Appreciating the wider nature package (barbel article, entry 206)

My plans were all made for the start of the river season, as I looked forward to kicking off a new barbel campaign. Tackle was ready, my rucksack was loaded and the freezer was stocked with boilies. But in spite of my meticulous preparation, my intention to be sitting by the side of a river ready for a midnight start was thwarted. Although we can do all that we can to ensure that we are as prepared as possible, there in one thing that we have no control over – the weather. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if I’m frightened by a bit of rain; but when you get the sort of downpours that we experienced in this region just prior to the 16 th , you have to be practical.


And whilst I actually look forward to some decent precipitation – as floods and barbel are as perfect a combination as cheese and onion or ham and pickle – when the rivers burst their banks in the way that we experienced on opening night, then that is what you call mission impossible. The conditions were splashed across the TV screens as headline news, with rivers becoming raging torrents and vehicles and homes once more suffering the brunt of the worst that Mother Nature can throw at us. Therefore I reluctantly decided to give it a miss and stay at home.


But by Sunday evening I was desperate to get out, and so set off for a small river that I intend to target this summer. After some deliberation I have decided not to reveal the name of the waterway. It is a tributary of a recognised barbel river and so therefore will naturally have fish in it, and although they will not be exactly fighting each other to get caught, they are in there. But with quite a limited section of suitable water prior to its actual merger with the main river, if I gave even its name then that would be tantamount to actually naming the stretch. And a few good fish would certainly attract attention from other barbel anglers.


So, is it right to be secretive like this? Or is it perhaps selfish, and all anglers should be open with each other as to where they are fishing, even to the point of swim location? We all have our own views, and particularly if you are a pleasure angler or even a novice barbel angler, all this cloak-and-dagger stuff is probably sounding totally unnecessary. After all, I’m pursuing fish not Al-Qaeda terrorists. But the reality is that being too open can prove to be self-defeating. Catch a very good fish, post the swim details on an internet forum, and I guarantee that you will never get in that peg again. And if the ‘wrong’ sort of angler hits town and brings his mates with him, the chances are that in time it will be lost anyway, as the landowner will have had enough of the litter, fires and noise.


I certainly would not mislead people though, and that is totally different to withholding information. My recent bream campaign was carried out on a ‘Staffordshire gravel pit’ and that was exactly what it was, not a ‘Nottinghamshire gravel pit’ or an ‘Oxfordshire gravel pit’. And so when I refer to an ‘Undisclosed small river’ that will be an accurate description. And if the reader is genuinely interested in the tactics, style and catch reports then there won’t be any great disappointment in the withholding of certain facts.


Anyway, arriving at the river on the Sunday evening I was confronted with a sheet of water that stretched way beyond the actual confines of the original watercourse. With low banks anyway, the volume of rain that had fallen had resulted in serious floods. Still, I was there anyway, so decided to simply walk across the field in a foot of water and set up shop using the bank-side fence as a rod rest. I managed to hook everything over the fence itself and apart from dropping my mobile phone in the water, all went well. With a six ounce lead I managed to hold bottom and with hardly any debris coming downstream, the fishing at least was comfortable.


With my feet resembling two oversized prunes due to standing in water, I decided to quit just before it got too dark. No fish to kick off the season with, but I was entertained by an otter that I first noticed on the shallows of the opposite meadow. It then entered the river proper about 20 metres downstream and made its way past me, surfacing no more than 3 metres away. Brilliant!


Managing a second session during the week, I decided to head for the lower reaches of the River Severn. I wasn’t intending to fish there until late summer at the earliest, but the unexpected floods left me with the desire to head southbound down the M5. Usually my flood fishing is done from autumn onwards, so it was certainly a novelty setting up on the side of a bank-bursting River Severn in the middle of June.


Obviously the River Teme was having more than a passing influence in affairs, as the colour of the Severn was exactly the same as that of its tributary when that too is in flood. If you know the river, you will know exactly what I am referring to; if not then picture an orange-brown colour, which reflects the clay found in the Teme valley. I was very hopeful that I would get amongst the fish but my second session also proved to be a blank. Even though I did an overnighter, I didn’t get a single fish interested in my boilies. Still, there are plenty of sessions ahead over the next nine months, so I intend to put that right as soon as possible.


Although I didn’t get any fish on the lower Severn, the wildlife made up for lack of action. As evening kicked in I watched two hares on the field behind me. The flood bank provided a natural hide so that I could observe without being seen myself. In addition I had a barn owl fly right across the front of my shelter at 10.00pm. Combine that with the yellow wagtails on the field behind, the pair of ravens in flight and the pair of curlews also passing through, and I had an enjoyable time in spite of catching no fish. I am fortunate in that although I am a committed angler, I also fully appreciate the wider nature package that comes with it. And I suppose that is a good thing when you have started the season with a couple of blanks as I have done!

 (originally published June 2007


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