Fleeting February

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Looks promising but…fish say no!

I feel like February passed by in a blur; family Birthdays and the loss of our beloved Border terrier Sid meant I missed a couple of weekends, but to be fair I didn’t feel the call like I usually do.

What a strange month this has been weather-wise, a cold start dismissed by the approach of spring, heralded by the appearance of snowdrops and feisty Coots fighting for breeding territory. Temperatures for the month were generally higher than normal, plus the visit of storm Doris toward the end of the month, officially a ‘weather bomb’ bringing some serious rain and high winds.

However, it certainly hasn’t been detrimental to the Barbel anglers, and several notable captures have been taken from up and down the country (not by me I hasten to add!). For the reasons above, and as is often the case, I was unable to take full advantage, but I did manage a few sessions and put a few fish on the bank.

03.02.17 Middle Ribble

With air temperatures on the rise a gradual beneficial effect was seen in the water temps. The river had dropped back down after a recent small rise and continued to fall a couple of inches during the afternoon. Unfortunately most of the colour had dropped out as well, but I took a water temperature reading of 7C which was very promising after a period of 5-6C.

Fortunately I managed to get amongst the barbel, just 2 fish, one small one about 4lb and another about 6-7 (not weighed), with both fish predictably arriving at dusk. When temps are low it’s usual for fish to feed for just one period per day and it usually occurs at dusk.

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I also had a few chub to 4lb8oz so not too bad. It was lovely during the afternoon but it started to rain and got really windy late on, it was absolutely freezing when I walked back to the car at 8pm.

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Nice Ribble Chub
20.02.17 Middle Ribble

I decided to try a different stretch, one I used to visit frequently last year, but haven’t tried for a few months. It’s a hell of a walk to my usual favoured area but I liked the look of an earlier swim and saved myself the yomp. The river was carrying 18″ of water that had been dumped the last couple of days. I was very optimistic with a water temp of 8C, well coloured and slightly rising.

A couple of average sized chub kept me amused during the afternoon, but again I had to wait till evening for the first Barbel to show up. To be honest I had been lulled into such a relaxed state watching a robin landing on my rod and begging for food, plus a plethora of other bird life, I got the shock of my life when the rod ripped off. When I dived up and connected to the fish something felt odd, the fight was very erratic, the fish could pull alright but it wasn’t right for a Barbel. I thought it might be a big trout but it turned out to be a relatively small Barbel with a damaged tail.

There has been much debate recently about the impact of Otters on fisheries and I posted the picture to see if I could get any information whether this could be damage caused by Otters. They have been resident on the Ribble for an age and I have spotted them a few times; to be honest I loved seeing them, and I don’t know enough about them to enter the debate that is raging in the angling world regarding the possible impact to fisheries they cause.

Just before dark I had a second and larger fish, unweighed but around 7-8lb

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Otter or Fin-rot?
25 & 26. 02.17

On Saturday I was looking forward to attending a Barbel Society fish-in at Bewdley on the Severn and had made a weekend of it by booking a B&B, unfortunately storm Doris put paid to that and it was cancelled, ironically for high water! Never thought I’d hear that as a reason for not going Barbel fishing, but to be fair they did explain that the stretch we were booked on has banks unsuitable for floods. I tried to cancel my B&B but it was too late so I thought stuff it and went anyway.

I haven’t fished around Bewdley much when it’s flooded so I just went on Birmingham Anglers Northwood stretch (headline picture) where I have fished before. I had it to myself and only found 2 suitable pegs so fished both during the day for a disastrous blank, I can honestly say I didn’t have a single touch on either rod and packed up in low mood at 18.00. Given that the river had fished its head off during the week it was very demoralising.

I stayed in the Wetherspoons hotel, and the town was absolutely buzzing. Unfortunately my room was directly over the front door of the place so I was woken several times in the early hours by fiesty locals with differing opinions on a variety of subjects, despite having a load of beer in me! (Note to self- must drink more next time!). Understandably I awoke in a bad mood Sunday, with low expectations of my chances of a fish. However, a big breakfast later I was on my way to a club stretch near Shrewsbury.

As it happens, despite reading a temperature of 7C and the river still 2m up, the fishing was ok. Big chunks of flavoured spam chucked right into the main flow worked a treat and I had 3 decent fish all over 8lb, and one missed bite.

