U r priceless u r (barbel article, entry 52)

Although I am mainly focusing on tench at the moment, nevertheless I still have one eye on barbel. And with a change in the weather pattern, and some much needed rain entering our waterways, I decided to switch my attention to the rivers once more, and see if I could add to my opening day catch of a double figure barbel. It was to the Dove that I headed for the first session in this week’s Angling Journal.

The river, as expected, was up a little and there was a nice colour to it. It looked good! I fished a different place to my opening day visit, but I have fished this particular peg before and caught good fish, so I was confident. I baited up with seeds, depositing them both down the side and across to the far bank. I was fishing by 2.00 p.m. and as it was a nice (and dry!) forecast for the night I had brought my bedchair so that I could fish through till morning.

There is nothing better than fishing under the stars, stretched out with just the odd Owl to keep you company! You can only do that for a number of months though in this country, due to the weather. And even then, it can only be on specific nights; hence I was looking forward to the night ahead. However, at 6.30 p.m. disaster stuck! My bedchair broke and any intentions of going right through were dashed.

It was quite ironic really. I have spent many nights on the chair when my weight was 18 stone + but it is only now, when at 15 stone + I am a shadow of my former self, that it decided to give way! Fishing wise, that was a disappointment too. I didn’t have any bites; nothing stirred beneath the surface of the river. Well at least nothing that was interested in my boilies that is! Still, I did have the consolation of being able to sleep in my own bed that night. And no matter how comfortable a bedchair you have, I feel that nothing really beats being at home for ultimate comfort.

With a new bedchair purchased – and with the blessing of my wife, what a woman! – I went off in a southerly direction for my second session of the week. To be precise I headed for the lower Severn and my first trip of the season to the river below Worcester. My tactics are different to when fishing the Dove in a number of ways. Out comes the bait dropper on the Severn, and this enables me to place bait much more accurately than on the Dove, which I can comfortably do by hand.

At this time of the year, particularly when fishing with boilies, I find the lower Severn to be an after-dark venue. Hence, although I was fishing a couple of hours or so before dusk, I was really focused on dark in terms of catching fish. Therefore I was able to do a little bird watching from the peg I was sitting in. After observing numbers of Mallards on the far bank, I almost didn’t bother to look at a small family group (mother and three ducklings) making their way downstream.

However, I decided to take a peep, so picked up the binoculars to watch them. Straight away I could see that this was no Mallard, but I didn’t know what it was. Before it disappeared out of view, I made a note of the distinguishing features of the bird so that I could identify it later. After some research on the Internet, I eventually logged the bird as a Mandarin Duck. Now if it had been the extremely bright coloured male, there would not have been any doubts at all, but most of the duck females are drab and not so easy to identify.

The fishing was very quiet during the night, with just a couple of two-second chub runs to keep me alert. It was to be 4.50 a.m. before I had the one and only fish of the session, a small chub that I didn’t even bother weighing! Well, with two sessions down, would it be a case of ‘third time lucky’ as I made my way back to the Derbyshire Dove to round off the week?

It was a warm, overcast day, with the odd outburst of sunshine, not to mention the heavy showers that came from nowhere and went just as quickly. In other words, another typical English summer’s day! Arriving at my chosen stretch, I had the whole place to myself. As far as I could see into each adjoining meadow, there were no other anglers. The initial rush of the new season had worn off!

The river was low, but not clear, and I felt confident. Mind, I had also felt good about my two previous sessions in the week – and look where that got me! However, on this occasion my confidence was rewarded, when in the middle of a severe downpour, my far bank rod bent over double and I found myself playing a hard fighting barbel.

Making my way down the bank to net the fish, I slipped and ended up in the river. Although only to my ankles, it’s still uncomfortable; but can you believe it, the moment I netted the fish, the rain stopped and the sun came out, at least enabling me to dry my socks and boots out! I sent a text to my wife, and based on the history of my falling in water, the reply came back ‘u r priceless u r’ – hence the rather unusual heading for this article!

The fish itself was exactly 9lb. It was a fat fish and if it had been any longer would definitely have been a double. In fact, as I played it and got my first glimpse of it in mid-river, the consolation of standing in the water itself was that I had caught my second double of the season!

This fish proved to be my only barbel of the session, although just after 10.00 p.m. I had a take from a chub, whereby the fish literally raced back across the river and went straight into the reed bed that lay in front of me. The fish was well and truly snagged, and the best I could do, from where I stood at least, was to pull for a break. This would have resigned the fish to a long and cruel death though. Hence, there was only thing for it – to go in and rescue the fish.

I stripped down to my boxer shorts and waded out a metre or so and was able to extricate the fish from the reeds. It had wrapped itself around the stems a number of times; the more I pulled on the rod, the tighter the hold became. The only way to free the fish was by hand. Fortunately, all worked out well in the end, and after I gave it time to recover, I was able to weigh (5-2-8), photograph and release the chub and it happily swam away.

However, let me add a serious, cautionary note. The only reason I went into the river was that I know the swim very well. It was quite shallow, even with sinking into the silt, it was still below boxer short level. The river was also low and was not carrying extra water. Under no circumstance should we ever take risks. Please bear that in mind.

Telephoning my wife, to tell that I was now drying out again, she could only confirm that her previous text message was indeed very true! I had no more fish during the night – which was very cold – although I did have a hook pull just after 1.00 a.m. Packing away in the morning I added the Stock Dove to take my bird list to the year while angling to 82 species. The target of 100 birds draws slowly closer!

 (Originally published July 2004)




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