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Barbel Fishing – The Pope’s River Diary: April 2013


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Barbel re-stocking on the River Stour, just one on many research and conservation projects undertaken by the Barbel Society. Barbel re-stocking on the River Stour, just one on many research and conservation projects undertaken by the Barbel Society.

This month, amongst a number of diverse topics, Steve looks at the anglers who inspired him and the future of barbel fishing.









When I started to put this month’s diary together I fully expected to be back on UK terra firma by the time you would actually be reading it, however things in my life at the moment change from one day to the next and for one reason or another I’m still on the other side of the world and won’t be back until the beginning of June. 

‘Poor you’ I hear you say but remember this, it’s well into autumn down here now and the nights are drawing in, it’s pitch black by 5-30pm and it’s a bit nippy in the evening!

Never mind, things can only get warmer – I’ve noted there was a mini heatwave in London -  and in just a few weeks’ time the river season opens once again and I will be among lots of friends who enjoy being beside the living water as much I do. Leaving aside all the arguments about the close season no one can ever deny that there truly is a childlike excitement as the day draws ever closer, much akin to Christmas Eve; it would be a crying shame to lose that because as far as I’m concerned it adds to the magic of what we do.

It won't be long now until these are back in use!I know that there are many who would disagree with me, FM editor Ian for one, (For the record I’m not against a closure on those few venues where it may be required for sound ecological reasons – more the duration and timing of it – Ed.) and I see Lewis Baldwin has nailed his flag to the same mast, I’m just pleased that there are still enough people out there who believe that abstinence is good for the soul and who also appreciate that you never really know what you have ‘til it’s gone. The one rider for me personally is that June 16 marks the fact that I’m another year older and I’ve reached that stage in life where I would rather forget how old I am in actual years while I continue to live in the mistaken belief that I’m any age I want to be!

I've only managed small fish from the harbour so far.As far as fishing is concerned I’ve actually managed to fit in some over here and later this week I’m off to the Hawkesbury River to dust off some of the rust that has set in, I’ll tell you about that next time but, as promised last month, here are the rest of the questions and answers from the Barbel Fishing – Prince of the River Facebook session.


Question from Neil Webb

Hi Steve,

You have been an inspiration to many people over the years, who inspired you in your early days of fishing?

Hi Neil,

Thank you very much for saying that, it isn’t something I’ve consciously realised but I suppose you lose sight of the fact that if you write a lot and have been ‘out there’ for a good few years  then you have an influence.

Another cracking question, I have to say you guys have come up with some very thoughtful questions; I’ve had to really get back into the zone which isn’t easy at 7-30 in the morning!

A 'proper' heroIn the early days my dad was the one who got me started and then when I went to senior school I started reading Walker, Taylor and Stone and Dave Steuart, you could get the books from the local library. I managed to meet them all - except Walker.

I always had a real affection for Peter Stone and I consider myself very fortunate to have known him in his later years and although they say you should never meet your heroes Peter was someone who was an exception to that rule. A more gracious, courteous genuinely nice man would be harder to imagine. They just don’t make them like that anymore.

But from a purely barbel fishing perspective it would have to be Fred Crouch, we have spent so much time together and in my book he is number one. Nothing fancy, no monster fish but without a doubt the best natural angler you will ever see. So I’ve been very fortunate.

Also for me to be inspired by someone there has to be something more than just the fishing, those I’ve mentioned have also inspired me as people, I consider that to be hugely important.

The book that launched so many anglers...And I must not forget Mr. Crabtree, like many others from my generation I’ve lost count of the times I’ve read the words, studied the pictures, and tried to find the swims! Quite possibly the biggest inspiration for anyone of my age.






Question from Dave Chambers.

Hi Steve, hope you are well and not too cold in Oz? 

Over the past twenty years we`ve seen massive changes such as an increase in the number of rivers containing barbel, the popularity of the sport and advances in bait and tackle development. What do you think barbel fishing will be like in 2033?

Hi Dave,

I’m very well thanks, well apart from a stinking cold that has really taken hold, it’s a good job this is an online session, if it was a talking one I would have had to give it a miss! Life is good here in Australia, I’m hoping to spend half my life here from now on, we’ll have to see.

I’m reminded of that song ‘In the Year 2525’... Will we still be around, and will the UK survive?  Let’s agree that some of us will still be around in 2033 and yes, the country will still exist!

Right, your question, first of all I just hope I’m still alive in twenty years’ time, reminds me of the line Keith Richard’s always comes out with: “Happy to be here...happy to be anywhere!” 

It’s a sobering thought! For sure I won’t be Barbel Society chairman, that’s a given!

Looking into that crystal ball what do I see?

As I mentioned in Tom’s question, I am by nature an optimist, but I suppose we have to temper that with a touch of reality but I do believe people will still be enjoying fishing for barbel in 2033, I don’t believe the species will become extinct.

