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What a fine fine figure of a man he cuts!!  Ignore the spelling mistake….it’s me really. 🙂

Delighted to be on the front cover.  Thanks to Jez Brown for some superb photos.

 

Coarse Angling Today

Coarse Angling Today

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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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The best laid plans of mice and men and all that.  Geoff and I had arranged an early morning start, well more like the middle of the night actually.  We headed off at 3am with our sights firmly fixed on arriving at our chosen destination before anyone else.  The reason was so I could do a bit of trotting in one particular spot.  Now that’s always a dangerous thing to do.  Firstly you pin all of your hopes on one swim and if it doesn’t work your scuppered and secondly if there’s already someone in situ when you get there, then yes your scuppered! Still it was a one off, we’re not normally too fussed if we can’t get into this particular swim as there are other areas that will produce chub and roach.  However this specific spot really does suit trotting and is probably the best on this section of river for barbel, hence it’s so very popular.  Anyway we arrived at out chosen destination at 4.45am and yes you’ve guessed it….someone was already in the car park.  Several expletives later and we decided that if someone was that keen, then good luck to em…the filthy, dirty bas….!

The Lea

The Lea

So it was plan B.  The only problem was we didn’t have a plan B!  Still we plumped on a couple of other swims and hoped for the best.  I had a selection of rods with me.  As explained my primary reason for coming here was to trot for barbel.  The reason for that was to try out some new baits I’d received from Pallatrax, that I think will be ideal for this type of fishing.  I have mentioned them before; they are small dried snails that once rehydrated in water return to their natural state.  They can then be fished on a small hook (14 or 16) and offer a high protein and very natural bait.  So I had my Drennan Power Float set-up for barbel, the Drennan Ultralight for chub and roach and my Torrix for fishing bottom baits, if the other method failed to produce.

As the light slowly broke through the gloom of dawn it was time to run a float through the swim.  The flow was much less than I expected, especially following some of the heavy rain of recent days.  Also the flow sharply angled from the far to near bank after just a few yards, which made presentation a little tricky.  Still if the float was started tight to the reeds opposite I could get a decent trot down before the float headed to the nearside bank and disappeared from view.  I had sprayed the bronze maggots with some Winter Almond spray the night before and they had a delightful (well almost) cherry bakewell aroma.  I loose fed a few maggots every cast to get the swim going.  If the fish started to respond then I would be using a selection of baits but maggots would be my opening gambit.

After an hour I’d had one small perch and a nice roach of about 8oz.  No signs of barbel.  I popped down to see Geoff and on my return thought I’d give the Ultralight a go.  First trot through and yes, typical, a barbel was hooked.  The fish plodded off powerfully downstream.  Gentle, steady pressure stopped the fish advancing any further and a tug of war ensued.  The barbel sat under the reeds sulking whilst I kept the pressure up.  Then it was gone.  The hook to nylon had parted close to the spade end of the hook.  I’m not a fan of hooks to nylon for this very reason.  They seem to fail on big fish a lot and I much prefer to tie my own.  Today though I thought they’d be OK for roach and dace but they are not man enough generally for barbel, in my opinion.

The Baits

The Baits

The barbel float rod was employed again for about an hour or so but failed to produce and so the lighter outfit was put through it’s paces once again.  Typically first trot through and another barbel was hooked.  I had this one almost ready for netting when the HTN parted again close to the spade end.  I decided to change the line on the power float rod and reduce it to a mainline of 0.15mm (5.14lb) and use a 5lb hooklink.  It could be that the heavier set-up was spooking the barbel.   This also allowed me to use a smaller float.  I had been alternating between bulk shotting and shirt button style and today the shirt button style seemed to be producing the goods.  Sadly though the flow seemed to keep changing and by now the wind had picked up considerably making float presentation almost impossible.  That was a shame because it can be such a rewarding method but there are times when its just not practical.

