I started my barbel fishing a little early this year with a trip to the river Wye organised by Nick Watkins, a fellow coach. We have a couple of outings together each year – here is one of our first. I have fished this river a couple of times in the past, at different venues, with barbel as my main quarry and although I caught nearly everything else the river still owed me a barbel.
We were due to meet a group of Nick’s mates who knew the river well and we had booked in to the hotel on the golf course which owned the fishing. On our arrival the first thing we did was walk the river, but so early on in the season all the banks were totally overgrown and very steep, we couldn’t see most of the river and didn’t know where the paths down to the water were. We decided to wait for local knowledge to arrive in the person of Nick’s mates and so we went to register in the hotel, sort out the tackle and discuss tactics.
When we returned to the river everyone had arrived, picked all the best swims and cut paths down to the river and we were left with a couple of less than ideal pegs. Whilst we were walking the banks looking for likely swims we were called over by another angler who produced a strange herring like fish from his keep net. He demanded that as we were both coaches we should identify this mystery fish. I suspected it might be a member of the migratory shad familly and with the judicisious use of my blackberry I was able to show him a picture of an Allis Shad which left him impressed. It was the first one I had ever seen in real life, they are becomming quite rare and are only found in a few rivers in this country but when I suggested the reason it was dead might have something to do with it being kept in a keep net, in slack, shallow water and in full sunlight, I lost another potential disciple!
We caught lots of dace and chub but only one barbel, which despite me spending most of the two days float fishing finally came to a maggot feeder. Another river added to my barbel list.
I will return to this stretch of the river later in the season – forearmed with a little more knowledge, a lot less tackle to carry and a pair of chest waders – but not his year.
It was a delight to get back to to my beloved river Kennet where over the next few weeks I was able to catch a number of barbel around the seven pound mark on a float and centrepin. Despite the low water levels which were to plague my river fishing all summer.
North of Watford! That was the plan. It’s always raining up north, Yorkshire people are even reputed to have webbed feet it rains so much up there. They must have some flow in their rivers.
A trip was arranged with Weller of the Yard, who now lives so far up north he calls Yorkshire men southerners, to meet up for a couple of days of fishing around the Boroughbridge area. I invited Graham Walker who lives near York, a fellow PAA coach and also my accountant, as he speaks the local dialect even better than I do (during my army service I served almost exclusively with Yorkshire regiments – although there is nothing exclusive about Yorkshire regiments) .
We ended up fishing the river Swale and guess what, it was low and clear with hardly any flow. On the first day we fished a narrow stretch which had a little more flow than the rest and caught an assortment of dace and small chub but on the second day we went to a wider and deeper stretch on the recommendation of the local tackle shop. Here I was able to fish a large stick float with a little more finesse and although there were not so many bites I did catch this chub.
As you can see from the photo I was able to wade out and feed straight from my bait apron, my favourite type of fishing.
After a couple of hours of constant trotting and feeding I was getting tired and decided to fish the same line with a maggot feeder while I had a bit of a sit down. The result was this barbel which fought well above its weight and nearly straightened my hook.
Another barbel from a different river.
I liked the look of the river Swale and I would like to fish it again when it was carrying a bit more colour, shame it isn’t a hundred and fifty miles further South.
The moral of this summer could be whilst some barbel fishing can be very scientific and technical and float fishing for them is fun, if your life depended on catching one from a strange water, a maggot feeder is probably your best bet!