Number 13 – unlucky for some, but not for me! (barbel article, entry 59)

In last week’s Angling Journal entry, I made a point about not being affected by superstition. (The article was all about fishing on Friday the thirteenth). Emphasising the argument even more, I find myself having opportunity once again to show that, as far as I’m concerned, it’s all just mumbo jumbo! Read on and see what I mean…

In the last week or so, the weather has been very varied. No wonder we talk about it all the while in the British Isles. As the old saying goes ‘If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes and it will change anyway’. And so it was on this particular session I fished on the River Dove, as you will discover as the story unfolds.

Due to recent rain, I knew that the river wouldn’t be racing along like an express train, but that there would still be an ‘above normal level’ approach needed. Therefore I intended to drop into a swim, that although I have only fished just the once before, is one that I have mentally marked as a peg for conditions such as I encountered. As I stood there just making sure that was where I wanted to spend the next few hours, my mind was made up for me, as rain started to fall. Looking up I noticed the blackest sky you could possibly imagine, working its way towards where I stood.

I just had time to set up the umbrella and lay out my tackle before the heavens literally opened. The change was unbelievable. Just a couple of minutes earlier I had been standing in hot sunshine observing the river, and here I was, caught up in a storm so severe that the rain actually bounced off the river as it made contact. It would have made a wonderful photograph, but you will just have to take my word for it, as I was quite happy to stay under the shelter of the brolly!

Although the storm lasted for just a few minutes, accompanied by the thunder and lightning, it was very impressive. And the rain was so heavy that the river rose by an inch in that short time. But as quickly as it came, it went, and once more I felt the powerful rays of the sun as it beat down upon the Derbyshire countryside.

I took advantage of the lull in the rain (there was more to come later) to bait up. I went for my usual barbel approach of particles, using brown crumb as the carrier. This enables me to get the bait to the bottom pretty quickly, and on a small river like the Dove, I find this an adequate way of preparing the swim. Half a dozen ‘plops’ are preferable to two or three times as many casts with a bait dropper.

Casting out, I initially put one rod towards the far bank and the other down the side. However, after a short time I quit with the former and fished both rods my side of the river. Although, as I have previously stated, the river wasn’t racing through, nevertheless there was enough water coming down to wrap weed and debris around the line, thus making fishing difficult. I know when to give up, and so I settled back into my chair, with both baits being fishing under the rod tips, away from the main current.

Apart from the weather, there was not much action. Fishing from lunchtime onwards, it all remained very quiet indeed. I did have a tap on the right rod, but nothing developed beyond that initial movement. As the afternoon wore on, I started to prepare for dark by adding tip lights to the end of the rods. Following numerous downpours, the banks were quite muddy. However, I was fishing a level peg and so safety was not an issue. As anglers we need to take these things into consideration, particularly when fishing into dark, and certainly for anglers like myself that fish exclusively alone.

After fishing for ten hours without a single barbel on the bank, my patience was rewarded when my left rod lurched over, and I found myself playing what felt like a good fish. Whilst the smaller ones will often tear off at high speed, I find that the bigger specimens react differently when hooked. Whilst you know that you have a decent fish at the end of the line, they tend to less frantic as you play them.

After a good solid fight, eventually I got the fish into netting range. ‘Yes’, I thought to myself, ‘this is a very good fish’, but it was only as I lifted the net from the river that I fully appreciated the barbel I had just caught. Although I have had numerous doubles from the Dove, they have been in the ten and eleven pound bracket. This fish was in a league of its own, and I felt a real tinge of excitement run through my body as I zeroed the scales and prepared to weigh it.

As I watched the numbers settle, I was not surprised in the least to see a read-out of 13.13, hence the title of the article! As well as being a good-sized fish in length, it was also very solid – in fact it was quite chubby and well packed. I have just had a new digital camera, and being more advanced than my previous one, I can rattle off a few photos in no time at all. This I did, and of course, with a barbel like this, I had to check them on the monitor before I finally released the fish.

As it’s a new camera, I still need to work out a few things in order to perfect the images, not least of all how to operate the red-eye reduction facility! Still, it’s not about me – the star of any of my photographs is the fish. I’m just the one that holds it so that it gets to pose in a way that brings out its best. My role is nothing more than a bit part!

After returning the barbel, I only then realised that I had just caught it during another torrential downpour. Isn’t it funny how we get oblivious to hardship when something good is happening to us? I was drenched to the skin, yet hadn’t even realised it! Still, it was time to pack away anyway, as it was now approaching midnight. Trudging back to the car through long wet grass, I couldn’t have been any wetter than I was. Yet, at the same time, I couldn’t have been happier!

(Originally published August 2004)

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