December blog

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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

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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.

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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

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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!!!

Capture

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!

Dave

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November blog; much ado about nothing!

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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

 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Dave

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Dave

 

Suffering on the Severn

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Angry river Severn!

 

 

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

Friday

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Saturday

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

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

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Camera tricks!

 

 

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

Sunday

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

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

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Monday

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

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

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

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

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

Tight lines

Dave

January Barbel Blues

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

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

02.01.17 Mid Ribble

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

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Looks like Summer! A lovely January Ribble Chub

 

06.01.17 River Dane

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

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Hard won

 

08.01.17 Mid Ribble

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

 

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A window of opportunity grabbed with both hands

 

13.01.17 River Dane

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

 

 

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20.01.17 Mid Ribble

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

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

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

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

 

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4lb10oz on another gorgeous day on the Ribble

 

27.01.17 Dane

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

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

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Bleached out 4lb12oz Dane fish

 

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

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Otter prints?

 

28.01.17 Poynton canal

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

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

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

Tight Lines

Dave