Having watched the weather forecast over the last several days I could see a window of better conditions for barbel coming up on Friday and Saturday when the temperature could go up by 8C or even 10c on the Saturday, time to go fishing. Next question I ask myself is where, fish locally on rivers I’ve already caught my double figure barbel off, or spread my wings and try for another, easy decision, I’m all for new ground. The three main rivers in my sights at the moment are the Ribble, the Wey and the Mole. The forecast had shown colder conditions in the north as usual so it left the southern pair and having already looked at the Mole I decided that would be the venue for this two day session.
The internet and TomTom are brilliant aids to the travelling angler, one gave me my route at about 120 miles, and the other gave me the river conditions as falling to almost normal winter lever following a flood. A trip to Alan Lanes tackle shop saw me top up with casters and maggots, although I would still take the usual pellets and boilies as back up baits. Now I was ready to go and I only needed to decide what time to leave. For my last trip I had left at 3.30am in order to miss the traffic jams on the M25, this time I decided to leave at 9.30am in order to arrive and be fishing for midday on the Friday.
The journey went as planned and as I approached the venue it was with the anticipation of at least catching barbel, conditions were perfect. The river section I was on held a number of good looking swims with deep glides, pools of steadier water, along with eddies where the flow had been deflected by bankside contours or debris. I chose one of the eddy swims with an old tree stump sending the flow into mid-river and a nice deep pool under my own bank. There was a nice crease in the flow and this gave an obvious target for the bait-dropper to unload its feed of hemp and casters, one pint of each going into the swim as the first task before even getting my fishing gear ready. I would initially fish with a hair-rigged caster set up, the bait being placed torpedo style on the hair to avoid small fish attention. These would be used until about one hour before I would be finishing the session for the day, then I would put hair-rigged Elips pellets on with my usual open-ended swimfeeder loaded with mixed pellets and hemp.
Dinner for barbel.
Sitting and waiting for that first bite is exciting, but it was a bit disappointing when a bream of about 3lb made its appearance though it was the only one I caught over the two days so not too bad. Time seems to pass slowly and a kingfisher kept flying up and downstream to keep me watching for that bite, but the bait change over time came and went without the hoped for barbel making its appearance. The pellets went on and after perhaps 30 minutes the rod bent over as the line was taken faster than the bait-runner could give it, the strike was good and I was now playing what I thought would be my first barbel off this river. I say thought since I had seen three carp of about 8lb moving about on my previous visit and there was just a chance this was one of them. No need to have worried and in the fading light I could see the shape of a good barbel coming to the net and safely into its folds.
A very fat double.
My mind gave a mental leap since I was sure this would be a double figure fish and so complete my target of the 26th different river double. Weighing confirmed my thoughts and this very deep bodied fish came in at the pleasing weight of 10lb-14oz of immaculate barbel. Nothing more happened and I retired from the river to decided how I proceeded, stay on this river for the following day or move over to the River Wey which was not too far away and on my list of rivers to complete. I decided to stay and leave the other river for another day so off to the nearest pub for a meal, then to a suitable area where I could get my head down for the night in the van.
The 26th different river double at 10lb-14oz.
Being on a new river I had already decided to fish two different sections on the Saturday. I would arrive at the first before dawn and fish through to about midday, then move over to the same venue that had produced the double for me. I woke up to a wet and miserable morning although the temperature was well up as forecast. Following a cup of tea and cereal I got the flask ready and set off through a very muddy path to the swim I had chosen on the previous visit. A deep pool following a fast glide it looked perfect and local knowledge had advised me that it was known to produce fish on a regular basis. That may well have been true, but they managed to avoid taking my offerings for the hours I had allocated to them so yet again I made my even muddier way back to the van since the rain had kept up most of the morning.
Fishing is one sport where the individual needs to be an eternal optimist, the next bite is just minutes away and of course it will be your target fish. This in in my case that means it will be a barbel, not a bream or carp and so it was to prove to be. A big advantage of the second venue is that it was over a grassy field that although quite wet was at least clean and more easily walked over. This time I decided to fish the pellets right from the start although I still bait-dropped the swim with the remainder of my caster and a balance of hemp. The rain had eased off to a gentle drizzle and it was now almost warm enough to have sat in just my shirt sleeves, very pleasant and made even better when yet again I was playing a powerful fish in the flow on the far side of the river. This one proved to be a barbel of 10lb-9oz, longer and far more slender than the previous specimen, but welcome all the same.
The second double at 10lb-9oz.
My time on the river was almost over but it still had an extra gift for me in the form of a 7lb-13oz barbel as a going away favour. Having caught my hoped for double it is unlikely I will return to this river, it’s just too far away for such an indulgence but it does go down as one of the more attractive rivers I’ve fish and one that will stay in the memory for a long time.
A parting present at 7lb-13oz.