The Sow plays hard to get (barbel article, entry 62)

I caught a double from the river a couple of seasons ago, and I’ve been intending to do a few more sessions on the River Sow for barbel ever since. I don’t know if you are like me though – there simply are not enough days in the year to do everything that you want to do in angling. However, with my current fishing time being totally focused on barbel, I reckoned that if I couldn’t do a trip or two now then I’d never get round to it.

So, joining the M5 at junction 10, I headed northbound for a crack at the small Trent tributary that flows through the county town of Stafford. I baited up a swim, and sat back to fish. Just as the sun was setting I had a cracking barbel-style bite. However, it wasn’t from a barbel, but a 4-8-8 chub! It is actually my biggest chub from the river, and like most of the larger ones of the species I have caught, came when after barbel.

Later on in the session I added a 3-10-0 chub, whose mouth was full of crushed seeds and boilies! However, no barbel put in an appearance, either directly or indirectly through topping in the swim etc. Still, I was determined to give it my best shot, and so the very next day I was back again. This time I blanked, although I did have a chub on for a few moments that slipped the hook.

One word I would use to describe myself is ‘determined’ and so for the third session of the week I once more set off in pursuit of the elusive Sow barbel. It was a very overcast day, and darkness set in much earlier than the two previous visits. But still no barbel evident anywhere, although I did catch the smallest chub of the week at 3-4-8. Even though I didn’t connect with any barbel, I still enjoyed the sessions, and at the end of the day that is surely what angling is all about. If you are not enjoying your fishing then it must be time to re-evaluate.

For the final trip of the week, I decided to fish a river where I know that there is definitely a few more barbel around – the Dove. It was a very hot day, and I was having a good journey looking forward to the session, when suddenly I hit severe delays. The traffic was literally crawling along. Fortunately I was not stuck in traffic for too long, as I was close to the source of the incident, but as I continued north, the vehicles on the southbound carriageway were stationary for about four miles!

What a delight it was to arrive on the banks of the river. No cars, no fumes, no traffic jams, and the only noise was the sound of a Chiffchaff in the bushes on the far bank. What a contrast with the ‘real world’! Not that I find angling to be an escape route as such, but I for one certainly appreciate the tranquillity that comes with having an inviting river directly in front of you. Heaven on earth!

I baited up with seeds and crumb as usual, and allowing the swim to settle, I set up my rods and prepared to actually commence the session. It really was a nice day and I had brought my bedchair and so was able to stretch out and enjoy the sunshine. Not that I am a sun seeker by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a bright day as opposed to a particularly hot one, which is more to my liking.

As is often the case, within a short time of casting out I was into a fish. It came in quite easily and it was only at the net that it really started to put up a fight. But in spite of several lunges, as it attempted to get back into the main flow of the river, I eventually netted the fish. It weighed in at 8-5-8 and after three blanks on the Sow it was nice to once more see a barbel ‘in the flesh’. Not that blank sessions bother me, but when writing a regular article, it’s always nice to have at least one good fish to write about!

And of course, with a lead photo required for the home page of my Angling Journal each week, it’s good to have something to ‘display’. And as it happened, on that score, this fish was very welcome indeed, as it turned out to be the only one of the session. I fished on into darkness, but as the local village Church bells indicated that it was now 10.00 p.m. I decided to quit and head for home.

Four sessions and just one barbel to show for it! Hardly a success is it? Or maybe we should not categorise ‘success’ simply by what we catch? I judge my own angling not just by fish landed but by the ‘pleasure factor’ And as I have really enjoyed my week, I count it as a successful one. (The only downside is that after so many late night sessions I was feeling a bit tired.) Of course it’s nice to catch some really good fish now and then, but as I stated previously, you’ve got to be enjoying your angling otherwise it’s just not worth it.

(Originally published September 2004)

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