Magic May




After a pretty average April on the fishing front things really bucked up this month. I increased my modest Tench PB to 8lb3oz and had multiple catches on 3 consecutive sessions, followed by my first ever Catfish, eclipsed by a bigger fish the next week.

The reason is simple, as mentioned previously I joined Lymm Anglers last month and the still water fishing has been excellent. I always fancied having a proper go for tench in the river close season but the waters I had available were either sparsely stocked or 50-60+ miles away. It’s great to get on a water in under 30 minutes that promises a fair chance of a double figure tench, quite a rarity here in the North West.

An unfortunate combination of events at work, completely beyond my control, have meant for practically the first time in my adult life I have found myself having to take prolonged time off. I don’t like it, but vowed not to vegetate and to grasp it as a chance to do some jobs round the house (and to get some fishing done). Obviously I would have preferred it to be in the river season but beggars can’t be choosers. Consequently I found myself on the bank at least twice a week this month.


I timed my arrival at this Cheshire Mere perfectly, to find a hot carp swim recently vacated. Where the carp bait goes in I figure the tench wouldn’t be far away. I am still learning about this water and it has been a steep curve. This session produced two lovely conditioned tench, biggest 6lb, and as it was only my second visit I was pleased, but I began to doubt my popped up mini boilie rig was going to be the most effective method here, plus the idea of hooking one of the huge resident carp or Catfish on a fairly light tench setup was a concern. I decided to get some maggots for next trip.

First Tench on a new water, big grin time!

A different peg on the same venue, following some plumbing around with a small lead I discovered a nice plateau 30m out, just a few feet shallower than the surrounding bed, but it seemed to be an interesting feature that I thought might be attractive to the Tench. As hoped it was a cracking session producing nine tench to 7lb and a lively bream full of spawning nodules, I began to feel I had a decent method now.

I fished an inline Drennan maggot feeder with a rubber red maggot on the hair, plus 3 or 4 real red maggots on the hook. The rubber maggot’s buoyancy counters the weight of the hook and it is important to make the bait float and act the same as the rest of the loose feed. I imagine the feeding tench blowing the carpet of maggots about, if the hookbait is anchored to the floor it looks different and doesn’t get picked up.

04.05.17 6lb04.05.17 bream



Back to the mere for more, I was so pleased to be getting among the tinca’s I felt like I had to get back there as soon as possible. Just a few hours remained of the afternoon but it turned into a real red letter day as the fish came thick and fast to the inline feeder/ red maggot method. A fantastic session, 10 beautifully conditioned tench and another decent bream, but the highlight was an 8lb3oz tench (and new PB) that frightened the life out of me as it came in like a wet sponge then turned into a turbo-charged dervish under the rod tip.


I estimated the smallest fish to be 5lb and 5 of the 10 were weighed over 6lb. I did have a few dropped runs though, so I experimented with my rigs, changing the hair length and putting less maggots on the hook; so frequent was the action at one point I wound in my second rod for a while. I was a happy chappy driving home for sure.

08.05.17 8lb3ozpb tench
My PB Tench 8lb3oz, still plenty of room for improvement.

08.05.17 7lb tench08.05.17 5.5lb tench



For some reason I felt like I needed a change from the excellent tenching I had been enjoying, so I went to a different Lymm water and blanked miserably. There were carp cruising all over but not a touch for me.

Paradoxically that is the beauty of fishing, we never know what will happen each time we put the gear in the car, but isn’t that what makes it all the more joyous when we do have that next red letter day? My philosophy for all my fishing, especially rivers, is it was a new water to me and I left knowing more about it than when I arrived, so in my eyes it was a worthwhile trip.


I had satisfied my wanderlust so back to the mere tenching. I had hoped to try a new area but found it quite busy, so ended up back on a previous peg. The weather had changed and it was a bit colder and rainier than of late, with a sharp wind in my face it felt a bit wintery to be honest. However, the fishing was still decent, 6 tench to 7lb5oz. How ironic, last season I managed less than a handful of tinca’s all through the close season, now I’m moaning I only caught 6 fish in an afternoon! This water has really got under my skin and I’m struggling to find the enthusiasm to try others on the Lymm ticket.

12.05.17 7lb tench12.05.17 6.5lb tench12.05.17 5lb tench


As if to punish me for my ingratitude for only catching 6 fish the previous session I went back to the mere and blanked abjectly. I apologised to the water Gods before I left in the hope they would forgive me on my return.


