A NEW BOOK NOW OUT. Targets set and achieved.

My third book, 'Targets set and achieved' is now complete and ready for sale. As the title suggests it reflects the past seven years of my fishing. Twenty different rivers where double figure barbel were caught, crucians and roach to near record size, perch, chub, tench and bream to make the mouth water. All will be in the pages and well illustrated with lots of colour photographs.

There is a 1000 copy print run of the hardback edition and a further 40 leather bound copies for the connoisseur.

Copies available from myself just email phlpsmith9@aol.com or ring 07980 394864 for details

Still a limited number of leathers available.

Alternatively use the web page http://www.philsmithangler.co.uk/ where you can order by Paypal or credit/debit card.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Autumn Blues with a few gems included.

It’s tough out there, the last six weeks have been a bit up and down, but too much down to be honest!  Following the 28th river double I had hoped to get a reasonable chance to go to the Ribble in an attempt for the next river, the cold weather and timing did not allow that but it’s still there to be done.
One success was an attempt to catch a large roach from the Linear complex.  I seem to remember that when I was fishing on Willow Pool for the large roach there was another big 3lb plus specimen reported from Smith’s/Hardwick on Linear.  Now word had come that good roach were again being caught so plans were made for a few visits since roach are always a favourite.
The Linear Complex covers a number of lakes but it seems the Brassnose 1 and 2 offer the best chance so I made my way with John Found for a days fishing to check out the lay of the land on Brassnose 2 [B2 in most conversations here].  Having studied the aerial maps like Google Earth I could see a good number of bars on the western bank and thought these could be a good starting point though conversations with the bailiff suggested the opposite bank seemed a better bet.  We both blanked the day but the groundwork was not wasted and no doubt on its day fish could be caught along this bank.

The next trip we took the advice and although I blanked John did catch a nice roach though still under our 2lb target weight.   Our methods were similar being the standard helicopter rig with a maggot feeder and maggots as bait.  The rods were 13ft Drennan Feeders and main line of 6lb went to a hook link of 3lb with a size 14 hook.  Over the following visits I would vary this tackle to try and find the most successful, though at this stage I am assuming these fish are not the educated in finer tackle since most of what they see is for carp and they sometimes get caught on that gear.
On my next visit the weed was less of a problem and I fished a little further out.  I checked for features but there appeared to be very little variation.  There seemed to be just a slight change in depth so with my marker float out in place I marked my fishing rods for distance with rubber and using a spod I put out a bit of hemp, pellet and maggot for feed.   This possibly proved to be and error since over the session I hooked into four carp that gave me very little chance on the light gear.  I did land one of about 10lb but the others were too powerful.  On the brighter side I also landed my first B2 roach at a very pleasing 2lb-7oz.  Fortunately the bailiff had just arrived as I landed it so I also got better photos by the waterside.

                                                     2lb-7oz Linear roach

Further trips are planned an less feed and perhaps a sweetcorn variation of bait will be tried since in Spain that is by far our most successful bait, with that in mind my next trip is to Spain after roach.
Although Mequineza is mainly known for the catfish and carp that grow to large sizes I prefer to go after the roach having already caught enough of the others to be happy with that choice.  Of course this does not mean I will not try for them and indeed I had a days fishing after the carp while on a previous roach trip that gave me a 44lb-14oz common, very pleasing.

                                                                    44lb-14oz Spanish Gold

My regular companions on these Spanish roach trips are John Found and Pete Reading.   On a previous trip in the spring that I had missed Pete had caught the fish we had hoped would be there and at 3lb-10oz it made a truly worthy target.   Now in the November of the year we were fortunate that the weather was holding quite nicely, last year we had to contend with major floods that made fishing very difficult.  Following several trips for roach here we now have a good working knowledge of places to fish both on the River Ebro and on its tributary the Segre and on the first morning we set about trying the first spot this time on the tributary.   Our tackle is similar to that used on the Linear Fishery already described, the only real difference here is we use sweetcorn as the first choice of bait with pellet as a back.
The stock of roach here is vast and it seems they are spread far and wide, as a result of this if we have not had significant indications of fish being present within the first couple of hours we move on to another place.  This proved to be the case this time and so we moved to the so called Mines area.  This is a manmade area of flat, built up bank that is often used as a local match venue and gives access to the 40ft depths of the Ebro.   This time we got the expected action and caught a good number of roach to well in excess of the 2lb mark. 

