Making way for the Wolves (barbel article, entry 109)

As far as rivalry for my leisure time is concerned, I have two main competitors – football and fishing. The former takes up quite a bit of my time, not only do I run and play for a couple of teams, I also organise a league. In addition, I’m also a season ticket holder at Wolverhampton Wanderers, and the new season, albeit just two games old as I type, has been good to me. But it’s also been demanding, with a Saturday game and a Tuesday one in the same week.

What that meant is that I was only able to get out for one session of fishing, and even then I could only fish up till 11.00 pm. I opted to have a go for barbel and not wanting to travel too far, I decided to have a session on the middle Severn. The stretch I headed for is one that I have been on before, having fished for pike and roach there, and whilst pursuing the latter have picked up the odd barbel.

But of course, on the middle Severn, you don’t even need to question whether barbel are resident. They are literally everywhere, and although I was fishing well upstream of ‘barbel alley’, nevertheless there would be plenty of fish to catch. Well, that was the plan anyway, but as we all know, plans don’t also go as predicted!

Stopping off on the way, I took a photograph of the river from the Bridgnorth by-pass as it crosses over the Severn just below the town. This particular stretch is where my earliest river fishing memories as a boy come from. There was a real magic about the middle Severn in those days, maybe it was just because I was young, or perhaps it was that way in reality, I don’t know.

But in those pre-commercial days, many matches were fished in the area, and in the years before I caught my first ever barbel, I used to read the angling press and get really motivated by match winning weights of seventy or more pounds of barbel. I used to dream of turning seventeen so that I could pass my test, get a car and fish where I wanted instead of being limited to the odd trip that I could tag onto someone or otherwise walk or cycle.

Memories are good; we should treasure them that’s for sure. It’s amazing how so much came flooding back just by looking over the bridge as I took a shot of the river! And never forget that today’s experiences are tomorrow’s memories! Getting back in the car I headed off towards the chosen stretch. Arriving, it looked as though a couple or so anglers had been there since the season had begun, but certainly not any more than that.

I literally had to hack my way through the undergrowth and make my way down to the river. As I was the only angler, I had the pick of the swims and decided to settle in one that had an overhanging willow tree just downstream. Casting out, the sun was high in the sky and I found myself dozing off. Even though I did fall asleep, it was more of a catnap really, and when I jolted back into reality my grip on the rod was as tight as a Scotsman and his wallet!

I also realised that I had set up on what appeared to be a rat colony. Now if there is one animal that I simply detest (apart from a cat that keeps ‘depositing itself’ all over my new gravel garden at home!) it is the rat. Anyway, as darkness started to draw in I made the decision to move up the bank and fish from the top of the field. Although I was still putting my bait in the same spot, it was a slightly more comfortable feeling, knowing that I wasn’t in the middle of ‘Rat City’. The move was certainly what was needed on the fish front, as no sooner had I settled down in my new position, the rod tip pulled round and I was into a fish.

Although there were no roots, just overhanging branches, it was to the willow tree that the fish instinctively headed. For a few seconds it was like a stalemate in a tug-of-war contest, with neither competitor wanting to give an inch. But eventually I won the fight – well at least round one. Because as the fish moved into deeper water it still put up maximum resistance, a deep and heavy plod rather than a quick burst of speed.

But finally I slipped the net under the fish, which wasn’t as big as I had imagined it to be. And it proved to be the only one of the session too, which meant that I only just had something to write about as far as fish were concerned! With August now ebbing away, I want to do some more eel fishing, plus I need to have a couple or so sessions for barbel on my tributary stream that I have been writing about recently. And hopefully I will come up trumps on both fronts, providing I don’t have to make way for the Wolves too often that is!

(Originally published August 2005)



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