January Blog


The festivities of Christmas are now a distant memory, but the lasting and happy legacy of the holiday season was a wad of cash burning a hole in my pocket. The January sales aren’t as good as they used to be since we adopted ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ from the yanks (or whatever it ‘s now called, I know it seemed to go on the whole of December!) but there were still a few bargains to be had. The upshot of all this is that January sees me as the proud owner of a bargain pair of Shimano 6000D-OC reels, a barrow and a compact fishing stove. Some logic has been applied here; all these items should be useful on the bigger, more tackle destructive rivers such as the Trent, and I now feel happier having a go at a few overnighters before the river season terminates in March. For now this gear is in storage because I’m far to feeble to try until the weather warms up significantly.

In the mean time I had to make the most of what January has to offer, which in short is not usually a lot on the Barbel front, but always a chance of a nice Chub or two.

05.01.18 Middle Ribble

Last month I had a lovely Barbel session on this stretch landing four fish, two of which were around the 9lb mark. Today the conditions were almost identical except for one crucial factor…water temperature!

Despite having problems with my thermometer (now resolved), I spoke to a couple of contacts who fished the Ribble that productive day last month, and from their readings I believe the water was around 8C; today using my new instrument I read just over 5C, and my same local informant confirmed my measurement was thereabouts but told me the bad news that it had fallen 1C overnight. Doesn’t sound like much but I am a great believer in temperature trends being critical to success.

I was still very optimistic despite this news because everything looked the same. I had the pick of the swims to choose from, plumping for one adjacent to the scene of my previous success, which featured the same characteristics I was looking for, slow and deep with a pronounced drop off. I approached it in an identical manner and fished both rods on the same line, just past the shelf where the river depth changed from 8ft to 12ft, which equates to a cast of 40 yards, approximately ¾ across the river, but there the similarities between the 2 sessions ended.

Due to fears of over feeding in the lower temperatures I fished a really small feeder carrying 4oz of lead and it was holding bottom well. The second rod was placed downstream, a straight 4oz lead, boilie hookbait and a PVA bag secured to the lead with a clip; because of the good depth here I prefer to do this instead of impaling it directly on the hook. I believe the mesh can melt before the rig has settled, resulting in the detached bag rolling downstream away from the target area.

There Ribble was carrying a couple of feet of water and the rigs soon gathered leaves, grass and weed on the line, but to be honest, after sitting watching motionless tips for half an hour, it was almost a relief to have to wind in, clean up and re-bait.

A couple of hours into the session a chap set up 50m upstream on the far bank. Funny how the grass always seems greener, I was envious of his short cast to the deep water and features on his bank. As far as I am aware he didn’t catch but we had a nice chat across the water.

Two hours in, at last some action as the rod top nodded and I quickly pounced and wound down into a fish. It was no barbel, that was obvious from the odd fight it put up, and as it crossed the net I saw it was a trout. Now I don’t particularly like catching trout but I quite like the look of them; this one however, only its mother could love. With a bent spine and a mean set of teeth, I took a snap out of curiosity and was glad to slip it back. Obviously it was fully functional and feeding, and this deformity, though not common, does occur in Barbel and other species and seems not to affect them detrimentally.

Bent back Trout!

Next cast another bite, this time a proper rod rattler, but again I could tell it wasn’t my target species. A nice pristine chub of about 3.5lb was the culprit, putting up a bit of resistance but no match for the Barbel gear. At this juncture I decided the chances of a Barbel were looking bleak and switched the downstream rod to a more chub friendly rig, with an 8lb team silstar hooklength and a small halibut ellipse pellet super-glued onto a fine hair. This is about as fine as I go on the Ribble, it really is the most abrasive bedrock of any of the rivers I fish, and a chance encounter with a barbel of any size is going to end badly!


Sods law the next cast resulted in the bite of the day, a barbelesque 3 foot twitch that had me cursing my tackle change as I was convinced this was the hoped for Barbel. It wasn’t..despite the hair raising fight on the lighter rig I could tell it wasn’t a Berty, instead a big chub using the deep powerful flow to its advantage. It had been around the block a few times but it was still an impressive fish and well worth a trip to the scales. Sadly it was a little bit hollow as they can be at this time of year and came in at 5lb1oz, but still a decent stamp.

5lb1oz Oz 05.01.18

I stuck it out a couple of hours into dark, optimistic of a Barbel but it was not to be. In fact it died completely and even the Chub cleared off.

By now the weather had seriously deteriorated and I was soggy mess by the time I got back to the car, but I still enjoyed myself and I was glad I grabbed the opportunity to try for a Barbel, the weather forecast showed a cold, bleak month ahead.

12/01/18 Upper Dane

A quick social session on the Dane this morning  prompted by a surprise phone call from a good fishing buddy of mine, Matt Marlow. He had the day off and fancied a bit of trotting so I headed to meet him at a club venue we both have access to.

It is a beautiful stretch of river and the club fortunately has several adjoining lengths, which allows a bit of ‘Mr Crabtree’ style roaming. I love to do this but it just isn’t practical on small busy venues; prebaiting likely swims then returning to them half an hour later you have every chance of finding them occupied, which defeats the object somewhat.

As I don’t see Matt often I took a seat behind him, unpacked the flask and chatted for quite a while, putting the fishing world to rights. I was quite taken by his set-up of a centre pin and a 15ft Drennan Acolyte rod and eventually blagged a go for myself. Its been a while since I fished this style but it was a real pleasure to inch the float down the glide with his top of the range gear. I was very impressed with the reel in particularly, I think it was an Adcock Stanton. I am a great believer in modern tackle and to be honest I don’t use any old items, but I have to admit this worked a treat and was perfect for the job in hand; the line just trickled off under the pressure of the flow. I checked out the prices that evening and was shocked; obviously there is a good market for these old classics to elevate the prices to these levels for used reels. I know they are extremely popular with some Barbel men for close in work.

Matts reel
One of Matt’s ‘arty’ shots!  Photo courtesy of Matt Marlow Angling

Eventually I decided to actually have a go for a fish myself and wishing Matt good luck I wandered upstream to another field. The river was 6″ up and lightly coloured but the water was icy cold. I knew we’d had a couple of very cold nights this week but wasn’t expecting it to be so severe.

Eventually I picked a couple of likely looking swims and dropped a little bit of liquidised bread in each one. I started at the furthest swim, intending to fish my way back to the car. Two swims later and I hadn’t had a touch, and these were good looking spots with nice features so it was a bit disheartening. Usually fishing the bread and cheese paste method, and with the aforementioned pre-baiting, I expect to get a bite first or second cast if the chub are in a feeding mood, so I wasn’t feeling optimistic as I trudged to my third swim.

This swim featured a raft of flotsam trapped against the far bank by a fallen tree, all the current flowed under the tree but the downstream part of it created a nice sheltered slack, and I chose to place my rig on the edge of this. First cast I felt a jagged tug and I was in; a 3lb chub resulted so I was very pleased and slightly relieved to have caught something at least. That is one of the features of visiting several swims, eventually you will come across a feeding fish in even the most unpromising conditions, and I am a firm believer this philosophy will translate to Barbel fishing just the same in cold water conditions where the ‘bait and wait’ approach loses its effectivity as the fish are too cold to actively hunt down your free offerings.

swettenham 12.01.18

By now it was practically dusk and I just had time to blank in a final swim before heading back to meet Matt and walk back to the car park. He reported a few grayling and its pleasing to see them seemingly making a good come-back on this very picturesque river.

