One of the great advantages of fishing alone is that you can please yourself where you go – you don’t have the needs of others to consider when planning angling trips. Hence, as my next session approached, I fancied a trip to the lower Severn. Without having to discuss anything with anyone else, it was a case of nothing more than choosing the right gear, loading the car, and heading off southbound down the M5!
I arrived with about three hours still to go before dusk set in, so I had plenty of time to get everything ready for the session, which I had planned to be an overnighter. The first job though was to set up the bait dropper rod and deposit some particles in the areas of the swim I intended to fish. I put most of the bait downstream, a couple of rod lengths out, and a further bed of particles out towards the middle of the river.
The Severn itself was slightly above normal level, with a definite colour to it. It was not running at any great pace though, and it was still possible to fish off the baitrunner if required, and still present a stationary bait. Even though the river was gentle enough, the bank-side trees bore signs of the constant floods that the Severn endures during the year. There is a permanent array of sticks, weed and other such items attached to the vegetation showing how much the river rises when it’s in full flood.
I was fishing by 5.00 p.m. with both rods presenting a hair-rigged boilie. As the boat traffic began to decrease and the sun started to set, I felt the excitement that always accompanies the approach of the barbel feeding spell. I didn’t have long to wait; just as the local Church started to deliver the eight bells of the hour, my left-hand rod lurched over and I was into a good fish. After a spirited scrap, I netted and weighed my first Severn barbel of the season (my one and only previous visit yielded a solitary chub) which registered 10-5-8. A nice way to get off the mark!
As darkness itself descended, I saw a Tawny Owl fly past, which took my bird species tick list to the year (while fishing) to 84. All year I have been hearing Tawny Owls all around me on numerous occasions, but this was the first sighting, albeit just a glimpse. However, by 9.45 p.m. my mind was back on fishy matters, as once more my left rod connected with a barbel. Looking at it in the net, I knew that this was going to be a shade either side of the magical 10lb mark. Fortunately for me, it was the right side at 10-3-8!
Two consecutive doubles meant that things really couldn’t get any better. Or could they? Well, forty-five minutes later, as I struck into another fish, it felt like a good one. ‘Surely not’ I thought to myself ‘three doubles on the trot?’ However, as soon as I saw the fish I knew it wasn’t to be. Still, at 8-11-8 it was a nice barbel.
The right rod had remained very quiet up to this point, and indeed continued to do so, when at 11.15 p.m. it was the left one that once more bent over double, as yet another barbel picked up the bait. ‘Now this is a good one’ – I knew without any shadow of doubt that I had connected with the third double of the session. Just how big was confirmed when I lifted the fish in the weigh sling to reveal a digital read-out of 12-3-8.
When I came to photograph the fish, because I am still not 100% confident concerning my new camera, out came the old one for a couple of photographs. As you can see from the accompanying images, the new camera (first two barbel) brings out some nice colour but the overall shot is not as sharp as the old camera (last two photographs). I’m still undecided which one to use. Maybe I’ll continue to take both with me until I am completely settled in my own mind.
Well, I was certainly a very happy man as far as the fishing was concerned, that’s for sure. Three doubles in a period of little over three hours. Although I didn’t add any more doubles, I had a couple more barbel (8-4-0 and 6-9-8) plus a brace of bream (5-10-0 and 5-9-0). Even though it’s still only September, for a moment the bream, when I landed them, had me wishing my life away as I do intend to have another Spring campaign for the species in 2005.
However, in the meantime there are other fish to target. And with nine doubles already this season under my belt, I’m certainly on a roll as far as barbel are concerned. Will that roll continue or has it peaked? Stick with me until March 15 next year, as the journey unfolds!
(Originally published September 2004)