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My troubles then began when I tried to reverse off the car park that evening…no chance, the car just slid sideways and was well and truly stuck. I tried allsorts and couldn’t get out. In the end I had to walk back toward a village and fortunately saw a farmer in his yard and he saved the day by coming out with his jeep. I gave him a tenner, it was worth 50 to get off there.

Fishing by oneself into the dark is one thing when you know you have the fall-back of a safe, warm vehicle you can jump in at any time and head for home. When it gets stuck you really are on your own and it’s not something I want to happen again. Henceforth I shall be very careful where I park.

So into March, the last 2 weeks before the river season ends. I have booked a week off work but unfortunately the weather has conspired against me, with a serious drop in temperature combined with very heavy rain. Undaunted I have booked a B&B in Bridgnorth with a mate and am heading out determined to put at least one fish on the bank.

Tight lines

Dave

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January Barbel Blues

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January is always a tough month for the Barbel angler, but when favourable conditions do occur a few big fish can be caught (unfortunately not by me it seems!). My opportunities to fish were limited to Fridays so it was frustrating to watch a couple of good weather patterns come and go sat in the office. This year has been so (relatively) mild I have yet to wear my heavy winter coat, and it has offered many more Barbel opportunities than usual!

I think winter Barbel fishing is all about watching the weather and being able to get out there when the percentages are on your side. Knowing when the circumstances are right is a tricky subject and people have different opinions. When the conditions are bad it is a waste of time fishing for them, time better spent after other more obliging species. It’s a broad subject and vitally important to winter success so I will put something on my site about it at a later date.

02.01.17 Mid Ribble

First session of the New Year so I flew the 44 miles each way to the middle reaches of the Ribble with high hopes, unfortunately I read a water temp of 5c and it was very clear so my hopes of the first Barbel of 2017 were somewhat dashed. It was a glorious sunny day but very cold. I had hoped the bit of rain that fell a couple of days previously might have warmed the river but there was still snow on the tops so it might have just melted some of that. Either way I still fished boilie and pellet but next to no loose feed, just golf ball sized PVA bags of oily groundbait. In the end I had 3 Chub, a small one, 4lb1oz and 4lb10oz (seem to be a regular occurrence 4lb10oz chub, maybe my scales are jammed!!) plus a couple of chunky trout so not too bad considering once the sun went the whole world froze solid, couldn’t get my net off the floor when packing up.

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Looks like Summer! A lovely January Ribble Chub

 

06.01.17 River Dane

Friday was an overcast and very cold day, not ideal Barbel conditions, so I went down to a club stretch of the river Dane on the far side of Middlewich I hadn’t fished before insearch of Chub. It looked fantastic and quite different to the usual stretches of the Dane I fish further upstream, even the water colour was different, kind of greenish, however it was very cold at 5C. Some stunning looking pegs and I baited up with anticipation with a bit of liquidised bread, then fished it from top to bottom for sweet FA, not even a tap. After 2 hours I felt like I was flogging a dead horse so I upped sticks to the nearest of my usual Dane haunts. First drop in with a flake of bread and cheesepaste I had a nice chub of 4lb exactly and despite trying 5 pre-baited swims I didn’t have anything else, or even an indication. It was a very tough day. I can only assume the pulse of water going through was very cold; the fish I caught was like a block of ice.

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Hard won

 

08.01.17 Mid Ribble

Sunday I was going on the Ribble with a mate from Stoke, but he had forgotten to renew his club ticket so that was that. I decided the conditions were too good to miss as a warmish wet front had moved across the North West, so I legged it down to the middle Ribble after breakfast. After the Dane debacle I wasn’t sure what the water temps would be like so I plumped for a slow moving deep water pool. I was really pleased to get a reading of 6.3C so I hoped I was in with a chance of a Barbel considering it had been really cold the week before (4.5C). I had a long wait however and it was about 5pm before I had a bite from a 3lb chub, but half an hour into dark I had another delicate rattle and drop back that turned out to be a nice Barbel, unweighed but a solid fish around 7lb I guess. I was well chuffed to have caught my first of the year and I hoped for more, unfortunately just smallish chub obliged for the rest of the evening, 6 in all. It was lovely to be out in just a hoody in the middle of January though it got a bit colder later on.

