Telling it as it is (barbel article, entry 162)

If there is one ingredient I like in my fishing then it has to be a challenge. And one thing is for sure – I am not disappointed as far as my barbel campaign on the River Sow is concerned. Prior to this week’s article my catch rate was three fish in seven visits, which I actually considered an excellent return, particularly as two of the barbel were doubles. But as you will read, this week it was back to reality!

The first trip did produce a single fish – a bream. Some anglers reckon that river bream fight harder than their still water colleagues do. However, whilst I am happy to concede that environment may produce a slightly more feisty fish, ultimately a bream is a bream. We are not talking about different sub-species. In my mind it is just that river fish are being played in a current as opposed to the neutrality of a pool.

With a drop in temperature, the next couple of sessions saw the Sundridge all-in-one suit put in an appearance. That I can be fishing in shorts one week and the next I am in full winter gear is surely testimony to the English weather! I’m sure some suspicious minded people must look at photographs of anglers holding fish and say to themselves ‘Ah, I’ve caught him out. No one wears thermal suits in the middle of August’. Well, let me assure you that they do!

The sessions themselves both drew blanks, not even a non-barbel put in an appearance. Certainly the Sow is a noted chub river, but even they are proving to be fairly elusive this season. Not that I am complaining, as I do like to be focused when fishing. Although many anglers go out to catch whatever comes along, I much prefer to be targeting one species and that species alone. I find that approach serves me best.

My sessions on the Sow are about four hours in length, which means that I am usually fishing until 1.00 am. But now that the days are getting shorter I will be able to add to the length of time that I actually spend fishing. As far as barbel are concerned I find that it is definitely an ‘hours of darkness’ river.

Being able to squeeze a final visit in before the end of the week, I was back on the river for my eleventh Sow session of the season to date. With some reasonable rain falling earlier in the day, not only was the river carrying an extra couple of inches, but it was also rising as well. It’s been ages since I fished a river in that condition – courtesy of the prolonged dry period we have had.

But it didn’t make much difference, as I still blanked! As far as my Angling Journal is concerned though, I don’t feel the need to ‘perform’ each week and always have something ‘exciting’ to report in terms of big fish captures. Actually I tell it as it is, and the reality of specimen angling is that there are a lot of blanks along the way, or at least sessions where you failed to catch what you set out to.

I am going to conclude this week’s Journal with a story that you will find amusing and also encouraging. I have a friend who is a professional footballer (I won’t name him as his street credibility would be axed overnight!) and together with his wife he has always considered me a bit of an anorak – especially his wife!

A couple of weeks ago though, I had a telephone call from his better half. ‘You’ll never guess where I’ve been?’ she asked me. Well, the first things that came into my head were Selfridges, Harrods, Merry Hill shopping complex, that sort of thing. But as they were obvious, I knew she wouldn’t be calling me to tell me that. So I went for the most unlikely thing I could think of. ‘Fishing’ I replied. And I had hit the nail on the head!

Together with her husband she had gone with some young lads they know on the local canal and had caught a roach. She was so excited. In fact I could tell from her voice that she was well and truly hooked. And so it has been, as both of them have been out a few times since – and a few more fish have been added to the list. But the husband has yet to catch. Oh, I am tempted to name and shame him but I will resist!

You can tell someone has got the bug when they call you up to tell you that they have bought a new rod! When I get a call at home now, my wife says ‘It’s your fishing friend on the phone’. And just this week I went with them to a fishing tackle shop as they stocked up on items. I still can’t believe that they are going angling though, they are the most unlikely couple I could think of. Still, I’m not complaining and am going to do everything I can to encourage them.

(Originally published August 2006)

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