Elevenses on the Dove (barbel article, entry 55)

My last visit to the Dove had been one of battling against extreme weather, and although there was a breeze as I arrived, it was nothing more than a whisper compared to what I had previously encountered. And although it was overcast, it was dry and that’s always a blessing when you are setting up.

I must confess to having a definite leaning towards the rivers, as opposed to still waters, and that my first sight of the Dove certainly got my excitement buds aroused. It looked good; but then again if I am honest, flowing water always gets me going. There is just something unexplainable about rivers, streams and even brooks that I find draws me to them.

I was here to do an overnight session, and to fish the days either side. I got off to a good start, as within half an hour of casting out I was connected with a barbel that weighed in at 8-4-0. I took a couple of photographs before returning the fish to the river, hoping that I wouldn’t have to use them in my Journal.

By that, I mean if I only catch one fish during a session I don’t know that at the time. But hopefully, I catch more – and bigger – and so use those photographs instead! In this case, the barbel in question was confined to the archives of my collection! And so, whilst I always do appreciate every fish I catch, it’s nice to get something decent on the bank from time to time.

As the afternoon wore on I had a cracking run – from a family group of Goosanders that were making their way downstream! With fourteen birds in the group, it was inevitable that at least one of them would come into contact with my line. Fortunately, no harm was done, and they all continued on their way.

The Dove is one of the places in the country that has breeding Goosanders; all in all across the whole nation there are estimated to be only about 1,000 pairs of breeding birds. With the majority in Scotland, Wales and the north of England it’s not a common sight to see so many birds at one time in the rest of the country.

Once things had settled down with the birds, and they were on their way, I had another barbel take my hair-rigged boilie. For fifteen seconds, it was touch and go as to who would win the battle. Just like a tug-of-war contest, the fish and I both held our own, until eventually, instead of taking me into a snag I was able to bring the fish into the safety of mid-river.

The fish itself was 9-10-0, which based on the fight did come as a surprise. Until I got a good glimpse of it in the water I was fully expecting to be playing a double figure barbel. This is why sometimes, when we lose a fish before we get chance to see it, we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. The consolation is that it may not be as big as we thought it was.

I had to wait until dark for the next fish, and it proved to be the best of the season so far and my third Dove double since June 16. I had been getting a few taps on the rod tip, so knew something was happening beneath the water. The moment my rod arched over, I struck and found myself playing what I could tell was a good barbel.

After a very good performance, it finally gave up the fight and eventually surrendered to the confines of my landing net. Lifting the weigh sling I was very happy to see the scales eventually settle on 11.11. (Hence the title of the article!). A fish of this size is a very good one for the Dove, and particularly at this time of the year. It’s obviously going to be a ‘12’ as the season progresses, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be knocking on the door of number ‘13’.

To bring me ‘back down to earth’, within ten minutes I also landed a chub about 2 ¾lb! Still, the ‘buzz’ from such a good fish so early in the season was enough to keep me wide awake as the hours of darkness ticked by. It was the early hours when the fourth and final barbel of the trip made the unhooking mat. It was another nine-pound fish (9-4-8) and as always with Dove barbel it gave a good account of itself.

After a good start – four fish in the first 12 hours – the rest of the session was very slow indeed. I fished a further 17 hours without so much as a Goosander crashing into the line! Still, that’s fishing isn’t it? Hindsight is a wonderful thing and if we knew, to the exact minute, when everything would be caught we could certainly save ourselves lots of lost hours. However, it would totally kill angling, as it is the anticipation and a sense of the unknown that drives us on.

One item that always accompanies me on longer sessions, whereby I have to prepare food of some sort, is a small bottle of antiseptic hand gel. I know that many anglers don’t like smells on their hands while fishing, for obvious reasons of tainting bait. However, we do have to balance that out with the need to have standards of hygiene. There are all sorts of germs and diseases out there, and it’s not worth risking illness – or worse – for the sake of a squirt of soap. Plus, the type of angling I do – where the baits often stay in the water for hours on end – it’s not a problem anyway.

By the time I was ready to leave for home I was extremely tired. I find that 20+ hours is enough time to spend at the side of a river like the Dove. Now, don’t misunderstand me, I don’t say that in a negative way, indicating that I am glad to get away. It’s not like work, where you can’t wait to leave the place behind!

But the need to be alert and on your rods is sometimes quite draining, and whilst on a still water I can cast out, put everything on a pod and settle down for a week with no problems at all, it’s different on a smallish river. And on a river like the Dove, in certain swims, if you don’t hit the fish immediately it takes your bait, before you know it, you will be in a snag. You have to be on top of things.

Dove barbel campaign 2004/05

Sessions – 5

11lb+…………. 1 (Best 11-11-0)
10lb+…………. 2
9lb+…………… 5
8lb+…………… 1
Up to 8lb………1

(Originally published July 2004)

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