13/01/18 Middle Dane

My second session in as many days, I was feeling blessed as I drove to another stretch of the Dane, this time closer to Middlewich. Its one of my favourites and I have had some nice Chub from here, up to 4lb14oz which is my Dane pb, plus its as reliable for Barbel as anywhere on the Dane can be these days. Today was definitely going to be a Chub day; the air temperature of 6C was the same as yesterday but a biting wind blew and it was absolutely freezing if you were exposed to it. Sadly all the pegs I fished today seemed to be facing into the teeth of it, so my ‘touch ledgering’ fingers were soon blue!

This was another social, meeting my mate Kris from Stoke. He had got there early and was just setting up on a ‘banker’ swim. Unfortunately with the extra water it didn’t look quite as good as it can and was a bit turbulent. However he fancied his chances, so I sat down for a nice catch-up, before heading downstream to find a few fish.

First cast in my first swim, I had an unmissable wrench…that I somehow managed to miss! I cursed myself for my ineptitude, knowing full well that it was going to be a tough day and bites would be at a premium, and despite patiently and carefully continuing to fish I didn’t receive the slightest interest after that.

I gave it half an hour and moved on to swim number two. This was a nice slack under my feet and an overhanging willow downstream. I always look for features that might provide shelter; such is the level of predation on rivers these days these features are sure to hold fish. This was no exception as on my second cast I had a fearsome bite that caught me unawares and almost snatched the rod from my hand. Fortunately I hung on and after a fantastic battle I slid a nice Chub over the net. It looked a chunky fish so I gave it a weigh and it was 4lb4oz, not to be sniffed at. It had certainly trashed the swim and even though I released it in another area I had no more luck there.

Manor 13.01.18

Moving on I tried a nice glide that dropped under the root system of a near bank tree. I made sure my rig was light enough to allow the current to roll it under there and I was rewarded with another very aggressive bite and a frantic scrap from a Chub of 4lb1oz.

manor2 13.01.18

I went back upstream at lunch and had a good chat with Kris who had got out the float gear and started getting some interest. He ended the day with a couple of trout and a nice grayling so we both went home happy.

21.01.18 Middle Dane

I managed to snatch a few hours today and headed for yet another quick chub session on the Dane, arriving at 8.30am to an empty car park. As I yomped down the hill full of optimism, I remarked to myself that at least the weather was decent, cold at 2C but with an overcast sky, little wind and a falling river after recent heavy rain. When I got a look at the water I estimated 10-12″ up and quite heavily coloured.

With the river to myself I settled in a nice swim with a fast glide traveling past a series of overhanging trees, some of which had fallen, creating an extensive series of rafts that provide shelter and hold the fish. On first viewing with this much extra water the swim doesn’t look too appealing, with a turbulent surface belying its true potential, but if a light rig is allowed to roll down toward the near bank snags it becomes evident that there is slack water all the way along the tree line and I believe the fish rest in there and move up and down the length of the snags intercepting food items in the flow.

I didn’t have long to wait for my first fish, a nice Chub of around 3lb that really used the fast flow to its advantage and gave a good account of itself.


A second chub followed a few casts later; this was a bigger fish and again caused some havoc as it charged around the swim. I was impressed with its size and got the scales out; a very decent 4lb1oz so I took a trophy shot with my phone because, as usual, I had forgotten to pack my camera. The result was predictably disappointing; how these facebook lads produce quality selfies with just a phone is beyond me!

4lb1oz chub manor 21.01.18
Terrible photo, the fish deserved better!

By now the weather had deteriorated into Siberian conditions, with howling wind driving sleet and snow into my face, dashing my earlier enthusiasm. I had almost lost the will to live but was determined to try a couple more swims.

After no interest in the next usually reliable spot, I staggered on to a noted flyer featuring a large overhanging willow and a nearside slack. Second cast I had an excellent bite resulting in a nice chub of 3lb15oz.


This was to be the final act for today, I was defeated by the conditions. I could no longer touch ledger as my fingers had become as nimble as Edwards scissor hands, not much use for the delicate operation of attaching bread flake to a size 8!

26.01.18 Mid Ribble

I don’t want to become a weather bore, and repetition makes for dull reading, but I really believe successful Barbel fishing is all about being on the river when the conditions become right.

I had one opportunity to fish this week and that was Friday afternoon, but I just knew from looking at the weather forecast it had to be Sunday or Monday, with a warm wet front moving in during the morning of Saturday.

The evidence was there but I would still rather fish than sit at home, so I bombed down to the mid Ribble and still targetted Barbel despite knowing my chances were slim, mainly because I hadn’t caught a single one this month and I was getting a bit desperate for the old ‘3 foot twitch’.

The Ribble looked perfect, mucky brown and 2 feet up, but the water temp was just 5C and it had dropped half a degree more by 21.00 when I finally gave up without a Barbel, just 2 chub and a trout.

The chub getting smaller but at least it was nice in the sun



It was a pleasant afternoon in the sun but it didn’t half drop cold as dusk arrived. I had to prize my net off the grass as it had frozen solid.

Freezing Friday, scorching Sunday…just my luck!!

As I expected the temps rose perfectly Saturday night and loads of fish came out Sunday including a stunning 12lb plus to a Ribble regular I know, an absolute belter for this river, congratulations in order there. I must admit to feeling a bit jealous as I reviewed facebook on Sunday evening and seemingly everybody I know had filled their boots, but I am not bitter, one day my ship will come in!

As the saying goes, the fat lady has sung her January song and not a single Barbel crossed the threshold of my landing net. Even the Chub played hard to get and the few I managed from the Ribble were not exactly earth shaking specimens when you see the quality that the river is capable of.

The Dane threw a few fish my way and although of a decent stamp, they were hard won.  I read a lot of concerned posts recently regarding the current state of this wonderful river, alluding to issues of predation and pollution being the underlying root cause of the decline in the general health of the ecosystem which manifests itself in poor anglers returns. I read these with some sympathy but I have little idea of the root causes of the decline in fish stocks; I believe it is probably a combination of factors including the above plus some large building projects upstream and I wouldn’t discount agricultural run-off as a major factor.

Other than these concerns, my only other disappointed is that I missed that weather window of opportunity in the last week to snag a January Barbel, it was such an obvious set of conditions I’m sure even I would have caught one, I would have been there had the inconvenience of work and impending destitution not reared its ugly and rather threatening head.

Instead I console myself remembering the enjoyable laid-back Dane sessions with my fishing mates that, despite the scant fish returns, provided some amusing moments and much needed camaraderie.

My new reels are now loaded and my membership of ‘the other’ Ribble fishing club came through so plenty to look forward to next month. Hopefully work won’t get in the way of the important stuff!

Until next month, Tight Lines







December blog


First of all I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my actual and digital friends all the best for 2018. I met lots of new people on the bank and at fish related events this year and it was great to put faces to names. Some of you mentioned my blog, some even said they enjoyed reading it!!! To those guys especially, I want to say your support and encouragement means a lot. I write this blog for fun but to know that somebody actually reads and enjoys it makes me feel very humble…Thank you!

Now, onto matters piscatorial. Normally December is the toughest and most inhospitable month of the river fishers calendar. Usually I would be making excuses for my poor performances during the month, with more blanks than a fertility clinic sample fridge! However, for a pleasant change this year the weather Gods have smiled and sent such varying conditions that in spells it was conducive to good fishing; so good at times even I fancied my chances of catching an elusive December winter Barbel. My only grumble is that despite having the whole of Christmas off work due to a fortuitous shut-down, I still only managed to get out three times; instead of fishing I just got fat and drunk while my wallet got considerably thinner!