 

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A window of opportunity grabbed with both hands

 

13.01.17 River Dane

First snow fall of the winter in the North West today, I was 50/50 whether to bother with my Friday session with the snow falling and disappearing fast all morning I didn’t know what to expect but I had a suspicion it would be all snow melt in the Dane, the all-time worst conditions for all river species. In the end the sun came out and I thought I would have an hour on the Dane and fish one banker swim, if nothing there I would go home. As it happens I had a couple of accidental trout and a decent chub around 3lb8oz so I gave it 2 hours. I was tempted to try a few more spots on the way back to the car but by then it was bitter cold and I quit while I was ahead. I don’t mind short sessions when the weather is so bad, its finding local venues that’s the problem. All fish came on my go to bait, bread flake coated with cheese paste.

 

 

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20.01.17 Mid Ribble

I thought I had a real chance of a Barbel Friday after quite a few came out during the week. I was the only one on the whole stretch all day!

Water temp was just over 6C on my new scientific thermometer, I have now housed it in a piece of acrylic clear tube and plugged the ends with rawl plugs, drilled a few holes and it works a treat, just need some string instead of attaching it to my lead clip. I took the opportunity to compare it to my old digital and was not surprised to find that read 10.7C, I knew it always measured over but didn’t realise just how much. That’s why I’ve always been so optimistic about my chances of a Barbel, henceforth I shall have lower expectations!

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Testing my old digital compared to my glass scientific, a valuable winter tool.

Anyhow, the Barbel wouldn’t play but the Chub were accommodating, a total of 8 fish and a couple of lost ones kept it interesting. Biggest daylight fish went 4lb10oz and a couple of the night fish were around the same size but I didn’t photograph them. A really nice stamp of fish in the main, but I ended up disappointed because of the no show Barbel. I think it had been up a bit during the week when they were all catching, but all that had dropped out and it was crystal clear. It was a lovely afternoon, but it went bloody freezing as the sun set, so I was on my way by 8pm. I have had a bad back all week and I was in agony the next day.

 

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4lb10oz on another gorgeous day on the Ribble

 

27.01.17 Dane

Wasn’t a great start, just a trout on my flyer peg which made me fear the worst. There has been some heavy clearance work done around that bit of the river, massive digger tracks all over the place, not sure what they are up to but I think it has disturbed that section.

So I moved on after an hour and tried a few different swims, a nice steady flow under a far bank bush where I hooked 2 chub, one of which was a good lump and put up a mighty scrap. It was white as a sheet but had a massive head and shoulders, I admit I thought I might have achieved my long term target of a Dane 5, but the scales cannot lie….4lb12oz. A very strange looking fish but still most welcome on an ice cold day. The other was a scraper 4lb, more conventional looking but equally feisty.

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Bleached out 4lb12oz Dane fish

 

I left at dusk and the last peg I tried was full of otter prints I didn’t realise they were on this stretch. Maybe they have been there a while and that would explain the change to the style of fishing I’m experiencing, in the past a shoal of Chub could be fed with care and a multi fish catch was possible, now I find its one or maybe two fish from a swim if you are very lucky, and the size has increased considerably. There doesn’t seem to be a good spread of year class fish which can only be bad news for this lovely river.

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Otter prints?

 

28.01.17 Poynton canal

I recently purchased a second hand drop-shot setup to try my hand at some Perch fishing when the weather isn’t right for the Barbel. I had to take my dog for a walk so tried to kill two birds with one stone and have a go as I walked along a local canal that holds some decent Perch.

Obviously I have got a lot to learn about the method as I was useless, never had a touch, but reassuringly neither did any of the other anglers I met (including a couple of lure men I kept bumping into) so the trip was inconclusive as far as my technique goes. I’m pretty sure I’m set up right, just need to try it a few times. It’s nice to have another option for my fishing sessions.

So that was my January, hard going but as always thoroughly enjoyable. In the next 6 weeks before the river season finishes I have a trip to the Barbel Society fish in on the Severn to look forward to, plus my usual ‘last fling ‘ in March where I generally try to catch as many Barbel as I possibly can to see me through to next June 16th.

Tight Lines

Dave

October Promise

 

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Why do I love fishing? Stupid question!

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.

 

07.10.16

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.

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8lb on the nose.
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5lb12oz Chub, promise for the winter months.

 

14.10.16

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.

 

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16.10.16

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!

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Matt, Terry and Jerry

 

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.

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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.

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Stunning looking fish, they don’t have to be doubles!

 

 

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.

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Feeding Frenzy!

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.

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The tireless Jerry Gleeson lets his hair down Friday night at the Blue Bell, Pixham

 

 

28.10.16

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!

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The slightest of bites!

 

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!!!

 

Tight lines

Dave