Barbel Fishing - The Pope’s River Diary: July
This month Steve is engaging in a shameless bit of nostalgia as he tries to help two youngsters get to grips with their first barbel.
Can you remember what it was like when you were just ten years old?
It’s a heck of a long time ago for me but if I concentrate really hard events and images from 1960 appear at the front of my brain and I can step back in time for a minute or so.
Back in those far distant days I was living in Tottenham, just a twenty minute walk from White Hart Lane and that obviously meant football was high on my agenda. Those with long memories might recall that during that very season Spurs won the coveted ‘Double’ and I was lucky enough to be at most of the home games, it really was the best of times.
Fishing hadn’t really taken hold, although I often accompanied my dad when he set off for Cheshunt to unwind after a hard weeks’ work. Looking back now it was probably the excitement of the train journey that captured my imagination more than the fishing but no doubt the seeds were then sown that would eventually bear fruit years down the line.
My mum would drag me along to see the latest Elvis movie while back home the sounds of Del Shannon, Sam Cooke and Elvis, of course, would ring out from the Dansette turntable.
The Rome Olympics were taking place, just to add a topical note, and I do have faint recollections of the Mighty Mouse, Don Thompson, winning a gold medal for Britain in the 50 kilometre walk – I can see him now with his ungainly stride and sunglasses - I bet some of you can as well!
So what exactly is the point of this shameless bout of nostalgia?
Well, during this past month I have enjoyed the very great pleasure of fishing with two young lads, both just ten years old, and both exceptionally keen and desperate to catch a barbel! No pressure then, reputation on the line, Steve will step up to the mark and ensure these two young apprentices catch their fish and have a brilliant time...
But before I tell you about the fishing with Connor and Lewis, I must share with you the experience I had at the start of the month when, for just one day, I was no more than a big kid myself; that’s what it’s like when you are a diehard Springsteen fan.
Having driven down to my daughter’s place in Clapham in readiness for the show, I arranged for a cab to pick me up so that I was at Hyde Park no later than 7am on the Saturday morning. There were already two hundred people in the queue, Boss fans are quite mad, some had been following the tour all over Europe, no wonder Bruce is happy to jump into the crowd, he must recognise everyone in the front few rows!
The park was a mess, the constant rain had turned some areas into a quagmire but what was left of the grass in the arena had been covered with wood chippings so it wasn’t too bad but once the gates opened it was everyone for themselves and it’s at times like that when I really wish I was fitter than I am - or I should say if only I had been born to run - suffice to say it was an Olympic sprint to get to the stage!
How I managed it I don’t know but in the space of a couple of minutes I found myself at the front, just right of centre, and then it was just a seven hour wait ‘til the Boss arrived, no real problem for me, I often wait longer than that for a barbel! Mind you ‘Hard Rock Calling’ is more of a festival and the supporting acts were very good, especially John Fogerty, so the time flew by.
Bruce, as always, delivered the goods. It was a fantastic show and it took us all by surprise when Paul McCartney came on at the end. Mind you it was even more of a surprise when the plug was pulled before the show was complete...the curfew had been broken and London was not having it, not even for the two biggest names in the business!
And then there was not the inconsiderable problem of how to get back home, the tube station was shut so I took a red bus for the first time since the mid-sixties, another chance to rekindle distant memories!
As I drove back home hours later on the Sunday I was astonished as I crossed the Carrington Bridge to see the Severn had become an ocean, the fields had totally disappeared under the constant deluge and the landscape was more akin to the Norfolk Broads than the Severn Valley. This meant that a planned two-day guiding trip on the Severn had to be postponed; safety really does come first, especially when your guest is a police officer!
Thankfully the rain stopped and the floods subsided, the visit to the river of my brother with his ten year old son Connor could go ahead, a real relief as Connor had been looking forward to it since last year.
I had bought him a barbel rod and some other bits and pieces when I was at last year’s Evesham Festival and the pressure was on as I had promised he would catch a barbel from the Severn and we would make a weekend of it at my caravan.
We met up on the Saturday afternoon; my morning had been taken up with a Barbel Society committee meeting and this is an opportune moment to thank the outgoing Fred Bonney, a Fishing Magic stalwart, for all his hard work these past few years serving on the BS team, more time to get down to the river now mate!
Connor wanted to start fishing straight away, and so we did, and he had his first lesson in bait dropping. The loaded rod proved to be a bit too heavy and so the job fell to me and I duly fed four pints of hemp mixed with some 3 and 4mm pellets into the swim bang on the crease line, as the river had dropped back to just the right level.
