Back to reality (barbel article, entry 60)

I am very fortunate in that the vast majority of my angling sessions take place mid-week. There are a number of very practical advantages, not least of all that swim selection is very rarely an issue. In fact most times I fish I can literally take the pick of the whole venue. So it was, as I arrived on the banks of the River Dove, the only other living soul was a wood pigeon that sat in the tree on the far bank watching me intensely, before eventually flying off.

The river looked good; it had dropped since my previous visit, but still had a nice colour to it. As always, I was confident! However, as I often prove – confidence doesn’t always, in itself, put fish on the bank. Although I fished for almost eleven hours, apart from a slight tap an hour or so into the session, I ended up a blanker!

With a spare evening a couple of days later, I decided to have a barbel session on the River Sow, which is only half an hour up the M6. I had a few sessions on there a couple of years ago, and although I only caught the one fish, it was a double, so I certainly wasn’t disappointed. I’m not sure of the numbers of barbel in the stretch I fished, certainly not many, but it’s definitely a challenge, and I’m up for that.

Following rain, I was not surprised to see the Sow right up to the top of the bank. I baited up with my usual ‘seeds and brown crumb as carrier’ approach. I have observed on the Sow before, when conditions have allowed, that balls of bait deposited on the riverbed often end up rolling downstream. Therefore, to combat this, I flattened the orange sized balls prior to throwing them out so that they would hold the bottom better.

I was fishing paste on the hook, and although I did have a few chub enquiries, the barbel did not show. In fact, as mentioned, I do not believe that there is a particularly large head of fish in the stretch anyway. I think it may be a case of finding the proverbial needle in the haystack, but I am hoping to have a few more sessions over the next month, particularly as I am currently focusing on barbel. So, as they say – watch this space!

I was fortunate in this particular week, as I was able to do three sessions. I’m certainly not bothered about blanks, but it’s always nice to have at least one fish to write about in each Angling Journal entry! I decided to end the week on the Dove. I knew that the river would be up, due to recent rain, but I was surprised to see it had burst its banks in places.

I decided to take a closer look before getting the tackle out of the car. As I walked across the field observing the river, I didn’t look where I was treading, and suddenly found myself ankle deep in floodwater! Ah well, as I came to a stile, which was in two feet of water, it didn’t really matter. Hence, ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’, so I just waded through and crossed into the next field!

As I observed the river – racing through faster than Vio Ganea chasing a loose ball at Molineux – I considered driving to the lower Severn, where I knew that six foot of extra water would still give me plenty of options. However, as I was already there, I decided to at least give it a go. I found a swim where I could present a bait out of the racing current, and so by Noon I was fishing. I had to re-cast fairly regularly due to the river pushing my lead into bankside vegetation, but it was bearable.

I also noticed that the river was running off quite quickly, and so after a couple of hours I moved into the next swim, where I was able to place a bait right under the rod tip in ten foot of water. In order to introduce the feed effectively I moulded it around the lead, ensuring that it hit the riverbed where I wanted it.

Although fishing was not easy due to debris coming downstream, just before 5.30 p.m. I had a take from a fish. As it immediately moved out into the flooded main river, it was impossible to guess its weight. Fighting the current meant it was only as I got it to the net, that I was able to observe the size of fish I had been playing. It hit the scales at 8.7, and following a couple of blanks, was very welcome indeed.

An hour later and I added a second fish, this one just short of the 7lb mark at 6.14. Even though the river had dropped a good two feet since my arrival, fishing was still difficult and so as darkness fell I retired. I was just grateful to catch something. Prior to this week, my last three sessions on the Dove had produced a double each time, headed up by the 13.13 fish recorded in last week’s Angling Journal. With two blanks and two average sized fish, it was definitely a case of ‘back to reality’ this week!

(Originally published September 2004)

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