Monday, 28 October 2013

Barbel - Keeping a promise

I am still playing catch up with the blog and finally getting closer to bringing it up to date.

I would say that living in Berkshire has some positives and one of those is being central to a lot of different river venues, Kennet, Loddon and Thames are all local to me and I would consider myself very lucky to have those rivers along with others nearby.

It was a very wet September day as I made my way down the Loddon and a couple of thoughts preoccupied my mind, the main one being a promise I had made to a couple of young chaps whom I had fished with a while ago in Essex, they do not have any good barbel rivers in their vicinity and I had promised them a trip down to my area and perhaps put them on to a  pb barbus, always a bit of a tall order when you put your river on the spot. My other thought was where to cast a line this time and I decided to head a way downstream to fish an area that whilst nice, does usually produce a terrible amount of crayfish activity at times, I was however hoping on this occasion that the extra rain would keep them from being too lively.

One rod out on meat and the other on a home rolled boilie was the plan, it became evident though that the meat was not going to survive the clawed encounters and as I had no bait mesh I decided to change both rods to boilie, just to survive the crayfish interest that bit longer, however this did not deter them.

Rain fell steady on the umbrella, droplets of water gradually finding its way in through the seams,a mental note of seam sealer and fabsil was made, although to be fair it has been a good cheap umbrella, bought at the time for £10 and fully in the knowledge that it would get used a lot and a bit mistreated at times, it has weathered bramble and hawthorns well.

As the rain finally abated and sun appeared, one of my rods signaled that something was going to snaffle the bait, sure enough the rod hooped round and a lively fight ensued as the fish charged off downstream like a headstrong teenager. The culprit a very pretty barbel (8.15) and it was in fin perfect condition.

Despite fishing a a few hours into darkness there was no more activity apart from pesky crayfish  which seemed hellbent on wrestling my baits off, I was very happy though, a fish from a spot that does not always produce was more than welcome, especially one in such glorious condition.

I will admit now that I do not fish with many people, maybe I am a bit of a loner, but those few whom I have fished with I do enjoy their company, both George and Fred would fall into this category. 

It was a few weeks later when they made the journey down from Essex, we planned on fishing into darkness and then early morning switching rivers to do a spot of fishing on the Blackwater. As we made our way to the river, the air was filled with enthusiastic chatter and a few laughs along the way.
My mind was thinking where to put us all, too close and it would be too much pressure, to far apart and the trip would feel less like a social, but I dearly wanted at least one of them to have a chance at a fish. I eventually decided on a middle ground whereby I could get to either of the chaps swims quickly should they require any help, but at the same time maintaining  a bit of space between each of us.

It was around 4pm by the time we all got set up and it was not long before George was tucking into a tinned curry and Fred was into his first fish on maggot, a lovely roach of 11ozs, not a mark on it, a  perfect bar of silver. As evening drew in the conditions were perfect, cloudy and so very mild, so much so that the three of us were in either shirt or light fleeces. I had my fingers crossed that the lads would get their chance and sure enough at around 11pm I heard the sound of action in George's swim, he had a barbel on, this fish had charged downstream and weeded him up a couple of times, I grabbed the landing net in anticipation, only for us to both see this fish slip the hook and swim off. Gutted was not the word, I let out a few expletives and said to George  "sorry mate, that looked like a pb too".

In the back of my mind I wondered if he would get a second bite of the apple. At around 2am he did and this time the fish was sat recuperating in the net, George was elated.

One happy angler
On lifting the net, I mentioned to George "definitely a pb got to be around 10 or 11lb". The scales did not disagree as they settled on 11.6, a new personal best and then some for him!

A couple of hearty handshakes and the scene was completed as we watched her swim off strongly. The rest of the night sped past as it usually does in good company and after a pleasant result, by morning, apart from a rogue pike making off with Fred's rig, it was a quiet one as we all packed up.
A quick trip back home for a welcome cup of tea and biscuit or two and we was soon ready to be off along the Blackwater. I have to say I was a  shattered to say the least and was glad we had picked the start of the weekend for this.

So many spots to try but not so much time as Fred's parents were due to pick him and George up at around 5pm. We roved many spots and plenty of fish fell to a mixture of link ledgered worm and maggot, including chub, perch and some super sized gobio.

Between us we also had a couple of better chub, which were brilliant sport in the steady flow, the first one taken by rolling the link ledger under some far bank debris, which resulted in a fairly savage bite and a really good tussle (3.4). Thanks to George for doing the honours with his camera.

Later on I decided we should move downstream, I really wanted Fred to pick up a decent chub and the area has given up fish to me of over 5lb. Fred had a very good bite in one of these swims, but unfortunately the fish snagged him in debris and the hook pulled. I could see he was disconsolate at the thought that he may have lost a good fish and I truly felt his pain.