A change of scenery and a visit to a pool reputed to contain Catfish, a species I have never before caught or even seen one on the bank in real life. My other club has an aversion to them so I was unlikely to come across them on their waters.

I set up for carp but fished Krill boilies just in case a cat might take a fancy (I read somewhere they like fishy flavours). Plenty of particles next to some lily beds just in the margin and a second rod across to a small island.

Well blow me if the margin rod didn’t fly off an hour later and I was attached to a powerful fish that proceeded to lay waste to the lilies and churn up my swim like a JCB. I was amazed at the fighting power when it finally surfaced and proved to be my first ever Catfish, (well a kitten to be honest) of only 6lb, but still a PB to boot. I didn’t want to mess around with it so just took a mat shot and weighed it in the net and slipped it back well pleased with myself.

An hour later the same rod was away and I was attached to something way more substantial, now I knew I was in a spot of bother, with my 2.25lb test barbel rod creaking to the corks, I was using a 12lb BS set-up and I gave it 12lb of stick to keep it out of the lilies but something had to give and it was my hook hold. It was abrasion resistant coated braid but it looked like it had been through a mincer on inspection. I concluded it was another larger catfish and decided if I was going to fish the water again I would need a more robust setup.

19.05.17 cat 6lb
PB Catfish 6lb, note to self…get stronger tackle!!



Back to see if the Gods of the mere had forgiven me…no they hadn’t! Yet another blank despite trying 2 different areas. I had some company in the shape of friends Matt and Jerry who had got there early and bagged a flyer. It didn’t fish well for anybody during the day, there were lots of carp showing but they seemed intent on getting ready for spawning; the shallows were like an aquarium, fascinating to watch all the same.

Things improved for the lads after I left with Matt having quite a time after hooking and landing 2 nice carp on his tench gear. Excellent angling to get them both in. The lads had a few tench as well so happy days (for them at least!).

Jerry tench 22.05.1722.05.17 Matts mirrori22.05.17 Matts koi


The loss of the Catfish was nagging me so I decided to try a return visit. I upped my gear to 15lb main line and more substantial braid and hook. The other rod was out in the open so I left that as it was.

Within an hour I had another small catfish almost identical to last weeks. I think it could be the same fish; I read they are very territorial. Later a 10lb common came on the other rod, but I had a feeling something was going to happen on my margin rod.

25.05.17 6lb cat
Same fish 6lb?


I persevered with the heavy gear, I’m not used to it really but I knew I needed to stop anything I hooked from ploughing into the pads.

Suddenly it was game on and I locked tight and held on for dear life, I felt a massive wrench and thought it had come off but it was the lead coming out of the lead clip; I think that was the best thing that could have happened as it was a clean contact direct with the fish after that, and a couple of minutes later and despite strimming quite a few lilies, I landed my new PB Cat of 14lb3oz. My arm is still hurting now from the power of that fish. I can’t imagine hooking a proper big one (the mere has cats to 60+!!!). Anyway, I’m more than satisfied to have caught one for now.

25.05.17 13lb3oz cat
2nd catfish PB 14lb3oz…Buzzing!



Last trip of the season and yet another blank on a new water. To be honest my mind is now on the imminent river season and I spent a lot of time with my lines on the bank chatting to other anglers.


So I have enjoyed an excellent months fishing in general. Never mind the odd blank days, 2 PB’s in a month is very satisfying. I might get a couple more sessions in on still waters, but the river season is so close now I can taste it.

This year, due to leaving our holiday booking late (yet again) I have had to take the first week of the season to go to Portugal. I console myself by recalling that the early days on the rivers are usually a bit naff, however the forecast is for some heavy rain early June so it could be a missed opportunity. Oh well, might as well start this season as I mean to go on! Good luck to everybody on the glorious 16th!

Tight Lines



Suffering on the Severn

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.


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.

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.


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.


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!

Blur Bokeh07-03-2017_221351
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.


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!


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!!



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!




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


Fleeting February

Looks promising but…fish say no!

I feel like February passed by in a blur; family Birthdays and the loss of our beloved Border terrier Sid meant I missed a couple of weekends, but to be fair I didn’t feel the call like I usually do.

