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

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October blog

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Dark and moody, overcast and windy, putting an end to the last vestiges of Summer; that is the month of October….and I love it!!! Why? Because its the best barbeling month of the year (probably!)

It could never be described as an easy month, the rain and wind bring their own issues for the river man in the shape of high water, leaves and uprooted weed building up in giant clumps on your line, plus the obvious discomfort of getting soaked and chilled to the bone, but for me these negatives are totally outweighed by the opportunity to catch Barbel at their fattest and fittest as they bulk up for the hardships of winter. Usually the rivers are up and coloured, but with water temperatures still in the anglers favour, hopefully spurring the big girls to get on the munch.

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Feeling hopeful!
06.10.17 Upper Trent

After last months relative successes on my chosen club stretch of the upper Trent I felt I had to return and have another go just to prove it wasn’t a fluke. I had chosen all my swims previously because they had attributes that made them suitable for the high water conditions I faced all through September, and I believed those features would hold resident fish or at least create a patrol route that would be visited by a barbel at some time during the session. At the start of the week the water levels were down to just a few inches above normal level so I was looking forward to trying somewhere new and interesting, maybe a nice glide or a shallower section I had earmarked on previous visits. However, my plans were put in doubt as some substantial rain fell in my area mid-week, and my mate from Stoke confirmed it was hoofing down around there, so I wasn’t sure what I would find on arrival.

As it turned out a fair bit of water had indeed got into the river, it was about 1.0m up and a lovely clay brown colour that filled me full of optimism, but I was now faced with the choice of either fishing one of the same swims as last month where I knew I could hold bottom and wouldn’t have to worry about water-borne debris so much, or risking somewhere new where I might get washed out by the rising river.

I chose the boring option of familiarity and set up exactly the same as usual in one of the slacker swims I had fished previously. Unadventurous it may have been, but I have learnt the hard way from fishing the spatey Ribble that choosing the wrong swim when the river is on the rise is time consuming and frustrating, and invariably ends in a forced move…far better to make the right choice to start with, based on the predictive tools we have at our disposal these days, plus a bit of guess work.

It was a quiet evening and night, the leaves and weed weren’t much of a problem and my 4oz leads never budged due to the slack nearside water and back leads keeping the line pinned to the bottom and out of the way of the weed and leaves in the water column. It was a nice mild evening and I enjoyed the relaxation of the countryside, watching the Kingfishers and Herons working the far bank.

It was a bit of a shock when the upstream rod went off like a rocket; it would have been the much beloved ‘3 foot twitch’ except the rod was pointing almost in line with the direction the fish was heading due to the constrictions of the swim, and I was alerted in no uncertain terms by the scream of the baitrunner ratchet. As soon as I picked it up I knew it was good fish; the slow forceful plod, non of the erratic tail pumping of the smaller barbel, just pure power and the odd lunge and heart-stopping ping on the line as the fish turned. The fight got serious under the rod tip as the fish looked for sanctuary under the upstream willow, but I managed to turn her and soon the battle was won. I knew she was a double but I underestimated her weight by a pound. At 12lb6oz my seasons best and 2nd equal biggest I have ever had….I was buzzing.

12lb06oz Cuttle Brook 06.10.17
12lb6oz with a tail to kick ass! Many thanks to Joel Virgo and others (On the Banksy facebook page) for helping improve my picture https://www.facebook.com/groups/1251110481672282/

No further action was had after this, other than a few small bream and chub that launched themselves inconsiderately onto the hook, but the session was a roaring success as far as I was concerned because of that one beautiful fish.

13.10.17 Upper Trent

I just had to go back and have another go…I was flushed with confidence, but that usually proves to be my downfall and true to form that bloody river confounded me yet again. It was a fair bit lower than last week, most of the colour had gone. I had definitely made my mind up to try a different area, but wouldn’t you know it, contrary to normal there were several lads on when I arrived and every swim I had earmarked was occupied! So guess what, I ended back on the same swim as last week!