A call was heard from another swim and it became apparent that George had landed a short, stocky fish that was in beautiful condition (3.12)

This was the last fish of the trip and as we made our way home we was pretty knackered, but very happy and still chatting infectiously about fishing. My sincerest apologies to Fred, I really wish you had got that pb chub you so dearly wanted mate, but there is always next time and we can try again without a doubt guys.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Mishaps mayhem - Double trouble

Writing this and thinking about one of my trips back in September feels a bit surreal now. I was having some enjoyable fishing trips and trying to tempt some of the larger barbel from the Loddon, two of my prior visits had been a combination of blanks with and without crayfish nightmares thrown in for good measure.

But my third trip was a bit too eventful for my liking, having packed up my rods I went to drop some broken up paste into another swim, a little bit of a future investment if you like. Not happy with my position on the bank, I instead decided to hold on to a branch from a nearby tree. The voice in my head was echoing warning words, "branch dead, wouldn't take your weight in a thousand years if it was still alive". I foolishly ignored this and grabbed hold of the branch, as I began leaning a little over the river the inevitable happened, "crack!" and that was it I was clutching thin air and doing a good impression of a cartoon character before falling in yet again. A thick mixture of silt and mud, along with a sinking feeling is not something I would recommend any angler to experience at any time, be that day or night and has to rank as one of my most scariest mishaps, as I did genuinely think I was not going to get back out again, had this happened during floods then I would have been in serious trouble.

Sitting in the car on the way home was an interesting affair, mum mentioning asking at regular intervals "Mark why do you smell like s*%t". I have to admit that I did not divulge anything about falling in until I was back home and still don't think I have lived the incident down, Once back home  with my clothing in the washing machine and a hot cup of tea inside me, I sat thinking over what had been a bit of an unpleasant experience, trying to work out why I had decided to ignore my inner voice and put my safety at risk on the river, there was only one real reason and that was a mixture of over confidence and total idiocy on my part.

Not having any of my usual baits I opted to put together a mix that had done me well in the past as well as some matching paste with which to wrap round the bait, along with this I had made up some luncheon meat broken into irregular shapes and then soaked in some Sharwoods Thai curry sauce.

A few days later and I was making my way to the river, it was a very pleasant late summer day, a light breeze and nice amount of sun. On reaching the river there was no mistaking the fact that it was running very low and looked a bit stale. Two thoughts were in my mind, either target a deeper area, or try to place some baits along the weed and cabbage patch areas of a shallower spot.

I decided on the latter, one rod placed upstream, just shy of cabbage patch beds and with one of the fresh boilies which I had decided to trim down, glug and wrap in paste. My other rod was placed downstream where there is a slight difference in depth and a lomg trench where food particles do tend to collect. It was not long before I started receiving attention on the upstream rod, followed by a slow, meandering run, which turned out to be a very well conditioned bream of 5lb.

I was buoyed by this early fish and rather happy, a quick cast back out and check of the luncheon meat rod showed that crays were indeed about, not wishing to risk being pestered I switched to the same bait as which I had taken the bream on. The rod had perhaps been in the water for forty five minutes and started receiving light plucks and taps, certainly not the usual tug and static hold the crayfish give. An hour past by and during that time there had been a good few plucks but no committal, no full blooded bite was forthcoming. As I sat wondering if perhaps the fish were in a far to apprehensive mood, all hell broke loose, the rod arching round and baitrunner purring.

As it plodded downstream it was fairly evident that I was playing a rather hefty fish and the rod did not disagree as it bent round, a game of give and take began, me giving and the fish repeatedly taking was how it began, a wind of reel handle, followed by steady "tick tick" of the clutch.

When my prize was finally beaten and I slipped the waiting net under her I could have jumped for joy, it was a beauty, long wide and a powerhouse of a barbus, with one very powerful paddle.

At 14lb it was a new best for me from this river, words failed me as I looked upon its bronze flanks, it is moments like these that are really special and a grin that could last quite a few years was etched on my face for the rest of the evening.

As night time crept on, the upstream rod which had been very quiet since the initial bream, did not give any warning as it tore off into mid-river and after quite a nervy battle which saw this fish head under some sunken tree trunks and back out again followed by diving into two different cabbage patch beds, I finally had another barbel in the net, this fish had a slight amount of  dorsal damage, perhaps from being kept in a keepnet at some point?
Unfortunately I only have the video footage of this fish as my battery packed up on me and I had left my spare one in the charger at home. Weighing in at 11lb 2oz's it was another nice fish and the cherry on top of what had been a very special fishing trip.

Once I had packed up I decided to sit a while, taking in this trip and to give a long look at the river, thanking it multiple times. The relationship of angler and river is an interesting affair, one I would call a passionate love and each waterway has different reasons why it attaches itself to you. I have many wonderful memories of my father spending time teaching me to fish on this waterway and if he had not, would I be having the mishaps and fishing adventures today?

