I-spy with my little eye (barbel article, entry 53)

I arrived on the banks of the Derbyshire Dove with quite a storm brewing. In fact, my old Bedchair Brotel really took some setting up. Like my pet Bedlington Terrier, who is getting on in years and finds it a struggle to make the stairs these days, the Brotel was giving out signals that it was indeed nearing the end of its life. (Although I must add, in case you are an animal lover, that Baloo has a few more years left in him. He’s not ready for doggy heaven just yet!)

But as for my Brotel, well, this proved to be its last outing. With the zip broken, the guy rope attachments torn away and the mechanism snapped, I’m afraid to say that following this session it ended up at the council tip! Still, I managed to set it up to provide adequate shelter for the last time.

The swim I fished enabled me to put two rods out very comfortably – one on the far bank and the other down the side. After baiting up with seeds, I was fishing by early afternoon. By 5.00 p.m., with the wind now very strong, I had my first take of the session. Although the wind was doing its best to create the impression of a bite, as it constantly caused the rods to bounce around, there was no mistaking the real thing.

As the fish connected with the boilie and bolted, the resistance against the rod tip caused it to suddenly arch over. Striking, I found myself connected to another hard fighting Dove barbel. As long as I could keep it out of the tree roots, once in mid-river I was the favourite to win the tussle. And so it was, as I slipped a net under a fish that weighed in at 9-1-8.

However, as I was netting the fish, can you believe it, my right foot went into the river and settled on the bed leaving me with water up to my knees. That’s three out of four visits to the Dove this season whereby I’ve ended up in the river itself, one way or another! Fortunately the strong winds meant that, by late evening, everything had dried out.

Through the rest of the day, the wind speed increased considerably. In fact the people on the radio were saying that seriously bad weather was working its way north throughout the country. I was well pegged in and not directly under any trees (The danger of falling branches), so I had already made up my mind to weather the storm. By now though, I had added another layer of clothing, as it had become quite nippy.

While still light, I had the second fish of the session. Another 9 lb’er but this one was at the opposite end of the scale to the first one. It was just one ounce short of a double, and even though I weighed it twice, my extremely accurate Salter digital scales wouldn’t oblige me! Still, I’m not complaining at all, it’s always nice to catch a good fish, and one ounce doesn’t suddenly make a fish less worthwhile.

By the time darkness descended, not only was the wind bearing down, but the rain had also started. It didn’t deter the barbel however, as just before midnight I had another violent bite. This time however, there was to be no fish on the bank, as the hook pulled after a few seconds. Although disappointing, I can live with hook-pulls. It’s lost fish, with tackle attached that I don’t like.

The rest of the night was horrendous, weather-wise. They said on the radio that it was the worst summer storm on record. I can vouch for that! As dawn arrived there was still no let-up in the weather, the only difference now was that you could see the trees bent double, whereas in the night, you couldn’t!

I decided to stay for the remainder of the day. After all, it was more comfortable in the shelter of the Brotel – even if it was a mere shadow of its former self – than attempting to pack away in the driving wind and rain. I had to re-cast a few times, as by now, branches and other such debris were regularly connecting with my line as they entered the river system.

As already mentioned, I was fishing with boilies. For several seasons now I have been making my own, and it is indeed a great feeling when you catch good fish on your own ‘invention’ – as from base mix to ingredients, everything is unique. I do soak my boilies though, in an appropriate Richworth Boilie Dip flavour.

Rather than just dropping them in the liquid and then having to poke around to try to hook one, I thread several on a piece of old line and start to soak them before I set off from home for the session. It’s much easier to access them that way, particularly at night when we need to make things as easy as possible.

As the afternoon wore on, almost twenty-four hours since the first fish of the session, I again found myself doing battle with another barbel. As I struck into the fish I noticed a person (who I later discovered was another angler) about four hundred metres upstream, on the opposite bank, watching me. Not taking much notice, just a few seconds later I noticed the same man only thirty metres away. He must have run the distance in double-quick time – Olympic committee, please take note!

He was now hiding in the bushes and I started to feel a bit annoyed at the invasion into my privacy. Every time I looked across, he withdrew again into the undergrowth – so he knew what he was doing. But the real cheek was when he pulled out a pair of binoculars and started watching me!

He thought I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was there, spying on me. Anyway I decided to dedicate the title of this article to my peeping tom friend. I also now know how the celebrities feel when they have the paparazzi hiding in bushes outside their homes!

Anyway, I made sure that I netted, unhooked, weighed and photographed the fish down the bank and out of sight from prying eyes. It was a good fish, and as soon as I had caught a glimpse of it in mid-river, knew that it would be a double. Therefore it came as no surprise when the scales registered a weight of 10-13-0. This is the fourteenth time I have caught a double-figure barbel from the Dove, and apart from the obvious joy that the first one brings, I can honestly say that the appreciation of each fish does not diminish.

As the rain had now stopped, I decided to pack away at 8.00 p.m. I did have another hook-pull before stopping fishing, but as I mentioned previously, I’m not too bothered about the odd hook that fails to connect. It was nice to get back home, and after such a relatively long barbel session, it was particularly good to have a shower and settle into a real bed for the night.

(Originally published July 2004)

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