If you read my Angling Journal regularly you will know that I am pretty focused at the moment in pursuit of barbel. And also, particularly in the last few weeks, I have been concentrating on the River Sow. You’ll also be aware of the challenge that has confronted me as well, although it has been one that I have relished and with a couple of doubles, it has also been a case of mission accomplished from time to time. But in the main it hasn’t been easy fishing at all.
Yet it has been that challenge that has really gripped me. It would be the easiest thing in the world to head to the Middle Severn and get amongst the shoal fish and catch a few of those. But somehow it is the River Sow that has a magnetic hold on me at present.
So, for the first session of the week, that’s where I headed. I dropped into a new swim on the stretch I have been fishing. Just downstream from a dense reed bed, it looked very inviting. And as darkness began to draw in there was a reasonable amount of activity too. But sadly for me, the only time I had any action was just before midnight when a suspected chub picked up the boilie but failed to make contact with the hook.
Driving home I realised this was my fifth barbel blank on the trot from the Sow. Therefore it may come as a surprise if I say that my next trip was to a brand new stretch. When you’re on a lean streak it’s hardly the time to go exploring new waters. But there’s nothing wrong with my confidence levels and so I didn’t even give it a second thought.
Walking up and down the stretch I chose a nice looking peg that offered a clear patch between streamer weed. The downside was that I could only fish till an hour before dark, as I had to be home for another commitment. I wasn’t necessarily expecting to get amongst any barbel though as it was a warm and sunny day but it was good to check out the venue anyway.
Although I didn’t catch anything (barbel blank number 6!) I did see a pair of ravens overhead and a peregrine falcon that put in a couple of appearances. Fortunately I had my binoculars with me and so the birding compensated for the slow fishing front. Like a lot of anglers I get to appreciate the full nature package that comes with being out in the countryside.
To round off the week, I headed back to the Sow. A sucker for punishment or a man committed to the challenge? I will let you decide on that one! But with a deluge of rain having fallen the day before, and with the river up about two feet, I really did fancy my chances. So much so, that when I arrived at the water’s edge and entered my thoughts into the notebook that I take everywhere, I wrote ‘I feel a good session in the making’. Little did I realise how prophetic those words would become!
I had started early, hoping to take advantage of the coloured river, and so was fishing at 11.30 am. However, as the day wore on, my earlier optimism had yet to bear fruit. But I wasn’t discouraged, I knew that as darkness drew in then I would get my fish, and avoid the seventh blank on the trot!
And good things come to those that wait. A full ten hours after casting out for the first time, I had a few taps on the rod tip and striking at the first proper movement, I found myself doing business with a fish. Initially, as it went straight into reeds, it was difficult to say how big it was or if it was a barbel even. But once out into open water there was no mistaking what was on the end of my line. And after a short but spirited fight I found myself netting my target species.
Although I knew it was a good fish, it was only when I lifted it from the water that I realised exactly what a beauty it really was. Without doubt it was going to smash my previous Sow record by a large margin. Therefore it was no surprise to discover that the scales registered a whopping 12lb 4oz. To say I was over the moon would not do justice to how I felt at that moment!
It wasn’t just the actual weight (which is pretty good) but rather the river that it came from. The barbel in the Sow are hardly common (my fish to session ratio bears that out), and a double is an excellent fish. But to catch one at this weight, was absolutely amazing. I’ve had bigger fish from the Dove and the Severn, but this must surely rank as the best one I’ve ever caught. I drove home that night with my head in the clouds!
(Originally published August 2006)