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.