What a strange month this has been weather-wise, a cold start dismissed by the approach of spring, heralded by the appearance of snowdrops and feisty Coots fighting for breeding territory. Temperatures for the month were generally higher than normal, plus the visit of storm Doris toward the end of the month, officially a ‘weather bomb’ bringing some serious rain and high winds.

However, it certainly hasn’t been detrimental to the Barbel anglers, and several notable captures have been taken from up and down the country (not by me I hasten to add!). For the reasons above, and as is often the case, I was unable to take full advantage, but I did manage a few sessions and put a few fish on the bank.

03.02.17 Middle Ribble

With air temperatures on the rise a gradual beneficial effect was seen in the water temps. The river had dropped back down after a recent small rise and continued to fall a couple of inches during the afternoon. Unfortunately most of the colour had dropped out as well, but I took a water temperature reading of 7C which was very promising after a period of 5-6C.

Fortunately I managed to get amongst the barbel, just 2 fish, one small one about 4lb and another about 6-7 (not weighed), with both fish predictably arriving at dusk. When temps are low it’s usual for fish to feed for just one period per day and it usually occurs at dusk.


I also had a few chub to 4lb8oz so not too bad. It was lovely during the afternoon but it started to rain and got really windy late on, it was absolutely freezing when I walked back to the car at 8pm.

Nice Ribble Chub
20.02.17 Middle Ribble

I decided to try a different stretch, one I used to visit frequently last year, but haven’t tried for a few months. It’s a hell of a walk to my usual favoured area but I liked the look of an earlier swim and saved myself the yomp. The river was carrying 18″ of water that had been dumped the last couple of days. I was very optimistic with a water temp of 8C, well coloured and slightly rising.

A couple of average sized chub kept me amused during the afternoon, but again I had to wait till evening for the first Barbel to show up. To be honest I had been lulled into such a relaxed state watching a robin landing on my rod and begging for food, plus a plethora of other bird life, I got the shock of my life when the rod ripped off. When I dived up and connected to the fish something felt odd, the fight was very erratic, the fish could pull alright but it wasn’t right for a Barbel. I thought it might be a big trout but it turned out to be a relatively small Barbel with a damaged tail.

There has been much debate recently about the impact of Otters on fisheries and I posted the picture to see if I could get any information whether this could be damage caused by Otters. They have been resident on the Ribble for an age and I have spotted them a few times; to be honest I loved seeing them, and I don’t know enough about them to enter the debate that is raging in the angling world regarding the possible impact to fisheries they cause.

Just before dark I had a second and larger fish, unweighed but around 7-8lb


Otter or Fin-rot?
25 & 26. 02.17

On Saturday I was looking forward to attending a Barbel Society fish-in at Bewdley on the Severn and had made a weekend of it by booking a B&B, unfortunately storm Doris put paid to that and it was cancelled, ironically for high water! Never thought I’d hear that as a reason for not going Barbel fishing, but to be fair they did explain that the stretch we were booked on has banks unsuitable for floods. I tried to cancel my B&B but it was too late so I thought stuff it and went anyway.

I haven’t fished around Bewdley much when it’s flooded so I just went on Birmingham Anglers Northwood stretch (headline picture) where I have fished before. I had it to myself and only found 2 suitable pegs so fished both during the day for a disastrous blank, I can honestly say I didn’t have a single touch on either rod and packed up in low mood at 18.00. Given that the river had fished its head off during the week it was very demoralising.

I stayed in the Wetherspoons hotel, and the town was absolutely buzzing. Unfortunately my room was directly over the front door of the place so I was woken several times in the early hours by fiesty locals with differing opinions on a variety of subjects, despite having a load of beer in me! (Note to self- must drink more next time!). Understandably I awoke in a bad mood Sunday, with low expectations of my chances of a fish. However, a big breakfast later I was on my way to a club stretch near Shrewsbury.

As it happens, despite reading a temperature of 7C and the river still 2m up, the fishing was ok. Big chunks of flavoured spam chucked right into the main flow worked a treat and I had 3 decent fish all over 8lb, and one missed bite.


My troubles then began when I tried to reverse off the car park that evening…no chance, the car just slid sideways and was well and truly stuck. I tried allsorts and couldn’t get out. In the end I had to walk back toward a village and fortunately saw a farmer in his yard and he saved the day by coming out with his jeep. I gave him a tenner, it was worth 50 to get off there.

