Certainly at this time of the year, one of the most important considerations when planning an angling trip is the weather. Usually a couple of times a week in my house you’ll hear the cry of ‘Quick dad, the weather forecast is on TV’
This is then followed by me ‘dropping everything’ and rushing into the living room to fixate upon the screen and hang on every word that is being said. As the information is quickly processed in my brain, by the end of the bulletin I have usually decided on where my next fishing trip will be!
Coupled with my constant monitoring of Internet weather sites, I usually have a pretty good idea of what the weather will be like during the following week. However, on this occasion I got completely caught out – or maybe I should say the weather forecasters got it wrong!
Instead of strong SW winds bringing in lots of warm rain, mostly the week produced cold winds and cold rain, meaning that the water temperatures didn’t get above the six degrees mark, which for me is not ideal for barbel fishing, as my original intention had been. Still, I’m not complaining and it is hardly a hardship to target my favourite species instead– chub.
The first session was on the River Sow. Being fairly close to home, it’s one of those venues that I visit when I have an early start the next morning, and don’t want to stay out too late. The weather forecast was for a dry night, so I travelled really light, not even taking an umbrella. As I gazed up at the dark clouds making their way across Stafford, I wondered whether I was about to learn another lesson regarding the men from the Met!
But I was spared on this occasion and the evening remained dry. But when I said that I travelled light, I meant it. I forgot my weigh sling and my rod rest. The former was no problem, because the landing net is a good substitute. However, the latter is one of those pieces of equipment that we don’t pay attention to – until it’s not there – and then you realise just how vital it is.
I had fished this particular meadow many times before, but never really noticed that there wasn’t a single tree in it! The far bank was lined with them, the fields all around were full of them – but none where I wanted them to be. However, I did manage to find a broken branch and promptly stripped it down for the purpose I needed it for.
Sitting there on the Sow, my mind went back a few hundred years and pictured the Father of angling, Izaak Walton, maybe even sitting in that very swim with his rod propped up by an old branch! For those who are not aware, Izaak Walton fished the River Sow, and the museum dedicated to his love of angling is not that far from the town of Stafford, through which the river flows.
I was fishing with lobworm and whilst I didn’t get amongst the chub, I did manage a perch. In fact sometimes I deliberately fish with this bait when after chub, instead of my preferred bread or paste, to test the perch potential of a venue. A couple of seasons or so back, I did this on the Upper Mease in Leicestershire and caught a 2lb+ perch from a stretch of the river so narrow that you can step from one side to the other!
To round the week off, I headed for the upper reaches of another river, but this time the mighty Severn. With temperatures still very low, and winds still biting, I left my wife with the words ‘There’s no chance of a barbel this week, I’m glad I’m going after chub’. I don’t know if my wife ever listens – or even cares about these ramblings – but I tell her just the same!
Although the stretch I fished is classified as the Upper Severn, there’s still a fair bit of river in front of the angler, therefore I used a cage feeder to accurately place my mixture of brown crumb, bread mash and dead maggots in my swim. I chose a peg on a bend where I have fished before and had fish to over 4lb. I was fishing 6 maggots on a size 10 hook.
Although it was a dry day, it had rained during the night, and as the session wore on, the river began to rise. I don’t have a problem with that in itself – it’s just the debris that is associated with a rising water level I’m not too keen on. It usually means a constant recasting due to the magnetic attraction the tackle has for all the rubbish being washed downstream.
Watching my rod tip gently pull round, I lifted the rod as I had done a couple of dozen times already in the session. This time it felt like a heavier lump at the end, perhaps a branch, I thought to myself. However, branches don’t move off into the centre of the river when hooked, therefore pretty quickly I realised I had a fish at the end!
I was fishing with 4lb line and knew that the barbel (I had worked that out!) on the end was certainly bigger than that. Therefore I gave the fish maximum respect, knowing at least there were no snags in the swim that could mean a lost fish. As long as I could get the correct balance in playing the fish against its natural instinct to escape, I should be OK, I thought.
And so it was, in due course, that I slipped my net under a nice looking barbel. It looked a healthy fish, but didn’t make the nine-pound category; still an ‘8’ is a good fish in my book at any time. And certainly on 4lb line, and in the conditions, I was very pleased with the result. And my wife was quick to remind me of what I had said to her when leaving the house to go fishing. So she does listen to me after all then…
(Article 20, originally published November 2003)