It’s all about perseverance and not giving up (barbel article, entry 171)

Although as an angler I tend to be very focused, and that invariably means not only a specific species but also a specific venue, at the start of the week I visited somewhere other than my current object of affection, which is the Lower Severn. It was northwards that I headed, to have an evening on the River Sow in Staffordshire. The river was up a little but wasn’t racing through, which on a small waterway like the Sow can make things very difficult.

I was fishing before 5pm, which meant that I had a couple of hours or so before it got dark. I baited up with a few handfuls of seeds, using brown crumb as a carrier. In addition I threw a few boilies in, to match the hook bait. And once you’ve done that, all you can then do is cast out and await some action. I did have a good bite, which I suspected chub just as it was getting dark, but there was nothing on the strike.

The only fish of the session came just before 9 pm, and I thought it was a barbel as I struck into it. However, after the initial power surge, I was brought back to earth as I realised it was just a chub. I use the word ‘just’ though not in a derogatory way as I don’t like the term ‘nuisance fish’ and never use it myself. Whilst I do prefer to catch the species of choice, whatever takes the bait still deserves to be treated with respect.

I rounded the week off with another trip down the M5 to the Lower Severn for a two-night session. Arriving at the car park I was the only angler there, which meant I had the choice of swims. However, I settled in a new peg rather than one that I have fished before. On this particular stretch I have fished every swim due to the fact I have walked the banks with a dead-bait rod, but as far as pitching up for barbel is concerned, this was the fourth one that I had occupied. And I had caught barbel from the previous three so I was hoping that this one would continue the run!

The river itself was normal level with a tinge of colour to it. I had arrived later than expected due to a couple of meetings that went on longer than I had wanted them to, but it was still only 4pm as I finally cast out, put the rods in the rests and made a cup of tea. My tackle is pretty consistent on the Lower Severn – 10lb main line with 10lb Drennan carp dacron for the hook length.

Hooks themselves are size 4 Drennan boilie hooks and the bait (boilie) is fished on a hair. I will use whatever lead is necessary to hold bottom – this may vary from half an ounce to a house brick! Well, I joke about the latter, but you get my point. When the river is in flood you know about it. On this occasion leads of 2 and 2 ½ ounces were sufficient.

With the Lower Severn being very temperamental, it’s always nice to get the first fish in the net and I didn’t have long once darkness had set in to do that. I recognised the fish, due to a growth on its tail, as one that I had caught last week. Previously it was a double but I’m afraid he had been a naughty boy since then and hadn’t been eating his meals properly as the scales showed 9lb 15oz! There’s no harm in hoping, so I must confess that I did weigh it a few times – just in case.

But the digital scales never lie and so it was a ‘near miss’ that I eventually returned to the river rather than a double. However I don’t want to sound as if I was disappointed with the fish as I definitely wasn’t. Just that it really did look like a good double, as the photograph itself confirms. The moment you find yourself fishing purely and simply to reach weight targets, then it’s time to re-evaluate pretty quickly. I like to set myself objectives as I find it keeps me focused, but those objectives themselves must never get in the way of what angling is all about – pleasure.

The rest of the night was quiet and it was a couple of hours before dawn when I had barbel number 2, which I didn’t weigh as it was a 5-6lb fish. A heavy fog had descended all around by then, and the air definitely had a late autumnal feel to it. As for me, I was still in my shorts and tee-shirt! So if you saw the fish photograph and thought to yourself that you had caught me out, then I can assure you that it was taken when I said it was, and yes, that is me fishing late October in that mode of dress!

The next day was very quiet, although there was no reason why the barbel shouldn’t have been feeding. But all I had to show for the time spent there was a bream and another one that came off on the retrieve. The second night was hard going all round. A further six anglers had arrived and from the feedback I picked up on, quite a few of them failed to even catch a fish. Therefore my single barbel of 8lb 11oz wasn’t that bad really.

I was away very early on the Saturday as the football team I run had a morning kick-off in Birmingham. After a disastrous start to the league campaign with six straight defeats and thirty-one goals conceded we finally got off the mark with a 5-4 victory! It’s all about perseverance and not giving up – which sums up a Lower Severn barbel campaign perfectly!

(Originally published October 2006)

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