I tend to think in terms of the four seasons when planning my fishing sessions, and so with June through to the end of August being the three summer months, as we entered this week it was time to say au revoir to one season and look forward to another. The summer hasn’t gone to plan at all though and I haven’t been able to focus in the way that I like to. Without doubt, the main factor involved has been the floods, which have more than interfered with plans; in fact they have turned them upside down. In addition, a small river that I started to fish for barbel suddenly became unavailable.
So all in all, I just haven’t been able to get going. Although having said that, there have been a few decent fish along the way, topped by a 16lb 1oz barbel, so it’s not exactly been doom and gloom! And to see the summer out, I continued my attentions on the lower Severn, with Bank Holiday Monday being the first session of the week. I arrived late afternoon, and had the stretch to myself. But with several meadows to choose from, even if there were other anglers present, it wouldn’t have been a problem anyway.
Unusually for a Bank Holiday, the sun was bright in the sky and we hadn’t had a single drop of rain. It meant that I was able to tackle up and cast out in pleasant conditions. There’s nothing worse than setting up camp in driving rain and gale force winds – well actually there is I suppose, and that’s packing away when the conditions are adverse. So I certainly appreciated the calm nature of the surroundings as I prepared for an overnighter.
If I had to choose one word to describe barbel fishing on the lower Severn it would be ‘temperamental’. You can be sitting on a perfect river and yet not even get a touch, yet other days when you wonder if it’s worth even casting out, you can really get amongst the fish. If the lower Severn were a person then it would most definitely baffle even the most experienced psychologist around.
And it certainly baffled me, because if I were a gambling man (which I’m not) then I’d have put good money on catching a barbel during the session. Yet, as morning broke and I started to pack away, I had not even had so much as a line bite. I did spend some time watching a male redstart though in an alder tree right next to the swim. I am a keen birder and binoculars always accompany me on my fishing trips. The nature of the waiting game on the lower Severn in particular means that in this case you certainly can do two things at the same time.
With August running out of days, I managed one final visit before we welcomed the autumn. It was again a warm and dry day as I headed southbound on the M5 motorway. I had just bought a Rick James CD off eBay and so that accompanied me on the journey. People sometimes pay over the odds for fishing tackle on there, but as far as music is concerned, there are some real bargains to be had. Music-wise by the way, I am a soul man. Just like my fishing I am focused, and in the nicest sense, very narrow-minded. Whilst I can appreciate the wider music scene, my own collection consists entirely of the likes of The temptations, The Impressions, Chairmen of the Board, Bootsy Collins etc.
Session two, which again looked very promising, proved to be another barbel blank. I didn’t miss the fish completely though, as a shoal of bream moved in around 1.45 am, staying for about an hour. Whilst I do fish specifically for specimen bream on a gravel pit during spring, they can be a bit of a pain sometimes when targeting barbel on the lower Severn. Anyone who has ever fished the river below Worcester will know exactly what I am talking about, and will no doubt have their own tales of frustration to tell, when the shoals of fish moved in!
One particular fish that I caught had a deep V in its back. I wasn’t sure whether it was a deformity from birth or as a result of an accident – or even an encounter with a predator. However, due to the way that it had formed, with no evidence of any healing taking place, it did look as if it was a birth defect. But it wasn’t a problem to the fish, as it was feeding well and swam off with no cause for concern. It’s only humans that worry about perfection in terms of how we look; the animal kingdom doesn’t have the same hang-ups that we do.
So with September now upon us, it really is a case of farewell my summer love. But now is the time that the lower Severn will start to come into its own, and so flood permitting, I will be concentrating on the river as we hit autumn. Barbel will be the predominant species that I will fish for, but the prospect of a decent zander is still very much in my mind. In addition, I would love to give the roach a go. I am very much aware though that the more focused I am, the better I fish, so we shall have to see. Either way, I am definitely looking forward to the next three months!
(Originally published September 2007)