July Blog

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When I wrote my June report and bemoaned my bad luck in the early flourishes of the season, little did I know that things would hardly improve for the entirety of July. There have however been a couple of rays of sunshine to brighten the otherwise gloomy month I have been enduring on the river bank; a nice barbel and a very good chub, both from my ‘local’, the river Dane.

Due to a change of work location I am currently heading out from Chester to get my Friday afternoon fix; consequently my venues have changed from my beloved Ribble or Dove to either the Severn or heading homeward to Cheshire and my old stomping ground, the Dane.

07.07.17 River Dane, Middlewich

This was my first visit to a new club length of this Cheshire gem, although I have fished the other bank quite extensively in the past. It’s a strange thing in small river fishing but swims you might ignore on one bank look like sure-fire winners from the opposite side.

It was bright sun, low levels and fairly clear today, so a stealthy approach would be essential. I love fishing a natural overgrown river but most of the obvious swims had been fished already this season so it was easy to identify the popular locations. Contrary as I am, I try to avoid them where possible and look for somewhere less well trodden.

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Typical Dane fishing, stung and bitten, but what a buzz when the rod goes flying!

I approached a few likely spots as carefully as I could and pre baited with a handful of hemp and a few mixed pellets, keeping my silluette off the skyline and being mindful not to bump about and alert wary fish. Unfortunately I was so careful I sneaked into a swim already occupied by another angler; I must have been quiet as he didn’t notice my presence before I had left him in peace, moving away to the far end of the stretch.

This kind of stealthy approach is essential on small clear rivers like the Dane; Chub and Barbel will melt away at the first sight of a clumsy angler breaking the skyline or hammering in banksticks, a habit I find really annoying and unnecessary. Personally I usually touch ledger with my rod tip at water level on the Dane, and rarely use a rodrest, preferring to balance the rod along my leg with hand on cork and line across my fingers.

The conditions were not ideal so it was no surprise when my first 2 swims proved fruitless, but I had high hopes for the 3rd, a lovely silent pool surrounded by willows, a difficult cast with trees overhead, plus both upstream and down featured some gnarly old snags in the water. I decided to lower my bait in just a few feet from my own bank and slightly downstream, using the dense undergrowth as cover. I knew I would have to be firm with any fish hooked because of the proliferation of snags. I fed a few handfuls of hemp and pellets as I was confident there would be fish about. I left the swim alone to allow the fish to gain confidence and get feeding over the freebies, sneaking off to explore the remainder of the stretch. On my return I got myself back into position with minimal disturbance and lowered my bait into position. Fifteen minutes later I began to wonder if my confidence was misplaced, when without warning the rod was almost wrenched from my grasp by the powerful and unmistakable surge of a barbel. The fight should have been short as I had tackled up appropriately for the snags, but the fish had other ideas and lead me a merry dance; several times the tackle seemed to be at the limits of it’s endurance as I ‘locked up’ to keep the fish out of the roots. Finally I managed to usher it into open water and over the rim of the net, a lovely summer fish of 8lb8oz, a very respectable size for the Dane.

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8lb8oz, a good fish for the Dane

 

I thought the commotion had destroyed the swim so I tried the last pool on the stretch to no avail. I had to leave at 8pm, well before dusk, the most productive time, so I decided to return to the willow swim for the last hour. Surprisingly I had a good chub of 4lb first drop-in which disturbed the swim yet again, but I still decided to stay put for the last cast and was shocked to snag a feisty 4lb barbel before I packed up.

23.07.17 Mid Ribble

I managed to organise a day session and fished a club water with a mate, Kris. We were lucky enough to get the swims we wanted just upstream of the spawning grounds with a bit of depth and flow, which this time last year were absolutely prolific. Something has changed this season though, whether its the weather conditions, or the fish may have spawned early, but either way it just didn’t fish. We managed a couple of roach and chub between us and left feeling bemused and disappointed by the lack of action.

Generally I feel the rivers I frequent haven’t fished particularly well despite the nice wet conditions. A lot of fish have been coming out of the Trent but I don’t go there that often. I also wonder if the majority of captures aren’t coming from the same few ‘fliers’ giving a false impression of the general quality of the fishing. Or maybe I have just lost my mojo!

28.07.17 River Severn near Atcham

A new stretch of the Severn to explore. I was the only one in attendance so had the run of the water, always a nice position to be in as it allows a bit of pre-baiting and wandering around to take place. I love to do this on a new stretch just to get a rough idea of the depths and maybe find a few features along the way. Unfortunately the conditions were pretty rotten with gales and swirling winds meaning sheltering under a brolley was a thankless task. Despite these problems I thought it was a nice venue, alive with wildlife including kingfishers, kestrels and a quite rare Little Egret.

