Seeing double on the lower Severn (barbel article, entry 170)

After some reasonably heavy rain I was expecting the Lower Severn to be up by at least a foot, and possibly more. However, upon arrival at the water’s edge there was no noticeable difference from my previous visit, other than a tinge of colour to the river. I don’t know if you are like me, but every time I go near any form of water, almost magnetically my eyes are drawn towards it. And as I had passed over the Severn prior to arrival at my chosen stretch, a quick glance at the river there had more or less confirmed what I discovered as I dropped my gear off in the peg.

But I wasn’t disappointed, in fact I wrote in my angling diary that accompanies me on all my trips that ‘I feel a good session in the making’. And the last time I wrote that (which was also the title of the article) was when I caught a 12lb+ barbel from the Sow in August. So with confidence oozing I began to set up ready for another two-night session. Although rain was forecast for the next day, it was actually dry as I put everything in its place, which is always a blessing.

I was fishing by 6.00 pm, which at this time of the year means that darkness is already beginning to intrude. Whilst some people get really depressed at the very mention of the word ‘winter’, as far as I’m concerned it means more opportunity to night fish! Not that I fish in the hours of darkness for the fun of it though, but rather that the odds are tilted more in my favour regarding the quarry I am pursuing.


I had to wait till almost midnight for the first fish of the session, a small barbel just below 6lb in weight. It was quiet from then until after 3.00 am when I struck into a screaming run only to have a hook pull. But within half-hour I had hooked and landed barbel number two, which was exactly the same weight as the previous fish. It did fight well though, and at times I wondered whether it would be my first double from the stretch. It just goes to show doesn’t it – if I had lost it I would have been pretty certain that it was a biggie!

No more fish meant that I was able to stay within the confines of the shelter – I currently use a Fox Evolution. With the conditions turning quite wintry I was grateful for the protection that comes with that form of shelter as opposed to a standard umbrella. Some don’t approve of what they see as carp-style tactics encroaching into the world of the barbel angler, but personally I will use whatever is appropriate for the time. And if that means a shelter, bedchair and sleeping bag (albeit used as more of a quilt wrapped around as opposed to being fully zipped in) as long as it is not resulting in lost fish then I will happily embrace whatever makes my time on the bank more comfortable.

With the following day being wet, windy and overcast, for the first time this season on the Lower Severn I felt confident about taking a daytime fish. I decided to switch to peperami on the left rod whilst continuing with boilie on the other. Well, the switch certainly proved productive as I hooked and landed my first bream from the stretch! I didn’t weigh it but it was about 5lb. I have been avoiding the species so far but I knew that sooner or later, if only because of the law of averages, I would catch one!

My next fish though was a different proposition, as I had a screaming run at 2.20 pm that saw me strike what was obviously a monster barbel. Well that was my first impression anyway, until after a few moments when I realised that I hadn’t connected with a barbel at all but a carp. With rain coming down fairly heavily I set the camera up inside the shelter whilst I posed outside with the fish – now that’s getting your priorities right if you ask me!

Barbel number three followed within the hour, this time it was a genuine contender for the title of double, although it missed out by a few ounces. It was a good fight, felt like a double and looked like a double but at 9-7-0 it wasn’t a double! However, just as darkness kicked in for the second night that was all rectified as I landed a fish that registered double figures on the digital read-out.

This was my fifth double of the season in thirty three barbel sessions – although in my defence I would point out that eighteen of those have been on the Sow where it’s easier to find a needle in a haystack than a barbel! However when you break it down, a double every 6.6 sessions doesn’t sound that bad really does it? I had set myself the target of eighteen at the start of the season so, depending on the sort or winter we have, I am still pretty much on track.

Two more bream followed, plus a couple more barbel and that was that. After 10.40 pm the action ceased totally. But that was fine, with the Lower Severn being one of the most temperamental stretches of river I’ve ever encountered, I was pretty contented with what had already been caught. Plus it meant that I was able to doze off and catch up with some lost sleep. But don’t tell the traditionalists, that’s our little secret, right?

(Originally published October 2006)

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