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.

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

Saturday 21 November 2015

Warwickshire monster barbel.

One of my targets this season is to catch a 15lb+ barbel off the Warwickshire Avon.   Having done my homework I know a river section of about 2.5 miles that is covered by several clubs that has a least one such fish.  Unfortunately this is almost the easy part of the capture of a specimen fish where you are then looking at the proverbial needle in a haystack.

In this situation it is very much a case of sorting out several good looking swims that appear to have the features that have proven to be to likely barbel holding spots.  These will be fished and over time some will produce barbel whilst others produce blank after blank.  These blanks do not mean that barbel will never be there, but normally after four or five attempts I would knock such swims out of my list and replace them with another choice.  On each visit I will fish two or three of the swims, but try to put a little bait into all of them on each visit, I’m not really sure if this helps, but it does give me a bit more confidence that at least the fish will be familiar with the bait.

                                                         14lb-4oz  River pb.  March 2009

I started the season with a pb for the river that stood at 14lb-4oz and had been at that level for several years, then in September I managed to increase this to 14lb-7oz which was least a step towards my target, also it was a very pleasing fish in its own right.  I continued to pay regular visits to the river in between trips for pike, perch, bream, roach, dace, and eels in fact almost anything the swims in fresh water.  Of course I caught barbel, but nothing anywhere near my target and now we come up to date.
I had been to Spain after the roach for the first week of November and missed what appeared to be a very good time to be chasing barbel.  Very mild conditions with the south westerly wind bringing in plenty of rain to give perfect conditions.  Friends reported very good results and I hoped the fish would continue to feed and put on the extra weight that often comes with the barbel gorging themselves in the floodwater.  Two recent trips on the river had me thinking I had missed the boat, one a barbel blank with just chub being caught; the other resulting in an 8lb barbel and again a chub, but now very cold weather was being forecast.  With snow coming in overnight and temperatures down to near freezing I had not decided to go when about 3.00pm my dad asked ‘well what else are you going to do.’  I made a quick flask of tea and set off with the intention of packing up at 8:00pm.
Arriving at the river it was in perfect condition, a good touch of colour and probably two foot up on normal level, just as importantly no rubbish coming through which allows the baits to be left in place for about the one hour mark.  Again I’m not convinced if constant casting makes any difference, but I prefer to leave them out and just check the bait occasionally in case the crafty chub have pinched it without any indication of their visit.

As usual upon arrival I threw a small hand-full of my boilie into two spots, one slightly upstream and perhaps one third of the way out, the other well downstream and right across towards the other bank.  As the session went on every thirty minutes or so I would top both swims up with three or four baits broken in half thinking that the chub may well have taken those initially put into the swim.  Well wrapped up against the cold I was quite comfortable although my hands did indicate that the temperature was already falling quite low as the light began to fade.  Winter nights with a clear sky can be magical; I spend time watching satellites drift across the sky or the planes as they make their way to some distant destination.  Most nights I had had lots of chub knocks but tonight there was no movement at all until the upstream rod showed the interest of a fish.

The rod top just sort of waves , a gentle nodding action as the fish brings the feeder back downstream and probably does not realise he is hooked until I lift the rod and strike, then he knows  and makes off back upstream with lots of power.  There was an overhanging tree just ten yards upstream of my position with branches trailing well into the water, a large weed raft had built up on the branches and the fish got to this snag before I got control.  My clutch was set for playing a fish not stopping one, I had not allowed for him moving upstream and this could have proved to be a fatal error.  I tightened the clutch and had the anti-reverse on, then holding the rod out to its maximum extent I bent very hard into the rod using all of its 1.75lb test power.   This was a definite sh*t or bust situation and fortunately he moved back across the flow and responded to the pull coming back downstream, now although there was plenty of further power and action from the fish I was in control and he eventually came to the net.

This was an obvious big fish and having made him safe in a slack under my bankside I moved away from the slope and prepared all the gear, camera, mat, sling and scales.  It is my standard practice to leave the fish to recover from the fight in the landing net before I attempt to remove the hook.  Once the hook is removed I can then leave him a few moments in the water before moving him back for weighing and photos.  Once on the mat I recognised him as the same fish I had previously caught from a different swim, the good news for me was that he had gained weight and now weighed 14lb-10oz.  Three quick photos and he was returned to the water and after a few moments let out of the net into his dark murky home.