                                                       My best at 2lb-9oz

                                                        Pete's best at 2lb-7oz

                                                       John's 3lb Gem.

Over the following days we moved around and caught the roach in each place we tried following the first failure.  The total of 2lb’s increased and then in the dying hours of the last day as John hit the jackpot amongst the other fish being caught.  Exactly 3lb and a real gem to end the trip on.  With 17 roach over 2lb and another 5 at 1lb-15oz it now remains for me to get that final target fish.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Target set and Achieved - 28th river double.

This seasons targets for further barbel river doubles included the River Itchen and the Ribble, one down and one to go.   A trip earlier this season to the north after the Ribble fish did not succeed with a very low river just giving up a couple of smaller fish for my efforts.

                                                           River Itchen at dusk.

Now after five nights spent on the River Itchen I have finally caught my target double from that river, not by much but a double is a double.  I went with the intention of using the caster/hemp ’bait and wait’ method that has proven its worth when looking at a shoal of fish.   My tackle is fairly standard and consists of a Drennan 12ft 1.75lb test barbel rod combined with a Shimano RE5000 baitrunner reel loaded with 15lb main line.  I had increased my line from the normal 12lb I used since I knew there were possible snags in the area and I would need to put the anchors on to avoid losing the fish.  A single buoyant rubber caster was placed on the hair along with a size 10 hook, I would then superglue a further two or three natural casters to this as the day progressed.

                                                     Rig making gear.

Starting about 8am I did a bait drop with about 10 or 12 droppers of a 50/50 mix of hemp and caster and then went for a walk to look and see if I could spot any other fish, unfortunately I could not but it passes the time anyway.   Another angler turned up named Robin Sewell, he had hoped to fish the same swim having had previous success there.  In the following conversation he did say the he had on two previous occasions caught a fish first cast by gently introducing a baited hook with a pellet and had an almost immediate take.  Something for me to note that I could well of missed a trick in not doing that before I baited up, never mind another day I will certainly try it.
As the morning wore on I would occasionally top up the bait mix and sit back, but eventually I did cast and hoped that in the normal fashion of this method I would get an early bite.  It was not to be and I had to wonder if previous pressure, perhaps even the day before, had made the fish even more nervous than usual.  Still I continued to bait up and spend time away from the swim; lines and movement on the bank will be detected so it helps to keep these to a minimum.  On infrequent times I would carefully look into the swim using a tree trunk to hopefully disguise my outline.   It was well into the afternoon before I finally saw barbel appear from wherever they were hiding and although they appeared small they were a welcome sight.
Shortly after their appearance I got my first tap, a sign that they were still about after my small lead had landed in their mist.  I was using a 3ft tail so the actual baited hook was well away from the lead and although I never sure as to the reason it does sometimes seem to work over my more normal 12in to 15in length.  Not long after that tap I got the more normal, and expected, three foot twitch, the strike was firm and good and I hooked into my first fish of the day.  This would be only my second Itchen barbel, I had caught a 6lb type of fish on my first trip, though I was not fooled having been told that the Itchen fish were hard come by.

                                            First of the day, quick phone shot and back.

