A midnight barbel on the lower Severn (barbel article and video, entry 273)

I fish a variety of venues, ranging from those available on an open-to-all club book through to syndicates. And it was to the latter that I looked this week when once more I headed for the River Severn ‘below Worcester’, which is also known as the lower Severn. I have been trekking that way for several years, and although in recent times I have done more predator and carp fishing, if you add the total hours that I have spent after barbel, they will still be far in excess of all the other species put together. And this week found me once more chasing the fish that is becoming very popular with many anglers. Although it will have plenty of catching up to do if it is to overtake the carp, nevertheless it is a definite silver medal at the moment in the cult-fish stakes.

Love ’em or hate ’em

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, I was on a syndicate water. The very mention of the word ‘syndicate’ arouses all sorts of responses amongst anglers, from the extreme negative to the opposite end of the spectrum. Personally I think that the definition of a syndicate is not as clear cut as many would like to make out anyway. For example you can have some small clubs that are very difficult to get into, so although they may not use the S word, in effect they are often more closed than many syndicated waters.

There is perhaps the ethics issue concerning a syndicate. Did the group muscle in on a water previously owned by a club? This is one of the often raised objections by those who stand opposed to any form of what they see as exclusivity and division. But then again there are plenty of examples of clubs that do sneaky things as far as underhand dealing is concerned. It isn’t about whether you are a club or a syndicate but the people involved.




Low river means minimal flow

I know though for a fact that the farmer on our stretch of the lower Severn fully appreciates dealing with a small group of known people, as opposed to an open-to-all club where anyone can turn up based on the purchase of a ticket – or not, as may often be the case. The lack of litter and noise and the respect that the anglers have for the land that they are on are just some of the factors that mean he can sleep at night knowing that all is well outside of his four walls. Not that I am suggesting that all clubs contain dubious characters, and I’m certainly not saying all syndicate members are angels either. But you can keep a tighter reign on a dozen selected members than a club of several thousand can when books are sold over the counter of the tackle shop to anyone who can produce the required amount of money.

Like every river that flows through our green and pleasant land, the Severn is like a yo-yo. In recent weeks it has been in the fields and down to very low level, with numerous stages of rise and fall in between. My arrival for an overnighter caught it at the bottom end of the scale. I fished a peg that is not a barbel banker as far as the stretch is concerned, in fact quite the opposite. I have had numerous hours in that peg with just the one fish to show for my efforts. But my plan on this occasion was to fish well out into the middle of the river and with low level meaning minimal flow there was no issue with the lead being pulled across or debris wrapping itself around the line.

A nice chub opens the account

Fishing with one rod, my tackle comprised 10lb line and a three ounce flat lead, which held its own out in the main channel. The hook length was 10lb Drennan carp dacron and a size 4 Drennan boilie hook completed the set-up, with bait being a hair-rigged boilie. I decided not to bait the swim other than with a PVA bag of pellets and boilies every time I cast out. And that would only be when I caught a fish, so knowing the lower Severn as I do, there wouldn’t be much bait going in! Over the last season or so my approach has changed from putting in lots of bait to just minimal amounts via a PVA bag.


Tip of the week

If you are pursuing big fish, then you’ll need lots of patience and time.

If you’re new to the scene then don’t get discouraged too easily.

It hadn’t long been dark when the rod tip started to rattle and move into action as something out there had picked up the boilie. I was fishing with my usual bite alarm set up and as the fish realised it was hooked, the red light combined with a steady scream of noise, saw me lifting into an expected barbel. Within seconds that had changed to a bream but making my way down to the water’s edge to net the fish, prior to seeing it, I had switched back to barbel again, albeit just a small one. Actually it was a chub just short of 5lb, so it goes to show how you can’t always predict what you have on the other end, although most times you can.


A midnight barbel

I’ve had some good chub over the years while fishing the lower Severn after barbel including one of 5-12-0. I’ve also had more than my fair share of bream, and although I love fishing for specimens on gravel pits, I don’t feel the same way about their smaller cousins on the river. But whilst this session remained a bream-free one, thankfully it wasn’t barbel-free, as more or less on the stroke of midnight I struck into a screamer of a run that started to strip line from the reel as if there was no tomorrow.

It put up a good fight but this isn’t the Dove or Teme, a small intimate river with tree roots or overhanging branches just feet away. With no snags around at all, it was a case of patiently but firmly bringing the fish to the net. The fish was a reasonable length but what was immediately noticeable about it was its girth. It was a very fat fish and had obviously been doing plenty of eating in recent days.


A midnight barbel

And that was that

And that fish proved to be the final action of the outing. The rest of the night was very quiet and come morning I slowly packed away, doing what I could before finally turning my attention to the rod. I always try to squeeze as much time as I can from every trip that I make, after all who knows what may happen while the bait is in the water. Whether it be seconds after hitting the deck on the first cast or having been there for hours, as long as it’s out there is the possibility of a fish.


Click on the icon for this week’s video clip


The week ahead

Now that we are into October and the rivers looking ideal for the species, I’m going to do some piking over the next few days and then finish the week off after zander on the lower Severn. So it’s a case of putting my pred-head on!

(Originally published October 2008)

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