Back on my secret river (barbel article, entry 472)

I’m sure there can’t be many anglers in England and Wales who aren’t aware of the ‘River and sea levels’ link on the Environment Agency home page. But if you are one of them, and especially if you fish flowing water, then you definitely need to check it out. It’s in my favourites on my phone, iPad and laptop. I’m constantly taking a look so I can see what is happening on the rivers I fish.

And with an overnight trip planned to the lower Severn, instead of wondering what impact the torrential rain had on the river, rather than guess, I checked it out for myself. And as you can see from the screen shot, the level rose sharply. Now that is not usually a problem, in fact quite the opposite, but as the section I had in mind is a dense tree-lined one, with the river right up to the rim fishing would have been difficult.

The river levels site is an invaluable resource

I certainly wouldn’t have been able to get two rods in the swims I wanted to fish. And on the lower Severn, particularly if I’m going to be out all night, I prefer to fish a couple of rods rather than just one. And although the river was falling I knew I wouldn’t be able to get down to where I wanted and the further up the bank I went, the smaller the fishing area in front of me. So, after some thought I decided to hit the middle Severn instead.

And this is where the EA information is invaluable, as although the river was up all along its length, it was only where the Teme entered that it rose quite significantly. Heavy rain had fallen pretty much all over the country, but some areas had it worse than others and the Teme catchment was particularly drenched. That’s why we need to think about our angling plans. Just because it’s dry where we live it doesn’t mean our local river will be low. If it has passed through areas of heavy rain then it will affected.

The Severn at Hampton Loade

So, off to the middle Severn I went. The river was about a metre up but falling and with a nice colour to it; I was confident. This is the session that features in the July video that you can watch via my YouTube site. I don’t always name stretches – for obvious reasons – but with the Hampton Loade section of the river being a Kinver Freeliners day ticket water, plus my own involvement with the club, I’m happy to publish that.You can get your ticket on the bank and don’t forget to pay your £1 parking fee as instructed.

One of the things I like about this particular stretch, apart from it being the closest bit of the Severn to where I live, is that you can see the steam trains of the Severn Valley Railway as they pass between Bridgnorth and Kidderminster on the far bank. And not only can you see them but you get to hear them as well. I’m certainly no train spotter and wouldn’t travel anywhere to see one but I can fully appreciate their magic. The golden age of steam!

M2 boilies did the trick on the Severn

I picked a swim I haven’t fished before, finding as dry a spot as I could down by the edge, which was still bearing the twin effects of having previously been underwater and also the rain that had pounded it. I show my bait approach in the video so there’s no need to repeat myself too much here. But you can see the M2 boilies in the photograph along with the PVA bag of pellets ready to cast out.

As I mentioned in the video, the baits were soaked in lobworm dip as opposed to their own flavour. Try something different! One of the important things to bear in mind is that fishing is very subjective. Angling writers often communicate like what they are saying is a fact when actually it’s just their opinion that they are expressing. It may be based on great experience and I’m not suggesting we ignore everything we read. All I’m saying is, take on board, digest but then do what we do because of our own conclusions.

The only fish of session one

Casting out both rods I set them in place and threw a few boilies in. The downstream rod was the M2 with the one in front of me the piece of undercover Barbel Stix. Both rods were about one and a half lengths out and fished in a line so that bait thrown at the head trickled through the swim. And it was the left rod that came alive first and produced what was to be the only fish of the session.

I did have another one on though, again on the M2, but after doing all the hard work I had a hook-pull at the net. It was a good fish, certainly a scraper double. But these things happen, I’m not going to get upset about losing a fish. You see anglers on TV throw their rods up the bank when they lose a fish on a programme. But this is just for effect in front of the camera, right? They aren’t really having a tantrum are they? No-one actually does that do they!

