Perseverance, Dedication, Insanity (barbel article and video, entry 425)

Click images above to enlarge

Some time ago I was with Des Taylor at the SBS base in Kidderminster when he showed me the new flavoured halibut pellet that had just been released. You can see the product on the accompanying video, with Des in my guest spot, talking about it. As Undercover is a top barbel flavour I picked up a couple of tubs and a pack of 3mm flavoured pellets. I was looking forward to getting out on the river to give it a go and so, with a clear evening ahead of me, I headed for the middle Severn (photograph 3) and the session that you can see on the video.

The venue is currently controlled by Kinver Freeliners and is available on a day ticket, which can be bought on the bank. You can find out more information on the Kinver website, the link to which is on the home page of my Angling Journal. It’s a pleasant stretch and with the Severn Valley Railway line directly opposite, you can take in the sights and sounds of a by-gone age as well.

Although I didn’t have the ideal viewing platform from my swim, I still managed to capture the steam above the trees as a train came into the station. It’s hard to imagine that at one time, the line was a working one, not just for tourists and rail enthusiasts. But time moves on. Sometimes it’s for the better, sometimes not, but onwards it goes all the same.

It was a really nice day when I arrived, but not particularly good for fishing. With the river being low and clear, the bright sunny conditions meant it was always going to be a challenge. I was only there for a short evening session up to 10.00pm which Kinver Freeliners members are allowed – although day ticket anglers have to be off before dark.

I was fishing just one rod, a Harrison Interceptor with a 1lb 10oz test curve. I have had the rod for years and although I don’t particularly have favourites, it’s certainly up there as a first choice or thereabouts when after barbel. With 10lb Sufix Synergy on a Daiwa baitrunner reel that accounted for the main items of tackle this side of the business end. I didn’t engage the baitrunner facility though. Fishing one rod for the evening my time was spent tip gazing.

I started with a 1.5 ounce lead and a braid hooklength, with a size 6 Drennan boilie hook. Not holding bottom I was taken into a snag, so upped the lead to 3oz and switched to Drennan Double Strength. My pellet size was 8mm and as they are pre-drilled it’s a simple enough affair to get them ready for casting. Dipped in Undercover, placed in a PVA bag and covered with Undercover and CSL pellets and a few loose pellets, I was ready for casting out.

I baited up as well with both pellets mentioned and used brown crumb and wheat as a carrier. To the mix I added some concentrated Undercover flavour to give it all a ‘label’ or an ‘identity’. I knew that dusk through darkness was the best chance of a fish and so when I had a tap that became another tap then a tap, tap, I knew that I hadn’t got a barbel on the end but a small chub. Lifting into it, I was expecting a fish of maybe 1lb or so to come to the net.

It just shows that assumptions are often wrong, and my ‘I’m not bothered if it slips the hook’ attitude had me smiling to myself. The reason for that was once I netted the fish and lifted it from the water I found myself staring at a very plump roach indeed. In fact I thought it may even go 2lb, but a quick visit to the scales saw it falling short. Nevertheless it was a great fish, albeit if caught on barbel gear. The irony was that it shed the hook, but only once in the net. That was close eh!

My second visit saw me back on the Severn but some miles downstream, and as I was further down from Worcester even, definitely the ‘lower’. There are no legal definitions as to where upper, middle and lower begin and end but many anglers would say downstream of Stourport is lower as that’s where the navigable bit begins. That’s my definition as well, although some go for the county city and beyond. Ultimately it’s down to you. It’s like the Black Country where lots of people get their ‘knickers in a twist’ over what’s in and what’s out, but there is no clarification in terms of boundary. There is no county line and it’s not clear cut, in spite of what some may say.

Anyway, I was on the lower Severn! The river was low, well relatively speaking of course. But with minimal flow I knew that I wasn’t going to be bothered by debris around the line as often happens once the level rises. Fishing two rods as per my recent visits to the river, you can check the details out via those Angling Journal entries. This time I fished 12mm boilies – lobworm on the left rod and M2 on the right. I also cut back on the seeds in the mix and added more corn steep liquor pellets.

