Barbel Fishing - The Pope’s River Diary: June 2012
This month Steve opens his season on the Rivers Severn and Kennet, is let down by lack of preparation and is getting excited about seeing ‘The Boss’
“I know well that the June rains just fall.”
Words from nearly three hundred years ago written by some Japanese poet, well I’m not so sure about his poetry but he’s no mean prophet as we have all just suffered the wettest June on record! For me though the start was put on hold; not for long, and not because of the rain, for the barbel angler the deluge was pure manna from above, but for me family matters always take precedence - even bearing in mind my absence from the rivers has been even longer this year.
My daughter and grandson had flown back from Australia with me to stay in the UK for a month to see the rest of the family, and for my daughter to meet up with business people in London. This effectively meant that baby minding duties stretched out until the very end of the month so, instead of being down by the river, I was down on the farm keeping young Henry entertained. As I’ve already mentioned I’ve fallen head over heels into this granddad lark and I have to say I was more than happy keeping the little piggies company, the barbel would just have to wait!
This change to my plans also meant that I missed out on the Boss show in Manchester and the mud bath put me off trying to work out a travel plan to hit the Isle of Wight, never mind Hyde Park will soon be calling! When I did eventually manage to venture out with the rods my destination was the wonderful lower Severn.
The ridiculously wet weather we are having to endure this summer meant that the river was carrying far more water than is usual for the time of year and, not surprisingly, some excellent early season catches have been made. The lower river always responds positively when the rains hit the Kerry Hills up where I live and as I keep banging on there are more than enough barbel in the river to keep any barbel fisher happy.
I arrived at my favourite location in the early afternoon and set up in a swim that has been kind to me in the past, there was just one other angler on the bank, Geoff, someone I know well and someone who catches a few himself. Geoff had been on the river for a few days fishing for a few hours each evening and staying in his tourer. He told me, after I had put on a great deal of pressure, that he had caught an eleven and a half the day before and was catching a couple or so each session so my confidence was now even higher.
However, because my head up until this point was still well and truly ‘down under’ my preparations were not all they should have been, something I’m loathe to admit but when you are writing a diary it really has to be warts and all. My supply of hemp was still soaking and would not be ready until the following day and as I had yet to stock up with jars of Dynamite Frenzied Hemp my baiting up would only consist of groundbait and small pellets. It really is inexcusable to be so poorly prepared but I can happily report that my freezer at home is now packed to the brim with frozen hemp and I’m back in the old routine of getting four gallons of the black seeds frozen each week.
While I’m on the subject of hemp and I’m not sure if I’ve said it before but I don’t actually boil the stuff; I three quarters fill a decent sized cool box, cover the hemp with cold water and allow it to soak for twenty four hours, drain it off and top up with boiling water, twelve hours later it’s good to go.
Tackle wise my usual set up for fishing the Severn is as follows:
12ft Big River or Seeker rod coupled with either a Rapidex, Speedia or Aerial centrepin.
12lb mono or 20lb Powerpro line.
A Fisky feeder weighing carrying three, four or five ounces.
The rig usually consists of a Nash quick change swivel, 15lb Missing Link hook length material and a Nash X Fang hook - sized to match the bait – which is usually usually pellet or boilie. The feeder mix incorporates pellets in the 3,4,6 and 8mm sizes from the Dynamite range and a method mix groundbait. If I’m using a large piece of luncheon meat I discard the feeder in lieu of a suitable leger weight. I will often use two rods in daylight but always revert to one once darkness sets in, reason? Far more trouble than it’s worth!
So how did I fare bearing in mind I had already put myself at a disadvantage? Not very well I’m afraid, apart from one bream that seem to follow me whenever I’m on the lower no other fish showed, the barbel were distinctly conspicuous by their absence. Geoff fared slightly better and found one barbel around the eight pound mark and I duly did the honours of netting it and taking a photo through gritted teeth!
You can never build a philosophy around one instance but I can categorically say that you severely diminish your chances by not laying down a carpet of hemp for the barbel to find on rivers like the lower Severn, I have proved it to my own satisfaction time and time again and the short six hour session was just another reminder that I must always practice what I preach! So it was head down, punch out some zeds and set the alarm to be up bright and early for a full day’s assault, this time though the preparations would be in place.
