With only a few weeks of the river season left and rain constantly in the forecast, I began to think that a final barbel trip was off the cards. I know that they feed in flooded conditions but when the rivers are that high that you can’t even get near the bank then you need to be sensible about safety. A week before the end though there was a break in the weather, and I checked forecasts daily as the weekend approached.
Saturday saw me heading to my local venue and when I arrived, I found conditions to be perfect. The weather for Sunday was dire again so today had to be the day. A nice flow was present, but the colour had virtually dropped out of the water. Also, the sky was cloudy with mild air temperatures, and to top it all there was hardly any other cars in the layby which surprised me.
I always struggle with the choice of either staying put all day in one swim or alternatively moving along trying several likely looking spots. Today I opted for the latter because of the lack of other anglers present. This is always risky because it can mean that ‘hot’ swims become filled as you work your way back at the end of the day.
I walked to the very furthest swim and started there. My bait consisted of two 8mm krill glugged Robin Red pellets on the hair, with loose fed unglugged pellets. I hoped that this would make the hookbait stand out a bit from the freebies and encourage a bite. Only one rod is allowed on this venue and I fished a running lead set up with a long fluorocarbon hooklink. I had found this to be most effective in the past. After an hour or so without even a nibble it was time for a move.
The next swim I arrived at offered a deep run in front of me which shallowed up at the far end below overhanging branches. This offered the fish shade and cover and a tricky sideways cast was required to get the bait into position. I cast out and the rod had barely been on the stand when it hooped over. I struck into resistance and soon had a chub of about 3lb in the net. Another cast to the same spot followed and after about ten minutes, the rod top twitched and then heaved round once again. This fish felt bigger and took me across the river and headed upstream towards a fallen tree. As it passed me, I saw it was a huge chub. Despite heavy side strain, it made the tree and smashed me up. I was gutted and thought that was my chance was over in this swim as they tend to return and spook the rest of the shoal. But one more cast was in order and soon afterwards another bite had me playing a good fish. After a spirited battle, I netted a nice chub which although wasn’t as big as the one I lost was still a good size at 4lb 7oz. A quick pic and away she went and I was packed up and ready to move again.
The sun made an attempt at coming out as the afternoon wore on, and despite trying several likely looking spots as I worked my way back along the river, I couldn’t seem to buy a bite. With just two hours of light left and rules dictating that you need to be off the venue by dark, I was running out of options. I found a swim about a hundred yards down from a weirpool where the water to my left was fast over gravel, but suddenly dropped off into a deep slow glide on my right. It was a tricky swim to fish as there wasn’t a lot of room to move or even sit, and the bank was steep down to the waters edge. But it screamed barbel to me and I decided to see the day out here. I cast out to my right and let the bait settle into the flow before tightening up the line. I sat down and enjoyed a cuppa and watched as kingfishers darted by at lightning speed. Every now and then I would throw out a few pellets to try and entice a bite.
Time passed and witching hour arrived. I considered bringing in the rod to check the bait and to reposition it for the last few moments. Leaning forward to do so I was jolted into action as the rod quickly bent round once and then pulled right round a second time with a violent take which almost took it off the stand! I grabbed it quickly and was met with a solid resistance which suddenly turned and headed downstream. Luckily, I had set the clutch just right and it took yards of line from my spool. Up on my feet I gave side strain and after a few hair-raising moments I managed to turn the fish which then proceeded to head back upstream and then drop down below me into deeper water below a tree. The fish then plodded round and round and despite my best efforts I couldn’t seem to bring it up. Having caught several good river carp in the past from this river, I was sure that was what I had on, and so decided to be more heavy handed in the hopes of getting it in and getting a final chance for a barbel. I pulled harder and the fish started to come up and head back out into the river. I caught a glimpse of a brown flank in the dim light and muttered ‘carp’ under my breath with slight disdain. I was after all after barbel. Slowly I managed to ease her towards the net, and it was at that moment I realised I was actually attached to a very good barbel after all! Then it woke up again and headed away from me. I dropped the net for the moment and played it with a lot more caution. Finally, she was beat and came up to the surface. But river fish know exactly what they are doing, and she turned sideways in the flow and flared her fins to create maximum resistance and weight. It was almost impossible to get her across to the net but inch by inch and hardly daring to breath I finally had her back at my feet where I slipped the net under her and let out a massive sigh of relief. I knew I had a good double, and on the scales she went 12lb 8oz. I took a few photos, and just in time, as the rain that was promised started to fall. Then I slipped her back into the dark water and watched her glide away under the light of my head torch. What a way to end the river season!