Barbel Fishing – The Pope’s River Diary: August
This month in his Barbel Diary Steve is fishing 24/7, finding the going tough on the River Kennet but loving it on the River Wye.
Well it’s certainly been a hectic month, just the odd day off to recharge the old battery otherwise it’s been fishing related matters all the way and on the home front I’ve played a blinder, my better half is back in Australia while I’m fishing 24 / 7, it’s a win, win situation!
The Kennet has proved to be a little more difficult than usual, I’m certain the weather conditions at the start of the season and around spawning time have played havoc with the fish, they are all over the place and not where you would expect them to be. Interestingly it has had a positive effect on the Lower Severn, the barbel there have been far more accommodating but I’ll save the details on that for next time.
Back to the Kennet, on the guiding front we’ve had a few doubles and I even managed to get a day to myself to capture a nice fish on a tiny pellet. I took my nephew out again and he was very happy when he landed his first barbel from the river. But my abiding memories on the Kennet during this past month are not entirely fishing related, I’ll explain.
There I was quietly contemplating the day ahead; the early morning sun was just rising when along comes my mate Nigel to disturb my peaceful solitude. We chat and agree that the fishing has been slower than usual when suddenly he said,
“Did you hear that, sounds like someone in a canoe?”
Now my hearing is not what it was and so my response was not affirmative but just as I finished my sentence the reason for what was now a very apparent splashing noise came into full view - in the middle of the very narrow river was a man in full wetsuit, he even had a number on his back, engaged in the front crawl as though he was in the Olympic final!
“Think you took the wrong turn off the Thames mate, it’s the Lea you want for the Olympic Park, not the Kennet.”
I don’t think he appreciated my wit but he did give us a glance and an awkward smile. That Robson Green has a lot to answer for.
The other experience was a first; I had the great pleasure of watching a barn owl work the field opposite my swim for a good half an hour in broad daylight. It was truly a majestic site as this wonderful creature circled and swooped and then flew towards almost as if it was putting on an encore; it really was some performance and certainly kept me spellbound while the reel remained silent.
I go fishing to catch fish but moments like these just add to our good fortune, we are very lucky us anglers.
I spent the Bank Holiday weekend at the Evesham Festival with the Peg One lads and met up with plenty of old acquaintances. The fishing itself was a real eye opener, it’s not often a twelve, thirteen and fourteen pound barbel get caught in a match situation!
I couldn’t resist having a word with Dave Harrell; he had a permanent smile the whole weekend, mind you so would if I’d just won a match with a PB barbel that increased the bank balance by six grand! I bought some of his floats too, I just hope some of the DH magic comes with them.
Having failed dismally in the quest for Olympic tickets I was extremely pleased when my youngest daughter told me she had tickets for the Paralympics and we would be going along to see some stadium events, the trip back to my old stamping ground was one that will last long in my memory.
The atmosphere in the packed stadium as Richard Whitehead won his race and then collected his gold medal was amazing; it brought a tear to my eye and I have to say it felt good to be British. The Olympics have done us proud as a nation, I just hope the powers that be get it right with regards to the Park now it’s all over.
Now I want to talk about the River Wye.
When Bob Roberts first asked me if I would help out with his Wye Valley Experience I have to say I was a little apprehensive. I have great respect for Bob and know how good he is at organising and getting things done and my fear was that I may not be quite up to the job. On the guiding front I have no problem with spending all day with one or two people but this venture called for a totally new discipline: looking after eight people is a whole new ball game.
I took the step and after a fantastic four days on the river with a great bunch of guys I’m really glad I did.
The drive from my place to Builth Wells is simply stunning, the mid Wales landscape takes your breath away and luckily there are no hair-raising mountain roads to traverse - as I seem to have developed a spot of vertigo in my older years!
Bob was still at the hotel when I arrived on the Sunday afternoon but he was just winding down and when the guests arrived it was down to me.