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A drop of rain never hurt anybody!

 

I moved swims late afternoon, I just didn’t feel right in the first place and hadn’t had a single tap, so I settled on a very deep pool further upstream. I fished a lump of flavoured luncheon meet in the margin downstream in 15-20ft of water no further than 10ft from the bank, and my second rod in the main flow line with feeder and pellet.

Half an hour in I had a bream around 3lb on the pellet line which was slightly encouraging, and then 10 minutes later a proper bite which on initial contact felt like another bream, however it quickly became clear I was attached to something far more substantial than a bream. Whatever it was plodded around taking line at will, then I would crank it toward me for a couple of minutes before it would decide it didn’t like the location and head elsewhere. Ten minutes later I had it under my rod tip when disaster struck and the hooklink parted. I convinced myself it was a big old Barbel at the time, but on reflection, given the nature of the swim, I have come to the conclusion it was big pike that took hold of a bream I had hooked. Either way it was a bit of excitement on an otherwise uneventful session.

Just before I packed up at 11pm I managed at last to snag a barbel, just a splasher around 4-5lb but very, very welcome.

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Just a splasher but what a relief to put one on the mat!

 

31.07.17  River Dane Middlewich

If you have read my blog before you will know I have a few targets I set myself each season, one of which is quite longstanding. In short I am trying to catch a 5lb chub from the Dane; I know it doesn’t sound much on paper but fish of that size are few and far between on there. Talking to people on the bank you would think they were ten-a-penny, yet I have never beaten 4lb14oz despite fishing it regularly during the autumn and winter for many years, nor have I seen anybody else catch one and weigh it over the magical figure.

The Dane used to be a prolific chub venue, these days the fishing has changed quite a lot, in that it is difficult to build a swim and catch a large bag of chub from one place. The fish are still there but to be successful mobility is key, and taking one or two fish from a swim has to be followed by a move to the next likely location. Maybe its down to predation or over-fishing, but one result is that the average size of fish seems to have increased, so I am convinced the 5lb target is achievable in the waters I have at my disposal.

Given the above I was elated to land a sizable fish that fought like a Barbel, and that had the length, if not the girth of a 5lb’er. I’ve had plenty of 5’s from the Ribble and Dove so when I lifted it I just knew it was there or there abouts the magical figure. I have a different kit for my ‘small river’ fishing with a set of flyweight scales. Imagine my disappointment when I got them out to discover the bloody thing had come unwound inside and would not work. There were no other anglers about so I had to console myself with a picture, and the thought that fish of the correct physical proportions to possibly achieve 5lb do exist, and even better, I can catch them! Roll on autumn, I will be back!

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So barring a couple of minor successes on the Dane, my July fishing has been largely forgettable. Fish seem to be coming out all over the country which could be depressing if I didn’t enjoy my fishing so much whatever the result. Things can only get better, bring on August!!

Tight lines

Dave

 

June blog

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I have been writing this monthly fishing blog for a while now and usually have plenty to talk about, but June has been so uneventful as far as fish are concerned, I think it will be mercifully brief.

After the enforced period of leisure of the last couple of months, during which I fished 2 or 3 times a week, I have now got back to work so my opportunities are down to once a week. Every cloud has a silver lining though, I might not be fishing as much but at least I wont be getting the house repossessed.

The first 2 weeks of June are filled with anticipation for a keen Barbel man like myself. With the river season fast approaching my enthusiasm for still water fishing fades and I can only think about moving water.

By some incredibly bad planning I managed to book the family holiday to coincide with the first week of the river season, so for the first time in years I was by the swimming pool instead of by the river. Lounging, with beer in hand, it didn’t seem too bad at the time but my river season hasn’t got off to the best start, more about that below!

We also had a new arrival in the shape of Tilly, our new Border Terrier, who needs a bit of attention and has taken my mind off my Barbel preparations. She can never replace my old dog Sid, but she is lovely! Hopefully she can come fishing with me if I can find somewhere that accepts dogs!!

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Tilly in the dog house

 

02.06.17 Cheshire mere

I had a few hours spare so visited a local water and fished for carp. It wasn’t a bad session to be honest. I managed to land a mirror of around 15lb which went absolutely mental on the mat, so much so I decided the best thing to do was to pass on the weighing and photo and get it straight back. This was quickly followed by a common of around 10lb that was equally lively.

