Perfect conditions…but no-one told the fish (barbel article, entry 177)

Plenty of rain brought in by strong SW winds, the water temperature up to 9C, river at the top of the bank and starting to fall – the conditions were perfect. Therefore as I started to set up at the water’s edge, I was full of confidence as I embarked on an overnighter on the Lower Severn. I’ve certainly caught barbel in far worse conditions, and so with everything looking good I was sure that I could catch a decent fish or two.

The river was the highest I’ve seen it this season, it certainly looked very inviting. However, in spit of a session that stretched to twenty hours I didn’t have so much as a run – apart from when the debris built up so much that it pulled line from the reel. I suppose that’s the total unpredictability of fishing. Everything looks perfect and yet you can’t even manage an enquiry.

The stretch I was on is a new venue that I am fishing this season. I had already noted that it had excellent flood potential as soon as I set eyes on it way back in June. And talking of which, it may only be a few months back, but the extended summer heatwave seems like nothing more than a distant memory. The angle of the bank plus the limited tree cover combined with good fishing access off the flood bank meant that I was relishing the onset of the late season floods.

When barbel anglers talk about winter flood fishing they often use the words ‘large smelly baits’ to describe what is cast out to attract the fish. However, whilst I can fully appreciate the logic behind the argument, I don’t subscribe to it fully. First of all I think that the barbel will be active enough as the floodwater brings them onto the feed, without the incentive of something large and smelly to aid and abet!

But I also prefer smaller baits, as the fish are likely to have been digesting more than normal in the conditions. I don’t think we can always analogise but consider when we are absolutely stuffed after a good meal. We wouldn’t even look twice at another big plate of food but perhaps a small delicacy could possible tempt us.

Hence I fish with my usual sized boilies even when the river is high after heavy rains. Of course, on this occasion it didn’t work, but that doesn’t mean to say that the alternative would either. In fact a number of other anglers also visited the stretch whilst I was there and only a couple of small barbel were caught. There is a small group of us fishing the venue and information sharing enables you to compare your own catches to that of others.

That has been particularly helpful from a personal point of view. I’ve had two doubles from there this season, and compared to other places I have fished on the Lower Severn in recent years that would be well below average. However, out of 17 anglers it’s the fourth best doubles result! (I am writing from memory but I think that’s correct).

So instead of being frustrated at the lack of action you can actually feel encouraged – all because you have something to compare with. And that’s why I wasn’t too discouraged at the blank suffered this week, as I certainly wasn’t alone. I’m not suggesting that we should open up to all and sundry, because that can be very often counter-productive. But when you’re part of a small syndicate as I am on the Lower Severn, with a private internet forum on which to post, the sharing of information can be beneficial to all.

I’ve certainly been open about my catches – after all the other members know where I am fishing anyway, so when I write about my trips to the Severn ‘below Worcester’ they know exactly where I have been. So there are no secrets at all on that front. But I may not be so forthcoming on a general internet site (such as my Angling Journal!), but the way I’m going anyway I don’t think I’m going to have cars following me down the M5. But then again, you never know…

(Originally published December 2006)

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