October has passed in a blur and the usual Autumn heavy rain didn’t materialise in the North West. However, temperatures predictably fell, and this combined with low clear rivers made for difficult fishing. I did manage to snag a few though so not all doom and gloom, and a Barbel Society Lancashire meeting plus a weekend down on the Lower Severn promised a good laugh at the very least.
Friday night on the mid Ribble, got on a nice far bank gulley swim with loads of sunken trees as a holding feature, substantial gear was a must from experience here, and I placed my rigs a couple of yards short just in case.
This was my second peg choice, the first being almost static due to the poor low water conditions, it just didn’t feel right, so I moved pronto. Blinding bright sun didn’t help but somewhat surprisingly it fished ok. As expected not a lot happened till late in the day but then an 8lb barbel shattered the calm, putting up a frenetic scrap to get into the snags, I was grateful for the 12lb braid hooklink.
Four chub also obliged, topped by a proper lump I thought might have gone 6lb, but the scales said different 5lb12oz, falling for a big chunk of flavoured spam. I would be made up with it on Chub gear this winter but to be honest it was a bit of a mis-match on the barbel gear. Both rods were rigged with straight leads with small pva bags and paste round the boilie rig, I just felt the feeder would have been too much for the conditions.
Another Friday afternoon down on the mid Ribble. It really was on its bare bones, boulders poking out everywhere, clear as tap water and bright sunshine, plus the drop in temperatures, I was again doubtful of my chances.
I got on the peg I wanted and I know there are fish there so I went softly, softly, straight leads only, just small pva bags of crushed boilies, 12s hooks to 10lb gravel braid, which I like over the gravel/pebble bottom of the Ribble due to its excellent camouflage, with a couple of bits of putty to pin the hooklengths down. Paste wrapped boilie hookbaits cast to a far bank gulley and just waited it out. Well the tactics worked and I had a proper wallop of a take and after a decent scrap I landed a nice fish 8lb11oz, followed by 4 decent chub, nothing like the monster from last Friday though.
Sunday I was supposed to be fishing with a mate I fished with on the upper Trent a few weeks ago, he was desperate to try the Ribble but lives in Stoke, so I arranged to meet him and his mate and show them around the club stretches we have at our disposal, but unfortunately he was unwell so had to cancel.
I had used a considerable number of Brownie points to secure the extra day with her indoors, so I thought it was too good an opportunity to miss and went anyway. I decided to try a different stretch of the mid Ribble and did a massive yomp to a favourite swim; on this stretch I often wonder if I’m walking past good pegs to get to it, but it is reliable.
Tactically I fished the same as last Friday, no loose feed, just pva bags and boilie, but tried a chunk of flavoured meat on the downstream rod. Three barbel obliged, only small up to 5lb, plus 5 chub. Most came to the meat which was interesting because I was using a big chunk around 35-40mm cubed but that didn’t seem to put them off. My understanding is that the metabolism of barbel slows considerably as the water temperature falls, and that they struggle to deal with high fat content foods when the temperatures are low, so maybe it wasn’t as cold as I thought.
17.10.16 Barbel society Lancashire regional meeting, Hinds Head, Stockport
I absolutely love these meetings run by the inimitable Jerry Gleeson, a man who single handedly keeps the mobile phone industry in good health due to the number he has dropped in various rivers around the country. On a serious note the money made from these meetings goes to the B.S. for their various projects and is a very worthy cause, plus Jerry has raised thousands for the Army Benevolent Fund through other fishing related events, he is an all-round top lad. He is ably assisted by Matt Marlow, another sound lad who you will no doubt be aware of if you are on Facebook! and both are top Barbel anglers as well.
The guest speaker was the infamous Terry Theodore who I have heard a lot about but never met. Well, to say he was an entertainer would be an understatement, the place was rocking with laughter and the guy could have a career as a stand-up, so slick was his style and content. There was even some good stuff about fishing thrown in as well.
A few pints, some grub and usually a stall or two from the bait companies, in a decent boozer amongst a friendly bunch of barbel fanatics…what a great way to spend an evening. Entry is free to B.S members, a measly £2 to non-members. Get down there; you don’t know what you are missing!
21-23.10.16 Barbel Society Fish-in Pixham, Lower Severn
Keeping with the Barbel Society theme, I attended a barbel society fish-in on the lower Severn at the legendary Pixham fishery over the weekend. Non-members were welcome so I guess the aim is to try to boost membership of the society. It was organised by the tireless Jerry Gleeson.
