Blanks? Just occupational hazards! (barbel article, entry 165)

With a couple of barbel sessions planned this week, it was a trip to the River Sow for the first one. I baited up with a few boilies and balls of paste and then cast out and did what you have to on the Sow – sit back and wait! It’s not an easy river for barbel, as you will have gathered if you read my Angling Journal regularly. And this session was the rule rather than the exception – in other words I blanked!

But I do genuinely enjoy every fishing trip, and catch or not, there is also something to learn. To me fishing is one great big learning curve and every week, month and year that passes I aim to be a better angler than I was previously. And like so many other practical pastimes, there is no substitute for experience, and so the more I get out, the more I will learn and sharpen my understanding of all things piscatorial.

In fact I often spend the time driving back from sessions analysing the fishing. The temptation is to be more analytical when you blank than when you catch, but in reality there is always something to deduce and apply from any session. However I don’t want to give the impression I am a serious boffin type of fisherman because I’m not. I would class myself as a ‘thinking’ angler but above all it is there to be enjoyed for what it is.

As far as the Sow is concerned, there’s not a great deal that I feel I can do to increase my catch rate. The head of barbel, although of a decent size, is quite small and mobile and so it is a case of being in the right place at the right time – as simple as that. So with four fish this season, of which three have been doubles, I’m not complaining. Although I’ve also had fourteen barbel blanks on the river, I have seen them merely as occupational hazards!

After seventeen straight sessions on the Sow I decided it was time to return to the Teme. I did four trips to the river early in the season, and got the itch to fish there again. The stretch I visited in June was a positive jungle and I had to clear a path just to get to the river. Well since then the banks have not seen another angler, as the work I had done was not visible, as ‘mother nature’ had worked overtime to reclaim the gaps I had created.

Very often we complain about waters that get over-fished, but for different reasons those that are under-fished can be just as difficult. Whilst for some fish (pike spring to mind as they positively thrive on neglect) finding virgin water can be really mouth watering, for others a certain amount of angling activity can be more beneficial than none at all.

On the way to the stretch I intended to fish I stopped off at another to check it out for a future possible session. However, after walking the whole of a massive field I found just one peg that gave safe access to the river so perhaps I won’t be on there. However it did look like a good swim, so who knows! Sometimes though, too much choice is a bad thing as you want to do everything but don’t have the time to do it. It’s nice trying though I suppose.

I was positive as I cast the rod out and sat back to await some action. However as the time rolled by and my rod tip remained motionless, I wondered if I was going to have yet another blank. Well, I did and I didn’t. Just as I was about to pack away in the early hours I had a tremendous pull round. However instead of the expected barbel, I found myself netting a chub. So to explain my comments – not a blank but a barbel blank!

Finally I would like to update you on the fishing exploits of my friend’s wife who I wrote about a couple of week’s back. He is a professional footballer and recently his wife has decided to have a go at fishing. She is the most unlikely angler you would ever imagine, but she’s still going!

In fact I took her to the tackle shop recently to get stocked up on things as her tackle collection grows. And even though there wasn’t a Von Dutch or Jimmy Choo item in the shop she was positively drinking in the environment and everything I had to say as I talked her through the tackle and baits on display. And even though I had to gently break the news that Louis Vuitton doesn’t make angling luggage, still her enthusiasm wasn’t dampened.

Her husband told me that they went to a party the other day and that she had her phone out showing everyone photographs. ‘This is a tench’ and ‘This one is me with my first roach’ and so on. A true angler in the making if you ask me! Actually he has been fishing, and although his wife is doing fine he has yet to catch a single fish. However his football team is doing really well at the moment, so I guess that is consolation for him!

(Originally published September 2006)

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