                                                    14lb-10oz new river pb.

I stayed on for a little longer than originally intended and following my walk back to the van it was approaching 9:00pm and the van’s thermometer was showing 2C.  By the early hours of the morning the snow was lying thick and even with flakes tumbling down from a heavy sky, definitely a last minute gamble that had paid off. 

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Spanish roach fishing Nov 2015.

Travelling to overseas fishing holidays can be something to look forward to, if it is to be a still water venue you know what to expect within certain boundaries but with rivers the weather can have a major effect.   Travelling with my usual companions for the Spanish roach trips, Pete Reading and John Found we knew the forecast was for rain on the Monday after we arrived late Sunday but we could only wait and see the effect.

Sunday evening is a time to settle in, get a bit of shopping done at the local supermarket and get a meal at the favourite cafĂ©, here we meet up with our Catmaster Tours guide for the week, John Dekin though we mostly look after ourselves.  He had checked the local weather forecast and advised the river would both colour up and rise by late Monday so things did not look that good for our trip.  Anyway we could do nothing about it so it was a case of finishing the meal then retire to bed.

                                                Rooms with a view over the town

As dawn broke about 7:00am we were stood on the banks of the River Segree choosing to fish swims that had produced well for us on previous trips, tackle comprised of quivertip rods with 6lb to 8lb main line and suitable hook length material.  We use swimfeeders loaded with either pellet or sweetcorn both of which had given good results but we need to find out which is best on the day.  As it turned out the rain started and after three hours without a bite we decided to give it best as by now the rain was torrential.  We packed up and drove round the venue to seek out potential areas should the river become unfishable.

The following morning our worse fears were realised, one look at the river and with a 20ft wide continuous weed raft coming down the middle of the flow we knew that no roach fishing, and very little other fishing, would be done for days.  Fortunately with our previous days look about we had other thoughts and we quickly made our way towards the dam.  With the Top Lake very low at the end of the summer there was very little water being allowed through and it was at least fishable.  Our first choice swims were already taken by a couple of carp anglers but the advantage of fishing for roach is we could slot into swims that carp our cat anglers would struggle to use and hence we did just that.  A very big attraction was that there were dozens of roach showing on the surface in the early morning light, all we had to do was get them down to the bottom of the 25ft or so depths and feeding on the corn/pellet offering.

Once fishing we tend to use a lot of sweetcorn in the feeders, two to four cans per day are the normal and this will attract the roach into the swim and by and large hold them there.  We were each catching a fair number of roach with quite a few over the 1lb-8oz mark but that first day only saw one fish over the 2lb mark this falling to John at 2lb-7oz, a beautiful immaculate specimen.

                                               First 2lb roach at 2lb-7oz.

With clear fishable water at a premium we dropped back into the same swims the following morning and continued to catch the roach but struggled to get over the 2lb mark.  If our scales had been just a little bit out we could have called many of the big 1lb+ fish into the 2lb range but at least Pete saved the day with a fantastic 2lb-10oz rudd that equalled his English best.

                                                     Pete's 2lb-10oz Rudd.

                                           It can be quite rocky here.

The days past by very much the same with just the odd 2lb roach showing, John had a red letter session in a different swim where he took five roach over the 2lb mark, a 2lb + rudd and a number of gibel carp [a continental version of a Prussian carp] to 3lb 10oz.  All the while we were hooking the king carp on the sweetcorn but the best that was landed fell to John at 16lb-10oz.  Most of the time the carp would run the bed of the river and catch the line on rocks, zebra mussel, or Chinese shellfish and the result was always the same, a lost feeder.  Between us I think we lost the best part of twenty feeders and the local tackle shop loved us.

                                         Best of the trip at 2lb-9oz.

                                                   Thick fog on some of the mornings.

By the end of the week we had got a reasonable total of twelve roach over the 2lb mark, John’s 2lb-9oz caught on the last day took the honour of being the best, Pete’s best just behind at 2lb-8oz and I followed up with a 2lb-6oz.  The rain on the Monday had caused major problems and even at the end of the week the Segree and Ebro down from the junction were almost unfishable.  Not sure of the results for the other lads but did hear of carp to 35lb and a cat over 190lb but many of those fishing really struggled. Better luck next time we hope.