Suffice to say, despite my best efforts I didn’t even manage a Bream or a Chub, and in the morning sat shivering on my damp chair as the morning sun defrosted me, I pondered the fine line between a triumph and an absolute stinker, consoling myself with the thought ‘you cant have the former without going through a few of the later’.

The only positive of the session was finding a new café, the ‘Nose Bag’ in Hatton that was a bit cheaper and a bit better than my usual haunt (in my humble opinion) so at least I had a nice full tummy for the long drive home, stuck behind the series of pensioner piloted Micra’s and poo splattering tractors that frequent the 70 mile route.

20.10.17 Mid Ribble

I had become a bit obsessed with the upper Trent, so decided to buck the trend and head for the Ribble for an afternoon session, promising my better half I would head for home just after dark. After a quick look at Guagemap (4am reading) which showed the river topping out at 1.6m high, I predicted a hard drop in level typical of the Ribble, and expected it to be almost back to normal by the time I arrived around lunchtime. It just goes to show the limitations of only having two read-outs per 24hours as another pulse of water followed after 4am and the level was higher than anticipated, around 1.8m. However there are plenty of suitable swims to be had that can be fished in these conditions.

To be honest this wasn’t anything too exciting for hardy Ribble anglers who often see 3 or 4m of raging water and still manage to catch a few fish, but swim choice becomes reduced. I am looking for nearside slacks or smooth laminar flow and these are in short supply in a Ribble flood. This isn’t always a bad thing of course as the fish will concentrate in these calmer areas, and a good session can be had if you know where to look.

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The Ribble with a drop of water in her a couple of years ago!!!!

To cut a long story short I fished a swim that in normal conditions is a slow moving pool, but as the river rises it provides a nice slack on the inside and a lovely crease as the main flow rushes along mid river. I took the water temperature for the first time this winter and the reading of 12C gave me confidence something would come along eventually.

I chose a feeder approach to be sure some bait was always going to be around my hookbait, and as the flow wasn’t too great because of the slack I hoped to build a patch of feed as the day progressed. The second rod was straight lead, boilie wrapped in plenty of paste, with a PVA bag of broken boilies and a few pellets soaked in glug. This was cast to various likely spots around the slack pool downstream but in the event it was the upstream feeder rod that produced, just 3 small barbel and a couple of chub, all around dusk.

Oddly the expected fall in level did occur in the evening and I estimated an 18″ drop in a couple of hours but this really messed the swim up, the nearside slack became very turbulent and it was only as dark fell that the swim settled somewhat, and that coincided with the fish getting over the feed. Not the most productive session but the Ribble hasn’t been as kind to me this season compared to last. Fellow anglers have also reported a downturn in sport but nobody is sure why.

One concern I did have was the large amount of foam evident; this used to indicate detergent in the water in the bad old days of the 70-80’s when the rivers were far more polluted than now. I just hope it is a natural phenomena and not unwelcome run-off entering the system. I had a couple of photos of the changing face of the swim as the levels dropped which also illustrated the foam build up but I can’t publish them for fear of falling foul of the ‘Ribble barbel police’ and ‘fishing fight club’ as they give the swim away, very frustrating but I don’t want to upset anybody.

27.10.17 Upper Trent

Back on the Trent, this time I was determined to try a different type of swim outside my usual area. the river was carrying around 0.4m so not as much as recent trips, and this offered the option to fish some of the faster moving glides.

I chose just such a swim, a nice 2m deep glide below a shallower section, and fished a feeder in the main flow line only 20m from my bank, plus a straight lead, paste wrapped boilie and pva bag further downstream.

I have made my own pastes for quite a few years now, just a basic home made boilie base mix, with added fish meals, crushed hemp, oils and flavours tailored to match whatever boilie I am fishing. This is much cheaper than off the shelf pastes that are sold by the boilie companies in little pots, I just add an egg to bind for a longer lasting paste. Even better, you know exactly what’s going in it and can flavour to suit the conditions and mix it to break down at the desired rate. I wouldn’t bother making my own boilies however, its hard work and there are plenty of good ones around, I don’t have the time to be honest, but a big ball off paste can be knocked out in 10 minutes and frozen for future trips.

