As an angler I tend to fish for one species over a period of time, and this can be seen quite clearly as I always indicate this next to an article when it is logged. The advantage of being single-minded is that I can be focused and that certainly suits me as an individual as I am not very good at multi-tasking. However the down-side of that approach is that it lacks flexibility. And whilst I don’t intend to rotate the fish that I target on a weekly basis, nevertheless I told myself that this year I need to switch more regularly.
Certainly when I am struggling, rather than persevere to the point of being stubborn, I need to take advantage of conditions and target something else. Hence after battling with predators since the beginning of the year with just one decent fish to show for it, I decided to do my first barbel session of 2008. With the Severn now back in its banks after spilling over into the neighbouring fields, it was to the middle reaches that I headed. Usually my barbel fishing on the river is conducted well below Worcester, but occasionally I fish a stretch above Bridgnorth in Shropshire.
Considering the riverside meadows had been under a blanket of water for some time, they had recovered quite well. They were a little soft but certainly not like the swamp that I expected. Much of that recovery was no doubt due to the wind, and with my session being conducted in what the weather forecasters described as ‘gale force’, nature’s hairdryer made its mark even during the time I was there. With the wind bearing down from the north it was also quite chilly as well, and when the showers came with it, it definitely felt wintry.
I settled in a peg that I have fished before, and due to the width of the bank I was able to comfortably fish with two rods. The meadow is tree-lined and most pegs are just one-rod swims, but when you’re struggling then the confidence of having two baits in the water does you no harm at all. The set-ups were identical – 3oz leads, size 6 hooks and 10lb line to 10lb Dacron hook lengths. The only difference was the bait, with a boilie on the right rod and a halibut pellet on the left.
And it was the pellet rod that showed the first sign of action, as the onset of darkness saw the tip suddenly come to life as the rod produced a healthy bend and I was playing a barbel. However the fish hadn’t read the rules properly, as instead of making it to the net, it decided to throw the hook and spoil the party. The odd lost fish here and there isn’t usually a major problem, but when you’re the angling equivalent of Derby County then it is. Would I get another bite of the cherry? Or would that lost fish be the only action I would have for the day?
I had the answer a couple of hours later, when this time the right-hand rod lurched over. I know that it isn’t theologically correct (just in case there are any Bible scholars reading this) but instinctively I ‘prayed’ that I wouldn’t lose the fish. It’s more to do with desperation though rather than any real belief in that aspect of the power of prayer! But whatever, my ‘prayers’ were answered, when after a good fight, I drew the fish into the side and lifted the net upwards to complete the capture. I guess I did give the fish a little more play than I would normally have done, as I didn’t want to lose it. However, having said that, I shouldn’t underestimate the fight that the barbel gave, as it really was up for a scrap. As you can see from the photograph, it was a decent fish, particularly from the middle Severn.
It was a great feeling though to finally break the barren spell I am in, and I thought to myself that my Angling Journal can actually have a fish home page photograph instead of a bunch of water birds! And talking of birds, I had several sightings of goosanders while on the Severn. Many were single sightings of birds in flight, perhaps sometimes two or three birds, but the biggest single group seen consisted of thirteen, again on the wing. This stretch of the Severn is always good for goosander in the winter.
I also had an extremely brief view of a goose in flight that I thought was a pink-footed goose but due to not being able to get a proper view, I couldn’t identify it with absolute certainty. Therefore it did not make the tick stage in my bird notebook. It can be frustrating sometimes with birds, and even the most experienced of birders can get such a limited or distant view of something that even though they are sure they saw a particular bird, because there is an element of doubt, it doesn’t get recorded.
I fished on well after the birds had gone to roost, but even then I still kept my eyes –and ears – alert to any night activity, which in effect means owls. Even driving back home, although I do fully concentrate on the road ahead, I’m always alert to bird activity, particularly the ghostly white of a barn owl perched or in flight. But nothing to report, which makes a change, as lately I seem to be raving about the birds but struggling on the fish front!
(Originally published February 2008)