The swim I was in was very confined with tree trunks either side of my position and braches overhead making lifting the rod tip a delicate operation.  With the snag just downstream of the swim it was quite a game but eventually the fish went into the waiting net and although it was again perhaps 6lb it was very welcome.  I did another bait drop and again left the swim to recover, a check had shown the barbel had all disappeared again but I was hopeful the lure of the casters would bring them back.
On a couple of these times away from my swim I had spoken with Robin who had settled in another swim further upstream.   He had been unfortunate in foul hooking a nice fish that would certainly have been a double, but he also went on to land a small 2lb fish and one in the 9lb range so all was not lost.  Similar to me he had travelled so good distance to sample the Itchen fishing, like many of the local anglers I’ve met here they all seem friendly and willing to pass on information whilst chatting on the bank.
The day was cloudy with sunny breaks though there was a distinct nip in the air as autumn definitely had arrived.  I did wonder how much this had affected the fishing as I think we all know that the changeover period from summer to autumn can make the fishing very patchy.  Still I’m here and at least some fish are feeding so back to the swim and I was pleased to see a few barbel had returned to feed and one of them looked a little larger than the rest.
I had been trying to leave the bait out as long as possible but drifting weed was causing quite a problem.  Sometimes it would be just a few minutes before the rod would bend around as a large bed of weed came downstream and caught on the tackle this time it seemed I got a break and it stayed clear for a little longer and it was enough time for a bite to develop.  The strike and following lunge from the hooked fish showed this would be bigger and with the rod top 2ft under the surface I fought to keep him from the snag.   As fortune favours the brave I was still playing the fish as Robin appeared behind me and he quickly agreed to help in netting this fish.  With that help it was so much more easily accomplished and as he came ashore I wondered if he would make the grade of a double.

Having made our was out of the tight confines of the swim we could check the fish properly, I thought a 9lb size but Robin said he thought better, the scales showed him to be right when they settled on 10lb-3oz, my 28th river target met.  I fished on until dusk but no more action developed though it did not concern me at all and although I may never return to this river it will stay in the memory as a good time with good company.

                                                  10lb-3oz Itchen double.  Target met.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Canadian Sturgeon

A trip to the Fraser River in Canada is on the bucket list of many anglers.  The sturgeons grow very big and if it takes your fancy the salmon run in the river is counted in the millions.  This year I returned again with good friends John Found and David Cook for a 6 days on the boat trip.  We would again be using Cascade Fishing Adventures with Marc Laynes in charge.  Working out of Chilliwack on the west coast of the country they organise everything, hotel, lift to and from the Vancouver Airport and of course the guided boat trips with all tackle and bait supplied.

We arrived to be told by anglers just finishing the break that the fishing was slow but with 17 sturgeon landed and a number of others lost to hook pulls, snags and foul hooking, it seemed quite good to us.  My best was an 8ft 300lb specimen and both John and Dave had 7ft 200lb fish although the largest fish hooked fell to John.  This fish probably about 9ft leapt well clear to give us and excellent view of her spender and after thirty minutes of more of the fight she found a snag and was lost, very disappointing.  My best fight or at least the most powerful came from a probable 7ft fish hooked in the tail, quickly released from the barbless hooks being used it swam off without a problem leaving quite a memory.

I’ll put up a series of photos that I’m sure will give a feel of the trip but if you get the chance then go.

                              My 8ft specimen.  Advised not to lift the head clear of the water.

                                         Dave's big fish   200lb +

                                            John's best fish  200+

                                                 They are not all big.

                                           John tries his best to lift a big one off the bed.

                                            Quite a backdrop for a days fishing.

                                                          A good fighting bend for Dave.

                                                 Waiting for the next bite.

Whilst travelling the bank we also saw bear, deer, coyote, and a wide range of eagles, vultures, and other species of strange birds.   Add to that the longest trains, John counted 150 trucks on one that passed.


Monday, 20 June 2016

A new season begins.