Peter the hotel owner, I had met the previous week and what a bloke, a great angler in his own right, and someone who has met just about every famous name in the angling world and he had the tales to tell!
The guests started to arrive and in no time at all everyone was chatting away as though they had known each other for years, that’s the beauty of this fishing lark, all barriers come down and it’s all about the river and the expectation of what was hopefully to come.
Bob had ensured all the fishing was taken care of, we had a number of locations lined up and my immediate job was to ensure the anglers and venues were carefully matched.
At the dinner table, and let me say the food at the Caer Beris was absolutely top notch, we decided how best to team up and who would be going where, then it was off to bed for me to make some notes and make sure I was all set and ready to go early in the morning after breakfast.
Monday morning and everyone was raring to go, we had three venues booked, one close to Hay and the other two just above Hereford. Not too far to drive and with the guys pairing up the drives were far from onerous , how could they be when you’re in such a fabulous place as the Wye Valley!
Jason and James were the two young guys and hit it off immediately, along with John who was far senior they set off for the Llan Thomas fishery, a superb place owned by Geoff Maynard and somewhere I fully expected to see some good catches.
Barry and Peter set off towards Hereford and settled in on a very nice Wye and Usk fishery that Barry knew well; with a prolific head of fish once again expectation was high.
Shaun and John were already good mates and they fished on another beat where the walk was that little bit longer, I figured they were fit enough to give it a go on the first day. I gave them a half an hour start and then set off to call in on them to make sure all was ok and offer any tips and advice they may find useful.
The first day went well, a good few barbel were landed with the best coming from the Llan Thomas fishery which didn’t surprise me because It really looks the part and I can’t wait to wet a line there myself.
Day two and different venues to hit, this time in the hot area between Hereford and Ross.
With eight guys now fishing, Tom had arrived a day later, hopes were once again high and what a day it turned out to be. Multiple catches of barbel and plenty of chub as well, and a number of the barbel were in excess of nine pounds - and that’s good fishing in anyone’s book.
Needless to say the dinner table late in the evening was buzzing, everyone had experienced a great day and I was shattered, Bob had warned me that I would get tired and to pace myself, but just seeing the excitement and pleasure of a group of happy anglers is infectious and can easily recharge any run down battery!
Day three and once again we were above Hereford and although the catch return was not quite up to the previous day’s extravaganza everyone caught and had a good time.
And so Thursday arrived, the last day, and we travelled further afield towards Ross where we had two venues booked. One fishery provided the goods, the other didn’t, we live and learn! I drove back home and had a haircut!
The beauty of the Wye is that there are so many different types of swim and so a variety of methods can be used with total confidence, the key though is to locate the fish. I realise that’s an obvious statement but when there is just one day to get it right it becomes paramount.
The River Wye is packed with barbel from below Ross to above Hay, but not in every swim. My advice is if you have prepared a swim and remain biteless after an hour or so then move. Once you land on them the sky is the limit and a dozen barbel can be expected, perhaps more.
There are plenty of fish in the nine pound bracket and doubles are well on the cards in some places, the Wye really does have it all and in conjunction with Bob I fully expect to be involved with more of this type of thing next year, I have a distinct feeling we will be well subscribed!
As I write this piece I’m preparing another trip to the River Severn later in the day, last week I had a fantastic time there but you’ll have to wait till the next Diary piece to read about it.
I somehow need to get my act together with regards to the Barbel Society book too, Phil Smith is seriously on my case , I have many words to write and photos to sort out, it’s a busy life this fisherman’s life!
That’s about it, I was going to mention how fishing with an old mate from many years ago has led to a far greater understanding of the serious carp angler and it’s a topic that really deserves a full blown article. What I will say is that James who has now caught three personal best barbel while out with me has taught me quite a lot about what makes the real carp anglers tick, as ever we always learn from each other.
That’s it, see you again soon and if Lower Severn barbel fishing is your thing be sure to check out the September Diary.
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