I’m not going home till I catch one! (barbel article, entry 154)

It has been a while since I fished the River Teme for barbel, so as part of my pre-season preparation I intended to put that right, as I obtained a new ticket to fish what many consider to be Worcestershire’s top waterway. Like most rivers, there are stretches that get very busy, but at the same time there are miles of the Teme that hardly sees an angler. And it was to one of the latter that I headed straight after work on Monday afternoon.

In fact, so virgin was the stretch that the first thing I had to do upon reaching the meadow that the Teme ran through, was to clear three swims through the dense undergrowth that acted as a barrier between the river and myself. Not only was I the first angler there this season, I wouldn’t be surprised if I was the first in a very long time.

For a start, the walk to the river was both long and awkward; it resembled more of an assault course than anything else, with overhanging trees, long grass littered with thistles and nettles, not to mention the brambles. And that was just the beginning. Upon reaching the river, even after clearing away undergrowth to provide access to the water, not one peg could be classed as ‘comfortable’

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining – far from it. When I described it all to my wife, her words were ‘It’s right up your street then’ – and she was spot on But of course I understand that the picture I have painted is not to everyone’s liking. And whilst they are not necessarily for me, I also appreciate why many anglers go for the commercial option when they choose a venue. But that’s the beauty of fishing, it can be to each of us whatever we want it to be. Live and let live!

Once I cleared the swims, the first thing I did was to bait each one with flavoured meat. The day before I had cut a couple of tins of luncheon meat into chunks and after ensuring a freezer bag was well soaked in flavour, rubbed the meat around inside it. Then I put it into the bait freezer so that it would absorb the flavouring as it hardened, ensuring that I would have an attractive buffet in each swim, hopefully drawing in barbel.

My hook bait was a small piece of flavoured peperami, fished hair rig on a Drennan carp dacron hook length about two feet long. Both main line and hook length was 10lb, which is the minimum that I go to when pursuing barbel. I’ve heard anglers brag about how many barbel they have lost on 3lb when specifically targeting them, as if the more they lose the more there is to boast about. That’s not clever – not only is it a pointless exercise for the angler it is also (which is more important) irresponsible behaviour as far as the fish are concerned.

My intention was to flit between swims, spending no more than one hour in each, before moving on. This is one of the benefits of fishing stretches like this as you almost always have the place to yourself. It’s like having your own private piece of river, but at a fraction of the cost. So peaceful is the place where I fished that the only sounds I could hear were birds, sheep and a brook gurgling as it emptied itself into the Teme on the far bank.

As the evening wore on my rod remained motionless, and even the onset of darkness (which was very late due to it being the eve of the longest day of the year) did not bring any action. Even the river in general seemed without life, just one single fish topped during the whole session. I felt like my back was really up against the wall. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Therefore I made myself a promise that I wasn’t going home until I caught something. Yes I know, a daft thing to do, but I was absolutely determined to get my first barbel of the season. And whilst faith won’t in itself put fish on the bank, sometimes we need to dig deep and push on. But my dogged attitude was rewarded in the early hours when my rod suddenly came to life and at last I was connected to my target species.

It was a nice enough fish, particularly as I didn’t know what the stretch had to offer. But more importantly it was a fish! And for that I was very grateful indeed. I shall definitely be back on the same stretch, as it will take a few visits at least to weigh up the average size of the fish on offer. Plus I want to have a go at a couple of other rivers this season. The problem is that there simply are not enough fishing days in the week!

 (Originally published June 2006)

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