Seven in the morning and there I was, standing in the mud going through the routine of laying down the bed of hemp with the old bait dropper, it must have taken the best part of an hour but as I only had the one day I was not taking any chances. I fished the whole day and managed three barbel with the largest just shy of the double that I was hoping for, I was quite pleased especially as I had out fished Geoff but he got his own back by taking the photo which as you can see is not one of my best! The guys over on Facebook tidied it up from its shaky origins and as I’m waiting for the postman to deliver my super new Canon I can promise all future photos will be of excellent quality!
Throughout the afternoon I kept checking on the progress of our great British hope at Wimbledon, he did us proud with an emphatic win over the rather good Mr. Ferrer, unfortunately he couldn’t keep it going against the rather more talented Mr. Federer. I have been championing the cause of Andy Murray for some time and can never understand those, and there are many, who cannot bring themselves to support the man. I hear that he is dour, miserable, hates the English and that no Scot would support an Englishman, well no offence to the Scottish nation but if they are that small minded then it really is their problem not mine! Come January I’ll be supporting him down under and hopefully next summer he will go one further at Wimbledon than he did this year.
Back to the fishing.
A few days after my start to the season on the Severn I made the long trip to Berkshire’s beautiful River Kennet and my intention was to put in a day prior to my first guiding session to test the water. Not surprisingly after all the rain the river was up a good foot or so for this time of the year. The omens were not particularly good, a few fish had come out including a sprinkling of doubles but the fishing had been far from easy with one or perhaps two chances being the norm. Nevertheless I was on the bank full of my usual optimism but hampered by the distinct feeling of cold in my bones, summertime, you must be kidding.
I had already committed myself to a two day caster attack; in hindsight it would have been better and cheaper to have emptied the shelves at Asda of their meatball stock! The rain certainly fell, not constantly, but enough to distract and cause me to get wet, you can’t stop putting the dropper in because of a shower, that’s not how it works! I kept at it all day, right up until proper darkness set in; I worked hard but my only reward, one barbel around the six pound mark. What this told me was the barbel were not yet shoaled in any numbers and although my fish was a small one it could just have easily been one twice the size so my expectancy level had to be adjusted accordingly.
Ben turned up the next day bang on time and full of hope and expectancy, I kept my reservations about the conditions to myself while making the point that the fishing was going to be more difficult than I had hoped. Once again the weather was more akin to late autumn than early summer and the cold set in once again, it may be the fact that my blood pressure pills have thinned my lifeblood to such a degree that it’s the price I have to pay for having no bad cholesterol!
Now Ben had already tasted barbel success by catching them to close on fourteen pounds from St. Patrick’s Stream and those who fish there know how tricky that venue is but his thirst for more knowledge meant that I was kept busy for many hours imparting every scrap of info locked away in the deepest recesses of my brain! The day flashed by and the lack of fish didn’t seem to matter. We tried a couple of other swims that ought to have produced but all to no avail and so it was back to the base camp, my office, to try and tempt the one fish that might be interested.And eventually we did get lucky, the pin spun into life and a spirited barbel around the nine pound mark put up a very determined struggle using the extra flow to full effect. Ben was yet another who had never experienced the thrill of a barbel on a pin and he too is now a convert, I won’t upset the fixed spool fans but, in my humble opinion, there really is no comparison, the pin wins every time!
We stuck it out to the very death and as we packed the last piece of kit away a barbel rolled in front of us as if to put two fingers up at our efforts! Things will certainly get better, I’m really looking forward to more time on the Severn and I predict I will see more doubles action there than I will on the Kennet.
I’ve a busy month coming up: by the time you read this I will have been to London to see Bruce perform in Hyde Park then there’s a couple of days on the Severn, a Barbel Society committee meeting, Barbel School on the Teme and then I’m taking my brother and his young son out to hopefully nab his first barbel! And I mustn’t forget the Bewdley Angling Festival on Monday 23 July as I’ve told my old mate Des Taylor that I will do a talk and join the forum there in the evening, perhaps I’ll see you there?
So that’s it for another month, all the best, make the most of the excellent barbel catching conditions but whatever you do stay safe, I’ll see you soon.
By the Same Author
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- Barbel Fishing – The Pope’s River Diary: December 2012
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