Even Rumpole of the Bailey would struggle to get a conviction (barbel article, entry 218)

As I tend to fish campaigns, I am very much aware of the possibilities of repetition. For example, at the moment, there are only so many times that I can introduce each week’s article with ‘I headed southbound on the M5 ‘as a precursor to ‘setting up on the banks of the lower Severn’! So I won’t bore you with all the details of the journey, and instead kick off proceedings with the actual fishing itself. The stretch I am on this season is a new one, and although the meadow I fish from is usually empty, the one on the far bank sees its fair share of anglers.

 Every cloud has a silver lining though, and whilst the presence of anglers on the far bank does, in some ways, limit where you can set up, the plus side of increased activity compared to the other stretch I fish that never sees anyone else opposite, is that there is plenty of bait going in. This will not only draw fish into the general area but will also ensure that they stay as well. And whilst on a smaller river, the word ‘pressure’ might come into the equation, on the lower Severn which is wide, deep and consistent, it isn’t an issue.

 I was fishing by dusk and settling back to wait for some action, when in front of me I saw an osprey in flight along the far bank. I quickly grabbed my binoculars and watched the bird as it flew first of all in a northerly direction, and then veering off to the north-west. The last one I saw was also on a fishing trip, in the spring of 2003. Ospreys are not resident in the areas where I fish, but are passage migrants, making their way to a handful of breeding grounds in Britain, or in this case heading back to Africa where they spend the winter. Birds don’t always fly in a straight line, hence this one heading in the wrong direction!


The next action came in the early hours, not from bird but a fish. A shoal of bream to be precise, and I switched from pellet to boilie after a couple of fish, which helped to eliminate the species. But as the clock showed 2.45 am, it was no bream that set off like an express train downstream, but a barbel. With blanks being the norm on the lower reaches of the Severn, it’s always nice to slip the net under the first fish of any session. And as is so often the case, as it was here, the first fish is the only fish. But that that was two in as many sessions, which is better than nothing at all.

 But how did the next trip go? Well, it was another nice day as I arrived at the river, which was once more low and sluggish – a testament to the prolonged period of dry weather we have been having of late. Unlike other stretches I fish, I have the absolute luxury of being able to park as close to the river as I like. This has a two-fold benefit; firstly there is the convenience. No lugging lots of gear across stiles, through hedges and over fields; instead I simply park, pop the boot and unload the tackle where I am. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, there is the security issue, with no worrying about leaving the car in a lay-by or down some lonely exposed country lane.

 It’s brilliant, and even though the onset of wet weather means I will have to park a little further back, we are still looking at a good secure place. Old habits die hard though and I still lock the car and put the crook lock on. But some habits are good ones to keep going, so having a zero tolerant approach to security is not a bad thing at all. Whilst we should never become paranoid, you can never be too safe.


It’s getting darker earlier every day now, which is great for those of us that enjoy our night fishing. And with the water temperature still high, it’s no surprise that autumn is the top season for barbel fishing; although of course, that’s just my opinion, some anglers may prefer the summer months, some even the last weeks of the season when the fish are at maximum weight. The important thing is to make the most of every opportunity that we get and I’m doing that at the moment on the lower Severn.

 However, this session was barbel-less. I did catch a few bream, but I won’t go into details! I also had a couple of carp – a common and a mirror. The first one came in the early hours and the second one just before 8.00 am as I was starting to think about packing away. I haven’t targeted specific carp areas on the river, and so in all my years of fishing the Severn I have caught just one fish – whilst barbeling at Severn Stoke. However this campaign I have already had three fish on the bank.

 It’s obvious that the recent floods caused a big shift in the fish population. Whilst we hear a lot about carp ‘with legs’ that end up in venues miles away, this current situation is an act of nature and so there’s nothing sinister going on. A look at an Ordnance Survey map reveals numerous pools and ponds within a reasonable distance from the river, and so it’s easy to see where the new residents have come from. It will definitely affect the future of barbel fishing on the river and with conditions being conducive for growth I predict that we will see some very good fish coming out in the not-too-distant-future.

 It will also keep the barbel law enforcement agencies off the backs of anglers like myself who use bite alarms, bedchairs, shelters and the like. When they approach us, warrant card in hand, we can claim that we are fishing for carp – and who can prove it. Even Rumpole of the Bailey would struggle to get a conviction…

(Originally published September 2007)



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