Fishing by oneself into the dark is one thing when you know you have the fall-back of a safe, warm vehicle you can jump in at any time and head for home. When it gets stuck you really are on your own and it’s not something I want to happen again. Henceforth I shall be very careful where I park.

So into March, the last 2 weeks before the river season ends. I have booked a week off work but unfortunately the weather has conspired against me, with a serious drop in temperature combined with very heavy rain. Undaunted I have booked a B&B in Bridgnorth with a mate and am heading out determined to put at least one fish on the bank.

Tight lines


Sid :- 23.05.07 to 14.02.17



I never really understood the grief people felt over the loss of their Dog…until yesterday when we had to let our lad Sid go. Now I understand.


It seems the bad neck he had been suffering with for a few weeks was an inoperable tumour spread from his leg into his spine. He was in pain, but like a true terrier, he barely raised a whimper.


The house is empty now but he is everywhere, I hear the rat-a-tat of his feet on the wood floor as he raced to the door to convert a visitor into a friend, I see the ‘nest’ he made in his bean bag, curled up in a ball of snoring comfort.


He was a gregarious dog, a regular at my sons football matches, loving the attention and building a fan club, but scared to death of the ball due to the number of times he had been caught in crossfire in the back garden. Nobody could resist his charms.


Obedient, and disobedient in equal measure; a bundle of love with a toothy grin, and sometimes a big sulk if he felt slighted, but always full of character and what a joy to have around.


Unconsciously I left my ‘Sid tax’ on my plate last night, the last corner of my biscuit. It was still there this morning, I’m a big bloke but I wept like a baby.


He belonged to our family, but he was my first dog. The way I feel now he will be my one and only.


You are free from pain now mate, I hope mine will fade in time. Be patient, I’ll be with you soon enough.


January Barbel Blues


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.

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.

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.


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.




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!

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.


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.

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.

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


Ribble Roaming



The Ribble rises in Yorkshire, and in a contrary way to the other rivers from that shire, it travels West for 75 miles to the Irish sea near Preston. It flows through some beguiling countryside on its journey to the sea; sometimes under brooding grey skies echoing with the plaintive cries of the sea birds that travel upriver from the coast, it has a most haunting atmosphere that makes the lone angler feel a very insignificant speck on the landscape.


The Ribble is a spate river that can be so dynamic at times it borders on dangerous. Rises of 3 metres in an afternoon are not unheard of, and I have witnessed a metre rise in an hour several times. The record high level is 6.4m at Salmsbury, a sobering thought for local residents, and wise anglers should be careful to put their safety first. Even with relatively small rises in level, fishing can become very difficult due to the debris that comes down, and casting across to the far bank swims is futile, however if you can find a nice nearside slack with the torrent rushing past forming a ‘crease’ you have an excellent chance of a barbel or two.

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Ribble regulars will quote upper, middle and lower river, the divisions being Ribchester bridge and the Tickled Trout road bridge (A59). These are merely geographical aids as there is no discernible change to the river at these locations. The river is slightly tidal in its lower reaches, something to be aware of if you don’t want wet feet.

Target Species

Anglers of all persuasions can find good sport here, both coarse and game have specimen fish to target, but I can only comment on the course angling as is my passion, particularly Barbel and chub.

There is some fabulous silver fishing to be had for those partial to a bit of float fishing or light feeder work, particularly good in the winter in the lower reaches where they seem to migrate. Some of the roach are notable and the species seem to be making a great come-back after a bit of a lull, I have witnessed several 2lb+ fish on the Middle and lower river. The chub fishing can be spectacular when you find them, and I have caught 5lb+ fish fairly regularly. Unfortunately one of the proper big girls that undoubtedly exist and are caught by other lucky anglers, has never graced my net but I expect it’s only a matter of time and location.

Typical Roach, showing potential for the dedicated specialist
Quality Chub might oblige if the Barbel are playing hard to get


As for my favourite species, Barbel, the river record is 15lb15oz caught in 2009. I would be surprised if that fish was still about, but there are others of similar stature I’m sure. I love a good gossip and have heard many rumours of huge fish banked, but where no direct proof is available, and even though I am convinced many of these fish are genuine, I can only state here the sizes of Barbel I have caught and those I have witnessed myself. First let me start by clarifying that I don’t usually fish through the night, but will usually stay a couple of hours into dark, sometimes 3. I do believe the best chance of a monster specimen is to be had by the all-night angler, but it just doesn’t suit me personally. My Ribble best is a modest 10lb14oz and I have only caught 3 other doubles in several years, but I don’t exclusively target doubles (good job I hear you say!) Fish around 12lb are a realistic prospect and several turn up each season, just not to me!! If you are expecting a procession of 15lb fish you will be disappointed, try the Trent instead!