My friends the mallards

So while I only had the one barbel, I engaged with plenty of activity in the natural world with a couple of female mallards coming out of the water and settling down right by my feet. Sometimes I feel like I really am Dr. Doolittle! Not quite as close was an oystercatcher calling in flight as it made its way downstream, my first sighting on this particular stretch. I heard and saw a pair of ravens in flight as well. They are regular and with wooded hills in the area that’s not a surprise.

My secret river in serious flood

My next three sessions were back to the ‘secret’ stream that featured in my first barbel trip of the season a few weeks back. With evenings free, that fitted in with the venue and each of the sessions saw the river at very different levels of flow. The first outing it was low and definitely one for the bends rather than the shallower straight sections.

But just 24 hours later we had received a month’s rain in one day and it was a raging torrent. Then the final session saw it falling, having dropped about 3 feet, but still well up. I caught a small chub when it was low, blanked when it was high and netted a barbel when it was falling. If you read my comments in the previously mentioned article you’ll know that I would be happy with 1 barbel in 7 outings so to get 2 in 5 I was definitely one of those happy bunnies.

Two barbel in five and I’m a happy bunny

Although the river was at different levels my tactics were pretty much the same each time and you can read about that in the article from earlier in the month as well. The only difference was that I switched to a 2.5ounce lead for the two final sessions. I had to choose the swim carefully both from a safety and a fishable point of view. But even then it was hard going when the river was rising.

Lots of debris coming through meant I was continually having to recast. It’s too early to say for sure but both barbel I’ve had have been when it’s been falling after heavy rain. I will definitely be looking at returning again though when similar conditions are showing – even if it’s now become a confidence thing! And my bait, by the way, was a piece of SBS Undercover Barbel Stix hair rigged to a size 8 hook.

The middle Severn in flood – again!

To round the article off I headed back to the middle Severn and the Kinver Freeliners stretch at Hampton Loade. The river had been up and down several times since my last visit and I caught it as it was falling again, but still high. As you can see from the photo, what are normally bankside trees, were well submerged. And it’s important to bear that in mind when tackling any river with extra water on it.

The hard part can often be the metre or so from where you fish, as any barbel will instinctively head for cover as you bring them to the net. And whether it’s a tree or just a clump of vegetation, if you allow the fish to connect then it’s going to cause difficulties. That’s why, in those sort of conditions, as well as choosing the swim carefully from a safety factor I like to have somewhere I can keep the rod high and therefore the fish up in the water as much as possible.

Just the one from Hampton Loade again

Although the river was looking good, the five other anglers on my section all blanked. So that made my solitary barbel a result. Just think, if I’d have been on my own and had just the one fish I could have thought it was a bad day. I wouldn’t have done because I always try and see the big picture, but it shows how maybe as an angler you can get discouraged with one fish when in fact you actually had a great day.

As before I fished two rods, and again, as per my previous visit, the fish fell to the M2 12mm boilie while the Undercover Stix failed to produce. You can’t read too much into that though and the latter is definitely up there in my barbel armoury. The reality is no matter how great your bait is, how expensive your rod, how polished your reels, there will always be times when the going is tough.

A mandarin in the margins at my feet

So just the one fish but I was certainly blessed by the natural world in which I spent the afternoon and evening. The ravens are so regular now that whilst I would never take them for granted because they’re great birds, they have become part of the furniture, in the nicest sense of the phrase of course. I thought the female goosander I spotted on the river was going to be the top sighting until I looked down and saw a female mandarin with three juveniles right at my feet!

I froze so as not to scare them away. Unfortunately though this was at the time I had my barbel! And a short time later I spotted another female, this one with newly hatched young making their wary upstream in a more mandarin-like style – using the overgrown vegetation as cover. Brilliant! I love my British nature!

Make sure you check out my monthly video as July’s was filmed on the middle Severn. You can check it out HERE. And don’t forget to visit my Angling Journal site HERE as it’s the mothership of my angling world. From there you can find a number of links including my facebook page and twitter account. And finally, what I can only describe as e-bay specifically for anglers called Hook Line Bid is about to be launched in the next day or so, visit the site HERE and grab yourself a bargain. (article published July 28 2012)

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