03.12.17 Middle Dane


I don’t visit the Dane nearly enough and the strange thing is I could never give you a valid reason why not. Its close to home, a beautiful, meandering intimate little river, full of character and a lovely variety of swims to try. Though chub are quite prolific in the 2-4lb bracket, I still believe a 5lb fish is an elusive but realistic target, though I haven’t yet managed to catch one myself (close at 4lb14oz but no cigar!). The barbel are a little bit thin on the ground and anything above 9lb is a rare beast indeed. Trout and Grayling have made good progress and other silvers seem to be making a bit of a come-back, despite severe predation.

For those not aware of the history of this Cheshire gem, it suffered a terrible pollution back in 2005, where slurry flowed into a tributary, the river Croco just below Middlewich, destroying most of the life for many miles downstream. Despite some stocking attempts in the interim it never seemed to achieve its former glory.

Above the affected areas, a decent river remained, but for unknown reasons the fishing even there was never quite as good in my opinion. The truth be told the glory days of the mid to late 90’s were long past when the pollution struck. The current Barbel river record of 14lb4oz was way back in 1994, and I don’t expect a fish of that magnitude to turn up in the foreseeable future.

Despite all the hard knocks this is still a river that can throw up a really satisfying session when its on form and lends itself to both trotting and ledgering. I prefer to ledger bread flake and cheesepaste and keep as mobile as I can, pre-baiting any likely looking spots with a compressed lump of liquidised bread, then re-tracing my steps fishing as many of the swims as possible. I find this throws up one or two fish from a swim before they spook, probably due to angling pressure and predation. Float anglers seem to have more success building a swim but the days of 50lb hauls from a single location seem to be in the past.

This is why I was quite surprised on this overcast, drizzly but very nippy short session, with the river carrying a foot of coloured water, to hook a nice 3lb chub first cast from a nearside slack under some overhanging trees, followed in fairly quick succession by 3 more in 5 casts. A couple of casts later a grayling and a 5th chub followed at 4lb on the nose. I was very pleased with 6 fish in little more than an hour, but I was eager to see if any of my other pre-baited swims would be as prolific, so I gathered my minimalist kit and yomped downstream to my next swim.

This was a steady run above an overgrown, tree strewn section that screamed chub. I was hoping to draw the fish from this area upstream to my bait, thereby avoiding the snags. Another bonus of the swim was that it had a slight deeper depression just a few feet from the nearside bank, but that required a very stealthy approach. This was duly accomplished and another tiny lump of bread was dropped in just upstream of where I intended to cast. A few minutes later I under-armed my rig into position and sat touch ledgering, feeling a good electrifying pluck immediately….a quick flick of the rod and game on! The result was the best fish of the day at 4lb2oz, photographed then released 30m upstream so as to minimise disturbance of the swim. This proved to be a good tactic as yet another 5 fish haul followed, mainly around the 3-4lb mark but excellent sport on dedicated chub gear.

I moved on and tried 2 more of my favourite swims and couldn’t buy a bite. I certainly wasn’t despondent as I slipped and slid my way back up the mudslide of a hill to the farm and the comfort of my warm car,  a great couple of hours for the cost of a loaf.

15.12.17 Middle Dane

This was a hiding to nothing; heavy snow had fallen last week and I miscalculated the speed of the thaw. Guagemap had a couple of feet of water on the Dane but it looked to be topping out and on the drop when the reading was published (4.30am). This was very misleading as another pulse of water came downriver and when I arrived around mid-day the Dane was over its banks in parts. This was undoubtedly snow-melt, the worst possible conditions for all species, a water temperature of 3C confirmed my fears, but I was already there so decided to give it a try. After walking the whole of the mile and a bit length I found a single swim that looked fishable, but even this was very turbulent and hardly filled me with optimism.

Just to be clear, it was the snow melt and its sudden rapid negative impact on the water temperature, not the actual level that put the spoilers on it for me; in the same conditions with warmer water I would be fairly confident of a barbel or chub from the same locations, but today, as expected, it was a thankless task, I totally blanked but I consoled myself that I had seen this fairly new section of the river in flood conditions, I had noted the fishable swims for another day, and had a bracing walk into the bargain.

Hiding to nothing, a blank on the cards and my face tells the story 😦


Another bad example of predicting the conditions and reacting accordingly, I could have probably had more success on the local canal targeting perch had I been better informed.

22.12.17 Middle Ribble

Readers of this blog will note I often harp on about ‘windows of opportunity’ (usually because I’m angry I missed one through work commitments!). This time of year with rapidly varying conditions we need to keep and eye on the weather reports because even in the coldest spells a sudden storm of relatively warm rain will lift the water temperature noticeably. This could be as much as a few degrees overnight, and the dormant Barbel with metabolisms slowed to a crawl, will suddenly burst into life and be very, very, hungry. The feeding spell could be so short you might blink and miss it, so when conditions look right it pays to be on the bank with a bait in the water.

The snow from the previous week had gone fast as a warmer wet front moved in, the Ribble went bank high with snow melt then gradually fell over the next couple of days, to be followed by a few minor rises and falls as the heavy rain squalls came into the system, but the important factor is that this rain was a lot warmer so lifted the river temperature. All the Ribble regulars rubbed their hands together and threw the rods in the car.

Fortunately all this coincided with it being my day off (hurrah!) so I made my way to the Ribble post haste. I chose a length that has some decent high water swims because I wasn’t sure just how bad it would be, but I needn’t have worried it was a couple of feet up but perfectly fishable. Surprisingly there were only a couple of cars in the carpark so I tried a new swim that was moving at a reasonable pace, nice and steady, with a deeper food holding area just a couple of rod lengths out. I fished 2 rods as usual and settled for a long wait. Happily the debris in the water was manageable and I could leave the rods in place for 30 minutes without the rigs being pulled off line. At this point I took a water temperature and was disappointed to get a reading of between 5-6C, a bit lower than I expected, really I was hoping for 8C but any rise can signal a feeding spree so I was not too despondent.

I don’t know why but an hour in and some instinct told me to try a different swim, somewhere slower maybe. I always act on my gut feeling, so many times it has paid dividends, so I grabbed my gear and headed downstream to some slow deep water. There was another angler on my first choice swim catching silvers on the float; I took this to be a good sign that fish were feeding.

I found a decent bit of bank to set up, more than 50m downstream of the other chap and he had no objections. I hadn’t fished this particular spot so had a chuck out with a lead and found a good drop-off in depth, almost a shelf, just over 2/3 across; this seemed like a good line as the river is 50m wide here and although the debris wasn’t too bad the more line was out, the more weed would gather, so the far bank would be unwise.

I banged out the rods, upstream a small feeder with 4oz of lead, packed with oily ground pellet and hemp plus a tiny handful of mini halibut pellets; I was conscious of not overfeeding given the temperatures, but wanted to create a scent trail. The second rod was a 4oz straight lead with a small pva bag of crushed boilies and oily hemp (a glug of hemp oil stops the water in the hemp melting the pva bag) fished on the same line as the feeder rod, just over the drop off. I use marker elastic and clip up to ensure I stay on the same line, even into dark.

I had a long wait but I always felt like I had a chance, the conditions were right, just the temperature was a bit low. I kept plugging away with the feeder and began to vary the straight lead position, trying to drop the rig on a barbels nose.