A good fish from the Ribble
One of those Ribble nights when the fish are warmer than the angler!


I am happier when my rod is getting wrapped over on a fairly regular basis and I often catch numbers of fish in the 3-9lb range. I set my stall out to suit, so this maybe where the answer lies, I prefer it to the ‘double or bust’ philosophy.

The Ribble, in my opinion, has to be one of the best ‘daylight’ Barbel waters in the NorthWest, if there is a touch of colour in the water all the better; low and clear it can still be a tough prospect, but if you approach it correctly there is no reason why you can’t catch Barbel and Chub regularly during the day, a refreshing change from many venues I fish where I feel obliged to stay through to have a chance.

Daylight fish…what a treat!



Location, Location…

So where to try for the target species, what features should we look for? There is a general harshness to the bedrock of the Ribble with a multitude of boulders ranging from fist size to enormous great things the size of a cow, scattering its course. The general topography of the river bed being deeper natural pools linked by gulley’s, often sharp edged, and these features are important in fish location.

Look carefully at this picture of an empty Ribble, note the boulders because you can be sure the Barbel will know every one!


Pools are an obvious and popular location to fish and easy to spot, but as I mentioned earlier one of the main fish holding features are gulley’s. Fishing from the inside of the huge bends in the rivers course there is often a gravel beach, the river bed gradually sloping away toward the far bank until a pronounced drop-off of a couple of feet. The main flow of the river always follows the outside of these bends and grinds out the gulley over the years. Barbel use these as travel routes and the flow also carries the food to them so are great areas to target, but beware, fish hooked here will often get their noses under the wall so to speak. I learnt a long time ago the worst action to take is to heave away trying to pull the fish free. In effect you are simply abrading your line where it crosses the lip of the gulley. Far better to relax the tension in the line and be patient, you will soon feel a few bumps as the fish swims out and you can re-commence the fight. For this reason alone I use strong forged micro-barbed hooks of minimum size 10, often 8’s.

Barbel are migratory in nature and move when the urge takes them, some of the drivers are;

  • Procreation:- Spawning takes place over gravel and the spawning areas are well known to local anglers. I think it’s very bad practice to advocate targeting spawning fish, but once the process is complete the fish stay around, often for quite a while, and really get a munch on while they build themselves back up after their exertions. Look for the nearest deep water to the spawning grounds and you won’t go far wrong. These are the best areas for most of the early part of the season.
  • Hunger- Fish move to search for food, often a long way, travelling along regular routes. Remember the gullies from earlier? A bait presented on a travel route is likely to get eaten.
  • Predation- I include us anglers in the list, along with mink, Cormorants, Goosanders and the ever more common Otters. As a great Barbel man once said, ‘If somebody keeps ringing your doorbell and when you answer they punch you in the nose, eventually you will move house’ or words to that effect. What I’m saying is fish will move when the pressure becomes too much.
  • Floods- Fish have pre-programmed impulses to move to safe water when they sense floods are imminent. They don’t want to waste energy but still know floods bring treats in the shape of worms, slugs etc. and the opportunity to explore new ground, land previously above the water level. So look for slack water bordering the main flow, or steady smooth flowing water (walking pace) that indicates a smooth river bed. At low water look for cow drinks, cut-ins to the bank or protrusions out from the bank that will provide shelter from the flow in time of flood, because that’s where the Barbel will be. They are strong enough to be right in the thick of it but why waste energy when they can rest and wait for food to be washed to them.

I recommend a good walk along your chosen stretches of the river, get to know the features that will hold fish at low water, then try to imagine what it will be like in flood and think which locations the fish might head for. Consider the above and accept that sometimes you just have to put your bait in a location you think the fish will visit, and be very, very patient!

