshire Avon in search of some summer roach fishing.  Armed with hemp and tares and the Drennan 14ft Matchpro Ultralight, plus light mainline and fine hooks we hoped we could tempt some of those big Hampshire Avon roach.  Fishing two areas in particular, we soon had some reasonable roach boiling on the surface as they intercepted the hemp-seed.  Most of the fish appeared to be on the small size and we hoped that as the day wore on the bigger fish would start to show.

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral

The river was gin clear and thick streamer weed choked most of the river.  However there were plenty of clear spots in amongst the weed and plenty of gravel runs to be trotted.  Presentation really was quite straightforward and the weed offered little in the way of hindrance.  By constantly feeding hemp and running a single tare through on a small hook, bites came almost immediately.  Both Geoff and I started to catch roach from the off.  Not particularly big roach but quite a few of them.  It was good fun and a few nice dace put in an appearance too.

As the day wore on so the big roach started to show.  They tended to hang back from the main shoal but they were still there in reasonable numbers.  A few looked like big fish, probably in the 2-3lb bracket.  There were plenty of fish well over a pound showing too.  A handful of hemp had them boiling on the surface.  When you see them like this you might be fooled into thinking it’s going to be a bit like taking candy from a kid, however the reality is different.  A trick that did seem to work though was running the float below the main shoal so it passes them and gets to the bigger fish hanging back.  Holding the float back allows the tare to flutter up enticingly in the water.  Fortunately a big roach took the bait.  A jagged fight ensued and the fish did the swimmers roll on the surface.  As I grabbed the net it shed the hook.  I seem to remember a string of obscenities wafting through the air on this beautiful summer’s evening.  Hopefully they didn’t quite reach the Cathedral although the bells did start ringing!  That fish looked close to two pound and would have been my first ‘2’.  Still it’s there for another time.

A decent Roach

A decent Roach

I continued fishing and missing bites and casting in the wrong place and  getting tangled of course.  Despite this there were plenty of fish to keep both Geoff and I occupied and a few around the 1lb-1 1/4lb mark.  As the light started to slowly fade my patience evaporated!   It was just one tangle too far.  I had a severe tooth ache and had to keep taking very strong painkillers to keep it at bay and they were making me very tired and very irritable (even more than normal, if that’s possible).  I finally snapped and so did the middle section of my beloved Drennan Ultralight.  I feel most embarrassed about it but it was out of my control.  Never mind a replacement has been sourced through Apollo Tackle at the Marsh Farm complex.  Steve’s a real brick (? 🙂 ) and did me a good deal on a replacement.

After that session I had a 3 day trip to the Wye with Geoff and an American friend who had never fished in the UK before.  He has fished extensively in the US and also Scandinavia.  I won’t go into details about it now because we are writing an article about the trip and how it compares to fishing in the States.  So hopefully that will be available soon.

The Wye

The Wye

I then managed another trip to Berkshire to fish the Thames Tributary, which despite looking spot on never produced a bite for either Geoff or myself.  We bumped into Paul Whiteing and Andy Myers who ended up doing rather well on the barbel and chub front.  We discussed some ABF business before settling down to try and tempt a barbel.  As the light began to fail so the mist started to swirl over the fields.  It drew closer and closer before enveloping us in its cold and unearthly grasp.  We were now wrapped up in our full winter clothing; fleeces, over-trousers, gillets and jackets and still the cold crept into our bones. We both resembled Nanook of the North!  It felt about 8c and we remained biteless throughout the night, packing up around 11.30pm.  Paul Whiteing had indicated that it was incredibly mild!  That seemed crazy, however on walking back upstream we discovered the mist was absent from this area and the temperatures were much, much higher.  When we arrived back in the car park the car thermometer was showing 13c.  We stripped away all of the cold weather clothing and enjoyed a nice cuppa by the cars in just shirt and trousers and were very comfortable in the early autumn air.  Just goes to show how conditions can vary and how they affect the results.

The following day we headed to the Kennet to target the Benyons.  We didn’t want to be leaving there very late, hoping to head home around 8.30-9.00pm.  We arrived at the river a little later than expected at around 11am.  I wandered downstream whilst Geoff headed upstream.  We thought this might provide a contrast and if one area produced the other could always move.  I baited up a deep marginal swim with some hemp and fished the inside line.  It was a good 7ft deep and offered loads of bankside cover, with overhanging trees and undergrowth hopefully sheltering a few fish.  Sadly it appeared to be quite snaggy and after a few hours of inactivity I felt a move was in order.

I checked out a few likely looking swims with a rod to plumb the depth and feel what the riverbed was like.  I finally plumped on a nice spot which had a deep run under a overhanging tree and a far bank line of trees where the flow offered an enticing crease.  I decided as the day wore on to concentrate on the far bank run.  This looked the best spot; it had a good flow and lots of cover and seemed an ideal interception point.  I baited the tree line up with catapults of hemp and then fished a block end feeder with hemp and two elips pellets on the hair.