Suddenly just before dark a rip-roaring run on the downstream rod signalled a fish. A small Barbel resulted, putting up quite a good scrap in the heavy flow. I was pleased to have bagged a December Barbel and was confident something else would turn up.

fish1 crop

As dark fell the Barbel came on the feed, 3 more fish topped by an 8lb14oz and the grand finale 9lb on the button.

fish2 crop

fish4 crop

fish3 crop

Obviously this was a good result but it was all dependant on having a bait in the right place when the temperatures were warm enough to trigger a feeding response. The new boilies I was trying proved their worth and all in all I was a happy lad despite having to leave prematurely for traffic reasons.

27.12.17 Upper Dane


A nice easy few hours on the upper river with an old pal Matt Marlow and a few of his mates, something of a Christmas social. Unfortunately the conditions had deteriorated quite quickly from the previous session, snow had fallen on the hills and the temperatures had dropped. The river was carrying a foot of dirty brown water that felt cold enough to be snow melt, and I didn’t hold much hope out for a bumper catch. I donned every layer I had but it was bitter cold and a few flurries of snow did nothing to lift my pessimism.

On the plus side it was great to have a good old chin wag with Matt, he has been fishing forever and was once a fanatical and successful carp angler, before he saw the light and became completely obsessed with rivers and their denizens. He is a funny lad and very good company; we were soon having a good laugh but the fish were playing hard to get. I suggested a move and we tried another field upstream. We both fished the same pool which would normally be something of a flyer, but today it was a maelstrom of mucky water and leaves. However I could see an area of slacker water lay on the inside of the swim and that would be my best bet today. I threw in a golf ball of compressed liquidised bread just upstream of my chosen spot, hoping it would sink there or there abouts, then set up my usual rig of a micro feeder of liquidised bread, a piece of medium sliced bread folded round the hook shank; the pocket it created was filled with cheese paste. I pinched a BB shot a few inches from the hook to keep the bread down on the bottom but still allowing some movement to the bait. I waited a few minutes then dropped in on the edge of the flow, hoping my light weight rig would roll until it found the edge of the slack. I made sure I rammed the feeder tight as I could to ensure the payload wouldn’t start to eject before the rig had settled.

With the line over my finger I could look around and admire the beauty of this river environment, it really is a little piece of heaven. On my second cast I felt a sharp rap and like a rooky I struck, no doubt pulling the bait out of the mouth of whatever fish had mouthed the bait. I cursed myself and re-baited knowing bites were going to be at a premium today. With the rig repositioned I settled down and seconds later the unmistakable rapid tug of a fish and a quick strike met with the resistance of a fighting chub. It was over in a few seconds, the fish was under 3lb at a guess, ghostly pale, but by God it was welcome. A quick photo and it was returned to its turbulent home.

3lb xmas soc chub
A manky looking chub worth its weight in gold caught by Santa in camo gear!!


Nothing more came from the swim so I suggested a move. We both upped sticks and Matt settled in a swim with a nice looking slack created by the protruding bank, I kept going until I spotted a similar slack created by a combination of the bank and a change in flow direction. Second cast again the rapid knock of a fish, strike and the rod took on a healthy bend. Immediately I knew this was a better fish, it charged downstream toward a sunken branch. Side pressure with the rod low managed to turn it away; it then bored deep heading for some unseen sanctuary, I managed to lift its head and before it had chance to do much else I scooped it up. At 4lb8oz it was a very nice fish for the Dane, and would be easily recognised for a healed up stab wound across its shoulder. I would like to meet it again in autumn, I would imagine it might make the elusive 5lb target weight I have been pursuing for the last few seasons.

4lb8oz xmas soc chub

I called it quits at this point and packed up to go and have a chat with Matt’s mates, Dicky and Mike who had just turned up. There is more to fishing than just catching fish, sometimes talking about it is almost as good.

31.12.17 Mid Ribble

After some pleading with my Mrs, Yvonne,  I was granted permission for an afternoon on the Ribble. I had been studying the levels and had seen a pulse of water come through on the 30th; the air temperature had been 8 and 9C for a couple of days and I had convinced myself this was warm rain water coming through, and we all know what this means…Barbel time!!!


The river had held onto the pulse of water and was still a metre up but I was full of optimism until I took a water temperature of 4C! I thought my chances of a Barbel had gone at that point but I was still keen to fish; maybe a chub would save the day.

I put out a small feeder packed with ground pellet laced with some glug that matched some new boilies I have been trying out. The feed was bulked out with hemp soaked in hemp oil and a few finely crushed boilies, pretty standard winter fare so as to give a scent trail but little free feed other than the boilie hookbait.

Downstream I tried some cheesepaste wrapped round a hair-rigged cork ball, with a little pva bag of liquidised bread mixed with cheese paste as an attractor. An hour later I had lost faith with this and switched it to a half boilie wrapped in paste.

As often seems to be the case in winter the straight lead/ pva bag provided what action there was. A small chub under 3lb in the afternoon was encouraging, but unfortunately it was a solitary fish and didn’t bring its mates to the New Years Eve party.

31.12.17 chub
Small but welcome


However late afternoon the same rod did the Barbel dance and after a brief scrap a little splasher made my day!

31.12.17 barb

I was well chuffed in the circumstances, I took another temp before I left and measured 3.5C so it wasn’t exactly tropical! In fact the weather turned monsoon style and really intense rain pinned me down until 7pm, when a lull gave me the chance to make a bolt for home and a chance to see the New Year in with Yvonne.

So the year comes to a close, I won’t bother with my ‘greatest achievements’ of 2017 but they are all recorded in my monthly blogs; if you have a spare moment I would love you to take a look.

Have a great 2018, may all your lines be tight!


November blog; much ado about nothing!

Moonrise on the upper Trent

I bumped into a couple of Ribble regulars at a fund-raiser last night and they mentioned they like my blog because I still write about my sessions even when I’m having a stinker….well they should enjoy this months because November was pretty grim!!!

A month of limited opportunities to fish and poor returns, due almost certainly to my Barbel obsession blinding me to the realities of the prevailing conditions. Ironically last season was one of my best winters ever for Barbel; I improved my catches quite dramatically from previous years by taking a more logical and pragmatic approach to cold weather fishing, letting the water temperature trend dictate my target species and tactics. Somehow I seem to have forgotten my own advice! I started to write a blog about exactly this subject but didn’t finish it, I will dig it out when I get a chance.

November is often a time of transition for the river angler. The harsher winter weather has got a good foothold now and the water temperatures have plummeted. Barbel start to become a more difficult proposition as their metabolism (and hence their feeding spells) slow in line with the fall of the thermometer, making pursuit a sometimes thankless task.

However, all is not lost. An able substitute is coming into its prime; sometimes bold as brass, others as elusive as morning mist, but always a good possibility in any conditions, the charismatic Chub quickly become my target species when the conditions are not conducive to the Barbel. They provide an interesting change of tactics and location, and I find myself becoming just as obsessed in pursuit of them as I am with that of the prince of the river.

05.11.17 Upper Trent



Quite a strange overnight session targeting barbel, starting with a promisingly clear sunny afternoon, night came early lit by a massive full moon, shining like the sun in a crystal clear star dotted sky. It was too good to last however, ruined by a never ending biblical deluge that didn’t stop until dawn, turning my swim into a bog, most of which somehow got inside my bivvy and sleeping bag. I didn’t like it much and neither did the Barbel who conspired to thwart me yet again! However the chub did and I had a long disrupted night landing 12 of the buggers with the majority not very impressive and under 3lb, just one decent fish of 4lb! I take little pleasure catching chub when I am targeting Barbel and I was an exhausted and broken man by dawn!