The last week has been an improvement in as much as I’ve finally started to catch fish again, that said I lose them as well, it went like this.
My tench fishing had all but been a total failure and I had decided that with the rivers opening on the Thursday I would miss the 100 mile trip to the tench lake and go after the sturgeon instead, at least that was less millage.   My previous visits had always been just for the day and I had had considerable success with fish to over 40lb but I knew there was larger sturgeon to be had.  Also many of the fish come out at night so a 24hr session was planned for Tuesday into Wednesday.
My tackle is similar to that used for pike, 2,75lb test rods with 15lb line going to a Safe zone leader that the fishery owner insists on.  A size 4 hook is tied with a suitable hair rig to take one of the many types of bait that are acceptable to the sturgeon.  Bacon Grill, Chopped Ham with Pork, luncheon Meat, Salmon chunks or liver, the list goes on.
As you will no doubt be aware the midlands and the south of the country had a fair bit of rain over the week and I got wet more than once.  Fortunately it did not affect the fishing and shortly after I arrived I landed my first fish, a beluga sturgeon of about 18lb, shortly after it was followed by a diamond back sturgeon of about 25lb.    These fish fight with a power that has to be felt, I put them as the best battle pound for pound of any of our coarse fish, I’ve landed a good number of them as mentioned and no longer weigh those that appear to be in the 10lb to 20lb+ range.  The next strike I hit into something different and this fish had the real power that left me standing.   
This went straight out and I realised my mistake in swim choice, there were two islands in the lake and My swim choice gave the fish the chance of going between them and then I would be in real trouble.   Tightening the clutch I applied severe pressure and managed to turn the fish and he proceeded to come back towards me then he went off to the left.  Here I made my second mistake and I continued to play him from my current position.  In hindsight, which is always perfect, I should have followed him to a position at the end of the lake, as it was he came back and again headed across between the islands.    This time when I clamped up with the fish already past the left hand island the 15lb line snapped with a crack that could have been heard several hundred yards away and my hoped for prize had mad his escape.   Without a doubt that was the near 80lb fish known to be in the lake and even with over 50 years experience I had mad those two fatal mistakes, but I will not make them again and possibly this blog will help you avoid making the same mistake as well.
I went into the dark with those three chances and shortly after the full darkness came I was playing another good fish although not in the same class as the one lost.  Eventually the net went under a beluga sturgeon that proved to be 44lb-6oz.  My thanks go to the two lads fishing just along from my position that came and helped with the weighing.  An hour later I was back asking for help again and one of the lads came down and we got a weight of 46lb-10oz a very pleasing brace of fish.  I got photos of the first 40lb but with it raining I decided to release this one straight away.   About 3.00am I got my last fish with another 20lb+ diamond back sturgeon to round off a very successful session only spoiled by the lost chance, but I’ll be back!

                                                         44lb-6oz Sturgeon

                                                                    20lb+ sturgeon.

Then the rivers were open again and it was time to get a barbell fix.   I had been making swims on a section of the syndicate Upper Avon and I chose one of these for the first day.  The river itself looked perfect, about 3ft up and a light grey in colour with perhaps 1ft of visibility.
The day was mild but very wet, showers were going through at regular intervals and some of these were very heavy.  The end result was a disappointing blank though I’ve had many of those before.  The following day I was back again but this time I went onto a lower section of the river since there was a new member travelling up from Devon for a few days and I thought it would be good to meet up.   The river level was dropping and I felt it was still perfect for barbell fishing and I dropped into a swim that had produced for me over the Christmas period.
The river was showing a very different look to it’s winter dress in that there were numerous rush beds all along the length.  My chosen swim was clear immediately in front of my position but a long line of the rushes ran along the bank just downstream.  As usual I had two rods in action, one bait down the inside line, this being MAD baits Pandemic, the second rod went out into the middle of the river and this carried a Dynamite Crave self life boilie.  I bait dropped an amount of hemp on each line along with a few sample baits in the hope the flavour trail would draw the barbel upstream.
The day’s weather was a repeat of that experienced yesterday, showers with some heavy, of course when the barbel bite finally came it was right in the middle of one of those heavy spells.  This was a very powerful fish and with the extra help of the flooded river he had got alongside the rush bed and this gave me considerable problems.  The outside edge of the rushes was some 15ft or so away from the bank and the fish would not leave the rushes so I was constantly pulling in a direction that got him snagged on the rush.  I tried various tricks including slack line and pulling from a position level with him in the hope he would move out, all to no avail.   By now I looked like a drowned rat and that gave me the clue, I couldn’t get much wetter so I stripped off to underpants, put my shoes back on and went into the river.
Unless you have a fair idea of the depth this is definitely not recommended, I did, and I also allowed for the extra water the river was carrying.   Using the landing net handle I slowly went into the water, unfortunately this meant going through a bed of stinging nettles, with bare legs that gave me problems well into the following day.   Slowly I made my way to a point where the water was heading towards my chin and there I stopped.  Now with the rod held straight out the line was being pulled away from the rushes and I was in better control.   It’s not easy to use a landing net that is level with your face but eventually I saw a large barbel slide over the rim into its waiting embrace.   Now it was just a case of getting back to the bank and up onto the top section; not an easy task bringing the net and rod along with me, but eventually with the help of grabbing the stems of big bunches of stingers I got out, then I made the fish safe still in the landing net but in clear water.