I was there for the night and very positive, but the river was in one of its cemetery modes ie dead. Sometimes the lower Severn is literally alive with crashing fish and smaller ones topping but on this occasion the only breaking of the surface was done by an otter that swam just a few feet in front of me. Although I suppose I could say that the water did part twice when I netted bream and once for a chub, but as far as barbel were concerned I blanked.

I did have a pair of Daubenton’s bats flying so close to me though I could have reached out and touched them. As you will know if you follow my writings regularly, I love British wildlife. The tree species around my swim were crack willow, goat willow, common hawthorn and sycamore. Of course it’s about catching fish but particularly the sort of angling I do, I get to take in a lot of what’s going on around me.

My third trip was back to the lower reaches of the Severn but in a different place. Pretty much everything was the same except for M2 boilies on both rods. Thunder, lightning and a downpour ensured a pretty damp session was ahead of me. And taking my ancient Fox Evolution shelter meant I wasn’t as protected from the elements as I would have been with my more recent Trakker shelter acquisition. But with the swims not being lawned and level I needed the flexibility of the former.

Out there in harsh conditions, I thought to myself that the three qualities needed to be a successful specimen angler are perseverance, dedication and insanity. Hence the title of the article. On the fish front, again no barbel but I did have a number of bream, some of them real crackers as far as the river is concerned anyway. And on the nature front I saw a little egret fly downstream at dusk. But would I catch a barbel for this week’s entry, after all it is dedicated to that species. Well, my fourth and final outing to the River Severn saw me hitting a different section of the middle to the one that opened the article.

I have fished there before, but not for a few years, so in many ways it was new. Every time there is a reasonable flood there is potential for swims to totally change. Hot spots disappear and new ones are created in their place as trees uproot and change the underwater terrain. As it was, the spot I set up in was as I knew it before, even down to being wild and jungle-like. The first job was to flatten the common nettles that had taken over in the absence of anglers. I actually fell into a bed of nettles, but as they were the next step to the river itself I was pretty grateful for the cushioned landing, albeit with a sting.

Mind you that wasn’t the end of the mishaps: I sat on my glasses (fortunately didn’t break them), put my reel on incorrectly so the line was wrapped around the rod and ended up with my left leg in the river. But apart from all that it was a good session! I was there for the night, which if possible is my plan of attack when travelling any sort of distance now. Apart from the fact of spending more time on the bank at prime feeding time for many species, the cost of fuel means the days of doing a 60 mile round-trip for a few hours have long gone.

My bait approach was wheat, hemp, CSL pellets, M2 pellets and a dash of concentrated Undercover additive for the ‘label’. The three latter products were from SBS Baits. I fished 12mm M2 on both rods and an indicator of my confidence in the bait is that I took only them with me. No need for a back-up. Each time I cast I dipped the bait in M2 flavour, added a mix of pellets and broken boilies. I took some 20mm which I got 16 sections from each, so just a couple of boilies needed for each bag.

Although I had caught some decent fish on my previous sessions in this week’s article, my target species the barbel had eluded me. But as I settled down for the night I felt very confident. So much so that when one of the rods arched over it didn’t surprise me, I was expecting it! That’s the fish that you can see above, along with a chub that I had a few hours before dawn. I also lost a couple of barbel, but I was just so excited about getting the fish I didn’t dwell too much on that, other than to objectively examine what went wrong.

I really enjoyed the session and told myself that I can’t let it go years before I visit this place again. The problem is I have so many things I want to do in angling. Even for someone like me who fishes more than the average, I still have to make tough decisions as to what I do and what I don’t. Finally, I hope you like the new piece in the video where I feature photographs of other anglers. If you want to be included then ‘like’ my facebook page and go to the photo album called ‘Fishy facebook friends’ where you will find how to get yourself on screen.

And talking of facebook, what I’ve done with this article is publish it a few days before it hits my Angling Journal, but with the link made visible only on my facebook page. Although the accompanying video will still be uploaded on Saturday as normal, anyone on my facebook page gets the chance to read the piece earlier. (Article published September 3 2011)


This week’s video that accompanies the article:


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