Beaten by a fifty foot tree! (barbel article, entry 68)

After a couple of pike sessions the week before, some SW rain prompted me to get back on the barbel trail once again. With a good week ahead as far as time was concerned, it meant I could plan to do a couple of overnighters. I really do like fishing through the night. Of course, there’s the main reason, which is to do with the actual angling itself. But then there are other things such as watching the sun rise, seeing the mist evaporate as the dawn gives way to daylight and the great sense of being at one with the whole nature package – rats excluded of course!

Setting off at lunchtime I was on the banks of the Lower Severn by early afternoon. The river was up a little due to the rain, and had a nice colour to it. I set up two rods and settled back to enjoy the session ahead. Within an hour I had a run from a chub, but the hook pulled after a few moments. While still light though I did catch a 6lb+ bream, which is the first I have had in that weight category this season on the river, having caught a few 5’s.

The first barbel came an hour into dark. It was just a small one and certainly below the 8lb mark at which I keep records of fish that weight upwards. Shortly afterwards I added a second barbel, slightly bigger, but still below the benchmark. Knowing the swim well, I was surprised to lose a third fish on a snag. As is often the case with lost fish – the one that got away and all that – it was much bigger than the previous two, and from the way it reacted when hooked – almost certainly a double.

Still, these things happen and I carried on without letting it get to me. When the rod lurched over in the early hours I wondered if I had caught a fish to compensate for the lost one, but it turned out to be a sprightly 3lb+ chub. At 2.30 a.m. though I did find myself connected to a barbel that felt very good indeed. I played it carefully, and slowly but surely it got closer and closer to the bank. However, a couple of lengths out, suddenly and without any warning whatsoever, it was as if I had hooked a brick wall.

I tried everything, leaving the line slack so the fish would swim away, pulling at all angles to free it, sinking the rod deep in the water to look for a way out, but all was in vain. In the end I parted company with the fish, retrieving just the end tackle, so thankfully it was only a hook left behind.

But as I concentrated on the snagged fish I momentarily lost my footing and ended up in the river! It was not deep in front of me (I always choose pegs carefully on that score, with my track record!) but as I went in bottom first it meant I got a total soaking from head to toe. Well, dragging myself out of the river I was faced with two choices – either go home or carry on fishing. I went for the latter, so just stripped down to my boxer shorts and carried on! Was it cold I hear you ask? Well, yes it was! I was very grateful the next morning to see the sun rise, although it’s hardly summer, its rays were very welcoming!

As I was packing away, I caught the third barbel of the session, but again just a small one. It was good to get back to the car though, although I did have to drive back home in my boxer shorts! My wife was waiting for me when I arrived with a pair of trousers to cover my blushes! It’s amazing how forgetful the human mind can be at times, because no sooner had my all-in-one Sundridge suit dried out, I was once more back on the Lower Severn in the same peg. It was a windy and wet day and the river was up a little more. With water temperature also moving in the right direction, things looked good.

Literally within minutes of casting out, I found my rod indicating a fish had taken the boilie. As I struck into, and consequently played, the barbel I could feel it was a good one. Let’s just say I know a double when I’ve got one on the end of the line! Aware of the couple of new snags I discovered on my previous visit, I steered the fish in well away from them. Then suddenly, no more than a couple of lengths out, I hit a dead end. I couldn’t believe it! To my sheer frustration I also lost this fish.

Well, by now it started to dawn on me. Instead of a couple of large branches (these are always getting washed down the river and end up in your peg until the next flood) I actually had a fifty foot tree in the swim! This was confirmed, when later I lost another fish (but a smaller one) which when I pulled resulted in branches breaking the surface. As the river is fourteen feet deep in that peg, for the branches to appear above the waterline shows just what sort of obstruction I was up against.

I did manage a barbel a little later, but I decided to call it a day and head for home. The frustration of lost fish due to hook pulls is one thing, but when you know that the inevitable is just waiting to happen then that’s something else altogether. Plus I really do hate losing fish in snags and the thought of tethered fish plays on my mind. Therefore, once I became aware of the enormity of what lay in front of me, there was only one thing for it.

But before I had time to pack away, I had to endure the most dreadful storm I have encountered in a long time. The wind blew so ferociously it literally ripped the shelter from the ground, which saw me frantically trying to peg it back down. While this was going on, so much rain fell that it was as if someone had just thrown several buckets of water over all me. Even though I hadn’t fallen in I was just as wet as the previous visit.

I’ve always seen thunder and lightning as something associated with summer days, but I found myself in the middle of some spectacular lightning that literally lit everything up as if it was the middle of the day. The thunder was something else; it was as if a low flying jet was directly overhead. One particular rumble lasted for thirty seconds!

So, all in all a disappointing week, what with the lost fish plus getting soaked twice! However I don’t mind the latter. It will take more than getting wet to cause me to end a session early. But when I’m up against a fifty foot tree I know I’m beaten! I’m just waiting for the next major floods to move the obstacle on downstream, the swim in question is a good autumn/winter one and I am looking forward to fishing there again soon.

(Originally published October 2004) 





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