Getting all excited over a fish (barbel article, entry 159)

We had a limited, but nevertheless very welcome, amount of rainfall in the area. I didn’t know how the local rivers would be affected, but on arrival at the Sow I was more than surprised to see that there were a good few inches of extra water on since my last visit. It looked good, but the problem with the Sow as far as barbel are concerned is location. I admit that I have hardly fished it with real intention, but since my double caught in the summer of 2002 I have not added to that tally.

But that’s why I have decided to give the river quality time this season. After four consecutive barbel blanks I suppose I should have headed for an ‘easier’ venue. But my confidence wasn’t affected by the lack of action, and as far as writing a weekly angling diary is concerned, I don’t fish to write so don’t feel the need to ‘perform’ for the pages.

Parking the car I headed across the meadow and a quick walk up and down the bank revealed that since my last visit no one else had graced the stretch, or at least the bank I was on. That’s what I like about the rivers – you can, if you choose your spot, have it all to yourself. I often fish and go the whole session without seeing another soul.

The first thing I did was to bait up with seeds, using brown crumb as a carrier. The Sow can be deceptive in places, and what appears to be a placid surface hides a river with some pace. Loose feed can often end up way downstream somewhere. I like to know that my bait is where I want it to be, hence the crumb ensures that I can get it to the bottom quickly and effectively. I also threw in a few boilies, as that was the chosen bait I was fishing on the hook.

My line strength was 10lb main line and 10lb Drennan Carp Dacron for the hook length, which itself was 20 inches. Hook choice was a Drennan Continental Boilie Hook size 6 and the lead was a 1.5-ounce bomb. I had a couple of beads between the lead and the swivel, and another small one the other side of the weight so that a power gum knot meant I was fishing tight.

As the sun set over the horizon I settled back and waited for some action. As I have already intimated, the Sow is hardly what you would call a prolific barbel river. But somehow that challenge has really gripped me. For sure they are in there, so it’s hardly a wild goose chase, but at the same time the saying ‘needle in a haystack’ came to mind as I sat there on the river bank with just bats flying into the line the only action.

Just as I was thinking to myself that it would be nice to catch a barbel, even if only to give me that early campaign encouragement, the rod tip pulled over. Upon striking I knew that I was either into a record chub or a good barbel! As the fish broke the surface I was absolutely thrilled to see that it was the latter. Not that I would complain if it was the first of course!

And my joy was complete when I netted the fish and lifted it from the water. I can’t possibly begin to explain the feelings that fish created in me. I was really excited and although I was intending to give the Sow a proper go anyway, this was just the incentive that I needed to continue. No more fish followed (I packed away at 1.15) but I literally drove back home with my head in the clouds. Even getting into bed at 2.30 I still couldn’t sleep because of the fish.

Now when you can’t get to sleep because your mind is taken over by a fish you know that you are on the right track in my book. Getting into bed my wife woke up. ‘Did you catch anything else?’ she asked. (I had already sent her a text previously about the barbel!). She must have wished she hadn’t asked because I gave her the full run down of the capture. I was still so full of it that I carried on talking long after she had gone back to sleep! In the words of the Catherine Tate character….What am I like!

Encouraged greatly by my fish, I was back on the Sow to round the week off. Fishing the same section, I dropped into another swim, one that gave me better access to the river. It was another sweltering day and so arriving as the sun set, it was very pleasant indeed.

Settling back in my chair, I felt really contented and at one with the surroundings. Although it may be considered a well-worn cliché, the saying ‘Fishing is more than catching fish’ is still very true. With a family of tawny owls calling in the next meadow, bats feeding over the water and even a late party of lapwings flying over on their way to roost somewhere, I appreciated the wider nature package of being by the side of a river.

My bait remained untouched though – until just after midnight that is. A few taps on the rod tip and I find myself bringing a bream to the net. It proved to be the only fish of the session, the barbel had once more returned to their elusiveness. Still, it didn’t bother me, as that one fish in itself had really got me going.

It’s not going to be easy fishing the Sow in pursuit of barbel, but as long as the angler is aware of what the lie of the land is and sets his expectations at a realistic level, then he won’t be disappointed. So packing away at 1.00 I certainly wasn’t discouraged that I had just the one barbel to show for a week’s angling. Far from it, I was actually motivated to get back and continue the challenge that lies ahead over the next months.

 (Originally published July 2006)

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