I’m not going home till I catch one (barbel article and video, entry 270)

With last year’s awesome floods still very much in the minds of many Midlanders, the last week has seen rainfall on a scale to rival the deluge of 2007. As far as residence goes I live in one of the safest places in the country concerning the possibility of getting flooded. There would have to be rain on a level only seen previously by Noah and those alive at that time for me to get affected. I live in the small town (some of the older people still call it ‘the village’) of Sedgley – where the limestone ridge to the west of the West Midlands winds its way southward – is built. The one downside about living in Sedgley is that there isn’t a single fishing venue within its boundary. Sometimes I do wish I could write an article that begins with the words, ‘I picked up my gear and strolled to the river bank.’

A rising river

But I can’t walk to the river and that’s that. Anyway I usually end up taking that much gear that unless I had a river at the bottom of the garden I’d probably still end up driving there anyway. And if I did have one that close, I wouldn’t be opening the article with the paragraph I did. Instead I might have been describing the misery of yet another destructive deluge.

I knew that the River Dove would be rising but still within the bank. The session I made this week was at the beginning of the heavy rain spell as opposed to several days into it. There were a number of swims that I knew would be fishable but once I arrived at the water’s edge, they were all taken. I ended up in a peg that I haven’t fished before but as it’s in an area where barbel can turn up anywhere I had no issues with swim selection. Particularly once darkness set in, and certainly on a rising river, I had every confidence that the fish would be active and so in that sense it wasn’t crucial about placing a bait in a specific spot.


A juvenile mute swan on the river

The right tackle for the job

Regardless of what species we are fishing for, our aim should be to not lose any fish because our tackle isn’t up to it. For example, whilst many anglers think along the lines of what is the lightest line that they can get away with, I actually do the opposite. I aim to go for the highest breaking strain possible, balancing the need to get bites with losing fish because I am frightened to play them properly in case the line snaps. Hence I am happy to go to 15lb on a river like the Dove when barbel fishing. The fish are big anyway, so we are not talking about a specimen being 8lb. And more importantly, when they are hooked they will immediately head for cover such as tree roots or overhanging branches.

But it’s not just about line, we have to fish balanced tackle and therefore choice of rod is important too. I wouldn’t say that test curve indication is a waste of time – far from it – but there is more to rods than just the test curve. The action is also very important. And when I am in pursuit of the big girls that reside in the River Dove I have no hesitation in fishing with my Daiwa Powermesh rods, which I use on my spring gravel pit campaigns fishing at distance for bream and tench.

The problem of weed

Lead wise I was able to fish comfortably with a 3oz flat bomb and still hold bottom. The difficulty in keeping the bait static wasn’t because of the weight of the lead but rather the weed that was coming down the river in ever increasing quantity. I would cast out and everything would be fine, but then as weed found the line in the water, the rod would slowly wrap over. Not the exciting action of a barbel taking the bait but the frustration of having to play yet another huge clump of river bed vegetation. I was fishing by mid-afternoon and unfortunately the problem got worse.


Tip of the week

Don’t think ‘What is the lightest line I can get away with?’ but instead ‘What is the heaviest I can use?’

Find the balance between bites and lost fish.

It was the same for the other anglers though and as dark descended one of them had departed. As the swim was a better floodwater peg than the one I was in, I moved along the stretch and set up where he had been. But as the situation worsened, even that became difficult and I found myself casting in every five minutes due to the weed problem. There was one spot that I wished I could be in, but that was taken and there was no way the angler would leave that until well into dark at least. But just as the first fisherman had left at dusk, this one vacated the river not much into dark.


I seized the opportunity

I didn’t need any prompting at all. I did make sure he had time to be well on his way first though as it’s embarrassing to stand over someone waiting for them to go! Although the river continued to rise, the swim I was now in was positioned in such a way that the weed went sailing past and not into my line. I cast out, put the rods in their rests and settled back. I also said to myself that I would not go home until I caught a fish!

I was so determined – and confident – that I just knew it would come good in the end. The clock passed midnight, then 1.00am, 2.00am and beyond. No fish but still I just knew that I would catch. And my faith – or madness depending on how you look at it – was rewarded, when at 4.15am I struck into a barbel that picked up the single boilie fished along the edge of what was now a river fast approaching the rim.


I can go home now!

I can go home now!

It wasn’t a big fish, well certainly not in the same league as the two recent Dove doubles I have had the pleasure of doing business with. But it was a fish and for that I was very grateful indeed. It also meant I could now go home! On the trip back I saw a little owl perched on a post alongside the road. Whenever I am driving at night, although I do focus on the road, I am also switched on to the possibility that there may be owls around. I love my birding and fortunately the sort of fishing I do means that I can very often do both at the same time. And even the journey there and back can be put to good use.



Click on the icon for this week’s video clip


The week ahead

As I write this I am unsure exactly what the next seven days has in store fishing-wise. I’ve enjoyed my visits to the Dove in recent weeks but it was always going to be a short-term thing anyway.

I need to think my plans through over the weekend, but assuming that the rivers will be back to normal by the end of the week, I may do some predator fishing. But whatever happens, I will be fishing somewhere and that’s a fact!

(Originally published September 2008)


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