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Picture perfect

The trouble with blogging is that I need images every month, so end up taking pics of quite unremarkable fish that wouldn’t normally merit the effort. In this case the fish made my mind up for me, I was on my own and couldn’t risk leaving them to flip off the mat while I picked up the camera. I never risk fish welfare for the sake of pictures for my blog so they both went straight back. Fortunately I managed to pinch another common of around 12lb off the top on a floating dog biscuit, I love this type of fishing but rarely get to try it. This fish behaved and I got a mat shot.

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Not a bad session but my mind was wandering to moving water; I even cleared out my fishing bag on the bank, removing the carp bits and bobs till March.

24.06.17 Mid Ribble

At last my river season could start!! I was buzzing as I drove the 45 miles to the Ribble. I decided to try a stretch that has produced some good fish, but can also require a monster walk. I planned to fish the first decent swim I found to save my legs but for some reason I was drawn to the furthest reaches of the stretch where there is a nice glide around 2m deep below some broken oxygenated water, often a good bet in summer when the river is low and clear. I set up 2 rods, both fished in the flow of the glide, one pellet feeder, the other straight lead with a paste wrapped boilie and a few crushed boilies in a pva bag.

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This swim has always been kind to me in the past but can be slow during the day and come alive at dusk. This is the conundrum we face as Barbel anglers, to stick or twist; I decided to stick it out. It was slow going to be honest, and with the river so stale I thought the fish might be tempted more by a moving bait. There were no other Barbel lads about, just a couple of Salmon anglers, so I decided to wander upstream and try rolling meat through a faster shallow run. I flogged it for an hour but didn’t have a touch.

Back to my swim, as dusk approached the first action of the day was a roach of a pound, followed by a tiny eel, and that turned out to be the sum total of my first river session of the season. Disappointing but still enjoyable in a perverse way, its a beautiful, haunting river and the wildlife put on a show, with Buzzards, kestrels and an owl all making an appearance. I had to be off by 11pm due to club rules but if I had stayed all night I doubt I would have caught a barbel.

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Nice roach but where are the Barbel?

 

30.06.17  River Severn- Shrewsbury

I had the company of my mate Kris from Stoke for a rare overnighter and we decided to try a secluded and under-fished club stretch just above Shrewsbury (I class the river above Shrewsbury as upper Severn).

I hadn’t fished it before but Kris had a good day there first week of the season. He had already grabbed the same peg and looking at it I could see why, it looked a peach with a big flotsam covered sunken tree on the far side that must be a holding area. It was not to disappoint and he managed a pristine Barbel of around 8lb that afternoon.

 

I picked a nice looking swim a couple of hundred yards downstream, also featuring a sunken tree and some overhanging willows, fishing a feeder and pellet across to them, and a straight lead and boilie down to the sunken tree, but it was all in vain. Just 3 chub bothered me in the night, admittedly of decent size, but scant return for sleeping under a brolley on the floor.

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Looks like a banker? Well the fish thought otherwise!!

By dawn I’d had enough and packed up, just in time to see Kris bag another almost identical fish from his swim. Good result for him considering the river was low and stale; later I had a look at facebook and it seemed the Severn was quite out of sorts all over, typical of early season.

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Lovely summer Barbel
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I can’t catch fish but at least I was useful with the Camera 😦

 

So a poor start for me but I am quite philosophical about it, I have been through dry spells before and find that they don’t last long.

Early season fishing can be very hit and miss, often the fish are still around the spawning grounds and tightly bunched, its a case of finding them. On reflection my ‘sit and wait’ tactics might have been misplaced, probably better to get mobile and search a few swims. I’m already buzzing about the next trip!

Tight lines

Dave

Suffering on the Severn

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Angry river Severn!

 

 

I think the Goddess Sabrina was suffering from PMT; bloated and angry are apt adjectives for the river we faced on Friday, the start of a long weekend trip. Maybe I had vexed her in a frustrated facebook post a couple of weeks ago when I told a mate I had never blanked before on the Severn. Little did I know that she certainly wasn’t going to bestow her Barbel treasures easily.

Friday

After a ‘big breakfast’ rendezvous in the Bridgnorth Wetherspoons, Kris and I headed to Danesford on the Birmingham Anglers ticket, simply because the walk is mercifully short and I reasoned we could survey the river for suitable flood water swims. The level was 2.8m and it looked like Willey Wonka’s river, with plenty of timber on the move, water temp was 7C.

We found one definite goer swim and 2 maybe’s so we flipped a coin and I won; no room for chivalry today, so I took what looked to be the dead cert. Just one rod I thought, 12lb braid to a 8’s Drennan conti with a 1.5″ cube of flavoured spam hair rigged on some gardening wire ‘ladies legs’ style.