A typical Lea barbel

A typical Lea barbel

So it was to the Torrix Barbel Rod that my hopes were now pinned.  I was using around 3′ of Pallatrax Steamlink for my hooklink, a size 10 ‘The Hook’, a flying backlead to make sure it all stayed pinned down and a medium sized Stonze weight.  It all looked very good in the margins and the Steamlink, which had been passed through the steam of a kettle, stayed nice and straight.    For bait I was using the new Winter Almond squabs.  They are a nice size and not rock hard either.  I like slightly softer baits for my river fishing.  These Winter Almond baits smell just like cherry bakewell.  I think if I’d of had some custard with me I would of ended up tucking into a bowl full!  Watch out Mr Kipling there’s a new kid on the block and Pallatrax make exceedingly good baits!!  Anyway I digress, I used the squabs with either paste or dipped into the thickest glug I’ve ever used and then rolled around in the maggot box to create an enticing cocktail.  Then additionally around the Stonze weight I moulded a ball of the Bloodworm and Maggot Crush Groundbait.  Keeping it slightly over damp ensured it stayed on well and allowed for a slow break down process, gradually releasing all of those nutritious little morsels for the fish to hone in on.

Pallatrax Stonze

Pallatrax Stonze

I was fishing to a deep area just where the flow diverted and right next to the reeds.  A few knocks and the rod tip hammered round.  There’s nothing quite like a 3 foot twitch to get the adrenaline pumping that’s for sure.  The culprit was a small but perfectly formed barbel.  As always it put up a tremendous fight and I’m pleased to say there were more to follow.  The time was now around 2pm and the skies had darkened quite considerably.  Heavy rain was forecast for later in the day and the wind was howling across the fields.  Still all the while is stayed dry we decided to persevere.

Out went the bait and a short while later round went the rod tip.  Another feisty barbel resulted.  In fact throughout the remainder of the afternoon numerous barbel followed and I lost just one fish.  It seems it’s not just me with a sweet tooth then, these Lea fish like a bit of barbel bakewell too!  I was suffering with man-flu and the wind was beginning to get to me.  We decided to finish at 4.30 before it got too cold.  By now I’d had 6 barbel to 6lb 3oz and Geoff had caught around 10 reasonable chub and one barbel.  It was great to see the rod top whack round so often for a change and one of the  highlights of the day was seeing a stunning red kite glide past, which I’ve only seen here once before.

Recovering Nicely

Recovering Nicely

In case I don’t post again before Christmas, I’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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The final stages of our annual Wye trip were drawing to a close.  With two more beats to fish we were still hopeful of some serious action.  The next session was on a beautiful day ticket section downstream of a WUF water.  It was an interesting beat.  The top end was fairly fast flowing over gravel and streamer weed, with some nice deepish runs.  Then as the river flowed downstream, it slowed in pace and became almost still but very deep in places.  Still lots of weed throughout the stretch and finally the river shallowed quite considerably but there was a very deep gulley on the nearside bank which caused the water to gush down in a boiling torrent straight into a bend before smoothing out again below the beat.  Thick weed seemed to completely cover the shallow gravels here and was a popular spot for the swans, ducks and a few drunken canoeists!  Yes it seemed that the hillbillies from Deliverance were alive and well and canoeing for a new hobby.  Cue banjos, squealing and pigs.  Luckily the vast majority of canoeists on the Wye and thoroughly nice, decent and considerate people but you do get the odd numpty but then the same could be said for anglers of course!

A drunken Wye Canoeist

A drunken Wye Canoeist

We started out at the top end of this very picturesque beat, having met and been shown the stretch by the river-keeper Stan.  There were horses all along the stretch and it seems that the owner is a famous race horse trainer and even had the Grand National winner a few years back.  The horses were fairly skittish until we made friends with a few and then of course they don’t leave you alone.  They were magnificent animals and added to the charm of this delightful beat.

I ended up on a croy, fishing out to some clear gravel set amongst thick streamer weed.  There is something very satisfying about feeling a lead or feeder hit clean gravel, especially if its amongst some thick weed.  You just feel so much more confident of a bite.  I had a reasonable depth and it was one of the nicest swims I think I have fished on the Wye.  The croy crept some way out into the river and I had unimpaired views both up and downstream of this amazing river.  With buzzards screeching overhead in that haunting way that they do, as they whirl high above on the thermals, kingfishers hurtling past and a vast array of wildfowl, it proved to be a pleasant distraction from the fishing.  That was just as well because despite the simply perfect looking swims that we all fished, we couldn’t buy a bite.  This was of course pretty much the theme of the week, so we wasn’t put off by the lack of action.

