My first ’14’ from the Lower Severn (barbel article, entry 178)

Just last week I made the decision to retire from Saturday 11-a-side football. One of the beneficiaries of that choice will be my angling, as I now have the opportunity to sometimes fit in an extra session. And with the Severn being in tip-top condition, it didn’t take long to get me out on the banks of the river below Worcester for a weekend trip. It appeared that others also had the same thing in mind, as although there was just one other angler when I arrived, by the late afternoon five of us were perched above the water’s edge.

Although both the level and the water temperature were spot-on, I didn’t even get a tap on the rod tip. But then again I was in good company, as the river had as much life as a cemetery on a bad day, and the others blanked too. It was totally dead. The Lower Severn is a tough river at the best of times but when it’s playing hard to get then it really does so in style. That’s why you definitely need a big dose of patience when fishing a campaign as it’s not an attractive proposition for the instant angler.

But there is something about the river that has me hooked (no pun intended) and so even as I drove home that night I was planning my next visit. And with strong SW winds continuing to hit the country, and therefore prolonging the current mild spell, I was grateful of a slot in my diary on Tuesday afternoon that gave me another shot at ending the present run of barbel blanks. So it was, following a morning meeting, I once more set off on the well-worn path of the southbound M5.

The river itself was well up and although the temperature had fallen slightly, it was only by 0.3 of a degree so I wasn’t bothered in the slightest. The only concern I had was whether I would get the car back up the track after the heavy rainfall. However, some work has been done since I last got stuck in the mud and so even that wasn’t exactly an issue.

Having the choice of the stretch, I decided to set up in one swim and then to fish another couple later on. With the winds being very strong, I made sure that my umbrella was well anchored via guy ropes and pegs. With heavy showers it was important to have a shelter, if not for me, then for my tackle to at least keep everything dry. I have fixed a number of ropes to my umbrella so that when fishing in windy conditions I can sit back without worrying that everything will take off as per Mary Poppins. As with many things though, I did learn the hard way, as I once had an umbrella turn inside out and snap during a storm.

After two blanks on the river it was a relief to see the rod tap suddenly come alive after no more than ten minutes of casting out. As the title of the article suggests, the result was my first Lower Severn ‘14’. However, I must now confess to a little mischief making, as it wasn’t a 14lb’er but a 14-inch fish that I slipped the net under! But I am being honest, as I have never caught a barbel that small before. I would consider a fish of 3-4lb a small one, so it was definitely a baby.

Anyway, it certainly proved to be a very welcome fish indeed, as nothing else followed. The river itself looked great, but the fish were not obliging. Of all the rivers that I know the Lower Severn stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of playing hard to get. And without trying to make excuses, this particular stretch is proving to be harder than any of the others I have fished in recent years. But isn’t that the challenge! And when I really do catch a proper ‘14’ then all of these struggling sessions will seem like distant memories!

(Originally published December 2006)

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