I had some company in the shape of my mate Kris who has been through some bad times recently. He rang me to say on top of all this his car had broken down on the way to the river. To be honest I didnt expect to see him, but good on him for borrowing his mates van and turning up that evening…top lad (and he brought his brewing kit for much needed cuppa’s!).

As usual I set up for the night here to make it worth the long trip. There seems to be very little action during daylight anyway. Just at dusk I hooked a nice chub, I didn’t weigh it as it was a bit of a miss-match on the heavy barbell set up, but I estimated around 4-5lb so a decent fish and worth pursuing in the frosty winter months on appropriate gear.

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An hour later a hell of a wrap around bite resulted in a great scrap with a nicely conditioned Barbel of 8lb9oz. With the extra flow in this swim the fish could use it to its advantage and really put the tackle through its paces. I was relieved to get it in the net to be honest as I recalled the disappointing blank last time I was here.

The bright sunshine and clear skies of the day were followed by severely plummeting temperatures, not the best recipe for a Barbel session. Never the less I was here for the night so I kept busy and re-cast the rods regularly, at least before the floating weed built up on the lines and forced the issue. I could keep the rigs in place for an hour without too much difficulty so I was happy to keep the upstream feeder rod active and leave the straight lead rod in position as long as possible.

8lb9oz Cuttle 27.10.17
8lb9oz and very welcome!

In the early hours another screaming run on the feeder rod had me scrambling for dear life. Again I knew the moment I picked up the rod this was a good fish, it bull-dozed around and like the earlier specimen it used the flow to its advantage, taking me for a run around a couple of times. I was as confident as I could be that there were no snags in the swim; I had leaded around before I started fishing to give me some idea of the depth and composition of the river bed. Thankfully this proved to be the case, just some nearside streamer weed to avoid and after what seemed like an age the fish finally rolled over the lip of my landing net. After a good rest in the net while I calmed myself down and set up my camera & scales, I finally lifted her out and knew another double was on the cards. She weighed in at 12lb8oz and just pipped the fish from earlier in the month, and goes in the diary as my second biggest Barbel ever. To say I was pleased would be an understatement!!

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12lb8oz of pure muscle

The pictures were, as usual, a mixed bag,  I have been getting some poor results recently with my self-take night shots but I can’t afford a new camera. I have made a little diffuser guard to fit over the flash to try to reduce over exposure of the fish and at least that seemed to help a bit. As for the framing and my bizzare facial expressions…well I will just have to keep working on them!!!

12lb8oz cuttle 28.10.17
Same fish, at least I can crack a smile, pity I cut such a magnificent tail off!!!

 

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Home made flash diffuser made from plastic milk bottle (thanks for the tip Dave Mez)

The temperatures have started to fall fast as we enter November; I had to scrape the ice from the car window for the first time this winter. I also dusted off the chub rod yesterday and checked the freezer for left over cheese paste from last season. When one door closes another one opens!!

08.12.17 Heald Green Social Club ABG fund raiser

For any North West angler looking for something to do on a rainy mid-week evening you could do far worse than get to Heald Green on December 4th 8pm for Jerry Gleeson and Matt Marlows fund raiser for the Army Benevolent Fund. Gary Knowles is the guest speaker and I can vouch for the quality of his fishing presentations. Expect some barracking from the floor and witty comebacks. Its only £3 entry and all money raised is for a worthy cause. There is usually a bait stand and a good raffle as well. I will see you all there…mines a bitter!

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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.

10lb1oz Cuttle 15.09.17

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

22.09.17 Mid Ribble

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

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

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

29.09.17 Mid Ribble

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

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

 

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

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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

Fleeting February

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

Dave

Sid :- 23.05.07 to 14.02.17

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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

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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