                                                   13lb-4oz  Nice way to open the season.

I gave a quick phone call to Brian fishing just along from my swim to ask if he would come up for photos once the rain stopped, then a quick dry off and a change of clothes.  The fish was obviously a double but it would wait being quite safe in its current position.   Eventually Brian turned up and we got the fish out having already got the scales and camera ready, I said ‘definitely over 11lb’ but Brian just said ‘look at the shoulders, it’s bigger than that’.   As Brian lifted the scales I looked over his shoulder and saw that the reading was at 13lb-4oz, a great start to the new season.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Mid year blues

Well the new season is almost here and I for one can’t wait for it to arrive.   Last year I had a tremendous time catching a terrific range of specimen fish with regular consistency, this in turn lead me to win the Korum Cup in the Angler’s Mail; this year has been very different!

My usual early trip abroad with Joe Taylor went well, though the catches were below those of previous trips.  Fishing in Surinam my highlight was the capture of a golden lau of which we had seen, and knew of, very few numbers.  I returned to home and set my sights on catching a 15lb+ Warwickshire Avon barbel.   In this task I failed although I did photograph one for a friend, no problem here in that it is a difficult target and hopefully I will achieve it this coming year.  What was noticeable was over this period I caught very few fish and the two trips I did for chub on the southern rivers fared no better.   Each time I got flooded out and if I had decided to barbel fish instead I would have been ok, but I was in the wrong mind-set for that so I came home.
I then tried a new water for bream fishing over the next couple of weeks without success, not a surprise as I rate big bream to be the most difficult of our coarse fish to target and catch.  Now it was the beginning of April and the crucian fishing was the target.  The club had decided to alter the closing date and it would be closed for fishing from mid-April until the usual opening season date of mid-June.  
Fortunately this gave me the chance to complete two three day seasions, three days is a club rule maximum then you must leave for 24 hours.  Over that period I took six crucians with the best going 4lb-0oz, 3lb-15oz, 3lb-13oz and 3lb-10oz.  A pleasing result and quite probably two or three of these would go well over the 4lb mark just three or four weeks later. 

                                                      4lb-0oz crucian, the best of 2016 captures.

                                                            3lb-15oz beauty.

Unfortunately that was the highlight of the year so far, I went back to bream and now included tench in my efforts.  This was on a new water with unproven potential, but fishing there along with John Found we both felt the big fish should be present.  The ever present carp anglers told us of many big bream to very large weights along the tench that again would be interesting, none were weighed of course, and I am suspicious of carp anglers estimates.
One interesting highlight was that my first book 'Rainbow's End' was reprinted by The Little Egret Press and is once again available for those that missed it first time round.

I have a number of original paintings by the like of Pledger and Turnbull but having seen some of the pencil drawings by Pete Wilson I decided to commission one of his works.  Very pleased with the result.  .His site is found at https://www.facebook.com/pcjportraits/

                                                         4lb-6oz crucian in portrait.

Last week we had an interesting diversion looking at an embryo roach project undertaken by Del Shackleford who is the fisheries manager for Reading & District A. A.   Following the success of the Avon Roach Project the club has decided to stick a toe in the water and follow the guide given by that projects lead.  Del travelled down south to spend a day with the lads running the project and they kindly gave him results of their trials and experience over the previous nine years.  In Del’s estimation this fact alone saved him perhaps four years of trials.  He knows he still has lots to learn and his own mistakes and false leads to follow but he, and the club, are committed to success.

                                                Del gives some explanation as to the methods.

                                      Solar panel to give power and netting to protect stock.

