Dark and moody, overcast and windy, putting an end to the last vestiges of Summer; that is the month of October….and I love it!!! Why? Because its the best barbeling month of the year (probably!)
It could never be described as an easy month, the rain and wind bring their own issues for the river man in the shape of high water, leaves and uprooted weed building up in giant clumps on your line, plus the obvious discomfort of getting soaked and chilled to the bone, but for me these negatives are totally outweighed by the opportunity to catch Barbel at their fattest and fittest as they bulk up for the hardships of winter. Usually the rivers are up and coloured, but with water temperatures still in the anglers favour, hopefully spurring the big girls to get on the munch.
06.10.17 Upper Trent
After last months relative successes on my chosen club stretch of the upper Trent I felt I had to return and have another go just to prove it wasn’t a fluke. I had chosen all my swims previously because they had attributes that made them suitable for the high water conditions I faced all through September, and I believed those features would hold resident fish or at least create a patrol route that would be visited by a barbel at some time during the session. At the start of the week the water levels were down to just a few inches above normal level so I was looking forward to trying somewhere new and interesting, maybe a nice glide or a shallower section I had earmarked on previous visits. However, my plans were put in doubt as some substantial rain fell in my area mid-week, and my mate from Stoke confirmed it was hoofing down around there, so I wasn’t sure what I would find on arrival.
As it turned out a fair bit of water had indeed got into the river, it was about 1.0m up and a lovely clay brown colour that filled me full of optimism, but I was now faced with the choice of either fishing one of the same swims as last month where I knew I could hold bottom and wouldn’t have to worry about water-borne debris so much, or risking somewhere new where I might get washed out by the rising river.
I chose the boring option of familiarity and set up exactly the same as usual in one of the slacker swims I had fished previously. Unadventurous it may have been, but I have learnt the hard way from fishing the spatey Ribble that choosing the wrong swim when the river is on the rise is time consuming and frustrating, and invariably ends in a forced move…far better to make the right choice to start with, based on the predictive tools we have at our disposal these days, plus a bit of guess work.
It was a quiet evening and night, the leaves and weed weren’t much of a problem and my 4oz leads never budged due to the slack nearside water and back leads keeping the line pinned to the bottom and out of the way of the weed and leaves in the water column. It was a nice mild evening and I enjoyed the relaxation of the countryside, watching the Kingfishers and Herons working the far bank.
It was a bit of a shock when the upstream rod went off like a rocket; it would have been the much beloved ‘3 foot twitch’ except the rod was pointing almost in line with the direction the fish was heading due to the constrictions of the swim, and I was alerted in no uncertain terms by the scream of the baitrunner ratchet. As soon as I picked it up I knew it was good fish; the slow forceful plod, non of the erratic tail pumping of the smaller barbel, just pure power and the odd lunge and heart-stopping ping on the line as the fish turned. The fight got serious under the rod tip as the fish looked for sanctuary under the upstream willow, but I managed to turn her and soon the battle was won. I knew she was a double but I underestimated her weight by a pound. At 12lb6oz my seasons best and 2nd equal biggest I have ever had….I was buzzing.
No further action was had after this, other than a few small bream and chub that launched themselves inconsiderately onto the hook, but the session was a roaring success as far as I was concerned because of that one beautiful fish.
13.10.17 Upper Trent
I just had to go back and have another go…I was flushed with confidence, but that usually proves to be my downfall and true to form that bloody river confounded me yet again. It was a fair bit lower than last week, most of the colour had gone. I had definitely made my mind up to try a different area, but wouldn’t you know it, contrary to normal there were several lads on when I arrived and every swim I had earmarked was occupied! So guess what, I ended back on the same swim as last week!
Suffice to say, despite my best efforts I didn’t even manage a Bream or a Chub, and in the morning sat shivering on my damp chair as the morning sun defrosted me, I pondered the fine line between a triumph and an absolute stinker, consoling myself with the thought ‘you cant have the former without going through a few of the later’.
The only positive of the session was finding a new café, the ‘Nose Bag’ in Hatton that was a bit cheaper and a bit better than my usual haunt (in my humble opinion) so at least I had a nice full tummy for the long drive home, stuck behind the series of pensioner piloted Micra’s and poo splattering tractors that frequent the 70 mile route.
20.10.17 Mid Ribble
I had become a bit obsessed with the upper Trent, so decided to buck the trend and head for the Ribble for an afternoon session, promising my better half I would head for home just after dark. After a quick look at Guagemap (4am reading) which showed the river topping out at 1.6m high, I predicted a hard drop in level typical of the Ribble, and expected it to be almost back to normal by the time I arrived around lunchtime. It just goes to show the limitations of only having two read-outs per 24hours as another pulse of water followed after 4am and the level was higher than anticipated, around 1.8m. However there are plenty of suitable swims to be had that can be fished in these conditions.
To be honest this wasn’t anything too exciting for hardy Ribble anglers who often see 3 or 4m of raging water and still manage to catch a few fish, but swim choice becomes reduced. I am looking for nearside slacks or smooth laminar flow and these are in short supply in a Ribble flood. This isn’t always a bad thing of course as the fish will concentrate in these calmer areas, and a good session can be had if you know where to look.
To cut a long story short I fished a swim that in normal conditions is a slow moving pool, but as the river rises it provides a nice slack on the inside and a lovely crease as the main flow rushes along mid river. I took the water temperature for the first time this winter and the reading of 12C gave me confidence something would come along eventually.
