Struggling for barbel, but the chub are obliging (barbel article, entry 381)

If you a regular reader of my Angling Journal you will know that I like a challenge, and this season I have been fishing a ‘small river’ pursuing barbel. If all I wanted to do was to catch fish then there are definitely ‘easier’ places to head for where there is more chance of getting a bend in my rod from a barbus barbus. But the opportunity to try and track down the proverbial needle in a haystack has definitely been one that I have happily and willingly taken. My first two sessions this week saw me back on the river, arriving at dusk as the sun began to disappear over the horizon for a few hours. Being so small and lacking lots of cover then the river in question is pretty much one that you would fish into dark. In fact my one and only barbel from there so far came during the hours of darkness. And although I had chub I failed to add to my tally of one fish as once more they evaded me.


On my third trip to the venue though I was quite hopeful that I would catch my second barbel. Heavy rain had pushed the river right up to the rim. The normally steep banks had disappeared under a torrent of rushing water. Some anglers are put off by these conditions, but all you need to do is choose your swim carefully, from both a safety and fish perspective, and you’re well away. I knew exactly where I would be setting up as I had already made mental notes of which swims would be fishable come high water. The one I chose was on a bend and I was able to present a bait just off the main flow, and therefore avoiding the rubbish that was passing by at speed. But even though I was confident, I blanked. Not even a chub this time!


My bait approach on all three sessions involved a hair-rigged SBS Undercover boilie, with paste wrapped around it and then dipped in the same glug that accompanies the range. I’m a great believer that while bait is important, there is no such thing as a wonder bait. Any claims that all you need to do is fish with x and you will empty the venue just doesn’t sit right with me. Bait is a factor, and a very big one at that, but there are plenty of others that have to fit into the equation as well. And that’s why, being involved with SBS, although I will write about my ‘successes’ I will also document my ‘failures’ as well. After all what’s the point in making ridiculous claims? People aren’t stupid, we can work things out for ourselves. And as far as sponsorship is concerned, I have never had any issues with it. I think the anglers that don’t like it are the ones that don’t have it! I couldn’t care less if someone is decked out in brand gear and mentions it in every article they write. All I would expect is that they are honest, so they don’t claim to have caught with x when in fact they were using y.


That’s the range of bait items I used pictured left. And what I also took into my next sessions on the middle Severn as I continued to pursue barbel. I received some good news from a telephone conversation I had with Steve Williams, the secretary of Kinver Freeliners, regarding their stretch at Hampton Loade. From being a dawn to dusk only venue, it was being opened up for a trial period for members only with fishing being extended until 10.00pm. With the the daylight hours being pushed by darkness, plus the fact that the water temperatures are still good, it was a window of opportunity that was too good to pass by. So that’s where I headed on the first of my middle Severn trips to round the article off. I did get caught out a little on my first session though, as although the river was falling it still wasn’t ideal for the tackle I had brought along. But I managed to fish, even if I had yet another blank! But as I have already written, honesty is the name of the game in whatever context.


That’s the Severn on the right, and as any regulars will be able to tell from the colour, it was in flood. And although it was a dry day for me as I fished in that part of Shropshire, there was plenty of rain elsewhere in the area, evidenced by the rainbow that appeared in the sky in the afternoon. The river was dropping while I was there and I knew that in a couple of days it would be looking very good indeed. And that’s when I was able to get out next and again I headed for the same stretch, but instead of dropping into one of the first few swims I did some legwork and walked up and down the section before eventually settling on a nice looking swim that I thought would produce a barbel or two come dusk.


However, my fishing this week remained a barbel-free zone. I didn’t blank though as a very nice chub (below) did the honours of putting a bend in my rod. And what a bend it was. In fact it was a classic barbel bite as the rod lurched over and right until the end I thought it was my first one of the week. It was certainly a good fish for the middle reaches of the river and it reminded of the days, some years ago, when I would venture to the upper Severn in pursuit of big winter chub. And here I was, catching one on my doorstep. Well, 16.2 miles! In these days of petrol conservation due to high prices, we need to get as much local water as we can, and particularly if we fish as many times as I do!


I played Doctor Doolittle as well as a very friendly mallard duck allowed me to pick her up and settle her down on my lap. She even went to sleep as I stroked her. There was a sad tinge to it all though as she had a broken wing. I was going to take her home and look after her but she did go back willingly to the flock at dusk and seemed ok, so my plan didn’t come to fruition. Seeing another duck with a broken wing though alarmed me. I immediately thought of people with air guns or those who kick these friendly birds so hard they break their wings. I’d love to be wrong, but the reality is that there is some awful animal cruelty out there. And the reason for that is that there are some disturbed people around. Very disturbed in fact. (Article published October 23 2010)


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