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Posts Tagged ‘Small river barbel fishing’


It feels like a long time since I last heard that intoxicating sound of water running over rocks and stones and shallow riffles bubbling and burbling in an almost hypnotic rhythm.   I guess Lord Tennyson put it far better than I ever could:

The Babbling Brook

 Alfred, Lord Tennyson

I come from haunts of coot and hern,
I make a sudden sally,
And sparkle out among the fern,
To bicker down a valley.

By thirty hills I hurry down,
Or slip between the ridges,
By twenty thorps, a little town,
And half a hundred bridges.

Till last by Philip’s farm I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I chatter over stony ways,
In little sharps and trebles,
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles.

With many a curve my banks I fret
By many a field and fallow,
And many a fairy foreland set
With willow-weed and mallow.

I chatter, chatter, as I flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I wind about, and in and out,
With here a blossom sailing,
And here and there a lusty trout,
And here and there a grayling,

And here and there a foamy flake
Upon me, as I travel
With many a silvery waterbreak
Above the golden gravel,

And draw them all along, and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

I steal by lawns and grassy plots,
I slide by hazel covers;
I move the sweet forget-me-nots
That grow for happy lovers.

I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance,
Among my skimming swallows;
I make the netted sunbeam dance
Against my sandy shallows.

I murmur under moon and stars
In brambly wildernesses;
I linger by my shingly bars;
I loiter round my cresses;

And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever.

My first opportunity to fish in this new season was on the Monday, about mid to late afternoon.  A very small river beckoned.  This is a lovely wild and intimate stretch, heavily overgrown and unkempt.  It almost looks like the Teme and the banks are somewhat similar too; sheer drops in many spots, down to the river.  A rope and dog spike are pretty much mandatory equipment here.  Early on John and I had to cut our way through thick Himalayan Balsam and nettles to try and find the bank.  After several hours of toiling we eventually cleared about 4 or 5 swims for future exploration.

We spent some time fish spotting and soon discovered a few fish showing on a gravel run, one of which looked about 7lb and the other two around the 4-5lb mark.  They didn’t appear in a feeding mood and we both wondered whether they were getting ready to spawn.  Still it was encouraging.

Lovely gravel runs

Lovely gravel runs

I lowered myself into a nice swim.  It was an area below some shallows and the river then deepened and slowed into a long run overhung with trees.  This area seemed to lack clean gravel but I persevered nevertheless.  Unfortunately all to no avail.  The highlight for me was hearing a loud commotion in the undergrowth behind me, reminiscent of a bull elephant charging, and then seeing two badgers run across a small wooden bridge.  I could hear their heavy, scampering paws on the bare wood of the bridge before finally sighting them.  Prior to that a small deer had also darted into the undergrowth just across the bridge.  When you tuck yourself away into the bankside vegetation, its amazing how much wildlife appears from nowhere, quite oblivious to your presence.

John ended up with a couple of nice chub but despite seeing a few barbel none took the bait.  Perhaps they were too preoccupied with spawning to even think of food.  A few days later we were back.  This time I settled into a small gravel pool.  Fast shallow water entered a few yards upstream of it and then the river narrowed and was funnelled away into another long gravel run. It looked perfect and we had seen a few fish here previously.

Tactics were to be very simple as these barbel are rarely fished for.  I was using a 2’6″ hooklink and a small leger weight of around 1oz.  I decided to use a couple of elips pellets superglued on a long hair.  However I also used some soaked pellets and had one or two other baits with me that could be used if I felt like it, including a couple of good quality pastes.  After baiting the swim lightly with mini pellets and leaving it for about 30-40 minutes I tentatively cast out.  Within minutes the rod top was yanked round and I grabbed the rod.  It felt heavy, in fact a bit too heavy!  I was snagged.  I kept the pressure up and suddenly it gave.  There was still a fish on and I was gob smacked to see the culprit was a chub of maybe 1lb.  It must of had 3 shredded wheat that morning because it almost dragged the rod in.

Other than nearly being knocked senseless by a Kingfisher, which came past at about Mach 3 and quite literally buzzed my nose, nothing else happened of any consequence.  Well I say that, except for John spotting half a dozen barbel in a tight group, which appeared to be just exploring rather than feeding.  Again it at least means we know there are some barbel there.    So the campaign continues in earnest.

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