The SAS Angling Four Seasons Cup - Round 4
It's the final round of the Four Seasons and the venue is Lower Benyons on the Kennet...
For those not of an angling disposition, the summer months may seem the best time to be out fishing. Visions of picnics on the bank, lazily watching a float out of the corner of an eye, lolling in the sun after our quarry. Those of us who do engage in all things piscatorial however mostly hanker for autumn and the bounty it can bring when the trees are turning, the fish are feeding up ahead of winter and the mornings are becoming chill. And chill the mornings had indeed been thru mid October, with sub zero temperatures and frost on the ground on several of the days running up to the final round of the SAS Angling 4 Seasons Cup. Thankfully as the 23rd of October arrived the temps rose and the clouds came out and all felt perfect for a Barbel match on R&DAA’s Lower Benyons venue.
Arguably one of the UK's premier Barbel venues Lower Benyons is a stretch of the Berkshire Kennet just outside of Reading. It’s split into 3 sections and it was to the middle section (Yellow) that we headed for the start time of 6am. Due to a variety of reasons the starting field was a much diminished Will, Ian, Vince and myself. Unfortunately Will realised upon arrival that he’d left his terminal tackle at home so duly left to pick it up! This left Vince, Ian and myself to walk across the railway, thru the spooky woods and down to the start of Yellow section. The section itself runs upstream from a fairly deep, tree overhung straight, thru several bends, shallower straights and up to a beautiful weir at the top of the section.
Ian and I had tentative plans to start the day’s fishing in the middle of the section and we duly dropped into that area. Vince was heading further upstream to a swim with a large fallen tree in the river, with a nice gravel shallow along the far bank. As we setup in the pitch dark the weather was cool, but not overly so and the air held a hint of rain. In essence all felt good for a day’s barbelling. With the current front runner of the competition, Dave with 20 points, still in bed due to getting his dates mixed up, if we all blanked then he would win by default. With the arrival of 6am the game was on!
I had arrived with my 2 rods already setup, hooklengths and feeders only needing attaching to get fishing, so in short order I cast a paste wrapped boilie directly opposite near some snags I knew were present. The second (meat) rod I slung downstream fairly close into the bank. For feeders I opted for Drennan cage feeders holding 25g empty. These I filled with a groundbait/pellet mix of assorted ingredients. Rods out, and camp established it was on with the kettle for a morning brew.
Within about 15mins of casting out my boilie rod started to give a few twitches, the isotope on the rod top glowing brilliantly in the dark. Shortly after the rod hooped over with a real classic shallow river Barbel bite – fast and savage. I was on the rod instantaneously and felt the satisfying surge of power of a fresh water torpedo pulling back on the other end of my 8lb mainline. I like to do most of my barbel fishing on small rivers like the Loddon and as a result like to fish with my clutch fairly tight to minimise the chances of a hooked fish running into the abundant snags. As a result once I could feel that the fish was securely nailed I was able to let the carbon do the work and enjoy the fight despite it still being inky black, happy that if things got real exciting the clutch would let out just enough line to avoid snapping up. After a few very satisfying minutes the fish surfaced close in to the bank and was swiftly nestled in the folds of my waiting landing net at the first attempt!
A quick weigh in gave her at 6lb 3oz and I trotted down to Ian for some photos. He was rather surprised by my arrival having only just got his second rod out! Pics and so forth done I returned the fish to my swim and rested her in the net before watching her swim off in the light from my head torch. What a brilliant start to the day I thought and got back to watching the sunrise and a celebratory cuppa. Will had by now arrived back on the venue, unfortunately discovering Ian already in the swim he’d had in mind for the offing so instead he dropped into a spot lower down, just above a lovely double bend in the river.
Jezz arrived shortly after, direct from work and was the welcome bearer of gifts of a breakfasting nature and I have to say that the bacon sarnies he’d picked up on route were terrific. Big slabs of bread with plenty of hot bacon therein. Magic.
With the sun now being up it was all change on the swim front for Ian, myself and Vince. Ian headed up to the weir pool, Vin dropped a few swims down from his spot and I moved up to the outside of a bend with some nice overhangs close in and the tail end of a gravel run on the far bank. En route a group of 4 Deer popped up in the field on the opposite bank which was an unexpected treat and I paused for a few minutes whilst we all had a good look at each other.
My second swim yielded no interest in my baits and after another 2hr period I moved to another swim a couple more up towards the weir. A swim my current Barbel PB came out of earlier in the year when the river was up and pushing thru fast. Now it was slowish and low so holding point on a gravel spot on the far bank was no problem, though occassional floating debris/weed caused a few wipe outs.
Shortly after setting up the heavens decided to open and it rained hard for a good hour, making me thoroughly happy that I’d picked up a new brolly a couple of days earlier. The rain cleared to bright skies and with it we could all see just how low and clear the river was running; Coupled with the sunlight the day’s fishing was going be a bit more challenging than any of us had hoped.
The day was spent jumping from swim to swim with none of us managing to find or draw in the fish and so our hopes all came to rest on dusk and the hope that the fish would come on the feed with the onset of darkness. For my part I headed right back down to the first swim on the downstream end of the section; The swim has a large overhanging silver birch on the nearside and an oak overhanging the far bank giving a large amount of shade beneath for the full width of the river. I now switched to fishing 2 boilie rods, 1 cast to the upstream edge of the oak, the other slung beneath the birch some 10 ft off the bank. Even with the cover things seemed overly bright and I patiently watched the sun move slowly towards the treeline to my right.
My instincts, and hopes, paid off shortly after the sun had descended below the level of the pine trees when the nearside rod gave a good indication and I was quickly into a fish that gave itself away to be a lively Chub of 4lb 8oz. A quick self take and release and I recast to the same area, topping up with a few broken boilies and balls of groundbait thrown in by hand over the bait.
This tactic worked well as no more than 15 mins later the same rod was off again, resulting in strangely lack lustre fight from what turned out to be another, bigger, Chub tipping the scales at 5lb 5oz. The reason for the odd fight can be seen clearly in the first picture above. I’d heard of “broken” backed Barbel before, but not Chub so this was certainly a first for me and I marvelled as the fish swam off again after a rest in the net.
As the end of the match arrived Will, Ian, Vince and Jezz had unfortunately all passed uneventful days on the bank, my early fish being the only Barbel caught on the day.
The standings from round 3 were Dave 20pts, Sy 17pts, Vince 10pts & Will 9pts (the other SAS members all on 0pts) meaning that with the 10 point win from today’s match I ended up in overall first place with a total of 27 points and with it the first SAS 4 Seasons Cup!
I guess all that's left to say is that it’s been a most enjoyable first year of the cup and I look forward to the 2011 series and the challenges and laughs it will no doubt bring.