Plodding away on the Sow (barbel article and video, entry 316)


Plodding away on the Sow

As an angler I keep a diary that I write at the water’s edge, covering tackle used, conditions, bait, times that fish were caught – in fact just about anything that may be of future interest. One thing about memory is that over the years it can quite easily get distorted, but that which we write at the moment will always be there to look back on, fixed and not affected by the passing of time. Information from the past can definitely give us the edge in the present, when we intelligently collate the facts and work through them to our advantage. And this week, looking back to my last serious campaign on the River Sow I was surprised at what I read.

In 2006 I did eighteen summer sessions on the river and only on four of them did I catch a barbel (but one was the current 12lb 4oz river record), so the flip side of that coin is that I recorded fourteen blanks. And that was on a stretch that I knew held barbel. So my current run of blanks on a section that I have no prior knowledge of at all doesn’t seem half as bad when I look at it from the perspective of the big picture. And to highlight the attitude that I have taken as far as this season’s campaign is concerned, I’ve called the article ‘Plodding away on the Sow’, because that’s exactly what it is.


Mute swans with two cygnets

I was looking forward to my first session on the river this week, for the simple reason that heavy rain was obviously going to make a difference. And it certainly did that, as the Sow was carrying a good two feet of extra water, and was nicely coloured. And it was the latter that saw me at the water’s edge much earlier than usual. Instead of being in place a couple of hours before dark, I was fishing by 3.30pm in the afternoon. The only disappointment I felt was that I hadn’t come prepared to fish right through the night. I anticipated that lots of debris would be wrapped around the line and I would be continually casting, instead of my preferred Sow approach which as it is a small river, to cast out and leave the rod until I get a fish. I had even brought just the one rod as well, thinking that two would be impossible.

As it was I could not only have fished a couple of rods but also stayed through the night instead of the 11.00pm that I had decided on beforehand. We live and learn I told myself as I drove away from the river that night. The session itself, although looking very promising, proved to be my first Sow blank of the season. In all fairness though I have never caught a daytime barbel from the river and with boilies, even the chub are nocturnal or thereabouts. But I wanted to test the stretch in the day and you never know what will happen until you fish. And even if other anglers told me that you will never catch in the day, I still want to find out for myself.


No barbel but some great chub!


Very often ‘facts’ get repeated by people who are simply passing on what they have been told and because no-one then fishes during the day (for example) it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I remember once being told that a certain lake never produced pike on deadbaits after Christmas and it was a waste of time to even try. But I went ahead anyway and had a fantastic January and February catching fish well above average for that particular venue. The lesson to be learned is don’t be automatically suspicious of information that is given, but ultimately think it through for yourself and don’t be shackled by popular opinion as it isn’t always what it is claimed.

Session two on the Sow this week was very different. Whilst the first was wet, the return visit was on a very pleasant dry day. I fished the same peg and was thrilled to see a barn owl fly in front of me just before 10.00pm. With two peregrine falcons, two common sandpipers and three ravens on the previous session, at least the bird life was exciting, even if the fishing was slow. And I also managed a photograph of a small tortoiseshell and a meadow brown (butterflies) in the same shot. No butterflies were in flight first time round due to the very heavy rain so apart from the birds I was mooching around in the hedgerow for flowers, and a cleavers features in the accompanying video as I found a plant hidden in amongst the now dense beds of common nettles.

The best chub of the week

Session two was also different though in that I caught a fish. Not a barbel but another good chub, caught at 10.10pm. I also lost a fish after 2.00am, which I would say was another chub. There was an increase of debris coming down the river and with quite a chunk around the lead, something must have caught the line as I had a break just past the swivel. But I was happy to get the earlier fish and avoid a blank. And with a final trip planned for the week, I set off on the Friday afternoon to do an overnighter on the river. Well it’s up to the individual what they do with their Friday nights, but for me there is nothing better than spending it at the water’s edge!

I caught a couple of chub, one of them another good fish and the second one the smallest yet of the season, definitely not going anywhere near 3lb. Although the rain had knocked off by the evening it was a damp and chilly night and the way the mist descended at dusk it was very autumnal looking – and nothing like the height of summer! Still no barbel, but then again I am still hopeful and one fish from this section will equal a thousand from the middle Severn, when I finally catch one! And although no barbel again, the birding was good. This time a female mandarin duck passed right in front of me on the river, only taking off from the rising water once it had spotted me.


(click icon above for this week’s video)


(Originally published August 2009)

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