Hemp is a great attractor

Hemp is a great attractor

It was beginning to look like yet another blank when there was a bang on the rod top.  At last a sign of life!  Perhaps it was just a chub investigating the bait but who knows?  Around 10 minutes later with the light fading fast, the rod top started to dance.  I was fishing upstream with a bow in the line and this was an all out bite.  I grabbed the rod and pulled into the fish.  It was solid and nothing moved.  I could then feel a thump from something on the other end and this fish started to power off on a very slow and determined run, taking line from a begrudging clutch.  As I pulled back the fish seemed to get stronger and just hugged the bottom.  I honestly thought it was snagged for a while and then started to realise it was in fact just a good barbel on the other end.

I managed to coax it eventually to the nearside bank where it headed straight for a sunken bush.  With steady pressure I easily kept it away from any real danger and suddenly the fish popped up on the surface.  I made the most of this opportunity and managed to slip the fish straight into the waiting landing net.  Phew what a relief. At last a barbel and a decent one at that.  I quickly called Geoff and informed him of my catch and said it looked 13lb+ possibly even 14lb I thought.  I waited for Geoff to wander down and then we weighed and photographed a magnificent Kennet barbel in beautiful condition.  The fish tipped the scales to 13lb 3oz and was my second biggest Kennet fish to date.

13lb 3oz

13lb 3oz

With that the rain started and as it was already about 7.45 we decided to call it a day and head home before the weather turned really nasty.

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It was that time of the year again.  Can it really be 12 months since our last visit to the Wye Valley for some early summer barbel fishing?  It’s flown by, which is frightening really.  Still they say as you get older the faster the times seems to go and it looks like ‘they’ are right.

The only worry we had was that the barbel may not have spawned by the time we got there.  In fact they did the weekend prior to our arrival.  We suspected that the fishing would be quite slow and looking at reports on BFW and one or two other forums, it looked like pretty slow going indeed.

Still if there is one thing that can make up for some slow fishing, then its the scenery.  The Wye Valley is simply breathtaking.  Rolling hills, thick forests, pasture-land, pretty villages, wonderful cottages and some rustic old pubs all go to make this place so special.  I often sit back and just gaze in wonder at the spellbinding beauty of the Herefordshire countryside.  Throw into this mix some amazing wildlife and its a privilege to have the freedom to be out there enjoying the sights and sounds this country has to offer.

The River Wye

The River Wye

We arrived at the farm around late morning, much earlier than normal, due in the main to a quiet and unusually benign M25.  It didn’t take long to get the caravan and awning set-up and we headed down to the river.  It was the lowest I think I have seen it, certainly for some time anyway.  I had planned on a two pronged attack….float rod to start with and then move onto a feeder later on.

Once the waders were on I headed onto the shallow gravels and opted for a big float, which would hold its line easily.  I wanted to trot the deeper gulley that ran down the opposite bank.  I had decided to feed with 6mm carp pellets and fish a banded 8mm carp pellet on the hook.  The shot was bulked around 12-14″ from the hook and a No 4 dropper shot employed around 4-6″ from the hook.  The float had a nice pronounced tip that would easily be visible at distance.

I initially bait droppered in around 6 medium sized droppers of hemp and a couple of mini pellets and then left the swim for half an hour to hopefully get the fish feeding. Sadly after a couple of hours trotting without so much as a bite, it was becoming obvious that the barbel were either not in residence or simply not interested.  I had hoped to fish the end of the beach area here, but unfortunately there was someone fishing on the opposite bank.  The area lower down had a very deep gully that I thought might hold some fish, especially as the flow is very good here.

Drennan Power Float Rod

Drennan Power Float Rod

Kevin was float fishing above me and Geoff was feeder fishing from the croy slightly further upstream.  All these areas have produced fish in the past but not today.  Geoff decided to walk upstream and I stayed put lower down but switched to the feeder.  I like the Fisky type feeders and use a hemp and halibut groundbait and add pellets of all sizes; 4mm, 6mm, 8mm and a few 12mm elips.  I also sprayed some of  Trefor West’s ‘sausage sizzle’ flavour to the mix for some of that extra bit of magic.

Nothing materialised for me but Geoff came through on the walkie talkie and had caught a couple of fish from the top end.  Enough was enough and I headed up top.  I was loaded up like a sherpa and just about made the hike in one piece. I found a nice swim just above Geoff, who had now caught again.  He continued to catch steadily and the fish seemed to be of a good size and included Geoff’s first Wye double of exactly 10lbs.  In the meantime Kevin and I struggled for bites, despite flanking Geoff on both sides.  He ended up with 10 and Kevin and I had 1 apiece.

Geoff's first Wye double

Geoff’s first Wye double

Still our first barbel of the season had been secured and we looked forward to a wonderful week ahead of us on the river Wye.

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