Following my double figure barbel on the Sow last week, I was well and truly fired up for another crack at the river. However, although I was encouraged by the fish, my feet were firmly planted on the ground and my eyes were wide open. In other words, I wasn’t getting carried away in the slightest. It’s hardly a prolific barbel river, and I am under no illusions as to the challenge that lies ahead every time I set out and head northbound on the M6.
The first session saw me catch just the one fish, which was a nice enough chub. I have been making mental notes of the chub that I have been landing and should the weather this coming winter dictate that I need to switch from barbel, then I will be back on the Sow pursuing what will be my cold weather alternative.
One thing that I feel is very important concerning angling is that it’s vital to enjoy your fishing regardless of how ‘successful’ you are. I don’t see the point in catching good fish if you are not enjoying it. Even though we may be putting decent fish on the bank, if the whole process is not an enjoyable one, then we need to reconsider and perhaps get back to the drawing board.
That’s why, above all, I continued on the River Sow. It wasn’t because I had a good barbel the week before, but rather that I was thoroughly enjoying the journey. When you find that you are dreaming about your angling then you know that you aren’t far off the mark! I am not exaggerating when I say that fishing plays a massive role in my life.
The second session on the Sow saw me draw a blank. I didn’t even get a small fish pluck on my boilie. But as I recorded my first blank on there in six visits this season, I certainly wasn’t discouraged. The sort of fishing that I do invites plenty of fish-less sessions, that’s for sure. My approach could be described as ‘all or nothing’. Sometimes it may be a big fish that graces my net, other times it never gets to make it into the water.
Whilst on the Sow I am keeping my eyes open for signs of fish movement. However there doesn’t seem to be much happening as far as barbel are concerned. There has been the odd small fish breaking the surface, but no obvious barbel so far. I have been trying to work out what is happening in the river as far as fish movement is concerned, and my homebound journey after session two gave me plenty of food for thought.
Whilst we can develop our theories – and mine is that whilst there are barbel in the Sow they are few and far between – the only way to really get conclusive results is to keep fishing and see what patterns develop. Hence I made it back to the river for a third and final session of the week.
It was a much cooler day and whilst recent rain hadn’t exactly put the river into flood alert mode, it had certainly freshened it up a little. And with the conditions over the summer so far, every little drop of the wet stuff has to be considered a blessing. Arriving at the river I baited up with my usual seeds and brown crumb and half a dozen boilies before casting out and waiting.
Just an hour into dark I became aware of an otter swimming mid-river working its way downstream. Sitting there perfectly still, the animal went right past me, oblivious to the fact that its most feared enemy (well, not me personally!) was just a couple of metres away. I have seen otters before on the Sow so it wasn’t a complete surprise. Apart from when it flows through Stafford it is very much a rural river.
As well as otters I have also had fallow deer in the meadow opposite me many times. As Cannock Chase is not that far away, deer will leave the safety and security of the woodland at night as they venture into open fields to feed. One thing about deer though, is that they are incredibly alert and just the slightest of movements and they are off, racing back to the woods.
And talking about movement, just before midnight my rod came alive. Not the gentle tapping of a small fish enquiry, but the full blown wrap-around that means only one thing – a barbel. Apart from light natural weed growth there were no snags in the swim and so I was always in control.
Even before I saw the fish I knew it was a decent one and so when it did make the scales, a reading of 10lb 7oz came as no surprise whatsoever. It was also a different double to the one I caught recently, which of course is very encouraging news. I am coming to the conclusion that although there is a small head of barbel in the river, amongst those fish are some good ones.
And that really is the perfect setting for my personal approach. I am happy to sit it out knowing that the next fish could be a big one, rather than catch 2lb fish all day long. It was Meatloaf who sang ‘Two out of three ain’t bad’ but as far as the Sow barbel are concerned, my ratio of three fish to seven sessions definitely prompts the headline that ‘Three out of seven is pretty good as well’
(Originally published August 2006)