The Dove plays hard to get (barbel article, entry 157)

Some rainfall – albeit minimal – had certainly added a nice tinge to the River Dove as it worked its way through the Derbyshire and Staffordshire countryside. But experience tells me not to get carried away too much when reading natural ‘signs’. As anglers we know that on the very best looking days we can struggle and yet when things look grim, we can catch. Such is the reality of fishing.

I was fishing before mid-day, the only angler on the stretch. Casting to far bank trees, I positioned the rod high in the air and sat back to await some action. Well, I didn’t have long to wait as within the hour the rod was wrenched out of the rest and carried into the middle of the river. (And I do not exaggerate one bit).

No, it wasn’t a barbel of a lifetime, but rather a low flying swan that literally appeared from nowhere around the bend going straight into the line and dragging the rod with it as it carried on upstream. Did you know that rods and reels float? Well, they do and I was very grateful for that, even if I did have to think quickly in order to retrieve the tackle.

I was thankful that it was the Dove though and not the Lower Severn, otherwise that would have been a few hundred pounds literally down the drain. Even though I often fish with the reel set to allow line in the event of a barbel take, that is all out of the window when a fully grown swan decides to get in on the action. I was a very relieved man when I finally got the rod back on to dry land.

Re-casting I once more sat back, this time waiting for a fish rather than a bird to put a bend in the rod. I had a long wait, but patience is a virtue – even if it was ‘just’ a chub that picked up my hair rigged boilie. It actually took me ten minutes to land the fish – but not for the usual reasons. The chub headed straight into a near side tree whose branches trailed well into the water. It meant I had to climb it, balanced precariously over the water, so that I could untangle the line and free the fish.

Within minutes though I was connected to a barbel, and a very good one at that. After the initial take, when the fish tried to take me into far bank bushes, I brought it out into open water. The odds were now very much in my favour. Unfortunately though, I had a hook pull. With four fish hooked on the Dove so far this season, I have just a 25% success rate, with one snapped hook length and two hook pulls.

I usually listen to music on the way home, but this time I used the journey to think through my fishing so far – lots of analysing and questioning. I was very disappointed to lose the fish, but I was objective about it all and didn’t allow my feelings to cloud the issue. By the time I pulled up outside my house an hour later I was already looking forward to my next barbel session.

So a couple or so days later I once more found myself on the banks of the River Dove. I was fishing by 11.00 am – and as I intended to stay until 1.00 am, that meant I had a good session ahead. Surely I would catch in that period of time? Well, as it happened I didn’t. There was not even a hook pull or a chub! That’s a long time to sit there staring at a rod tip, and at this point the non-angler would see this as confirmation that all fishermen are mad!

I’m often asked about tackle that I use, and as there is not much fish action to report this week I thought I’d dwell a little on that to close the article. On the Dove, with it being a small and intimate river, I use the right rod for the job. In many swims I favour my Harrison’s Interceptor which will handle any fish hooked. But in certain pegs that are particularly full of snags I have no qualms in switching to the Daiwa Powermesh, which is a 2.5-test curve rod.

As far as line is concerned, if you ask a section of anglers what they recommend, you are likely to get as many replies as people you consult. It is very much a confidence thing. And as I have used Suffix Synergy for a number of years with no problems, that’s what I stick with. Hook length I go for either Drennan Double Strength or Drennan Microbraid or Carp Dacron when opting for braid.

I mostly fish hair rigged baits and choose Drennan Boilie hooks, but if fishing the more traditional way then while still staying with Drennan I switch to Super Specialist. Above all with tackle, as I have already stated, confidence plays a major factor in determining what we fish with. It’s good to note what others choose, but ultimately we have to settle on something that we have faith in ourselves.

(Originally published 157)

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