Biggest of the night at just 4lb, a tiddler for the Trent
10.11.17 River Dane

A very brief window of opportunity opened and I was out of it quicker than a greased weasel! I could only go local so I flew down to the Dane for a couple of hours late afternoon. Now this was the type of chub fishing I like!

The river was up a few inches and had a bit of colour, and armed with my chub rod and some liquidised bread with a few slices of Warburtons and my ever reliable cheese paste for bait, I was a free spirit.

My chub kit for small rivers is pretty straight forward, a reasonably priced drennan series 7 avon rod with the 2oz glass quiver tip fitted, compensation for horrible basic fittings is a lovely through action perfect for chub fishing. This is paired with a Shimano 3000 twin power reel filled with either 4lb sensor or 5lb series 7 mono. Now this is a bit of quality and has the sweetest clutch of any reel I own, an absolute boon for cushioning chub lunges on light tackle.

My end rig couldn’t be simpler, just a 4-6″ paternoster of 8lb mono to provide a stiff boom and prevent tangles, onto which I attach a tiny clip swivel for a home-made mini cage feeder, split shot or even a lump of plastercine.  This is secured to the mainline by a drennan float stop for adjustablilty and ease. Tied direct to the mainline is a size 8 barbless animal hook, big enough to hold a good chunk of bread or lump of cheesepaste. The hook is concealed inside the bait so the quite large size isn’t an issue. I usually nip a shot on the line when bread fishing to make sure it gets down to the bottom, but leave it far enough from the hookbait to allow a good flutter in the current.

I prefer barbless because of the likelihood of hooking a Grayling, they are very fragile and sometimes, despite touch ledgering and striking like lightening, they manage to bolt down the bait and get hooked deeply. I like to get them back as quickly as possible and a barbless speeds up the unhooking process. Provided fish are played on a tight line losses are not significantly worse than using barbed.

Simple, adjustable and cheap


Its lovely to throw off the clutter of my overweight barbel kit for a single avon rod and a handful of tackle and I’m far more mobile; in fact the way the Dane fishes these days its almost essential to fish multiple swims to make the most of it. For whatever reason the Chub don’t seem to gather in shoals like they used to and its difficult to build a swim and catch multiple fish no matter how quiet your approach may be. Despite this a good days fishing can still be had, its just a case of adapting to the circumstances and snatch a couple of fish from here and there.

Trying to blend in!

The water temp was surprisingly cold and I had a slow start, the first couple of swims proved fruitless, which made me fear the worst, but eventually I found a few fish in a deep glide and had a couple before it went quiet, and I took that as a prompt to try the far end of the stretch. This type of fishing doesn’t work if the river is busy but fortunately I had it all to myself.


Another 2 small chub obliged in a nearside undercut opposite a willow on the far bank, I couldn’t get a touch in the obvious area under the tree, but when I cast short and my rig rolled down the side, the rod was almost wrenched from my grasp. It was quite satisfying to get some fish from a less obvious feature and just reminded me to try undercut banks more often.

Typical small Dane chub, I caught bigger that evening but none as pretty! Great sport.

As it was almost dark now I settled into my final swim down a treacherously steep bank. I made the descent with some difficulty and had a nagging worry that I might not get out so easily! This swim looked so ‘barbelly’ I just had to have a go for one. I quickly set up my stalking rod and quietly lowered my pellet rig close to the upstream snag. I always touch ledger for chub and it works just as well for Barbel; I sat with adrenaline coursing, the line looped over my finger waiting for the electric shock of the pluck or wrench.


I really fancied my chances of a Berty but ironically it was Chub all the way, despite the 10lb braid hooklength and size 10’s hook. Funny, they were playing hard to get on the finer gear I was using earlier. Maybe it was the pellets they liked but I had 4 fish in an hour, all I estimated between 3 and 4lb, and each one did its best to turn my carefully nursed barbel swim into a Jacuzzi. So precarious was my fishing position I passed on weighing and photographing any of them on the grounds of safety, so you will just have to take my word for it!

By now it was non stop lagging down and the banks were becoming a mud bath. I decided to call it quits and packed up, but my fears of a difficult ascent to safety were well founded, and I had to resort to the old ‘double bankstick’ ice axes to crawl my way to the top of the bank, coating myself liberally in mud and, as I later realised, cow dung that I unfortunately crawled through in the dark…Hey, shit happens!!! Despite this I was satisfied with a return of 7 chub from a short session.

24.11.17 Mid Ribble

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday this week we had torrential rain, but more crucially the air temperatures were 15C. This was very promising, bringing a pulse of relatively warm water into the rivers that might spark the lethargic Barbel into a feeding spell. The bad news was that there was a huge drop in temperature Wednesday and Thursday but I still headed out on Friday with high hopes.

The Ribble had been 3m+ in the early hours of Thursday but I knew it well enough to expect it would be right back down by the time I got there. It was still carrying a few feet of nicely coloured water, but it was perfectly fishable. I chose a reliable high water swim with a decent slack on the nearside and a pronounced crease line that looked quite promising. Unfortunately my hopes were dashed on first view of the thermometer which read a frigid 5C, I knew a rapid temperature drop had occurred since Monday/Tuesday and the chances of a November Barbel were all but dashed. However my ‘Barbel blindness’ prevailed and I still went for it with a small feeder cast on the crease-line, filled with a winter mix of ground pellet and hemp so as to provide a flavour trail but not to overfeed any potential fish. The second rod was a straight lead with boilie and a pva bag of oily hemp to stop it melting too quickly, mixed with bit of finely broken boilie and cast downstream in the slack water.

The weather was lovely in the afternoon; the sun did its best and I was lulled into a false sense of security. I was day dreaming in my chair when I noticed a slight tap on the downstream rod followed by a good old tear off. Grabbing the rod a decent scrap ensued; I thought it was a really good chub until getting it close to the bank the mystery fish flew straight out of the water and revealed itself as a lump of a Brown trout (or maybe a sea trout?). I’m not a trout man and I was surprised to see a full set of teeth on this one, obviously it was a fish eater. It was unhooked and returned for a lucky fluff chucker to have a crack at another day.

trout crop


After that things took a downturn, the weather turned evil, a crazy intense hailstone storm followed by a massive cold snap with temps down to 4C and continuous heavy rain, I stuck it out 2 hours into dark but at the first lull in the rain I dashed back to the car and headed for home, vowing next time to think more carefully about the conditions before committing to trying for a Barbel.

So that was that, a combination of football and early works Christmas parties put paid to any more trips in November. I didn’t manage a barbel and so that’s my ‘barbel each month’ annual resolution blown out of the water. Hopefully I can get out more often in December but I will definitely be more choosy about my target fish if it gets as cold as expected. I will dig out the article on cold water fishing, have a read and remind myself what I did differently last year!

Tight lines


September blog



2lb6oz Roach Oz 29.09.17
2lb6oz of Ribble Silver!


September heralds a real change in the seasons as Autumn kicks in. All barbel anglers, including myself,  love this time of year as damp, mild weather arrives, coinciding with the Barbel fattening themselves up for the rigours of the winter ahead. Hungry fish should be easier to catch…in theory!

Currently the water temperatures are still at summer heights, but over the coming months they will start to fall and a wise angler will be keeping a close eye on temperature trends, as it will have a massive impact on his or her chances, but for now its mainly about water levels and water clarity triggering the fish to feed.

