Heatwave! (barbel article, entry 156)

After a couple of weeks of fishing the Teme, it was time to head north and in particular to the River Dove. I’ve been fishing this tributary of the Trent for a few years now and whilst the fish haven’t been caught in huge quantities, the quality has certainly been there. And that’s what I want, so I’m certainly not complaining. I would sooner catch fewer fish but bigger, rather than ‘bag up’ every time I venture out. Of course, that’s the real beauty of angling – it can be to each one of us whatever we want it to be.

Arriving at the river, there was just one other angler in the meadow I had elected to fish, so I had no problems finding a swim. Very often there is no one else at all, which is one of the benefits of being primarily a midweek fisherman. The river itself had a nice colour to it, courtesy of a limited amount of rain over the previous day or two. In fact it looked great. Although as anglers, of course, we know that means nothing.

I was fishing just after midday and with the sun not being too bright in the sky was quite hopeful. Although as the day wore on and my rod tips remained motionless, I was then hoping that the onset of darkness would bring some action. Intending to pack away about midnight, I soon found myself thinking along the lines of ‘I’m not going home till I catch one’ – a policy that has recently brought me success on the Teme.

So a text to my wife telling her not to wait up for me but that I would see her in the morning saw me bedding down for an overnight stay – although the term ‘bedding down’ is not to be interpreted in a literal way. I hadn’t really come prepared for a through-the-night session, but I was just so focused on catching a fish that it didn’t really matter. And just after midnight my persistent attitude seemed to have paid off when I lifted into a fish. However it was ‘just’ a chub, and at 4lb+ decent enough, but not really what I was after. But at least I wasn’t a blanker!

Then at 01.40 I had a screamer, that as soon as I struck into it, I knew that I had connected with a barbel. But within seconds, and for no apparent reason, I found myself reeling in fish-less as the hook length had snapped just above the hook. The next fish was another chub, this time smaller at 3lb+. But still the barbel eluded me.

At this time of the year the nights are quite short and by 03.00 it was light enough to see without the head torch. The dawn chorus started at exactly 03.37 when a single blackbird led the way, soon to be followed by a whole number of different birds as the hedgerows and trees around me suddenly came to life. But my rods remained silent. Until 05.00 that was, when again I had a barbel pick up the bait.

This time it wasn’t a break that lost me the fish but a hook pull. Either way, the end result was the same. And that was it, as within the half-hour I had to pack away to get back home and start work. Was I disappointed? Yes, I suppose I was- but rather than dwell on the negative it merely prompted me to plan the next visit to the Dove to put things right. And I got my chance a few days later when once more I set off to fish the river.

The weather had really changed and temperatures were nudging the 30 mark. Being used to the English weather, the word ‘heatwave’ usually prompts me to think of the Tamla Motown classic rather than any thoughts of the elements. But heatwave it was! And although there was a nice breeze at times, it was hard going. Even the umbrella didn’t really do any more than hinder the sun’s rays.

I was fishing before mid-day and casting out both rods I settled back to wait for a fish. If you want lots of bites then the Dove (in my experience) isn’t the river to provide that. But when you do get one, there’s always a reasonable chance it will be a double. As the day wore on though, and with no signs of fish moving at all, it looked like I was going to have to dig deep.

It was actually 11 hours (10.30 pm) after I had commenced fishing that I hooked into the one and only barbel of the session. Striking into it, I knew it was a good one, but with thoughts of my previous two lost fish on my mind, I was hoping this would be a case of ‘third time lucky’. I had switched to a braid hook length as well, having ditched the mono from the first session, and that gave me confidence. But it was still nice to actually slip the fish into the net and complete the capture.

It looked a good double and so I knew that I was off the mark for the season even before I weighed it. After hardly fishing for the species last year it was nice to pose once more before the camera while cradling a big barbel. It’s a good feeling! Returning the fish, I gave it plenty of time to recover – that’s really important with barbel. Release them too soon and they will ‘belly-up’ and end up floating downstream and dying. Now that’s not a pleasant thought is it!

As with my first session, I had decided to fish through the night and it was amazing how the temperature dropped once the sun had set. In fact by the early hours the word ‘chilly’ would not have been out of place. Even by the time I caught my fish, as you can see from the photograph, I had slipped into my fleece suit. That’s one of the things that often catches the night fishing novice out. Just because it’s a scorcher during the day, don’t be deceived into thinking the hours of darkness will be the same, as very often they are not.

I fished right through till 08.30 in the morning but no more fish followed. It’s been a slow start to the season, but like many other anglers I relish a challenge. We all appreciate those days when the fish are literally queuing up to get caught, but let’s be honest – those days are few and far between, The rest of the time we have to work hard, get our thinking caps on and persevere!

(Originally published 156)

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