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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!