Using club funds and help from the EA in supplying some of the equipment the trial has been progressing for well over a year and I say the resulting roach that have come through the system are small but progressing.  Tanks are under cover in a greenhouse type of structure and water is constantly pumped through from a nearby lake.  This turns the water over about every fifteen minutes and the overflow goes into the nearby four pools dug to take the maturing roach as they reach a suitable stage.  The water coming into the system from the lake also carries nutrients that the small fry can use and this is then supplemented by appropriate feed as they get larger.  By the time the roach have over wintered twice they have already gone past many of the natural predators that would have depleted their number substantially and are ready to be restocked into the chosen venues.  This is a long term project and the results will not be seen for some time, but given time those results will come and the clubs venues will benefit from fish that would not otherwise have existed.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Korum Cup Winner

In a year 2015, where I had a personal best perch of 5lb-4oz and a brace of crucians at 4lb-6oz and 4lb-8oz taken in a 2 hour spell, I was quite pleased to say the least. Add the 16lb-12oz barbel and 15lb-4oz bream and it gets even better. With a 10lb-12oz barbel off the River Wey it was my 27th different river double and this now adds up to probably my most successful year in the 50 odd years I've been on different banksides
Now to top it all off I've won the Korum Cup competition run over the last calendar year.

It is also quite nice that a reprint of my first book 'Rainbow's End' will be going to the printers in the next week or two.  The reprint is being done by Little Egret Press and details will be found on their website.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

A review of 2015 catches.

Review of 2015.

This year has to be one of my better years with regard to the different large specimen fish I have caught.  I have been fortunate over the many years that I usually get at least one or two specimens and events that meet even my high standard, but this year has been something else.  Let’s just look at these month by month.

JAN 2015

For a few years now at some time during the first few months of the year I’ve gone to South America with Joe Taylor, initially Guyana but then of late Suriname.   This year it was to be Suriname again and early in January we set off for an extended three week stay on the pontoon, fishing for the Lau catfish that were our target.
The January blog gives a full write up of the trip but enough to say I caught a Lau of 218lb for a new personal best that will take some beating.  This fish was backed up with numerous other Lau in excess of 150lb to give a trip to remember.   I am back with Joe this coming January, but we will be very lucky to get anywhere near that trips results.

                                             218lb  Nowhere to land and too big to lift.

                                                        Another monster lau-lau

FEB 2015

This month followed my usual mix of species and standing out was a 6lb-6oz best chub off the Hampshire Avon and a brace of barbel caught on an evening session on the Derwent and these went 12lb5oz with a 13lb-4oz to partner it.

                                                             6lb-6oz best of the Spring efforts.

                                             The larger of the brace at 13lb-4oz.

Mar 2015

With stories of large perch showing in the press it got my mind going and with just over a week to go of the current river season I went onto the river with perch in my sights rather than the usual barbel target.  This was to be a very good decision and having chosen my swim, a long slack on the nearside bank, I caught one of my all-time major fish in the shape of a 5lb-4oz perch.  I had hoped for a big four pound fish as my target, this went well past that figure into the stratosphere.   I fished around for the rest of the week and then returned in the hope of catching one of those four pound fish I believed were in the area, with just five minutes to go before I packed up I struck again and welcomed the same fish at the same weight yet again.  Have I caught two 5lb perch, yes,  would I have preferred to have caught one of the four pound fish instead, yes, but life and fishing is not like that.

                                                            One of my all time better specimens

                                                    5lb-4oz again.

I now transferred to a still water venue in the hope of getting a 4lb+ perch but it was not to be.  Fishing legered maggots which seemed to be preferred over worm I took a good number of perch with a reasonable over 3lb.  The photo shows one of the better brace shots 2lb-14oz and 3lb-8oz, here the second fish was caught before my friend could take the photo of the first when that would have been returned, and hence I don’t get many brace shots at all.

                                                     Perch do give great photos.

April 2015 

This month a few bream started to show on the lake and yet again my luck came to the front and gave my presents in the form of two of the slabs, the first going 13lb-8oz, and then a couple of weeks later the seasons best from the venue at 15lb-4oz.  Even moderate bream look big in the net, the 15lb fish looked monstrous and one lad guessed 17lb before it was weighed, we hoped but I knew it would not make those heights.

                                                  13lb-8oz bronze beauty.

                                                     A right lump at 15lb-4oz.