Friday, 4 October 2013

Blackwater bound - The podge goes roving

Well I have not been able to keep as up to date as I would like with the written side of my blog, however I now have time to put finger to keyboard and catch up on on a couple of trips I have had on the Blackwater, you may have seen the video of one of them, I always enjoy writing a blog entry to accompany my videos though, as there is something you just cannot convey through the use of video alone.

I really cannot get enough of the intimate waterways this season, small in size and absolutely grand in character and features. A couple of trips on the Blackwater were planned and some roving about, perhaps the odd perch and chub might fall for a lobworm or two. At least that was the plan.

My first choice was to take a short trip to the same area I had caught that plump 2lb+ perch and met that rather placid snake which had been leisurely decomposing in a nearby tree. The river was more coloured than what I had expected it to be and after missing out on a few wary plucks early on and repeatedly striking into thin air, it was evident that the perch were going to be a bit of a test today and it seemed as if they were mouthing the worm lightly as they moved off with the bait.

Changing from lobworm to red worm with maggot sprayed over the top did eventually give me a more confident bite and I soon had a vividly marked, Blackwater stripey in the landing net.

over 1lb smaller than the one from my previous trip, but nonetheless  perfectly coloured and a most welcome chaser of minnow and gudgeon. Despite adding a few more smaller perch and chublets to the tally, I decided that a move upstream was perhaps in order.

Now this area is a tangle of sunken trees, cabbage patches, streamer weeds and carrier streams, an anglers smorgasbord of features, the choice not being when to cast but just where to cast first.I have to admit the first thing on my mind was that it looked a perfect pike and chub spot too. This fact was further cemented when my link ledger was chased on the retrieve and a pike that looked around 10lb grabbed it and made off with it into the nearby weed beds before eventually letting go.

A few more casts were made, but it became apparent that Esox had perhaps frightened the life out of the other fish as all was silent and it was some time later when a cast to the far bank margins was made and eventually the rod swept round. On striking, I was met with a dogged and lunging run, the quiver tip bending round as this fish tried to swim to the safety of some tree roots and it was very nearly successful in this attempt, my line just lightly clipping the mixture of roots and sunken branches.

A welcome chevin, blunt headed, short, very plump, dare I say not too dissimilar in description to the angler whos day it had gladdened. The perch had been a tad perplexing but I felt red worms had picked me up a bonus fish when the lob worms were being treated with a reasonable amount of apprehension.

The following weekend I headed out late afternoon to one of my favourite areas of the river, in hope of tempting a chub or two. It was a perfect day, cloudy with a touch of wind, but mild, the odd droplet of rain pattering down and threatening to become more, but kept in check by the steady breeze.

A link ledger cast to an undercut bank here, a rod tip slipped under a bush there. After a few small perch and chub I eventually connected with a very nice looking fish of 3.12 and a rather feisty fight ensued. This fish making every effort to dive for the sanctuary of the snags on the opposite bank.

I so dearly love this form of fishing, stripped down and an almost back to basics feel, it brings out more of the hunter instinct and the rewards never fail to make me smile. A little rest was given to the swim and I chanced my luck for another fish, not always a wise move in this river, but sometimes you get the odd bonus fish that may not have been spooked.

On this occasion it proved to be the case, as barely had I rested the rod on the bank side foliage, when it thudded round and I was into a very heavy fish that plodded left and right. One run too far to the right  hand side of this particular spot and I knew that I could more or less consider this fish lost, as there is a rather nasty sunken snag which I have lost the odd hook to in the past.

Once it slid over the landing net cord, I could see it was clearly a lovely shaped fish, large grey mouth and replete with that typical bullish look that chub have when over a certain size, I knew that I might have a new venue personal best and the scales settled at a very pleasing  5lb 7oz's, a new Blackwater pb chevin. Happy? You bet!

As the sun set I tried many different areas including a nice pacey bend where I spotted a rather nice trout breaking the surface between the weed beds, alas this fish did seem very skittish and headed off upstream in a hurry.

By now that "one last cast" voice inside my head had well and truly set in and I was near to a spot I had fished a long time ago. The chub like to hold up around this area, a very shallow spot with streamer weed and overhanging tree. Not usually the best spot in bright sunlight, but by now it was dark and I just had to have a cast, a juicey lob worm went out into one of the weedless pockets beneath the tree.

As I sat happily recounting how the trip had gone, the isotope twitched once before the rod buckled round, apparently this fish had either had its weetabix or had been training with Usain Bolt as it decided to peel line off the reel and head downstream at a rate of knots. After a few moments where this cheeky chevin had me wondering if I was going to end up with either a hook pull or leave me snagged in weed, I eventually slipped the net underneath it.

Not a large fish at 3lb, but try telling it that, I could have sworn it had secretly been popping steroids by the way it had surged off downstream....

I have yet to visit the Thames this season and will no doubt do so at some point, but with such beautiful rivers like these in my locality, I will be no doubt be very hard pressed to tear myself away from them.