Rescued by a knight in shining armour (barbel article, entry 176)

If you read my Angling Journal regularly you will know that I have been struggling over the last couple of weeks. In fact, a clue as to how I have done over the previous week can be found on the home page. If it’s a river scene, as opposed to a fish, then it usually means action has been limited! However, this week instead of the previous Mease and Ithon shots, it was a barbel that I prepared for publication.

After a fortnight’s worth of sessions spent pursuing chub, I decided to switch back to barbel due to a slight change in the weather. Strong SW winds, although only depositing a minimal amount of rain, at least meant that we entered a mild spell. And although I use the word minimal, upon arrival the river was actually a foot up on normal level and rising slightly.

The only angler on the stretch, it was dark by the time I eventually cast out and settled back and put the kettle on. Although I am more than happy to take a flask for shorter sessions and even overnighters, as far as longer stays are concerned, I appreciate the facility to make a ‘proper’ cup of tea. I’m not fussy regarding angling comforts, in fact I would describe myself as easily pleased – but I do like a cup of freshly brewed tea while out at the water’s edge.

The rising river meant that initially I was plagued by debris attaching itself to the line. This meant that for the first three hours I had to recast every 30-45 minutes. But as the water peaked, and even began to ebb slightly, that problem sorted itself out. I was fishing 3.5oz flat leads and these were sufficient to place the bait out in the main channel of the river. As is per usual on the Lower Severn, I fished with two rods, both loaded with 10lb line to hook-lengths of the same breaking strain but Drennan carp dacron. And to complete the set-up I used Drennan size 4 boilie hooks.

The bait was my usual home-made boilie. I have nothing against buying baits, but there is a great deal of satisfaction when you catch something on one of your own concoctions. And as even my base mix is a personal recipe made up of ingredients that I have specifically chosen, then whenever my rod tip pulls round it’s always with a sense of personal pleasure that I strike into a fish.

Of course it does take confidence to fish with your own baits, but there’s nothing like a few barbel to dispel any doubts. I’m at the stage, and have been for a few years, where I will take a batch of my own boilies and nothing else. Although we should never become complacent, nevertheless it is good to have faith in what you are doing and knowing that you can stick with it through the hard times because it will come good in the end. (Not that I’m advocating we should never fish with alternatives)

The first barbel of the session came just before 9pm. I didn’t know what the temperature was but it wasn’t brilliant. You know your thermometer isn’t working right when the reading shows 100C, hence I was forced to try the old-fashioned method of a hand in the water! It felt cold, but not icy, so I would hazard a guess at 6-7C, which is still fine for barbel, although a few degrees on top of that, particularly if the trend is upwards, is preferable.

The fish was 6-10-0 and proved to be the only one of the first night. I had to wait over twelve hours to get the second barbel, which was a couple of pounds heavier. This is the great thing about the winter – you can catch barbel during the day on the Lower Severn, as opposed to the summer when you are restricted very much to the hours of darkness. And as if to enforce that point, the afternoon was particularly busy with three fish being caught within a four-hour period.

Two of the fish were 6lb’ers but the middle one took the digital read-out to exactly 10lb. I’ve already had one double and one 9.15 fish from the stretch so far this season, so I was happy to have my second Lower Severn double as opposed to my second near miss! The sixth and final fish of the session came early during the second night and was the smallest of them all – about 3.5lb.

The strange thing is that even though both rods were fished in the same channel in the river, each fish was taken on the right rod, whilst I didn’t even get a tap on the left one. If I had been using different baits or tackle then it would have been obvious that this was the difference, so it just shows doesn’t it!

Six fish in a late November session, including one double, was something I certainly would have settled for prior to casting out. So it was with a definite sense of self-satisfaction that I headed back to the car. But that was soon to disappear as leaving the car park I found myself stranded in the mud of the field. Although it had rained during my time there, that wasn’t so much the problem. A herd of cows had gathered together by the entrance gate and had churned the field into a mud bath.

Well, after pursuing several options, the bottom line is that I was rescued by a knight in shining armour. Or to be more practical, Steve Williams in his 4×4. Thanks Steve, you are a real star. It also meant I was able to get back home in time to get to Molineux to see the game v Sunderland played out before a full house. But that was just a draw, so nothing to shout about there.

(Originally published November 2006)

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