Two or three of my fellow club members catch many more barbel than I do, largely because they’re good anglers or, possibly, because they’re simply better fishermen than I! But it’s certainly the case that I’m easily satisfied and don’t feel the need to keep going back for more; that’s just me…good luck to everyone else.

Despite this laid-back attitude to my ‘catch-rate’, one John Cooper was trouncing my barbel-fishing efforts a little too consistently; I fished with him two Saturdays ago – side by side we were – and three times during this short session it was yours truly who had to make with the net, the first time for a stonking specimen of 9lbs. His other fish weren’t much lighter and, of course, I was very pleased for him, especially as he’d given me his last Wagon Wheel to go with my tea. That these confections most definitely are much smaller than they used to be is neither here nor there: it was a sacrifice for which I was very grateful.

Next time out, just two days later, John took five decent fish from a slack spot in the high and rusty-coloured flow; naturally, I left my barren swim with each capture, put on my photographer’s hat and did the honours: well done, John!

I’d had sixteen of these hard-fighting torpedoes in the space of six weeks in July and August and thought – and still think! – that I’d done rather well with two nine-pounders in amongst them…real battlers in the fast water, they are, and the devil’s own job to land single-handedly with a fine-mesh net in fast water.

However, our next time together on the ‘going’ stretch, saw Mr Cooper bag no fewer than seven reel-screamers while I caught nowt! Truly, I was ever-so-pleased for him and, no, not a vestige of envy occupied my soul; I’m quite a big boy nowadays and have more than a few T-shirts to my name. Nonetheless, it would be nice, I thought, if I were able to text him during the week with news of a mega-fish! My contention that I wasn’t interested in anything less than twelve pounds had always been received in good humour so wouldn’t it be great to message him with MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: 13lb 6oz!! or something very like it…

Yesterday I fished alone and, I confess, I was in Cooper’s Patch. Again, the river was high, fast and coloured – perfect conditions for this swim and bound to produce a good ‘un for me.

But no… for three hours I sat without a tremble, let alone a three-foot twitch or a Glasgow Kiss, and a hint of despondency began to creep in…was it Cooper’s special boilie-dip that did the trick? Was the crushed hemp in his feeder-mix crucial to success? I poured a cup of tea and immediately dashed it to the ground when my rod-tip gave a sudden nod…then nothing. Bugger! A perfectly good cuppa had been committed to the earth for no good reason; what a bloody waste! I waited a while before re-filling the cup and was rewarded with another tap on the rod…then another…and another… The next pull was maintained but only very lightly so I watched the line where it entered the flow and convinced myself that a fish was slowing inching upstream…

I struck! Over went the rod and I was into my first fish for a week. Jeeeez! It rocketed into the main flow and near-wrenched the rod from my hands; it stayed deep and filled the next ten minutes with awesome line-wrenching runs, sometimes returning to seek refuge right under my nose in the deep water. Each time I tried lifting, the fish shot back out into the main river to test both my heart and my tackle but, in time, it tired and slowly came over the rim of my landing-net – whoo-hoo! What a fish!! Good old lunny had claimed another victim!

After unhooking and weighing, I took my time over an undisturbed cup of tea and gave Johnny Cooper a buzz but, naturally, he was ‘unavailable’ at the moment’. I’d wanted him to come down and get a trophy-shot for me. With the fish upright and seemingly content in the net for a few minutes I sat back and hoped he’d got my message.

He had. “Wotcha caught?”

“A monster” I replied.




“Nah…keep going”

“Wha…? Fourteen?”

“A bit more!”

“Kin ‘ell! How much more?”

“Another nine pounds” There was a short silence before the penny dropped.

“It’s a pike!”

“YES, John – twenty-three pounds!”


I won’t reproduce John’s exact response here but you might imagine!

Bless him, John rolled-up in his truck just twenty minutes later and did the honours with his phone-camera – and a fine job he did too.

Cliff Hatton

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