Even George can’t stop me fishing (barbel article, entry 167)

With a meeting planned for the afternoon, I didn’t leave home until 4pm, at which time I encountered heavy traffic. The journey to the M5 motorway itself took me almost half an hour – one that I can usually do in a few minutes. But once on the highway I was fine, and with a steady travelling time I was soon on the banks of the lower Severn. The place I am fishing is so tranquil and the busyness of civilisation was a distant memory as I walked the meadow to the river.

The only angler on the stretch, I had my choice of swims, which isn’t a big deal anyway. Whilst some rivers can have their ‘hot spots’, where I am on the lower Severn I’m happy to fit in anywhere. In reality wherever you fish is likely to be just as hard as anywhere else – and that’s a fact as anyone who fishes below Worcester will no doubt testify. To me, if the river was humanised then it would be a stubborn person who didn’t listen to anyone and did their own thing all the while. And that just about sums up the lower Severn for me!

I baited up with seeds, using brown crumb as a carrier. I usually set up a bait dropper rod, but with the river being quite sluggish then a few balls of groundbait could still be placed where I wanted them to be. Some anglers like to put their feed in a very tight spot, but on the lower Severn I’m not that fussy. I like to have what I call a baited area, but that area can be spread over quite a few metres. And that’s what I did on this occasion – baited up a trail 1/3 of the way across the river so that the hook baits could be positioned at the top and bottom of the feed and still be 20 metres apart.

I often refer to seeds in my barbel articles and when I do so, invariably I am talking about pigeon conditioner, which I have been using for years. At less than ten pounds per 20KG sack, it’s hardly going to break the bank. However, put it in a packet with a fish on the front instead of a racing pigeon and you could easily treble the price – and get anglers to pay it too!

Darkness is now drawing in earlier each week, and as I had a late start, I was soon settling back for the night. The peg I was in allowed me to fish off the top of the bank, and with the vastness of water in front of me, two rods were no problem at all. I use bite alarms and set the rod so that it is in the traditional position of pointing high. With the base ring behind the alarm, the slightest pull on the line and I am alerted. But with the bait runner facility engaged on the reel anyway, there’s no problem with rods being pulled in!

I use the basic Fox alarms – when a barbel picks up the bait there’s no need for sensitivity controls! And so it was during the first night as I connected with a couple of fish. I don’t have a problem with alarms – the only thing I would advise is to consider any local homes and also any other anglers on the bank. You don’t want to be a nuisance to other people, and that is something that should apply to all things, not just to alarms. Of course, the purist will oppose them because of what they are, and that’s fair enough, but they are very much part of my barbel armoury.

Although I had my rods out for most of the next day, they remained still. In fact a spider even made a web on the angle between the rod tip and the line running off the final ring. I felt quite guilty when I had to destroy its handiwork. Casting out for the second night I readjusted my shelter due to the weather forecast. Apparently we were to get the tail end of Hurricane George as it worked its way through the North Atlantic! I have a Fox Evolution shelter so I was able to literally pin it to the ground. As the day wore on and it started to get dark, the wind really increased, and I started to appreciate the warnings that were given.

I had just the one bite though, but unfortunately I had a break on the hook length. I was fishing with braid and think I had a tangle. I even used PVA bags on my casts as these help to keep the hook lengths straight, but perhaps it was the extreme wind that somehow produced a knot. As it happened, the other rod was tangle-free but I never had a touch on that. I don’t like leaving a hook in a fish, but if we are honest it does happen from time to time.

By the time morning came round, it was perfectly still and George had finally petered out. It was then that I realised I had done the whole session in my shorts and short sleeved shirt! Even though it had been incredibly windy, with it coming from the SW it was very mild. During the summer months wind direction isn’t that important, but now that we are in autumn it becomes more so, and particularly once we hit winter, where the wind direction has a major direct bearing on our fishing.

(Originally published September 2006)

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