We kept moving and trying different swims, even the deep and sluggish water of the middle section, but all to no avail.  Stan was on hand a number of times throughout the day to lend a hand but even three regulars had struggled to get any action, with just two fish between them.  That at least made us feel a bit better, we weren’t as useless as we thought…?!  I decided to take a stroll, well hobble really, as I had done my big toe in.  It wasn’t gout, just where I had been pushing the toe up against my shoe for a long period of time and it had started to swell up and became very painful.  I’ve had this before where its actually gone sceptic and I’ve been forced to take a hot needle to the swelling and drain out the….well you get the picture.  So anyways I hobbled down to the start of the fishery and discovered a chap in the boiling, fast water swim.  He’d had 11 or 12 fish.  It was interesting to just chat and watch him fishing in this torrent of water.  He missed a few bites and then lost a barbel, so I left him in peace, especially as he’d had to put up with the 10 or so drunken youngsters in the canoes peeing and drinking on the shallows just in front of him earlier.

I wandered back up to the boys and we decided to call it a day, fishless once again.  The guy below appeared to be packing up too and by the time we had loaded the car, he had gone.  It was too good an opportunity to miss and so we headed down to the swim.  We shared a rod and were soon into our first barbel, which unfortunately snagged me and came off.  I then caught a lovely fish of about 6 or 7lbs and promptly lost another 4, all shedding the hook.  Kevin managed two and lost several and Geoff also got in on the action with a 100% success rate; 1 cast 1fish.  We decided to call it a day as food and drink beckoned.

The next day was hot, the sun beating down in a relentless blaze of heat.  Hats on and shade very much the order of the day.  We were heading to another new beat and looked forward to some exploring.  On arrival we walked the stretch to see what was what.  Shallow, weedy water seemed to be the mainstay here but with a deep near bank channel in places.  The channel had a really good flow and looked very tempting.  I found a nice spot but soon discovered that the gulley wasn’t as deep as I thought.  Still, it looked enticing and so a few bait droppers of hemp and pellet went out and the swim was rested for an hour.  Four and a half hours later and the tip hadn’t registered a single tap, let alone anything that closely resembled a barbel bite.

Kev waits for the wrap round - Wye June 2013

Kev waits for the wrap round – Wye June 2013

So it was time for a move.  I headed upstream and dropped into a slightly shallower and less pacey swim with a weedbed in front of me and overhanging trees just downstream.  It looked pretty good and I thought well worth a go.  However again a couple of hours passed and the lack of action and heat forced me to go and sit in the shade for a while.  Geoff had also just moved into a swim and both Kevin and I helped him with his gear.  I can’t believe I had missed this new swim because it looked absolutely perfect.  It was around 5′ deep, clean gravel bottom but with weed 3/4 of the way across and a lovely smooth and fairly pacey flow.   One look said ‘barbel’ .  Geoff was soon set-up and the feeder and bait were out mid-river.  The knocks and taps started straight away.  I think this is always a good sign and these sharp, quick bangs are often barbel not chub.  Soon the rod wrapped round and a beautiful, immaculate barbel was in the net.  Several more followed.

I headed back to my swim for a while to give it one final go.  Not long after casting out, the rod tip banged and dragged round.  The culprit put up one hell of a fight.  After several attempts to get it near to the net, only for this powerhouse of a barbel to surge off on another amazing run, I began to realise this was a really good fish.  It looked long, long enough to be a nice double.  Eventually I netted my prize and left it resting in the net for some time.  It had fought so hard it needed a good rest.  Then I weighed her in at exactly 10lbs, despite looking nearer to 11.  These fish are so lean and muscular, which is why they fight so hard.  So my first ever Wye double had been secured and I was over the moon.  It was a stunning fish and looked freshly spawned, so was soon returned and I’m delighted to say that it swam away strongly.