I had previously filled the new Baitrunner with 12lb line and proceeded to set up a running Fisky feeder with a coated braid hooklength about 18 inches long together with a size 8 hook. A couple of 8mm pellets glued to the hair and with a groundbait mix prepared, we were good to go!
Izaak must have been looking down on us because it didn’t take long for Connor’s alarm - I had bought him one of those as well - to scream into life and line to peel off the reel. Connor was into his first barbel and, with a little help from Uncle Steve, the fish was soon resting in the net and the now very accomplished angler was jumping up and down punching the air with delight!
One soon became two and we eventually called it a day not long after the sun had set over Worcester cathedral having captured four lovely barbel, saving the biggest for last at just four ounces off a double! It was a very tired but very happy ten-year-old who hit the sack with the immortal words, “We’ll do it all over again in the morning!”
Well, after a big early morning breakfast in the next door carvery we set out to do it again but it took that little bit longer for the barbel to play their part. Connor spent the hours of spare time demolishing an old log that had found itself washed up on the bank in the flood; that’s the magic of being that age I suppose, there’s always fun to be had no matter how long the wait before a barbel bites!
Two barbel came our way including another very nice nine pounder and so Connor’s introduction to the wonderful world of barbel fishing had resulted in half a dozen beauties which by any standards was a right result! I’ve promised him a trip to the Kennet before it’s time to go back to school so we’ll see if that river treats him as kindly as the Severn did.
Next on my agenda was a trip over to Bewdley to lend a hand at the Fishing Festival for someone who I have a great deal of time for, the one and only Des Taylor. When Des asked if I would give a talk and sit on the forum I only needed to check to make sure I was not committed elsewhere and the answer was affirmative, I’d be there.
Des is a proper angler but, more important to me, he is a genuine bloke. We have disagreed over big issues in the past, we still disagree on some today but there is never a question of falling out and that is why I have so much time for him. However when I realised I was following Martin Salter who, let’s just say is a rather good speaker, for a short moment our friendship was at risk! I say that in jest, the talk went well and the forum with the likes of Lol Breakspear, Paul Garner and Dave Harrell was very interesting especially when the close season was being discussed!
I’ll save that debate for another time.
The following day found me back on the Kennet on a guiding mission with Jez. The day went well but the barbel were not in a ravenous mood and just one nice fish was landed and another lost. The Kennet is proving quite tricky at the moment, I’m sure the unusual weather we have experienced at the start has affected the fish; it will be fascinating to see how things develop over the coming months.
And then it was Wednesday and my guest for the day was young Lewis, the second ten-year-old in a week hoping to catch a barbel!
Lewis, together with his granddad Barry, had been fishing with me before; indeed Barry is now part of the Barbel Society committee and the idea was to try to get a double for Lewis and at the same time produce a feature for one of the monthly magazines. I decided to try my own luck before the pair arrived and landed a fish of 8lb 12oz so the omens were looking good; perhaps a few fish were in residence?
We tried really hard, I’ll rephrase that, Lewis tried really hard and he surely deserved to land a special barbel. The one and only chance came late in the afternoon and as you can see from the photo I did my utmost to help Lewis land what was obviously a good barbel. Unfortunately after a few minutes the fish was lost; to say we were all gutted would be a huge understatement. We fished on but to no avail, the barbel had obviously not read the script. Never mind, we will do it all again as my nephew said the week before, so the magazine feature is still a work in progress.
After dropping my wife off at Heathrow, I met up with Bob Roberts at the Caer Beris Hotel in Builth Wells. The idea was for me to see how Bob runs his fishing courses on the Wye before I took the reins a week later. I had a great time with Bob and his guests culminating in a rather nice barbeque on Geoff Maynard’s fishery.
You’ll have to wait until the August diary to read how my week unfolded, suffice to say it went very well and is sure to whet your appetite for the glorious River Wye.
A week on the Kennet is next on the agenda, I hope the fish play ball this time, see you soon.
By the Same Author
- Barbel Fishing – The Pope’s River Diary: April 2013
- Barbel Fishing – The Pope’s River Diary
- Barbel Fishing – The Pope’s River Diary: February 2013
- Barbel Fishing – The Pope’s River Diary: January 2013
- Barbel Fishing - The Wye Valley Experience 2013
- Barbel Fishing – The Pope’s River Diary: December 2012
- Barbel Fishing - The Pope's River Diary: November 2012
- Barbel Fishing - The Pope’s River Diary: October 2012
- Barbel Fishing - The Pope's River Diary: September 2012
- Barbel Fishing – The Pope’s River Diary: August