Tackle up for the Job

My general rule is to fish with tackle capable of extracting a hard fighting barbel from this abrasive environment. My advice, learnt the hard way, is to leave the high-tec hook-lengths at home, they are prone to failure under abrasion. Time to break out the good old mono, 10lb to 12lb breaking strain as a minimum, matched with hooks described previously. Alternatively you could try a coated braid of 12 to 15lb breaking strain. Couple this with 10 or 12lb mono mainline. Sure, there are some snag free areas where you might get away with a few liberties, but I wouldn’t risk it myself. There are snags almost everywhere on the Ribble, just take a walk with your polaroids when she is low and the evidence is there to see. Tackle up for trouble and you are mitigating chances of disappointment. Some advocate a length of protective rig tubing above the feeder/lead to protect the mainline but I have never felt the need myself and so far have never had my main line broken by a fish. I do advocate regular inspections of hooklength and mainline around the feeder/ lead, definitely after every fish landed.

Rod choice is a very personal thing, but for most of the year a 1.5lb to 1.75lb test barbel rod or heavy feeder rod will suffice. When the floods arrive you might find yourself under gunned. Paradoxically I tend to fish closer in when it floods, searching out nearside slacks and creases. It’s not the volume of water that’s the problem for lighter rods, but the build-up of weed and other debris for which the Ribble is notorious. Sometimes it is almost impossible to fish as the water becomes so dense with weed it resembles soup. Consequently a heavy lead is required, often coupled with a substantial backlead to pin the line down and minimise its exposure to the flotsam in the water column. For this reason I have a 2lb test barbel rod for the floods.

Reels need to be capable of holding 70 or 80m of 10/12lb mono, some pegs require a decent chuck across. I use baitrunners; if fishing mono mainline to the far bank sometimes the bites are gentle nods as the fish pick up and move the lead, the indications softened by the elasticity of the line, and then as if to confound the angler the next fish might give a ‘3 foot twitch’ and tear off 10 yards of line in a flash. Baitrunners just give a little bit of insurance should that happen.

Where to fish, Club or Day ticket?

If your appetite has been whetted, you will want to know where you can try. As this article is concerned with course fishing I will cover the river from the reaches above Ribchester down to the Shaws arms pub on London road, any further upstream is mainly game fishing and below I don’t have enough knowledge to comment.

For further information I would recommend having a word with the local tackle shop, Ted Carters in Preston is probably your best bet ( 01772 253476)

There are 2 main clubs controlling the majority of the course fishing, Prince Albert (PA) and Ribchester and district (RADAC). Other clubs have stretches including Warrington anglers, Southport, Wigan and St Helens. See my other blog regarding clubs for some contact info.

Thankfully, there are also one or two day ticket stretches available, which gives a visiting angler a chance to try this wonderful river before committing to a club. I don’t claim this list to be comprehensive as I haven’t fished day ticket for a long time, and sometimes a farmer may decide it’s not worth the effort, but as far as I know the map below gives a rough idea of whats what.

Just a guide, sorry if I missed anybody!


If you decide to try this gem of a river, good luck, and I hope you catch a good one. Enjoy your day and please respect the fact that you are in an agricultural workplace; close gates, don’t trample crops and most importantly take all litter home with you.

Tight Lines



Sunny September



September is usually a great month for the Barbel angler. This year we have had generally fine weather and the usual rain we love for the sake of our fishing, has been largely absent. Bright sunny weather and low clear rivers don’t make for easy fishing, however I did manage a few decent fish.

02/09/16 Upper Trent

Not much to report on reflection from this session. Did an overnighter on the upper Trent to try to improve on last week after my mate Kris battered me on the next peg. Had the river to myself, but it was a metre down and just didn’t feel right, sort of stale if you get me, and so it proved. However I did get several small chub and 8oz roach that set my bite alarms off each time and had me leaping out of my bed-chair like a scalded cat all through the night. It was very frustrating and I was glad to pack up in the morning to be honest. Straight to the Salt Box Café for some much needed TLC.

Lessons learned, pick better conditions, I had been warned it didn’t fish well in low water, but didn’t listen. From getting home it rained continuously for all of Saturday so might have been worth it Sunday/Monday.

I started fishing a few more overnighters this season, since acquiring a bivvie and bedchair to fish the charity fish-in on the Trent, organised by Lee Swords to raise money for a lad called Iwan who was suffering with cancer and needed treatment in the USA. It was a disaster fishing wise but a damn good cause, and passed in an alchoholic haze. The jury is out as to whether this type of overnight fishing is for me!

