December is always a challenging month for the Barbel angler, for me it’s all about grabbing the opportunity when the conditions are favourable. When they aren’t I switch target species to Chub. This month has offered a couple of windows of opportunity for a chance of a Barbel, which I have gratefully pounced upon.
04.12.16 River Dane
A freezing cold Sunday session this week, so a local venue was in order targeting chub and the Dane fitted the bill perfectly. I had some company for a change, a mate Kriston met me there.
Sadly the fishing was terrible to be honest. The fish just weren’t having it, a couple of plucks were the best I could muster on bread and cheesepaste, Kris had 1 small grayling on maggot on the stick. I fished all the likely spots downstream of the bridge, the only touches were a few knocks but no hook-ups, possibly Grayling.
I suggested we upped sticks and try a different stretch where I managed a couple of reasonable chub in the end. Not a great fishing day to be honest but the company and scenery were a treat.
09.12.16 Mid Ribble
A serious change in the weather this week with warm rain entering the river systems, I was buzzing with confidence when I got to the Ribble Friday, about 0.4m up and at the bottom of a trough on the river level graph in hindsight. I was fishing a falling river, but it rained pretty much the whole time and I was not surprised to see the it rose again before I left. No wonder the flow patterns of my normally steady swim were all over the place. I had a crease to die for when I set up, but that went west fairly quickly and it became a big eddy flowing upstream on the nearside. Surprisingly, very little debris was coming down and a water temp of 10C, so a rise of 5C over the week, surely enough to get the barbs going?
I was so confident I decided to risk a feeder on the upstream rod with broken boilie, hemp, groundbait and boilie hookbaits, and straight lead downstream with flavoured meat. Well I didn’t have to wait long as a delicate bite produced a nice Barbel around 6lb after half an hour on the meat. It went a bit quiet till tea time then they came fairly evenly after that until 8pm, after that I didn’t get a touch till 9.30 when I packed up. 6 barbel to 7lb and a few chub including a nice one at 5lb1oz, same weight as one I’d had a few weeks ago just upstream, maybe the same fish.
A cracking session for December and vindication of all the text books as far as the warm pulse of water is concerned. I really should have hung on for a bit longer because I think these opportunities are few and far between in winter. Sorry the pics are terrible due to the rain.
15.12.16 Mid Trent
The warm weather persisted so I made a 180 mile round trip for little return on a lovely looking river Trent with good water temperatures and colour. Just a few bream obliged despite sticking it out as late as I could put up with it (1am). It was frustrating to say the least. A guy on an earlier peg had lost one and had a few bites, so fish were feeding, which is even worse in some respects as it undermines my confidence in my methodology.
16.12.16 Mid Ribble
With my confidence rocked I headed for familiar waters to try to restore my mojo. The water had cooled a little to 8C and it was very clear but I was still confident something would happen later on. Just one fellow angler on the whole length and he was long gone by the time I headed for home.
A couple of chub on pellet in the afternoon before the first unmistakeable wrench of a decent Barbel, which after playing it into safe ground was somehow lost to a hookpull. I was gutted as I didn’t expect to be catching many given the conditions. I persevered and was finally rewarded with 2 Barbel weighing in at a modest 5lb and 7lb. These together with 8 chub to 4lb8oz made for a decent December session.
The landscape of this valley never ceases to inspire me and a huge flock of Sea birds massed overhead as the sun set. It was a magnificent scene and added to the enjoyment, fishing has become more than just catching fish to me these days, I would rather catch less and be inspired than bag up in a dump.
Just a couple of quick local sessions on the Dane to finish the year. The temperature has plummeted and frost is thick on the ground, but worthwhile sessions can still be had.
I fished a stretch close to Middlewich that has thrown up a few nice chub in the past and managed just 2 fish from 3 bites on cheese paste and bread flake. It doesn’t sound great but they weighed 4lb and 4lb11oz so I was quite pleased with the quality at least.
I have been trying for a Dane 5lb’er for a few seasons now, it’s not an obsession but I thought it was a realistic target. I have to say I am beginning to have doubts after several fish over 4lb8oz and my best of 4lb13oz seem to be the upper limit I can manage from the waters I frequent. Maybe I will need to look for pastures new further downstream to have a chance. There is still the remainder of the season though, so it’s not over till the fat lady sings as they say!
This turned out to be my last trip of the year and the frost was still thick on the ground so once again I went in search of Chub on the Dane. I headed for a less popular length (due to the long walk down to the river) and was pleased to see no cars on the road so I had it to myself. I know this sounds like I am a right misery and terribly selfish, but at this time of year I like to keep on the move, baiting swims then returning to them during the day, more importantly when it’s flowing clear, a quiet and low profile approach is essential. Sadly this doesn’t seem to be high on the agenda of some anglers. As I fish club waters I know I have no right to exclusivity and nor do I expect it, but if I see an empty carpark I am always happier knowing I only have myself to blame if I muck it up.
This was a prolific chub water but I haven’t fished it for a few months, and I was quite disappointed to have just one bite in a few hours from 6 or 7 swims. I hope it was just the cold conditions but I have noticed a general decline in returns from this lovely river, even from last season. I have already modified my approach due to perceived changes in fish behaviour (hence the wandering I mentioned earlier), it seems I can no longer expect several fish from the same swim as in the past, now one or two if I’m lucky. I hope that the fish are spooking and vacating the area I’m fishing, rather than the horrible possibility that numbers of fish are so small due to predation that once the resident fish is caught there are no more left in the swim. This would be a terrible decline if it were the case.
So that is December and the year over, I will put some sort of a revue together but until then…