                                             My best of the trip at 2lb-6oz

Tuesday 29 September 2015

Two monster barbel in a week in September.

Most serious specimen anglers will be aware that the very big fish can come at any time and will normally be just a bit of a surprise that the planning has finally paid off.   On some occasions there is no planning involved and then it is just chance that you met a fish that sets the pulse racing and over the last couple of weeks I’ve had both experiences happen in sessions producing specimen barbel.
The first came off a river that I’ve fished over the last decade or more with various successes.  I’ve caught my fair share of doubles and these have come on a fairly regular basis, but I have not managed to contact one of the rivers very big specimens.  This session was exactly the same as many others in that I arrived with no particular swim in mind making my choice once I’d seen the number of cars in the car park.

The river was fining down after the recent rain and I felt confident of success, I had arrived at midday and intended to fish through to midnight.  The previous week I had been one of the northern team in the ABF Barbel Challenge and managed to get barbel off each of the five rivers we fished.  While we fished the northern element the southern lads were fishing the south river at the same time.  I took note that of the twelve anglers involved only one other angler beside me managed barbel off the five rivers they fished and that was Julian Barnes.  I was very impressed with his bait in that he also caught a good number of barbel as well as the doubles we were seeking; the bait was Mad Baits Pandemic a new product still undergoing trials.  By the end of that week I had asked Julian if he could get me some of the bait with me paying rather than being one of the team of anglers already being used for the trial of new baits.  Fortunately it was agreed and I got my first batch delivered shortly after.

The next trip after barbel I of course used the new bait on my main rod though I decided on halibut pellet on my second rod that would be cast out of the way of my baited area.  The tackle used was as normal for me, Drennan Specialist Barbel 12 ft. rod in the 1.75lb range.  Shimano 5000 RE reels loaded with 12lb mono main line going to a new hook link line I’m trying out.  I had watched a friend using this while tench fishing and was impressed with its breaking strain/diameter ration so decided to try it, labelled Konger Steelon in the feeder version.  I got two different packs off e-bay, one at 5kg and 18mm diameter, the other 9.25kg and 28mm diameter and today I was using the heavier version.  This was then used with the feeder loaded with hemp and mixed pellets a method that has shown its worth over many captures of barbel.

I started the session about 2.30pm and although I got a few knocks there was nothing of note as I went into dark for the night session.  I was here until at least 11pm and maybe I would stay up the 12pm mark depending on conditions and how I felt.  At about 9.30pm that plan was lost as I hooked and played a very powerful fish that I finally got it into the waiting landing net.  I left it safely in the net to recover before I took the hook out and got it weighed, meanwhile I gave a phone call to Rob Thompson fishing a little further down the river to let him know I had a good fish in the net.  He asked its size and I suggested at least 13lb and he offered to come and do photos but as I told him if it had bee 15lb plus I would take the offer but self takes would do.  I got all the bits ready for photos and weighing, but as soon as I lifted it over the nearside rushes I could see this was really big, the scales told the full story and showed a weight of 16lb-12oz, a monster!  I phoned Rob again and gave him the news, he was highly amused, ‘over 13lb he says,’ but made his was up to me straight away.  There is nothing to compare to the feeling of catching really big fish and this was way up there in my list of catches, it was also great to have a friend who could handle a camera and Rob took four or five superb photos that just gives the final touch to a memorable session.

                                                         16lb-12oz of power.

Over the following weekend I got permission to fish a very lightly fished section of the Warwickshire Avon,  over 2K of river bank with perhaps over half of it only lightly fished by two other anglers.  As you can imagine I wasted no time in going down to survey the length and have an evening session.  A lot of it was unfishable with a heavy tree lined bank and large bulrush beds, but there was enough fishable sections to be very exciting.  On that first visit I fished through to 10pm for one small 2lb bream.  Two days later I returned and having chosen a couple of good looking swims I again fished for a return of just one small bream, but I just knew it was only a matter of time before I got my barbel.  Another two days and back into the first of the chosen swims, a pool just below where the river rushed through a length where the rushes had taken the width down to less than half than its normal width.  This time I got my barbel and although it was only a small one it was still the first and as such I took a photo for my records.