09.09.16 Ribble

Fished the Ribble Friday, lunch till 11pm, far more civilised than the recent overnighters which I have found to be physically knackering. Unfortunately it chucked it down the whole session and blew a hoolie, but the Fox Specialist brolley stood the test, despite being set up on the gravel beach so no proper pegging possible, growing to like it despite its bulk and weight. A guy set up downstream from me and fished under a small golf brolley…tough cookie!!

I got onto my favourite area on the inside of a big bend, there is a pronounced gulley along the far bank under overhanging trees, so a 35-40m chuck. It was an ok session producing 3 barbs 4-6lb (and lost one) and 9 chub to 4lb8oz, all came to boilie. Feeder rod fished upstream had very little action but the straight lead slightly downstream was lively. Tried out some new boilies and they seemed to be ok, but didn’t deter the chub that always seem to dominate at the moment. Certainly not complaining as I like to see my rod go over!! I came to the conclusion that the barbs were shying off the feeder despite using a 5ft hooklink, I had been fishing 2 straight lead rigs before, but seeing a lad out catch me using big 4oz feeders recently, I thought I’d give it another try. I will be back on the straight leads again next time!


16.09.16 Ribble

Another session on the Ribble which has been very reliable recently. Provided it’s not completely low and clear and bright sunshine I am quite confident I can catch a barbel or chub during daylight. Unfortunately it was down to its bare bones, clear as tap water and a bright day. I wasn’t put off though and patiently waited for dusk, when things started to liven up when 4 nice chub, all over 4lb, kept it interesting.

Then as night fell the rod hooped over and I was attached to a good fish that put up a right old scrap. I think I was quite lucky to have got it in as it snagged me solid in what felt like weed, so a slack line and patience was applied and fortunately a minute later it freed itself. Once again boilie was the bait, pellets seem to be less effective this season. The fish weighed in at a satisfactory 9lb13oz, less satisfactory was the self take photo which was over-exposed. I got some good facebook advice and my photos since have been much better. The 2 below are the same fish, hopefully when/if I catch a double I will have a better idea what to do to get a good shot!


23-27.09.16 Severn Heaven

A week off work and off I trot to the middle Severn for a few days. I have loved this river for as long as I can remember, and make regular trips. I just wish I lived a bit nearer than a 200 mile round trip, for me that means stopping over and I have found a couple of cheap and very decent B&B’s in Bridgnorth, a town that has everything a fisherman would need and more besides.

I have a Birmingham Anglers card so generally fish their waters around the town, interspersed with trips further afield to fish Prince Albert waters that are far less busy and where I am usually the only angler for miles.

Over the 5 days I fished 3 B.A. and 2 P.A. venues and had excellent fishing Sunday, Monday and the Thursday, but the Tuesday/Wednesday were decidedly average. Not sure why this should be, but talking  to other anglers it appears it was the same for most. The popular belief is dam water released from the Welsh reservoirs kills the fishing but nobody seems to have any proof.

The river was carrying a few inches of extra water, and more fell on Monday, so there was good colour all week, and water temps were as expected for this time of year.

32 Barbel over 5 days is a very decent return, however there were no large fish, but I didn’t feel short-changed, far from it. B.A. don’t allow night fishing so I was off just after dark most days, which gave me a chance to sample some of the local hospitality, which is reliably excellent. I was a very happy and replete angler on my return home.

Sunday 23.09.16- 8lb2oz, 9lb3oz and 7lb8oz plus 2 others around 5-6lb, Hinders ellipse pellets on the feeder, one on boilie on straight lead.



Monday 24.09.16- 8 barbel biggest 7lb8oz, long chuck feeder, boilie


Tuesday 25.09.16-  5 barbel 4-5lb

Wednesday 26.09.16- 4 barbel 4-6lb

Thursday 27.09.16- 4 splashers from a shallow run on pellet, then moved to deeper peg. Better fish there, 7 barbel 7lb4oz to 8lb1oz, all on large chunks of flavoured spam.


So all in all September has been a pretty good month and the Ribble and Severn were kind to me. Next month I am attending a Barbel Society fish-in at Pixham on the lower Severn, to be honest its a bit of an unknown to me as I don’t usually stray below Bewdley, so looking forward to that and meeting lots of excellent barbel anglers who’s brains I shall attempt to pick! October can be a superb month for barbel as the autumn really kicks in…exciting times ahead!

Tight lines