Friday the thirteenth – business as usual (barbel article, entry 58)

Are you a superstitious person? As a committed Christian I most definitely am not – my destiny is determined by something far more superior than whether I walk under ladders, see a black cat or open an umbrella in the house! Therefore it should be no surprise that the first I realised that it was Friday the thirteenth, was when I sat down on the banks of the Dove, and proceeded to write up my angling diary that accompanies me on all my travels.

It was only as I added on the days since my last angling session that it dawned on me the significance of the date. Ah well, I thought to myself, at least I will probably have the place to myself! After all, some people are really gripped by superstition and won’t even leave the house on such a date.

The Dove was still high following the recent rains, but the river in no way could be described as ‘racing through’. In fact it was dropping off nicely, as my indicator showed. Often when the river has taken on extra water I will place a stick at the water’s edge. As the session progresses, this gives me an idea of the rate of fall or rise. It may not be very scientific but it works!

In fact it surprises me that a tackle company hasn’t marketed the ‘River level indicator’ as the latest gimmi…sorry…must have accessory! Only 4.99, with the camouflage version a little more expensive at 5.99! Many a true word said in jest as well, so who knows what the future holds.

On this occasion I decided to fish a new meadow on the River Dove. Although I have walked this stretch before, I had never cast a line there. Certainly when the river is low and clear during the summer, it pays to do some exploring and to check out different sections. I had previously noted this particular peg as one that I would tackle when the river was in flood as it was clearly going to be a good one (as far as ease of fishing is concerned) in those conditions.

I was able to put a rod either side of a small tree, and even though I was fishing no more than a couple of feet from the bank, I had three metres of water right in front of me. If ever there was a day I didn’t want to fall in it was this one! However, as the water was right up on the bank, I was actually quite safe. The problems begin when the water level drops back down and you find yourself fishing from slippery mud as the river recedes.

Although I have not fished this peg before, I was actually very confident. The conditions were just right and as I baited up with seeds on arrival, I could mentally picture the barbel as they feasted on the feed I had put out. For hook bait I was using my home-made boilies, which have accounted for a fair number of double figure barbel in the last few years.

My hook length was Drennan Micro braid and a size 6 Drennan boilie hook completed the set up, with the bait being fished hair-rig style using the knotless knot. I do use mono for hook lengths, but I am finding more and more these days that braid has the edge as far as I am concerned. For me this is particularly true on rivers like the Dove where the fish are never far away from snags.

I had both rods cast out by lunchtime and within half an hour I was playing a barbel on the right hand one. It immediately made for far bank trees, obviously their roots were the source of the fish’s desire. But with suitable tackle I was able to control the fish, and although it made a series of runs, it never got close enough to the far bank to make me feel uncomfortable.

Netting the barbel, although it wasn’t particularly long, it certainly was a plump one, and I knew it would be around the double mark. As the scales registered 10-5-0 I was certainly a very happy man. And to rubbish the superstitious nonsense even more, it was actually my thirteenth barbel from the Dove this season! Five doubles from thirteen fish is certainly an excellent ratio – however as the session developed, the percentages lengthened somewhat.

I went on to catch a further five barbel, which weighed in at (in order of catching) 4-10-0, 4-13-0, 6-13-0, 8-10-0 and 6-11-0. So all in all it was a good session, particularly as I had not fished the peg before. Although one thing is sure – I will most definitely fish it again! And who knows, I may even fish there on Friday the thirteenth again.

However, it will have to be some time in the future, as between now and the end of 2005 only once does that dreaded (for some) date appear – and that’s in May! But either way, as far as I’m concerned it’s just a date on a calendar and it’s a case of ‘business as usual’

(Originally published August 2004)

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