08.09.16 Upper Trent

If you are one of the few people to have read last months blog (thank you!!) you will know this season I decided to have a pop at the upper Trent, and to concentrate on a single stretch to try to get to grips with it, and that so far I have failed miserably to land a decent barbel. However my determination is undiminished, so once again I drove the 80 miles, with a lot uncertainty in my mind. Despite my best efforts I have failed to find an effective method of catching the resident Barbel but have seen several fantastic fish caught by anglers while I sat just feet away!

I had checked the levels on Guagemap (http://www.gaugemap.co.uk) before I set off so knew the river was carrying a fair amount of extra water, and I had a particular swim in mind. Fortunately I was the only angler on so was happy to set up camp there.

Given the distance travelled, I have started doing overnighters and this stretch is ideal as it allows good car access,  basically fishing out of the boot. This is definitely a ‘Trent thing’, I cant think of a single stretch of the Ribble that has banks accessible to vehicles, and to be honest I quite like it that way. To carry all your gear on your back to the distant swims needs commitment and almost a ‘who dares wins’ attitude. Every fish feels hard won and somehow more valuable for it. That’s not to belittle Trent fish; despite what the social media would have you believe they still take some catching, especially the upper reaches which can be ball breakingly tough going.

The swim looked good with the extra water but it had lost any of the colour it might have had, so I was still uncertain of my chances. Initially some heavy rain came through during the day but as the evening approached the sun came out and it was very pleasant sat watching the motionless rod tops with a couple of pies and a flask by my side.

I fished 2 rods, both with 12lb mainline, straight leads, pva bags, Krill and Source and boilies wrapped in paste. I set my rods as low as possible here, the water is fairly slack and around 10-12ft deep and I am only fishing 5 metres from the bank, so having the rods high achieves nothing and leaves the main line cutting through the water at a such a steep angle that any self respecting barbel must be wary of the rig.

It was past midnight and I was about to retire to my bed when my downstream rod screamed off. I was on it as fast as a fat middle aged man is able, and a mighty battle ensued. Despite gearing up for the larger residents of the stretch I was amazed by the power of the fish and feared the 12lb striptease hooklength and size 8 korda widegape might not be up to the forces I was applying to stop the fish getting to far downstream as I was uncertain if the willows there harboured any snags. I shouldn’t have worried, no snags were found and the rig was more than up to the task; soon the fish was nestled in the net. In the beam of the headtorch I thought it looked around a double, a nice fit long fish but not as thickset as the ones my mate Kris caught the previous trip. I was pleased to read 10lb1oz on the scales after subtracting the net, my duck was broken and I was a very happy angler.

10lb14oz Cuttle 08.09.17

After resting the fish swam away strongly; I sat out under the stars and gathered my thoughts, the over-riding feeling was one of relief at finally landing a decent Barbel from the stretch, however I couldn’t help but dwell on the knowledge that there are some super specimens here that would dwarf the one I had just released.

I guess I must have nodded off in my chair because I was woken with a shock in the early hours by a screaming Delkim, fortunately this fish went straight for the far bank, it was a frantic fight but it was relatively straight forward to stop it and play it out in open water in front of me. As soon as it hit the net I could see it had wider shoulders than the first fish and it made a difference at the scales coming in at 10lb14oz. Again, it wasn’t going to break records but I was absolutely made up with it, and wasn’t even disappointed when the rest of the night passed without incident.

10lb1oz Cuttle 08.09.17

Even though I find these overnight sessions hard work physically and mentally I believe they are the best way to maximise the chances on this relatively tough water, and to make the most of the cost and time spent getting to more distant venues. My overnight kit is pretty basic with no frills, so I could probably make it a lot more comfortable with some judicial investment, but I don’t intend to make it a regular thing. What I do know is the full English in the Salt Box Cafe tasted so much better the next morning with a couple of good fish under my belt.

15.09.17 Upper Trent

I just couldn’t resist having another try after last week. I watched the river level rise all week and knew where I wanted to be. I turned up at lunch and was pleased to find my first choice swim vacant so got set up without further ado.

I fished exactly the same as last week, the only difference was the feeling of confidence I had knowing the method had worked before.

Well, it was a long night to be honest, I sat on my rickety old chair under a brolley in persistent rain until the early hours with not a twitch to break the monotony. Eventually I was beaten by fatigue and retired to my bivvie, intending just to lie down and rest my eyes. I know this may be controversial but I confess I left my rods on the Delkims, primed and in position. I was in a relatively snag free swim, both rigs were equipped to deal with big fish and were situated over a boulder free gravel bottom. I fish from an open fronted bivvie and believed I could be on the rods as quickly as I could from my chair.

At 5am I got the chance to prove the theory as I got a scream on the upstream rod and leapt from my bed barefoot in a flash, any thoughts of footware lost in the panic, and I have to say I moved like Hussain Bolt ( a larger, beardy version anyway!). I had the rod in its fighting curve before the fish had moved more than a couple of feet and after a short but frantic scrap it was in the net. The scales read 10lb1oz, same as last week but it was a different fish, easily identifiable by a dent near its anal fin.

10lb1oz Cuttle 15.09.17

The lady serving at the Salt Box the next morning must have thought I was ‘care in the community’ as I stood before her in my dishevelled state grinning from ear to ear, but that’s what catching a good fish does to me! God help her if I bag a 14!!

22.09.17 Mid Ribble

I might as well start by saying straight from the off I blanked today. Not just for Barbel but for everything, not so much as a tap all day and half the night.

The levels were down and the river was pretty clear, not the best to be honest. I decided to venture downstream of my usual area to try a new swim I had my eye on from a previous recce. I often take a walk when the going is slow and I think it is time well spent when you can identify interesting features, especially when the river is low and reveals her secrets.

This swim just looked interesting, a far bank run dissolved into a pool that looked deep, but until I chucked a lead around I didn’t realise just how deep. I estimated 15-18ft with a sandy bottom. Despite working hard I failed to entice the slightest interest, but I believe it holds promise and made a mental note to try again here when there is more water in the river.

29.09.17 Mid Ribble

After last weeks disappointment I headed for more familiar water, but once there I again decided to forgoe my usual swims and try somewhere new. The river was dropping from a sharp rise the day before and still a foot up, but some serious rain had fallen in the night and on the journey up the motorway so I suspected she would be on the rise again.

Sunset Oz 29.09.17
When the weather can’t make its mind up!!!


The Ribble is a fast reacting spate river and because the ground is now saturated, rainfall moves very quickly into the system. Rises can be quite astonishing and definitely affect my swim choices. No point casting to the far bank when there is likely to be a 2m rise in the next couple of hours that turns the river to leaf soup and drags your rig to the near bank! I always try to do my research, find swims that will be good in a flood and be prepared to move to them if the levels change.

Hard to believe it was absolutely hammering down just 15 minutes later!!!


In this case I chose a slow deep section that would be easier to fish if the river rose, but even here it was difficult due to the number of leaves already in the water column. I was forced to fish mid river rather than across as I would have preferred. On the day I suffered epic monsoon rain storms followed by hot sunny ‘T shirt’ spells, typical of September and even though the river only rose a few inches the leaves were a menace and I think I probably made the right choice.

I was fishing for barbel and geared up accordingly, so I was quite surprised when the rod indicated a tentative bite on a 16mm krill boilie which turned out to be a 14oz roach. This area is renowned for its roach but I didn’t expect them on such heavy gear, nor did I think they could fit a 16mm boilie in their compact mouths, but I live and learn.