                                                          An Avon barbel swim.

I stayed in the swim until 8.00pm without further action and then moved to my second choice, a long glide with overhanging trees on the opposite bank.  I had thrown a dozen or so Pandemic boilies in as I had come past the swim when I first arrived and now I threw another dozen in assuming at the very least chub would have taken those first few.  It was after less than an hour when I got the indication of a bite, not the powerful screamer, but enough that I struck.  At first I thought I had missed the bite, but then I realised that the fish was moving upstream going under the tree I was fishing next to.  Now I thought it was a chub since it seemed to head for a nearside snag and I put the anchors on only to feel the tremendous power of a big fish and yet again I re-assed my thought to a large carp that are known to swim in the Avon.  A couple of times I thought I would lose the fish as it got into the roots of the tree, but with the rod held directly above it its position and a very hard pull I got it free and eventually out into open water back below my position.  When it finally showed itself to be a barbel I was surprised to say the least, then when I lifted it after its usual rest period in the landing net I was even more surprised, again this was a very big barbel.

                                                             14lb-7oz Avon pb.

The scales showed me the good news of a new river best at 14lb-7oz, almost completely a surprise other than the fact the a big fish can come from anywhere on this river.  I had no more action that night and trips since then have only produced chub and bream but with two monsters in just over a week I am more than satisfied with my September barbel returns.

Sunday 13 September 2015

The River Wey and the 27th different river double figure barbel.

Anybody who reads my blog as a regular event will be aware of my interest in catching a double figure barbel from different rivers.  Started in the 2005/6 season and looking to get 10 different river doubles in a year, I failed for that season and the one that followed.  Then in the 2006/7 I hit a golden spell with 16 different  rivers completed.  That winter was perfect for the serious barbel angler in that there were almost constant SW winds bringing rain and warm weather, it also brought the start of the serious flooding of 2007 but that is a different story.

Bringing this up to date my total stood at 26 rivers completed and now I was considering the 27th with an attempt on the River Wey.  I had several club books that held sections of this river but no other knowledge to work on.  Fortunately John Found, my angling friend of many trips, used to live quite close to the river when he lived in London and although his information was several years out of date it was at least a starting position.

                                                               The River Wey.

Using this I had obtained the appropriate book the previous season but failed to get down the 120 miles to the chosen venue, weather and other fishing choices often gets in the way of these trips.  I was being told that the river was fishing very poorly with barbel results thin on the ground so no encouragement there.  Now with the Thursday and Friday temperatures forecast to be rising quite significantly I decided that the effort must be made so a trip to W H Lanes for casters and a raid on the freezer for hemp and I was ready for a two day effort.

                                                  Caster & hemp ready on a previous trip

Every time I travel the M25 I wonder why anyone would want to live in this region, mid-morning and still a carpark situation.  Still after a stop/start time I eventually arrived at the venue’s carpark and could relax in the quite of a tiny hamlet, at least until the screeching parrots flew overhead.  I spoke to an angler fishing the weir pool that had produced barbel to 15lb in John’s time, but he related a sorry story of several trips over the previous weeks for just one barbel.  A walk along the length showed that nobody else was fishing so I made my way to John’s suggested swim, a slightly deeper run between two shallows that were loaded with ribbon weed waving in the steady flow.
I had come with the intent to try the bait & wait approach with caster and hemp in the hope that it would not be a method used in this area very much.  The price of casters in the Midlands makes them far more a proposition that the eye water cost of them in the London region.  I had allowed for three pint of caster and four pint of hemp for each day and I would use them as conditions dictated.  First task of the day was as always to bait up with a baitdropper, an essential tool in this situation.  I try to find a shadow on the water that will remain constant and this allows both accurate bait placement with the dropper and also when I eventually cast out my hook bait.  My idea is to keep the baited area compact so the feed and my hook bait will be in close proximity, I don’t want the barbel to be allowed to feed over a large area away from the hook as he might have had his fill before making the mistake I wait for.  I have all the time in the world before I start since the method is exactly what it says on the tin, bait & wait.  Over the next few hours I get my tackle ready and rebait the swim three times.  Each time the combination of the baitdropper and my chosen shadow ensures the feed is going exactly where I want it.