Is a cycle 20 years or is it 40 years, is it a lot longer?  We don’t actually know. Will there be fish? Where will we fish? How will we fish? And tied up in those three questions are a multitude of others.

We need to support our local tackle shopsAs long as our rivers have not been sucked dry, there will still be plenty of barbel, not the same as today though, we may witness a complete turnaround. The Wye and Trent will have peaked and may well be going backwards in terms of barbel populations while the smaller rivers will hopefully have recovered, some certainly will have, if not all. The worry is that many small clubs may have disappeared and we just have a small number of big groups along with syndicates throughout the country. That is a concern.

Tackle will continue to evolve, it’s a huge business now, the big boys will be bigger and small companies will come and go. The Internet will play a much larger part in every aspect of our fishing and I can’t see there being any printed papers or magazines. Most of the small tackle shops will have gone; a few big ones will survive otherwise it’s all about the ‘net. You only have to look at what’s happening in the High Street to see that.

Will the barbel record be the same as it is now...quite possibly – unless the twenty plusser that came out recently to Dave Currell puts on a bit of weight!


Question from Gary Lucas.

Hi Steve

The BS have been involved in many projects over the years , many of which go unnoticed by most anglers, I’d also like to ask what future plans you have?

If a club was to ask for your help, how would they go about doing so? Secondly, what have been the highest and lowest points in your barbel fishing career?

Hi Gary,

Thanks for this one, and for the opportunity to fly our flag, I’m intensely proud of what the Barbel Society has achieved since we started up in 1995.

The fact that we have immortalised Peter Stone with the commemorative plaque on the bridge at Wolvercote was no mean feat, we can all be proud of that.

The long-awaited book is out in JuneApart from the work that is ongoing on the research and conservation front, details of which are on the front page of our website, we have other initiatives in the pipeline. The long-awaited book is out in June and that should give us the financial platform to move strongly forward.

Hopefully more fisheries will become available, but they have to be top notch because it’s always a risk from a financial perspective. Lots of younger guys seem to be making an impact and that has to be a big positive, they are the future after all. We are investigating more stocking at Throop and we are backing PHD research into the effect barbel have on the riverbed, and no doubt when I return Pete Reading will have more potential projects to discuss. We want to support a wide range of projects and if you guys have any ideas that can be followed up then let us know.

I would like to see some of the ‘new’ guys out there in the barbel world giving talks at our regional meetings, the door is open I promise you.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Barbel Society is going through a transition period, we have to move with the times so as to be attractive to the new generation while maintaining a strong tradition to keep our loyal base. Note I didn’t say traditionalist, we are a broad church as the politicians like to say!

All that any club has to do is make contact with us. An e-mail or letter, contact details are on our website, to Pete Reading, the BS Secretary will set the wheels in motion. It really is as simple as that. Pete will then inform the rest of the committee and we take it from there.

Highest point? That would have to be the day I managed to get everyone in the room at the Swan Hotel in Upton on Severn where the BS was born. The fact that my all-time fishing hero Peter Stone turned up was all I needed to confirm that it was going to happen. It was the culmination of months of hard work behind the scenes. Another equally highest point was meeting up with and forming a friendship that has grown beyond fishing with Fred Crouch.

The highest point with regards to catching was when I caught a 13-13 from the Severn in ‘92; everything fell into place after that.

Lowest point?  A general one, the unfortunate, and I suppose inevitable, fact that when you’ve been involved as long as I have you will fall out with people from time to time which then becomes exacerbated through the Internet, it becomes even worse when the bad will is directed at friends. I have thick enough skin to deal with it but even now at times it can still be damaging when it becomes so personal.

Another low point was when I became totally obsessed with the fishing and put my family life at risk, I saw the light just in time and have been thanking my lucky stars ever since.


That brought the curtain down on my Q and A session, something I really enjoyed doing and will hopefully do again at some point. As I write this I’ve just taken part in another for the Coarse Angling Today Facebook  page, a real early start this time, 5am as it went out at 8pm BST!

I think it went well. After an anxious few minutes at the start when the words of the Boss came to mind - Is there anyone alive out there? – Things quickly kicked in and I was online for four hours – the length of a Boss concert!

My fishing plans are well mapped out through till the end of November. Lots of hours on the Wye, Kennet and Severn and I look forward to sharing with you the many adventures that will come my way.

I want to go into far more detail in my diaries; I’ll try to give a real insight into the days spent on the river, the trials and tribulations, the successes and the failures, the whys and wherefores.

There are many stories yet to unfold.

I look forward to seeing some of you at the Barbel Society Barbel Show on Sunday 09 June.

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Steve Pope, Barbel Fishing, Barbel