The surprises continued as I managed to land another similar sized fish, followed by the biggest roach I have ever caught from a river weighing in at 2lb6oz (see headline photo)and another around 1lb12oz!

The Ribble is one of the few places that has a head of ‘Roach/Chub’ hybrids, know locally as ‘Choach’ but the larger fish certainly looked like a proper Roach. It was witnessed by a passing angler who was seemed very impressed, but I have to say it was not very sporting on the gear I was using. However once again it shows the potential sport this cracking river could offer the float angler; I could see a winter trotting session on the cards!


Roach from Oz 29.09.17
Pure roach??


Late afternoon I finally managed a Barbel of around 4lb and I was grateful for it. Sadly it was the only one despite sticking it out until 10pm. Things don’t seem as easy as last season on the Ribble but there are still some very good fish coming out, just not for me at the moment.

5lb Oz 29.09.17
A welcome splasher


So that was my lot for September, the triumph of catching a few nice fish on a challenging new venue balanced out by a blank session. I’m looking forward to October, this time last year I had some cracking fishing and I am hoping for a repeat. To everybody who gets out this usually productive month, good luck and Tight Lines!



August blog

Madgel bank 04.08.17

When I started this blog I vowed to make my reports as honest as possible, but the last couple of months have made pretty dismal reading, such has been the dearth of my target species, the mighty Barbel. However I am going to stick to my guns even if it pains me to recount fruitless frustrating hours sat watching motionless rod tops, I just hope it is not to boring for anybody who cares to read it, warts and all.

To be honest, after a relatively disappointing July with few Barbel to speak of, I entered August with confidence quite low. After some introspection I resolved not to change what I was doing too drastically; my methods and bait have proven to be effective for many years. However, things weren’t going well so something had to be done. I am always looking for new edges so I made one or two tweaks to my rigs, plus a small change in work ethic, namely to get mobile and try to cover more swims. This was to address the obvious lack of dispersal of the Barbel; many of my fellow anglers were reporting good catches from one swim while nothing was being caught on the rest of the section, usually an early season phenomena post spawning where fish stay around the spawning grounds but this year it is still very much in evidence and we are not far from Autumn!

During mid-August I had the opportunity to have a few days holiday on the middle Severn, one of my favourite rivers and normally very productive for Barbel. If I couldn’t catch there in August with mild conditions and some rainfall forecast, things really would be desperate. This would be sandwiched in between trips to the Ribble and upper Trent so plenty of opportunity to end the relative Barbel famine (if only!).

04.08.17 Mid Ribble

A bright and breezy day, not the best Barbel weather but lovely to be wandering with a fishing rod in the beautiful Ribble valley. Only a few anglers were out on this popular club stretch, quite surprising considering the river was fining down after a fair amount of rain fell during the week and was still carrying a hint of lovely peaty colour. Clarity, or lack of it is, in my opinion, the number one factor in dictating the success or failure of Ribble barbel fishing, closely followed by water temperature.

I was lucky enough to get on a fancied swim but decided to take a softly softly approach as far as feed goes. I fished a medium feeder rig two thirds across to the edge of the main flow line. Any further across is asking for trouble as the river bed is littered with big stones, a tackle graveyard.

As mentioned in the intro I had made some adjustments to my rig to try to improve bait presentation by tying a very fine braid hair and supergluing a couple of the smallest hinders pellets to it, a tiny bait presented as carefully as I could manage while still having the strength in the rig to handle a hard fighting double (I wish!). My commitment to be more mobile vanished and I ended up staying put the whole day apart from a quick recce in the afternoon.

I have great faith in pellets on the Ribble, but I am careful of the quantities I give as freebies, preferring to give the fish more hemp than pellet and increasing the amount of flavoured groundbait, in an attempt to provide a scent trail but not too much free feed. This becomes more crucial as the water temperatures drop in winter, where a couple of pellets will fill a fish for days as their metabolism slows. However, the plan sort of backfired when my tiny bait attracted a tiny Barbel, though I was quite pleased to see a new year class coming through, always a good sign of a healthy Barbel population. It’s of great concern to see rivers producing exclusively large specimen Barbel without a mix of smaller ones showing up, such as seems to be the case currently with the river Dove. I fear there is a problem building for the future of this wonderful river if recruitment of new year groups is failing, but that’s a serious topic for another day.

baby barbel Madgel bank 04.08.17
Perfection in miniature and a great sign of a stable Barbel population


The day passed with little to report other than constant action from eels. Now this is interesting, my second rod fishing worm down the deep channel just down my near side was in constant action with them ranging from a few ounces to a couple of pounds. I’m not a fan, but again it shows a healthy balance of species, and of course eels are Otters favourite food, so maybe less of my target species will fall prey to them. It’s strange considering eels have been practically absent from the Ribble for the last few years, very much in line with the national statistics where the population has crashed dramatically.

Later, just as dark descended my feeder rod went off and after a brief but lively tussle I landed a Barbel of around 4lb. Never has a splasher been more welcome, understandable after my recent lack of success. I stuck it out till 11pm then called it quits. Other anglers passing reported it being a hard day all round, so I wasn’t too despondent on the 40 mile drive home.

4lb Madgel bank 04.08.17
Only a splasher but so welcome!


07.08.17 Mid Severn club water

Day 1 of a four day Severn break based in one of my favourite fishing towns, Bridgnorth. After a breakfast departure it was lunch time before I reached my destination, a club water downstream of Shrewsbury which has been kind to me in the past.

I had no problem getting a favourite swim where I always do well with my secret recipe flavoured luncheon meat fished half way across in the main flow. However I had made the batch up and frozen it to absorb the flavour a couple of days earlier using an old tin I found in my bait store. I guess it must have been many years old because it had basically turned to jelly. I only found out as it thawed and became impossible to keep on the rig, despite using the ‘ladies legs’ hair rig method that is usually fantastic for keeping meat on the hair for long casts. I think it was so soft that the impact with the water after a 40m cast was destroying the cubes; in desperation I tried wrapping it in pva net and using straw under the wire to spread the force, all to no avail. All very frustrating as the first 2 chunks were still partly frozen and stayed on well, and resulted in 2 cracking 3 foot twitches from a 6lb and a 7lb12oz Barbel. After that I had no idea if my bait was still on after casting but had no more fish. Lesson learnt, use fresh meat!

I stayed till dusk and only just made the last hour in my favourite Bridgnorth pub, the Bell and Talbot and barely managed to squeeze a few down before last orders. The Black Country beer is just so good, I even contemplated missing out on food to have a last pint, but in the end a sprint to the kebab shop saved the day.

7lb Cressage 07.08.178lb Cressage 07.08.17

08.08.17 Severn Stoke- Lower Severn

This felt like a pilgrimage for me to fish this famous length of Birmingham anglers controlled water. I have never made it to the lower until last season’s excellent weekend on Pixham with the Barbel Society, mainly due to the distraction of the middle reaches of the river being so good I never really had the urge to pass Bewdley.

Severn Stoke sunset 08.08.17

There is something about the lower Severn, slow, deep and home to larger Barbel in general than the middle, and much larger boats than I had ever encountered in my river fishing experience. Severn Stoke is a very beautiful stretch of water and obviously popular with the boat trippers.

