Battling with the elements (barbel article, entry 80)

Sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do! Waiting for ideal conditions, particularly at this time of the year before you go out on an all-nighter…well, to be quite frank, you will probably have a long wait! Hence, I decided that I was going to have a through-the-night session come what may. Well, I couldn’t have chosen a worse time according to the weather forecasters.

There were predictions of gale force winds hitting the country that would reach up to 128 mph, although in fairness to my own decision to fish (in case I am sounding irresponsible in venturing out) that was in the far north-west of Scotland. But we were still promised pretty powerful gales down in the Midlands.

Setting off for the Lower Severn, it was indeed very windy. I managed to get my shelter erected, and on top of the usual storm poles and a few pegs around the edges, I also fixed the guy ropes in place, and basically if there was something hanging, it got pegged in! It wasn’t so much the general wind – although that was strong – that was the main problem. It was the gusts that really ripped into my encampment that threatened to upset my plans to stay out all night.

But my mind was taken off the weather when I had a good barbel bite. Striking into the fish, within a moment or two I could tell it wasn’t a ‘monster’. But nevertheless, although it was only a small one, they all count. And that is certainly true at this time of the year when barbel can be hard to tempt. I took a quick photograph before releasing the fish, and although I checked the image first, it wasn’t until I put it on the computer that I realised how dark it had come out. Still, if you look closely enough you can see the fish!

Within the hour I had another barbel, again not a specimen, but as before very welcome. I didn’t weigh or photograph this one. It was simply a case of unhooking it while still in the water, and then allowing it to swim off safely when it was ready. By now the winds were getting stronger, and one particular gust lifted the whole shelter off the ground, with just the storm poles preventing it from ending up in Bromsgrove! As I pegged everything back down, it was at that point that I wondered whether I should quit while I was ahead.

However, the factor that swayed it for me was that the forecast for the night, although windy, was actually dry. Hence, as long as I could survive the winds, at least I wouldn’t get wet! As I’ve got a Fox Evolution shelter, I set it up so that it was low to the ground, creating minimum resistance, and I bedded down for the night.

With the encouraging start of two early barbel, I had to wait a full fifteen hours for the third and final fish of the session – that’s the way it goes sometimes. It came an hour or so before dawn broke; it was a nice enough fish, and with the water temperature down over the previous few days, in all honesty I’d have definitely settled for three barbel before leaving home.

The river itself had both risen and fallen slightly during the night but was still well up on normal level, with a good metre and a half of extra water flowing downstream on its way to the Bristol Channel. But with high banks, there is still plenty of opportunity to fish the Lower Severn when other rivers are unapproachable. Some small streams I fish, it only takes a metre of extra water, and there is no chance of even getting close to the natural edge of the river.

But with the Severn, that sort of rise is dealt with no problem. However, ever river has its limits and when it finally does spill over, we really know about it! For those visiting the Severn for the first time, particularly when it is low and almost canal-like in flow at times, will be surprised to find a tide-mark of debris a kilometre away from the actual river itself.

And as if to emphasise the power that the Severn has within itself, as I started to pack away I noticed a not unusual sight – a fully-grown fifty-foot tree making its way downstream! No doubt it had been plucked by its roots and washed away in the same manner that we would remove a lettuce from the vegetable garden. Although I had fought on and won my own personal battle with the elements, the tree obviously had thrown in the towel at some point.

Yes, the Severn is indeed a mighty river and for those of us that venture onto her banks, we should do our utmost to respect that. With deep water under the rod tip, the lower reaches certainly need to be treated with caution by anglers, particularly when it is wet. The last thing we want to do is to become another drowning statistic.

(Originally published January 2005)

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