My first Wye double

My first Wye double

After hearing that Geoff was still catching and that he had now been joined by Kevin, I thought it only fair to share my vast experience with them by poaching their swim!  So it was a threesome, which won’t surprise our families,  as we are often refereed to as the ‘Brokeback Mountain’  brigade!  I mean, how very dare they. 🙂 So there we were like peas in a pod, all three in a nice neat line fishing this lovely run.  Soon we had all caught fish and I have to say it was an unusually sociable and entertaining way to fish.  I managed to persuade Geoff into float fishing the run for barbel and soon had the Drennan Power Float Rod in action.  However due to the wind, it was proving awkward to fish the right line on which the barbel appeared to be feeding.  Still it was great fun and Geoff managed to tempt a few chub whilst I blanked of course, well I may of had a small chub but can’t actually remember.  Damn this Senile dementia.

Peas in a pod

Peas in a pod

So we left perhaps a little disappointed with the slow fishing, but in all honestly the scenery, stunning beats, wildlife and company is what makes these trips so enjoyable and long may they continue.

 

 

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At long last an opportunity came up at work to get out and fish.  It’s been a few weeks since I was last out and come hell or high water, I was going to fish a river somewhere.  Talking of high water, it seems that most rivers are still incredibly high and really pushing through.  I suspect the heavy colour has dropped out a bit by now and with it some of the nasties that get into the river system during floods i.e. oil, untreated sewage etc.etc.  So if its safe to get access to a swim then its well worth a go in these unseasonably mild conditions.

After much deliberation Kevin and I opted to fish the Lea in Hertfordshire.  We hoped it wouldn’t be too seriously affected by the recent deluge of rain.  We arrived early and found we had the place to ourselves.  This particular stretch contains some very big roach and dace and it was with these in mind that I set up a light float outfit.  The 14ft Drennan Matchpro Light, Bob James (am I allowed to mention his name still?!) 2.5lb mainline, 1.14oz hooklink with a 22 barbless fine wire hook.  This was fished in conjunction with a 6xNo4 stick float.  Bait was single red maggot and loose feeding maggot and hemp, with a small pinch each and every trot through.

Now with the weather being so mild I thought it prudent to take a second rod and reel set up a little heavier in case the barbel were active.  So the second outfit was made up of a 13ft power float rod, Fred Crouch aerial centrepin and 6lb mainline.  The hooklink was 5lb and I used a strong  size 14 barbless with 2 or 3 maggots.  This was fished with a much larger float which helps to pull the thicker line through the rod’s eyes and enable the float to travel downstream more freely.  Well that was the idea anyway.   To be honest due to the tight confines of the swims here, an 8 or 9lb low diameter mainline used in conjunction with a 7lb low diameter hooklink would be much better but I was still confident it would suffice.

As the light slowly began to filter through the gloom, I ran the stick float through a nice deep glide.  The float continued downstream in a lovely unhurried fashion and I eased back on the stick so the bait fluttered up and ahead of the floats passage.  With each trot through, a few maggots and hemp were flicked in to travel along with the hookbait.  After just a few trots the float buried and the strike met with a solid resistance.  Whatever was on the other end soon realised and was off on a powerful run.  I bent the rod into the fish and allowed line as sparingly as I dared.  The fish was just too powerful and it straitened the tiny fine wire hook.  It was obviously a barbel.  Shortly after another barbel took the bait, followed by another.  It was fairly obvious at this juncture that roach fishing was going to be pointless .

I now swapped the roach outfit for the heavier rod and reel in anticipation that only the barbel would be active from this point on.  After just a couple of trots through, the float buried and this time I was able to subdue the barbel comfortably with the stronger tackle.  It was a barbel of about 5lbs.  Several more followed before it went quiet.  I decided to return to the roach fishing as it appeared the barbel had moved out of the swim.  Er big mistake.  A dozen or so trots through and another barbel was hooked and again lost to some unseen snag.  So it was back to the heavier tackle.

Mud, mud, glorious mud.....

Mud, mud, glorious mud…..

This went on pretty much all day.  I ended up with 8 barbel to about 6lbs but lost quite a few too, which I always feel bad about particularly if I’ve left a hook in them.  Luckily they were small, fine wire hooks so wouldn’t take long to work free.   The rain started early to mid afternoon and it all got a bit messy.  The banks were sticky with wet mud and most of my equipment was soaked through.  As the light faded both Kevin and I were more than happy to call it a day.  Both Kevin and I also had one chub apiece but sadly the roach and dace didn’t put in an appearance.

 

 

 

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