Barbel Fishing: The Pope’s River Diary
Steve is finally back on the rivers and enjoying his summertime job – catching barbel!
Do you know what it is I enjoy the most about my summertime job? It’s meeting so many different people who all add something special to my own personal fishing experience. Some are older, some are young, some are experienced, some have never caught a barbel but all are tremendous company and folk with whom I would happily spend time with over and over again on the river. I’m so pleased my great friend and mentor Fred Crouch persuaded me to get involved in taking people out because, although I’m a bit reclusive these days, I love making new friends and acquaintances. I count myself very fortunate indeed.
But before we set off on the fishing expeditions let’s go back to the start of the season when I found myself spending more and more quality time with my twelve month old granddaughter. The superb weather we are enjoying, and let’s not bleat about needing rain for heaven’s sake, means we are actually enjoying a proper summer and there are no moans from me!
My first fishing encounter of the new term was in fact attending a Barbel Society committee meeting, something I have been doing for nearly twenty years, that’s a long time in anyone’s book and even though I say it myself it shows true commitment to a cause. As far as I’m concerned it’s about walking the walk in this life.
A very interesting and constructive meeting ensued, plans are being made to put in place an annual fundraiser for the Severn catchment based on the template that was set up and is in place for the Hampshire Avon event. I’m sure this will generate a lot of interest and will help raise money to assist in the research that will be undertaken in this important area.
Also, I like to think of myself as being rather progressive, twenty odd years ago I knew what was needed with regard to forming a new barbel organisation that would cater for the needs of the many, we are now at a point in time where new challenges mean that we have to adapt to move forward into the next twenty years. The younger guys will hopefully come up with some great innovative ideas, it’s their future and it’s what they want to see that’s important. The clever bit will be dovetailing new ideas into something that many ‘older’ anglers still support and enjoy – the challenge is there to be met and I’m sure we will.
I’m more than aware that we, and by my involvement I will use the first person and say that I cannot please everyone, but many are happy and I have to say that if I was pleasing a vocal minority then I would have to question if I was actually doing it right, that’s how it is with me.
Barry Fisher, with help from FM forum moderator Neil Maidment, had set up an online auction in memory of Jodi and Ella, the girlfriend of Barry and her little daughter who tragically lost their lives in a terrible car crash. This auction raised in excess of £8,000 for the Make a Wish Foundation and I had no hesitation in offering a day’s fishing when I first heard of Barry’s idea. Cristian made the winning bid and I was looking forward to meeting up with him on the Sunday following the BS meeting.
Cristian had never caught a barbel - coming close on the Loddon, but the fish won - so the pressure was on. Barbel Society stalwart Dave Brown was also on the river and he had captured a double on his first cast fishing the small meat method which I have described before so the fish were at least there and feeding…
Cristian and I headed downstream to fish the swim we call The Armchair. Basically this is a typical Kennet run, no more than three feet deep, but with plenty of far bank tree cover which can, at times, hold a number of barbel and we set about introducing hemp and caster with the baitdropper with the intention of bringing the fish out from their cover.
It was a tough day with the sun blazing down and the barbel were happy to keep under the trees, only venturing out on three occasions to pick up the hair rigged casters. Twice Cristian landed fish around the five pound mark but the one that escaped was much bigger and we vowed to make sure that one ended up in the net the following weekend when we would meet up once again.
Monday was a total blank for me although Dave’s good fortune was still intact and I found myself photographing a thirteen pound fish for him, a barbel I recognised from the previous autumn when it was half a pound lighter. It’s always good to know the fish are still around bearing in mind we know there are otters on the fishery.
My good friend Howard, now a committee member, turned up in the late afternoon and caught a small barbel but it was his centrepin reel that was the focus of both our attention. Howard since coming out with me a couple of years back has taken to these reels with a real zeal and the one attached to his rod was rather special, a Bisterne. All I’m going to say is that its value would keep me going for a year!
Garrett – what a fabulous name – was with me on the Tuesday; hailing from the Emerald Isle here was a man who had certainly kissed the Blarney Stone and talking was most definitely a dance for this wonderful character – he was the lord alright. A barbel had to be caught – it was an item on Garrett’s bucket list, not so much for Garrett but for his dad.
The stories flowed all day long as you would expect with someone who has Garrett’s heritage, he explained how his dad was a good fisherman who taught him everything and although he had caught most species barbel had, for some reason, eluded him. Having lost his dear father Garrett had made it his mission to capture the fish for him and I found myself pivotal in this personal quest.
Fortunately Irish eyes were smiling and during the day Garrett brought two barbel to the net, the biggest just under the ten pound mark, it really didn’t matter. The smile on Garrett’s face as he held his prize said it all and confirmed to me the pure joy that a fish can give to people, we anglers are truly blessed.
As Garret said, “What fills the eye, fills the heart.”
I enjoyed two further days on the Kennet in the company of Steve and Harry, both winners in the Barbel Society Research and Conservation online auction and I also enjoyed a day in the blazing heat on the banks of the River Teme where I was joined by three guys from Kent who had recently found the barbel bug after years fishing for carp. It was also our good fortune to meet up with Rob Swindells and Mark Dutton who were also on the water putting together a feature with Gary Newman for Angler’s Mail. One or two barbel did show but it was hard work; thankfully the barbeque and banter more than made up for the fishing and I know the lads had a great time. And then it was back on the road to catch up with Cristian once again…
Back on the Kennet we set up in a different swim; casters again but it was slow going for most of the day. Then it was fish on - but fish off - almost immediately, probably foulhooked as the barbel came out to gorge on the baitdroppered feast. Usually a lost fish means a long wait for more action but I decided to put the bait back in straight away and it was taken as soon as it hit the bottom – BANG - no messing, and Cristian was in once again.
As the fish appeared just below the surface in front of us it was clear that it was a double, and when it rolled over the net I knew it was probably over twelve. Cristian was elated when the scales read 12-06, mission accomplished.
My first week’s fishing of a new season and it had been rather eventful. The next fortnight was also memorable, but we can talk about that next time.
Enjoy the fine weather, it will be cold, rain and floods before very long and we’ll all be harking back to the long summer days!
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