Enjoying the journey (barbel article, entry 78)

It seems like ages since I have been barbel fishing, I thought to myself, as I dusted down the gear ready for an assault on the Lower Severn. Well actually it had been the start of November, and so I suppose in terms of rod hours fished, it was a fairly considerable time. I suppose you could say that a lot of water has passed under Worcester Bridge since then!

Not that I have been neglecting barbel on purpose, far from it. I’ve just been focusing on species that have been more obliging, as far as the weather conditions have been concerned. And with lots of cold winds and rain and with water temperatures hugging the lower limits, other fish have been edging barbel out in terms of priority.

But with the countdown now on for the end of the river season, I figured it was time to get back to barbel. Although the conditions weren’t perfect, they weren’t atrocious either. But sometimes you just want to do something so badly that you go ahead anyway regardless! And so it was, with the car loaded up with barbel gear, I headed southbound on the M5.

The river was up a metre or so with a nice colour, but there had been a drop in water temperature – hence my comments about the conditions. As always on the Lower Severn (when the swim allows) I set up two rods. With one cast downstream and the other directly in front, I was able to fish two distinct spots. There is, and always will be, ongoing debate within the barbel world about whether we should fish one or two rods.

My own view is that we should first of all take fish welfare into consideration, after all that should always be foremost in our mind whatever type of angling we do. Is the use of two rods having a detrimental effect on the fish themselves? Am I likely to be playing two fish at the same time? If it’s a possibility, no matter how remote, then we need to ask ourselves if we can handle that situation.

Due to the nature of my barbel angling I have never had two fish on at the same time (although I have successfully landed double carp in the past). But these are issues that we must be clear about in our own mind, regarding how we will cope should we actually get double takes. If in doubt stick to one rod, but if you are confident to fish with two, and all other factors are in agreement, then go for it!

I was fishing on this occasion before noon, which is quite unusual, as by the time I have done some work (the dreaded four letter word that gets in the way of fishing!) it is usually afternoon when I am sitting at the water’s edge. Still, I’m not complaining, as I do get to fish more than the average angler does and for that I am very grateful.

But I still had to wait until darkness to get a bite. Striking into tip movement, it felt like a very good fish. If you have caught a big barbel you will relate to my comments when I say that it was a slow, plodding run that the fish set off on. Therefore it was a surprise to net a barbel that was definitely well short of the double mark. In fact I didn’t weigh it, estimating it to be somewhere between five and six pounds, but definitely closer to the latter than the former. Yet, it was nice to see a barbel in the flesh again after a break of a couple of months.

And of course, any fish is welcome during the winter months. Not that I feel under any strain at all, but it is certainly nice to have at least one fish to write about each week in my Angling Journal! Therefore photographing that fish was about the closest I come in my fishing experience to relieving the pressure! But seriously, that’s what I really enjoy about my angling. Although I do set myself targets and have ambitions, because there are no other people involved it’s totally non-competitive and there is absolutely no pressure to ‘perform’. Life is stressed enough as it is for most people without making angling an extension of that.

Casting back out, I snuggled deep into my Sundridge suit, as the air temperature dropped sharply. It is imperative, if you want to do any serious winter fishing (and certainly at night) that the right items of clothing are purchased. An extra jumper or pair of socks just won’t do, once the real cold weather kicks in. You need the specialist items, and believe me, even with those it gets a bit of a battle sometimes!

But it’s not about us, it’s about what’s going on beneath the surface that really counts. And any thoughts of the cold quickly disappeared when the tip of my left-hand rod started to dance frantically, indicating that I was about to connect with the second fish of the session. It put up a decent fight, but with the odds firmly stacked in my favour, I quickly found myself netting another barbel.

It was bigger than the first fish, but still some way off a double, which I suppose is still that benchmark that all barbel anglers aspire to. With the Lower Severn, you never know what that next fish will be, and I guess in many ways that is the mystery and the attraction of it all. And there is always the lure of catching something really decent that acts as a magnet. There are ‘easier’ waters around, but the Lower Severn, to me, has a certain attraction that pulls me back time and time again.

I’m certainly hoping to do a few more sessions on the river before the season is out. And with the ‘back-end’ fish often being the ones with a reputation for packing on weight, I’m certainly confident when looking ahead to the next couple of months or so. But as it’s the Lower Severn we are talking about, who really knows! Nevertheless, although I have no guarantees about the destination, one thing is for sure – I will definitely enjoy the journey!

(Originally published January 2005)

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