About 15 anglers were there, plus a couple of lads organising who didn’t bother fishing, on over a mile of river. I had never fished the lower Severn before, although I am a regular on the middle, so it was interesting to see and fish the venue, and as an added bonus well-known barbel expert Laurence Breakspear came down and visited each angler and talked about the river and the pegs, he was such a friendly lad and very, very interesting, and was free and easy with info for me about the lower Severn in general, so a big thank you Laurence.
As for the fishing, to be honest when I arrived I found there wasn’t a lot of visual evidence as to the best places to try, so I walked the length and bumped into a local lad (James Benfield) who was already fishing and he advised me to try the swim I ended up on. It was closer to the car park as well which was a bonus given I have no barrow and was camping on the bank all weekend. After a plumb round with a bomb I found a double shelf 3ft to 6ft to 10ft right down my side, so decided to fish 2-3 rods out just over the 2nd shelf. I didn’t want to over feed but it’s a big old river down there and its got some proper beasts in it, plus because of the compact nature of the swim due to overhanging trees, I bait-dropped a pint of hemp and some broken boilies upstream and fished a lump of flavoured meat downstream.
I set up my gear and finally sat down and 20 minutes later my boillie rod whacked over and I’m into a good scrap with a 9lb10oz barbel. It was a lovely looking fish, thick in the shoulder and I was made up with it. Obviously, having one so soon I thought I was going to bag up but it was not to be, the only other action over the 2.5 days being 2 tentative bites that set my alarms off in the night resulting in one mediocre chub and one missed bite. I put it down to a decided drop in water temperature, I was told it was 11-12C midweek, but was 9C when we arrived on Friday, plus all the disturbance of a larger group of anglers than normal.
A total of 5 barbel were caught and 2 of them were by James, who happens to also be the British record holder for Zander, so obviously knows his onions. Apparently it’s a hot length for the species and I actually saw one being caught around 2lb which was the first one I have ever seen in real life; the lad had a few more over the weekend as well. A few bream and a decent pike were the only other fish caught, quite poor considering I was amongst seasoned river men.
So I can’t complain, at least I caught one and I was comfortable in my bivie for once having brought a duvet to go over my bag. The food was all provided, cooked on the bank and was really good, and we had an enjoyable piss up on the Friday evening in the Blue bell Inn, so what’s not to like? More importantly I met loads of like-minded barbel men from around the country, I don’t have room to name them all but to a man they were brilliant, full of banter and fishing stories. The bonus is I have made lots of new mates for trips to the Swale and various other venues.
Yet again I ventured to the Ribble, another different stretch on the upper mid river. This has good access and is consequently quite popular. Even so I was surprised to find 15 cars in the car park and my favoured area was far to congested for my liking, so I ended up in a swim I haven’t fished before and to be honest I didn’t really fancy it. As the river was so low this deep slow pool was almost static and that usually isn’t what I look for.
I decided to make the best of it and placed 2 rods 2/3 across in the middle of what flow there was and sat back. I noticed something seemed to be happening when my landing net decided to float away and I had to jump to save it. The river was rising fast and I had to quickly move my gear up the bank. It came up 18″ in an hour and as dark came it gradually started to recede. There hadn’t been any rain so it was a bit of a surprise, but the Ribble is a spate river and prone to such events.
As it was almost Halloween, nightfall coincided with a volley of fireworks and I was fearing the worst as I hadn’t had the slightest indication all day, when I noticed a tiny tap on the rod followed by a slight drop back. I stood up watching the rod like a hawk but no further movement was indicated. Not sure why but I just knew something wasn’t right and decided to wind down. Well, all hell let loose and after a spirited scrap a lovely conditioned 9lb12oz fish was resting in the net.
I’m convinced the fish was pricked and decided to stay put and try to free the hook hold, a behaviour I have read about on highly pressurised waters and common to carp, but one of my mates Harry Pardoe suggested it might not have even been aware it was hooked and carried on eating, which I think might be the case here. Either way it was a bit of an oddity as the normal barbel bites on the Ribble with hair rigged baits are a lot more noticeable!
So October has passed and my results have been reasonable, but I am hoping the warm Autumn rain we barbel men love is not going to be missing this year. I just checked the 2 week forecast for the North West and its pretty awful to be honest with a severe temperature drop…maybe December will be the month!!!