Back to earth on the Sow! (barbel article and video, entry 310)



Back to earth on the Sow!

Isn’t it great when your plans come together? Always up for a challenge, I spent opening night on Staffordshire’s River Sow pursuing the elusive barbel that dwell somewhere in its banks! And to catch one just three hours into the season was a great start, there is no doubt about that. But for as much as I appreciated that flying start to the river campaign I knew that I wouldn’t be able to keep up the ratio of 1 barbel per session. In fact I have set myself the target of 1 barbel every 6 visits. And as I am not lacking in the confidence stakes, that shows just how I see the challenge. As well as being a dreamer I’m also very realistic as well!

Arriving for session two of the season, I was back in the same spot as previously. Apart from the fact that I had caught a barbel from there a few days earlier, that was the only confidence booster that I had, as the whole section of river in front of me was 2 feet deep and so clear I could see the bottom in detail, without the need for polaroids. I knew that any fish caught would be strictly hours of darkness only, so arriving I took my time as there were still a few hours of light left. I did have some excitement though as I baited up, as a pike appeared from nowhere (well, not strictly true as the few reeds along the nearside bank provided the obvious holding area) and attacked the bait dropper.


As darkness descended over the Staffordshire countryside I settled down and willed my isotopes to come alive. But nothing stirred, and with the river being in the condition it was, I didn’t even have the excitement of some debris wrapping itself around the line to create the impression of a bite. I spent the whole night staring at the rod tips and with the sun making its mark on the light levels not much after 2.00am. I was intending to be packed up and on my way back home before it was day proper. Pretty much resigning myself to a blank, at 3.00am I had a run on the left rod that I thought could have been a small barbel. But instead of my preferred species I found myself netting a chub.

Whilst some single species anglers curse anything else that takes their bait, I am definitely not one of those. You often hear barbel anglers speaking of chub in far from complimentary terms, but on a river like the Sow they actually provide some relief from what would otherwise be no action whatsoever. And to highlight that, if it was barbel or nothing this time round, then I would be publishing photographs of rivers, items of tackle, trees and flowers. Anything except fish. So I am certainly appreciative of the chub caught this week, especially the second one which was a cracking fish.

A great chub to end the week with

I am an advocate of using 10lb line when barbel fishing; although probably more accurate to say a minimum of that breaking strain, because in certain situations and on particular venues I increase that to 12lb or even in very occasional circumstances by 50% to 15lb. But on the Sow this year I will be fishing 8lb on pegs that are snag-free. My main line is Sufix Synergy and hook length is Drennan Double Strength. I am fishing with boilie as bait and that is hair rigged to a size 4 Drennan boilie hook. I am not anticipating any problems with 8lb, but in the event that I do then I will very quickly raise the line strength to 10lb. However I am not even seeing my choice of line as a gamble at all and I am fully expecting to land all barbel hooked – and within a reasonable time as well, with the 2lb line difference not having an effect on the time that it takes to land any fish.

My plan was to fish session 3 of the season in a new area, and that’s exactly what I did. I made a point of leaving home a little earlier than normal, so that I could both walk the new stretch and also visit a road bridge over the river to see if any fish were visible in that particular spot, so that I could consider that for a future session. I have been over this particular bridge before at this time of the year and even though the river was low it was full of streamer weed. But this time it was absolutely barren, nothing at all. In addition, if it was 18 inches deep for 90% of its area, that was being generous. And the other 10% was no more than 2 feet! But as I was there I decided to at least drive on to my chosen section and have a good look around.

Walking to the river it was obvious from the vegetation along the edge that no-one had been there yet this season. And although most of the river was shallow I was very encouraged to find a deeper section that even in the almost drought-like conditions had over 4 feet of water. So have a guess where I set up camp for the night! I baited up with a bait dropper and because of the commotion that had caused (but balanced out by the accuracy of the bait placement) I lazily put my tackle together looking realistically for any fish to come during the hours of darkness. But I had a very pleasant surprise when the first rod came alive with a vengeance with the sun still dominating the sky.

I definitely thought I had hooked a barbel but it was a big chub. It was very hollow, as indeed chub often are at this time of the year, but come winter it will most certainly be a very high ‘6’ and even possible a low ‘7’. It had the size already and all it needs to do is to fill out and it will be there. I don’t know if there is a list of river records for chub (an internet search didn’t throw one up) but if I catch this fish next March I might hold the chub record for the Sow as well as the barbel! As for the rest of the session it was all downhill from there I’m afraid. As the title of this week’s article says, ‘Back to earth on the Sow!’ I was pleased to see a couple of female mandarin ducks though the next morning at 6.45am, but that was the only thing to report!


(click icon above for this week’s video)


(Originally posted June 2009)

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