I chose a feeder approach to be sure some bait was always going to be around my hookbait, and as the flow wasn’t too great because of the slack I hoped to build a patch of feed as the day progressed. The second rod was straight lead, boilie wrapped in plenty of paste, with a PVA bag of broken boilies and a few pellets soaked in glug. This was cast to various likely spots around the slack pool downstream but in the event it was the upstream feeder rod that produced, just 3 small barbel and a couple of chub, all around dusk.
Oddly the expected fall in level did occur in the evening and I estimated an 18″ drop in a couple of hours but this really messed the swim up, the nearside slack became very turbulent and it was only as dark fell that the swim settled somewhat, and that coincided with the fish getting over the feed. Not the most productive session but the Ribble hasn’t been as kind to me this season compared to last. Fellow anglers have also reported a downturn in sport but nobody is sure why.
One concern I did have was the large amount of foam evident; this used to indicate detergent in the water in the bad old days of the 70-80’s when the rivers were far more polluted than now. I just hope it is a natural phenomena and not unwelcome run-off entering the system. I had a couple of photos of the changing face of the swim as the levels dropped which also illustrated the foam build up but I can’t publish them for fear of falling foul of the ‘Ribble barbel police’ and ‘fishing fight club’ as they give the swim away, very frustrating but I don’t want to upset anybody.
27.10.17 Upper Trent
Back on the Trent, this time I was determined to try a different type of swim outside my usual area. the river was carrying around 0.4m so not as much as recent trips, and this offered the option to fish some of the faster moving glides.
I chose just such a swim, a nice 2m deep glide below a shallower section, and fished a feeder in the main flow line only 20m from my bank, plus a straight lead, paste wrapped boilie and pva bag further downstream.
I have made my own pastes for quite a few years now, just a basic home made boilie base mix, with added fish meals, crushed hemp, oils and flavours tailored to match whatever boilie I am fishing. This is much cheaper than off the shelf pastes that are sold by the boilie companies in little pots, I just add an egg to bind for a longer lasting paste. Even better, you know exactly what’s going in it and can flavour to suit the conditions and mix it to break down at the desired rate. I wouldn’t bother making my own boilies however, its hard work and there are plenty of good ones around, I don’t have the time to be honest, but a big ball off paste can be knocked out in 10 minutes and frozen for future trips.
I had some company in the shape of my mate Kris who has been through some bad times recently. He rang me to say on top of all this his car had broken down on the way to the river. To be honest I didnt expect to see him, but good on him for borrowing his mates van and turning up that evening…top lad (and he brought his brewing kit for much needed cuppa’s!).
As usual I set up for the night here to make it worth the long trip. There seems to be very little action during daylight anyway. Just at dusk I hooked a nice chub, I didn’t weigh it as it was a bit of a miss-match on the heavy barbell set up, but I estimated around 4-5lb so a decent fish and worth pursuing in the frosty winter months on appropriate gear.
An hour later a hell of a wrap around bite resulted in a great scrap with a nicely conditioned Barbel of 8lb9oz. With the extra flow in this swim the fish could use it to its advantage and really put the tackle through its paces. I was relieved to get it in the net to be honest as I recalled the disappointing blank last time I was here.
The bright sunshine and clear skies of the day were followed by severely plummeting temperatures, not the best recipe for a Barbel session. Never the less I was here for the night so I kept busy and re-cast the rods regularly, at least before the floating weed built up on the lines and forced the issue. I could keep the rigs in place for an hour without too much difficulty so I was happy to keep the upstream feeder rod active and leave the straight lead rod in position as long as possible.
In the early hours another screaming run on the feeder rod had me scrambling for dear life. Again I knew the moment I picked up the rod this was a good fish, it bull-dozed around and like the earlier specimen it used the flow to its advantage, taking me for a run around a couple of times. I was as confident as I could be that there were no snags in the swim; I had leaded around before I started fishing to give me some idea of the depth and composition of the river bed. Thankfully this proved to be the case, just some nearside streamer weed to avoid and after what seemed like an age the fish finally rolled over the lip of my landing net. After a good rest in the net while I calmed myself down and set up my camera & scales, I finally lifted her out and knew another double was on the cards. She weighed in at 12lb8oz and just pipped the fish from earlier in the month, and goes in the diary as my second biggest Barbel ever. To say I was pleased would be an understatement!!
The pictures were, as usual, a mixed bag, I have been getting some poor results recently with my self-take night shots but I can’t afford a new camera. I have made a little diffuser guard to fit over the flash to try to reduce over exposure of the fish and at least that seemed to help a bit. As for the framing and my bizzare facial expressions…well I will just have to keep working on them!!!
The temperatures have started to fall fast as we enter November; I had to scrape the ice from the car window for the first time this winter. I also dusted off the chub rod yesterday and checked the freezer for left over cheese paste from last season. When one door closes another one opens!!
08.12.17 Heald Green Social Club ABG fund raiser
For any North West angler looking for something to do on a rainy mid-week evening you could do far worse than get to Heald Green on December 4th 8pm for Jerry Gleeson and Matt Marlows fund raiser for the Army Benevolent Fund. Gary Knowles is the guest speaker and I can vouch for the quality of his fishing presentations. Expect some barracking from the floor and witty comebacks. Its only £3 entry and all money raised is for a worthy cause. There is usually a bait stand and a good raffle as well. I will see you all there…mines a bitter!