Tuesday, 22 February 2011

In Pursuit of Winter Barbel - Double Trouble

Keith and I got out to Stratford and Lucy's Mill for a barbel session last night - the river was in what looked like fine fettle for the species with the level falling after recent rains but still pushing through at quite a rate - the water a rich brown with frothy suds coming off the weirs and drifting around the mill pool. Perfect conditions, I thought, for my new and very pungent bait which would slowly emanate its magic slick of attraction way downstream and bring the barbs upstream in search of it.

Keith allowed me first dibs of peg and so I chose my preferred spot, which was last week's peg of course as I had unfinished business to attend to there, whilst he fished thirty to forty yard casts across the swirling tail of the weir wash and into the smoother waters beyond just upstream of my position.

My leads were breaking loose from the off so I just cast them at forty-five degrees across the strong main flow under our feet and had them come around to settle no further than thirty feet from the bank. When I'd ascertained exactly where that settling point was for both rods I baited up the area with hemp, pellets and a couple of handfuls of the flavoured meat and just cast straight there from then on to save having to watch a bouncing rod top for five minutes.

Lucy's Mill

We were there by four but I didn't get my first proper bite till half five, a bite which after an hour or so of constant tip movements caused by weed and debris, current and dislodged leads, was a bit of a surprise - a sudden jolt of an inch or so that went no further but it was certainly fishy and enough to keep me on my toes and I didn't get a bite worth striking till well into dusk but it was struck too soon, I fancied, and was missed.

The upstream rod came alive around half six - something down there was making investigations and causing the tip to tremble intermittently - lines bites, I was certain. I had my attention totally fixed on this rod but it was the downstream rod that suddenly twitched and then curved sharply over.

No trouble with crossed up rods this time and the strike met with a satisfyingly heavy weight thirty yards downstream. For a long time I really thought it was a monster bream because of the sheer weight of the thing and the fact that it was plodding around with a bream's typically half-hearted bump - bump - bump fight, but then it all went solid as the fish found the main current and steadfastly refused to budge. That was when I suspected I might have a lethargic barbel on the end who was now stuck to the deck by the sheer pressure of the flow over its aerofoil like body.

It stayed down for ages without moving at all, Keith actually thought I'd hooked bottom and I was beginning to suspect that the fish had gone and I'd been left snagged up, when all of a sudden the fish took off hard and fast downstream pulling me along after it, backwinding furiously. It was now abundantly clear that we were dealing with a good fish, and a barbel or carp rather than a bream.

We ended up above somewhat slower water about thirty yards downstream from my original position, a place where I was sure that I could eventually win out if only I could get the fishes head up and bring it near the surface, but even here the water speed, power and depth was really making things impossible. Every time I got her anywhere near the surface, she'd power back down again against all the power I could muster.

Ten minutes into the fight and I noticed that my arms were beginning to ache, and that's something I haven't experienced in a while! The hookhold seemed rock solid though so I was sure that given time I would land it

Eventually the fish came up high enough to spot in the headlamp beams, thereby confirming it as a good sized barbel. A few minutes later still and she began to wallow near the surface and Keith (on a second attempt caused entirely by my odd and confusing multi piece landing net handle arrangement that I really have to change for a single piece affair for this kind of work) netted her, hauled her out, up and onto the grassy bank behind.

She was a real looker even in the light of the headlamps, was clearly into double figures, would certainly be my best ever, no doubt about that. Sure enough, on the scales she went a full twelve pounds and four ounces, smashing my previous best by three pounds and catapulting me back into the lead from a slowly sinking fifth place with a stack of new points on the challenge board.

Today as I write I am aching along my left hand side from the strain of getting that fish up to the surface and am in the throes of a proper post-catch comedown...!

But I am loving the new bait. Clearly the barbel are too...!

Should get a new batch on the make, don't you think?


  1. Good work mate. Lovely fish.

  2. Your landing net handle is a contraption to behold. :)

    Push the various pieces together - it comes apart.
    Pull on the various pieces - it comes apart.
    I think you have to push one piece and pull on the second for it to make a pole.

    Either way, I decided holding it by the frame and leaning out over the water was the safest option rather than risk losing the fish.

    I had a worrying image of putting the net into the water towards the waiting fish then pulling the handle up to reveal no net (or fish) on the end.

    Nice catch.

  3. What a clonker Jeff and in low temperatures .I swapped my barbel rods over to zander rigs saturday as the temps put me off .

    I may have a go up there myself before the 15th.

    Well done that man!!!!

  4. Hello Rufus.

    I just wanted to get in touch to say how much I enjoy reading your wonderful blog.
    I’ve yet to come across another fishing blog that genuinely captures the playful essence of wetting a line.

    It’s so refreshing to read an account of someone who is simply out there exploring local waters and having fun doing so.
    Idler’s Quest is invariably my first port of call when a sneaky five minutes browsing time arrives. Love the images as well.

    Here’s my far less inspiring example:

    Keep up the great work mate.


  5. I read, I drool. Nice fish Geoff.

  6. Congratulations Jeff, a beautiful fish and a great write up too!

  7. Well done Jeff, that's a nice consolation prize after last week isn't it ! Great fish.

  8. Well done Jeff that is a awesome Barbel

  9. A lovely fish - I've been on tenterhooks waiting to hear if you'd snared the leviathan of Lucy's Mill!

    Seriously: this a great blog and, as others have pointed out, increasingly the one to turn to first. It actually makes me want to go fishing again, something I've not done in over 30 years* - I guess that's a compliment but you write well and I find myself reading more.

    * The days of Shakespeare Strikes, Mitchell 206s and waiting for my gran to get me Angling Times on (I think) a Weds!

  10. You didn't mess around putting that previous lost fish behind you! Well done.

    Will Hatt's wonder bait hit the tackle shops next I wonder!

  11. Steve in Colorado23 February 2011 at 01:17

    Hah! Toldya it was still in there... very nice!

  12. Awesome fish, very jealous, great write up, Chris Yates should be worried. I think you are beginning to look like him too!

  13. Super fish and a great read. Also a well done to Keith for such sterling (and life-threatening) work.

  14. I can only echo previous comments.
    Your blog is fantastic and a great read.
    I was willing that barbel into the net, im sure i even muttered the words ' please dont come off'.
    Lovely fish.

  15. Nice barbel mate! that will save you some work later in the year.