The mild spell comes to an end (barbel article, entry 173)

With a week passing since my last fishing trip, I was more than looking forward to getting out on the river again. My ‘break’ had come because of a half-term family holiday, and due to it being just a few days mid-week I didn’t take any rods. Plus work commitments didn’t allow me to fit in even a short session, so a week off it was. However, it’s not like I’m obsessed or anything like that, I wasn’t exactly doing cold turkey. Well, not much anyway…

With the clocks going back it means that we are now into darkness by 5.00 pm, so with a late afternoon / early evening free, I set off for the River Sow in Staffordshire to do business (hopefully) with the elusive barbel that inhabit the river. Well, elusive they remained, although I did catch a nice 4lb+ chub that initially made me think it was a barbel due to the aggression of the bite. This session was my 20th of the season on the Sow, and with four barbel to show I think you will understand why I used the word ‘elusive’. However, with three of the fish being doubles I’m not complaining.

Just an hour into dark a barn owl flew along the far bank right in front of me and then crossed the river a few metres upstream. Then within the minute an otter passed through the swim swimming mid-river on the surface, then becoming aware of my presence before diving and reappearing further down. Like many anglers I fully appreciate the wider package that being at the water’s edge presents. So although I didn’t catch a barbel, I was still happy knowing that if I hadn’t have been sitting in that spot at that time I wouldn’t have spotted the creatures.

To round the week off I decided to pay a visit to the Worcestershire Teme. Although it hadn’t been raining for a few days, the river itself was still carrying water from the deluge of a week before – but nothing that a three-ounce lead couldn’t cope with. Opting to fish with my favourite barbel bait – the boilie – I set up in a swim that gave me decent access to the river. With the banks still quite slippery, this is an important factor when choosing a swim, and particularly so if you intend to fish into dark.

Walking to the swim I saw a female goosander. They are quite regular sightings on the Teme, and always a pleasure to see. In addition I saw a group of five red-legged partridges, which was great, as partridges are my current favourite birds. I would have been over the moon if they were grey partridges, but I was more than happy to settle for their more numerous cousins.

Even in mid-afternoon as I set up to fish, the weather had a definite chilly edge to it. In fact the forecast was that the mild spell (which goes back to early summer) was about to come to an abrupt end. And that was why I was determined to get at least one more barbel session in before the cold weather enveloped us like a blanket. Already considering what I would fish for during the colder times, with my thoughts edging towards chub, my rod tip sprung into action and I found myself playing the second one of the week.

A sign of things to come perhaps, but it was barbel that I had set out to catch. And whilst I appreciated the chub I really wanted a nice barbel to write about. As the evening wore on, the weather forecasters’ predictions about the cold were spot-on. In fact the first frosts of the autumn were imminent as the temperature plunged. But my wishes for a barbel were granted as the rod wrapped round in such a way that can only mean one thing. Anyone that has ever caught the species will relate to me when I talk of the great excitement associated with looking at a rod tip that is motionless one second and the next is bent double as the fish tears off downstream.

Lifting into the fish I could feel it was a good one, actually the word ‘double’ more than crossed my mind. And nothing about the fight made me think otherwise either. However, it was another fish that fell short, which just goes to show doesn’t it. How many times does ‘the one that got away’ leave us with a sense of frustration that we have lost a real biggie when in fact it may not have been what we thought it was.

By the time I got back to the car it was a very cold evening. Driving home, as soon as I noticed the temperature gauge rising then on went the blower on the heater. Although I really don’t like packing away – I find that the only part of angling that I dislike – there is definitely something very appealing about the thought of driving home in a warm car after a cold weather session.

(Originally published November 2006)

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