Ten minutes later the rod ripped off and I quickly landed a very tatty looking splasher. I thought I was in for a good session but as I said, Sabrina had it in for me. The rain got worse and the day turned cold and miserable and the fish were conspicuous by their absence.

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My miserable face says it all, slim pickings from a mean river.

 

Kris managed to snare a similar splasher of his own, then at the death he lost a better fish. As is the way with BA we had to be off at dark but I think we could have fished till the morning for nowt that day.

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Thankfully the pubs and restaurants of Bridgnorth are excellent and fortified by many pints and a bloody good curry I slept the sleep of the just and awoke ready to face new challenges.

Saturday

Even more water! With around 3m on we had to find flood water swims now. My usual ‘flyers’ were nothing short of Amazonian, so I suggested we try a club water toward Shrewsbury that featured some near bank slack water. We arrived to find it looking fine and at last I felt positive about our chances, though still very coloured and a water temp of 6C. I fished 2 rods, boilie on one, meat on the other, perfectly positioned on the crease (or so I imagined!).

First chuck my mate is into a fish, it looked decent size in the net but the scales said otherwise. I did the honours with my camera and was shocked just how good the snaps were. Anybody who reads my blog and facebook page will know my usual self takes using a screw on a bank stick are pretty disappointing, but I excelled myself with camera in hand. The fish looked massive, just goes to show you can easily be deceived by photo’s. Kris was laughing as he posted it to his mates back in Stoke and they came back asking if it was a double!

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Camera tricks!

 

 

The day just fizzled out after that and I blanked, I could hear Sabrina cackling as I trudged back to the car. Still at least Kris had caught one. Later on facebook I saw my mate Rob Mitchell, Prince of Brignorth, had caught 6 in a couple of hours including a double…kick in the bollocks doesn’t do it justice! Only joking mate, awesome angling in those conditions.

Sunday

Kris headed back for a Christening, I was on my own, time to get busy. I yomped down cardiac hill to Knowle Sands full of determination. I yomped back up 3 hours later a little easier as I had lost so many leads and feeders….what a nightmare. I wasn’t going to catch, Sabrina made sure of that; I couldn’t even get angry about the Bell End in a high powered speed boat who ploughed up and down the length, I might think otherwise if he tries it in Summer!

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I legged upstream to Apley, a newly acquired BA stretch. I found a brook running into the main river, slack as a mill pond with a clear crease. Surely fish would be about in the lee? I packed up just after dark fishless accompanied by an otter that swam out of the brook no more than 6 feet away. I bet he caught something…bollocks! Read later Rob Mitchell had caught a load more…double bollocks!!

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Monday

The river had finally dropped a bit, some of the colour had gone as well, but I was on my way home, so decided to go and have a look at a couple of club waters and if I could find a spot I would have a couple of hours. The first length I couldn’t find anything that took my fancy; the second I didn’t trust the marsh of a car park, especially after getting stranded last week and having to beg a farmer to help…never again!

So I ended back on Saturday’s venue fishing the same peg, but something had changed with the fall of the level, I could just feel it in my bones…I had done my penance, Sabrina had forgiven me.

Kris gave me a load of boilies his carp fishing pal had made for him when he went, so I used them on a feeder rod, plus the usual chunk of meat on the other. An hour later the boilie rod went and I was attached to a decent fish. Landed without to much drama it weighed in at 7lb15oz, followed by 3 more all around or just below the same weight. They loved the boilies, got to get me some more!

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I was more relieved than happy as I drove home. It had been challenging to say the least, but a few fish were still caught by other anglers up and down the river. I think local knowledge is vital when the river floods as proven by Rob’s consistency. I would wager that the Severn will switch on as she drops this week, shame on my legendary bad timing. I certainly enjoyed the company though, cheers Kris. Bridgnorth is a great fishing destination, I’ve been coming here since I was a kid, full of welcoming pubs and talkative locals and the midlands beer is truly awesome!

Still a few days left of the river season so maybe a few more fish yet before I put the Barbel gear away.

Tight lines

Dave

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

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

December blows Hot and Cold

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Sea Birds gather over the Ribble

 

 

 

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.

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A frosty and moody Dane- pic courtesy of Kristan Lowe
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?

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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.

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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.

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A long day for little return!
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.

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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.

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Christmas Holidays

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.

 

23.12.16

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!

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30.12.16

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.

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Lone Chub

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.

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The lovely Dane, in decline or in transition?

So that is December and the year over, I will put some sort of a revue together but until then…

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