I had some local advice from Lawrence Breakspeare and James Benfield, both extremely successful Barbel anglers on the lower river, but they warned me it might be difficult as the river had been out of sorts, and so it proved. Features don’t jump out at you down on the lower, very few visible indicators can be seen on the surface but I knew I was in the right area so I stuck it out till dark. Sadly, only bream obliged, big ones granted but not my target species, so I went home to my B&B with my tail between my legs, vowing to return in the Autumn.

09.08.17 Knowle Sands- Mid Seven

This Birmingham anglers stretch is one of my favourites. Located just a stone’s throw from Bridgnorth and down a massive hill to the river; obviously that means an equally massive climb back up at the end of the day. The positive thing is it puts a few off so I can usually get one of my chosen swims here. Unfortunately it is also prone to being fished by some real low-life’s judging from the amount of litter I usually have to collect before I fish; why people come to the beauty of the Severn and feel they have the right to leave their detritus behind is beyond my understanding, but I collected it up anyway, ready to be carted back up ‘cardiac hill’ at dusk.

Knowle Sunset 09.08.17

The rain of the previous days had started to show today and I estimated a rise of 18″ of water from normal level, plus a lovely brown tinge that promised a Barbel or two. As usual on the Severn, it also made the banks treacherous underfoot; I always carry a length of nylon rope and use a deep set bankstick at the top of the bank before I descend to the river side, it has helped me so many times in the past I usually do it on even mildly sloped banks these days.

I fished the standard pellet feeder rod in the main flow line and with my second I dropped a boilie rig down the nearside into a deep slack that I have found this to produce the larger fish in the past. This sleeper rod was set low to the water and after throwing a handful of broken boilies around the slack I cast it in, engaged the bait-runner and left it to its own devices, still mindful that I had to be on the rod quickly in the event of a run.

I started to get a few on the pellet rod, just small fish around 3-5lb but spirited fighters and great fun. Then in the afternoon the sleeper rod screamed off and I had a decent barbel of 7lb, followed shortly after by one of 8lb. By now I was getting fish on both rods quite regularly but the sleeper was producing way better stamp, averaging 7lb. I even managed to hook a couple of quality roach but it was a bit unfair on the gear I was using, however it shows the potential for a nice float fishing session.

knowle 38lb Knowle Sands crop09.08.175lb Knowle 09.08.176lb Knowle 09.08.17

Before I knew it dusk had passed and I had to be off per B.A. club rules. I’d had 13 fish, biggest 8lb, not huge but a very enjoyable and action packed day…the big hill didn’t seem so bad!

10.08.17 Mid Severn club waters

Atcham Lymm Landscape

I decided to head part way home to a new club water near Atcham. It was more of an exploratory visit and in the end I walked 2 full sections, just chatting to the 2 anglers present and generally having a good look around. It was a very attractive bit of river and eventually I came across an enclosed swim overhung with willows with a distinct flow line on the edge of the trees, that just looked so ‘fishy’ I had to give it a try. I could only fish one rod, and because some of the colour had dropped out overnight I decided to go for a straight lead and loose feed approach. I was surprised the only fish to take an interest was a nice perch because it looked like a Barbel’s dream location.

Perch atcham Lymm 09.08.17

In accordance with my new policy I decided to get moving and try a different length a few miles downstream on another club ticket. As usual at this venue I found an empty car park meaning I had the river to myself. I set up in a compact swim below a willow bush with a deep hollow on the nearside and the main flow running by only 5m out. I love this stretch, it’s so picturesque, peaceful and full of wildlife. For some reason the water looked more coloured than the last venue and I had a good feeling as I set up a medium feeder with pellet, and swung it out underarm to the edge of the flow.

Only 10 minutes later I had an absolute screamer that resulted in a very nicely conditioned 8lb’er, followed half an hour later, after a bait change to boilie, by an equally ferocious take from one about 7lb. Both were landed with some difficulty due to a downstream bush that the fish seem to head for, and I had to act quickly to stop them. After the commotion I put a few broken boilies in and went for a walk to let the swim settle. This seemed to do the trick and a couple of 5-6lb fish obliged at dusk.

As dark fell I was hoping for one last big fish but it was not to be, however I was pleased with the trip in general and felt as if a corner had been turned.

8lb Buildwas 10.08.17

18.08.17 Upper Trent

A long trek to the upper Trent to meet my mate Kris from Stoke. We were fishing a popular stretch and as he lives a lot closer he was already well ensconced in his favourite ‘flyer’ by the time I had negotiated the agony of 85 miles on the M56, M6, A50 etc. As we were staying the night I fished the next peg upstream despite having a poor result from there last time while Kris battered them from just 30 yards away. I was confident that this time would be different….Wrong!

Just to confound my optimism my swim failed to produce a barbel despite it looking an absolute peach with the extra water in the Trent creating a fantastic looking crease; Mr Crabtree would have been salivating! Kris proceeded to land four thumping Barbel, topped by a 13lb specimen that was fin perfect and would have made any anglers season.

Kris 13lb
13lb Trent beauty



I had plenty of time sat watching my motionless isotopes to ponder the reason for my failure; why won’t those barbel move from the downstream swim? My theory is the slightly deeper hollow that exists there holds food, the fish expect to find items dropped from the flow in that location. Logically when there are freebies already there why would they need to waste energy moving further upstream?

Three bream between 2 and 4lb and a couple of chublets were the only visitors to disturb my night. Generally I never worry about blanking, always looking to learn something new from a visit to a river, but I have to admit to feeling a bit deflated after the success of my Severn trip and the close proximity of Barbel to my unloved baits.

The highlight of my session (other than witnessing Kris’s fish) was a cheesy oatcake he cooked for me in his ‘ridge-monkey’! That’s when you know it’s been a hard slog. To be fair to the lad he could actually work for the Stoke tourist board such is his enthusiasm for the best things to come from his ‘fair’ city; the previously mentioned oatcakes which make up 75% of the average Stokies diet, his beloved Stoke City FC and of course the River Trent!

The mighty cheese Oatcake, upon which Stoke is built!!!


In the cold light of day a trip to the Salt Box for a full English was in order, and we were accompanied by Mark, a fellow Stockport lad we met on the bank. A bit of banter and a full belly certainly lifted my spirits for the drive home. I know the potential of this stretch so won’t be dissuaded easily; just to confirm this the following week my pal Harry landed this stunning creature from an undisclosed location on the river…simply awesome! My plans are already in place for a triumphant return.

Harry with an earth shaking Trent fish…truly awesome!!!!


25.08.17 Upper Trent

My triumphant return turned out to be somewhat less than triumphant. Another overnighter, this time I got there before Kris so had the pick of the pegs. It was a close call between 2 swims, I chose a lovely looking swim with a deeper gulley running down mid river and fished both rods along it.

Kris turned up in the evening and dropped in the other swim I had looked at, and went on to land 4 nice barbel…I blanked yet again! I didn’t even get a decent kip as several small chub, just big enough to move the rig and set off my alarms, plagued me throughout the night!

I thought I had turned a corner after my Severn trip but obviously I chose a dead end street full of pot-holes. It is incredibly frustrating to blank when my mate is catching just a hundred metres away, but I am sure it is a temporary slump I’m in and that things will come good sooner or later. I take so much pleasure from this great sport of ours that even after all the bad days and 150 mile round trips I wouldn’t change a thing.

Autumn is round the corner…bring it on!!!

Tight lines




July Blog


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.

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.

8lb8oz Dane Daisy Bank 07.07.17
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.

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.

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!


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



June blog


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!!

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.

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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

Lovely summer Barbel
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