May 2015

For a few years now the start of May has meant crucian fishing at Johnson’s Lake home of monster crucians, this year was no different.  The lake closes at the start of the close season and then this year it opened on May 1st.  As with so many similar waters where big fish exist, you hear of the catches not the blanks, lots of blanks but some spectacular catches.
With a maximum two night rule it means a lot of travelling but after each 24 hr enforced spell away from the water I would return full of the hope to catch a 4lb plus crucian to go with my existing British record 4lb-9oz fish.  I did have the fortune to witness the fish that would increase that record by just one ounce but I still waited for my own specimen to show.   Then on my third visit I knew time was running out since the fish were very close to spawning, but then lady luck landed on my shoulder yet again.  The lads either side of me were faring just the same and no crucians had been caught but then I struck into a fish that was obviously not one of the many smaller tench we had been catching, now coming to the net was my large crucian at last.  The scales confirmed it giving a reading of 4lb-6oz, I had finally done it.

                                                             4lb-6oz Crucian at last.

                                               Best of the brace at 4lb-8oz

It seems that the lady had not finished yet and shortly after that I took another crucian, even bigger at 4lb-8oz, this gave me the record known brace of crucians to date.   I said the big perch was there in my all-time list of specimens, but surely this must find a place there as well.  This was even more the case when the next day I landed another fish of 4lb-2oz to complete one hell of a session.

                                            Last but not least 4lb-2oz.

June 2015

Sometimes there is a balancing act with lady luck and it happened over the next two months where result fell away.  I had decided to stay on the tench well past the normal river start and with a lot of effort on two waters I failed to impress myself let alone anyone else.   I caught a few tench with fish going 8lb but my sights were set on 9lb plus and preferably into doubles, but we don’t always get what we wish for.

                                                        8lb-7oz male tench

                                                  8lb-5oz female tench

July 2015

It still seemed I was paying the balance for my earlier luck and yet another month went by without any notable fish being caught.  The tench still proved elusive and the odd river trip only produced one double figure barbel of 10lb-1oz.

Aug 2015 

Yet again I was to be involved in the Barbel Challenge in aid of the ABF.   This involved two teams of five anglers, one in the north the other in the south, fishing to get three doubles off each of their rivers of choice with 24hrs on each river.  I was in the northern team and we started on the River Nene where lady luck returned and gave me two doubles of 10lb-1oz and 14lb-6oz.  The larger fish was of course a river pb for me and a new record weight for that club section of the river.

                                                             14lb-6oz Nene backwater beauty.

With lady luck back on my shoulder I could not fail and we moved river to river and the doubles kept coming.  12lb-3oz for the Trent, 10lb-13oz for the Dove.  I also caught barbel on both the Derwent and Wye and although not doubles it was pleasing to catch on all the rivers in our section.

                                                  12lb-3oz Trent barbel.

Over the last week of the month I went to Canada to fish for the sturgeon on the Frazer River at Chilliwack.  Having fished for sturgeon in England and catching fish to a grand 75lb-8oz I really rate the fighting powers of these fish.  Myself and my two companions had been on the same trip the previous year but failed to get amongst the larger specimens that swim there.  We caught fish to 100lb plus but hoped for better this time and it was with considerable excitement that we set out each morning.  Both of my friends caught large fish, John with a 340lb specimen and Dave with a 290lb monster than ran him all over the river.  The days went past and I was beginning to think I would be the odd man out when at last I struck into a right lump.  The fight was tremendous and stretched my endurance to the limit, with arms and hands aching the fish finally gave up and we could take him to the nearest bank.   There the measure showed up an 8ft fish and the guide advised that with his girth he would weigh in the region of 320lb, quite a target to beat on the trip booked for next year.

                                                320lb of muscle.

Sept 2015

The month of September can often be the highlight of the year, good temperatures and often additional water in the rivers letting the fish put on the extra weight to those of use that seek specimen fish.  I had not actively tried to improve my barbel doubles off different rivers so far this year, but now conditions and time suggested I should at least try.  I had already done some of the ground work for the River Wey and had got the club book for the stretch I intended to try so 110 miles later I was sat on the banks of an interesting looking small river just inside the M25 circle.
The reports I had gained over recent weeks were not that encouraging with very few barbel being caught, I’m never sure in this situation if it is the quality of the angler, or the state of the river, but I need to go and find out.  On these trips I use tried and trusted methods and baits, nothing spectacular and it would be similar to what yourself and many others would be using.   The chosen swim was a pool following a shallow stretch and after about 25 yards it shallowed up again, classic barbel territory.    Using the well documented bait and wait with caster and hemp I caught my target double just 30 minutes after finally casting in.  At 10lb-12oz it met the target quite easily but it proved to be the only barbel I caught on the day and the bailiff later advised me it was probably the only double in that stretch.

                                                      27th different river double.

Less than a week later I was on the River Derwent trying out a new bait I had brought following the ABF Barbel Challenge, the bait being Pandemic.  I settled into my swim and baited with a few loose offerings keeping these topped up to allow for the chub that will invariably be mopping up those already in the swim.  It was about 9.30pm when the rod top indicated the interest of a fish and the strike indicated a big fish.   Although a good fight it did not give the impression of being the monster it proved to be and at 16lb-12oz it can truly be classed as a monster.  Fortunately Rob was fishing just downstream and he was soon on hand to witness and photograph the specimen, he even went on to catch a double of his own although slightly smaller.

                                                          16lb-12oz specimen barbel

Already the month of September was memorable, but it had not finished yet and this time it was just over the week later when I increased my pb barbel for the Warwickshire Avon with a fantastic fish of 14lb-7oz.

                                                           New Avon best [for a little while ] 14lb-7oz.

Oct 2015

This is again a month when spectacular results can often occur, but yet again I seemed to have used my allocation in the previous month.  I did two nights on a Reading gravel pit for the giant bream said to be there, I caught but only one of 7lb-6oz.  The head bailiff commented he didn’t know how I caught one that small.   A two day booking on Chew for pike was reduced to one day when the wind cancelled boats going out.  On the one day I fished, my partner for the day had a pike of 27lb but I blanked.
A lot of time was spent chasing the perch on the still water fished earlier in the year, lots of perch and many of them over 3lb but yet again the best went 3lb-8oz still pleasing, At least one 4lb plus fish is swimming in the 100 acres there and I’ll keep trying to ambush him.

                                                  3lb-6oz and 3lb-8oz brace.

Nov 2015.
One of the big disadvantages of travelling to fish a river is the chances of it being out of condition through floods and debris.    This year’s trip to the Spanish River Ebro was such a case when it rained very hard our first night there and the floods came down out of the mountains into the Segree and onto the Ebro.  The rubbish was horrendous and continued throughout the week stopping us from fishing any of our known and well proven roach swim so we had to make do with the little that was left.  I caught plenty of roach, but only one of them went over the 2lb mark coming in a 2lb-6oz, John did best with seven fish over that magic figure while Pete had a superb 2lb-10oz rudd.  The cost of these trips is very moderate and I’m sure we’ll be back again in the future when hopefully the river will be kinder to us.

                                          At 2lb-6oz less than I hope but still a beauty

Back at home I was trying to get a 15lb barbel off the Warwickshire Avon, a difficult target but I knew that a least one such specimen was in the one mile or so of river I was concentrating my efforts on.  I did take a step closer when I improved my pb to 14lb-10oz but the larger fish eluded my efforts at the time.

                                             Put my Avon best up to 14lb-10oz.

Dec 2015
With the mild a wet weather catching barbel is not a problem and a few fell to the normal methods including doubles.  December barbel are a great indicator since if you can catch them then all of the other species will also be feeding, perch, bream, roach and chub.  You choose the species and get out fishing for them knowing that they can be caught.

                                                   Big perch are always a welcome sight.

Between the perch and the barbel it was a great end to a memorable year.   The perch can always be caught, but that mild weather and high water almost made the barbel fishing too easy with quite a few doubles coming my way amongst the barbel that were caught.

                                       A sample of the December doubles they are a nice Xmas present

To end this fantastic year what could be a better event than coming second in the Angling Times Specimen Angler of the Year competition.  There were some great names in the running along with their results in the list, so to get the second place was very rewarding, thanks to all those out there that gave me their vote.

All of these fish and the details that go with them are in the blog so if you want more detail just scroll down the list until you get the one you want.  I’ll wish you all a happy New Year and tight lines for the coming months