Eventually I decide that the time has come to begin and my baited hook is sent out into the swim.  Three casters have been superglued into a torpedo type shape about the hair with perhaps 5mm or so clearance above the bend of the hook.  Generally this is proof against the attentions of minnows and very small fish but the rod top bounced away giving the signal that something less than a barbel was looking at my offering.  It did not take too long before the culprit showed himself to be a smaller sample of the perch.  The bait was soon back out in place and I wondered if the smaller fish could possibly be a problem, I need not have worried and perhaps twenty minutes later the baitrunner gave out line in the rate of knots that suggested a barbel and the strike confirmed that idea.  A very good scrap followed and although I had seen the fish a couple of times he held too deep to be sure of his size, when he slipped over the net I could only hope that my double target had quickly been achieved.  I left him to rest in the landing net and approached one of the lads that were strimming the grass on the community field just behind my swim.  By the time I had the camera and scales ready I had a little audience and when the scales showed me my double at 10lb-12oz there was one excited lad holding the fish for a photo to be taken.

                                                            10lb-12oz of fine barbel.

I sat for the rest of the afternoon hoping that the barbel  had mates swimming with him, but if he did they would not make the same mistake of picking up my bait.  As evening approached one of the bailiffs came along and we got talking.  I advised him I had caught the barbel and he asked about photos which I showed him.  He then confirmed that he had caught the same fish the previous week and that possibly it was the only double on the section I was fishing.  Now that’s luck, one fish and it’s the right one.

I decided to check out another section on the club book, roving around in the dark is not unusual for me, but in the end I decided to call it a day and came home in the quiet of the very early morning with a job well done, the 27th different river completed and now where next?

Thursday 3 September 2015

Sturgeon fishing in Canada 2015

Following on from last year’s trip to Canada we had to return in an effort to get one of those big sturgeons that did not show for us at the time.  The group comprised of John Found, David Cook and me and we would be traveling with Cascade Fishing Adventures under Marc Laynes.  His organisation is located in Chilliwack in the province of British Columbia and we would fish for the sturgeon in the Frazer River.

The 9 hour flight from Gatwick to Vancouver is bit of a trek  and then we are picked up for the 1hr 30min trip to the hotel in Chilliwack arriving about 3pm local time after allowing for the minus 8 hour time difference between UK and the extreme west of Canada.  Since we will not fish until the following morning there is plenty of time to sort out the suit case and get cleaned up for a trip out to a local restaurant for a proper meal.  One thing I do see here is the apparent lack of cooked greens on the meals, nice meat but vegetables come mostly braised assuming you can get any.  Still after the meal we made our way back to the hotel and by 9pm I was in bed ready for the morning and our start at 8am.

We met up with Clayton Jones who would be our guide for the day and after a 20 minute drive we were at the boat launch along with a number of other boats setting for the day on the river.   Within a very short space of time we were travelling off to a nearby spot to catch bait in the form of a fish known as pike-minnow.  These are a pretty fish of about 6inch long and were to prove our most successful bait, the other being pink salmon in either a small fillet or just half the head form.   Tackle comprise 9ft rods with Shimano reels carrying lots of 130lb braid going to a wedge shaped leger weight of about 16oz to 20oz, the hooks are barbless size 10.0’s.
Once we had a supply of minnow it was off on the jet boat that seems standard transport for the guides with speeds of up to 30mph and the ability to travel over 6 inch of water.  It was not too long after stopping that Dave was into the first fish of the trip, a sturgeon of about 40lb and as such a real baby, shortly after this I had an even smaller fish of perhaps 20lb but at least we were off the mark.  It seemed that John was playing it crafty since the next two small fish that he caught both came off quite quickly so he stayed on his rod.  Meanwhile on the last chance of the day Dave went on to catch a real beauty.  At 7ft-9in and a girth of 40in it was put at 290lb.  This, using the time proven formula for converting length to weigh by using both length and a girth measurement taken directly behind the pelvic fins.   Using this ‘pelvic girth’ position means the measurement will remain constant and does not vary with spawn, hence it is a more reliable figure to give an estimated weight.  The fight was spectacular and we had to follow the fish downstream before it finally gave up the scrap and allowed us to take a couple of photos.

                                              1st of the big fish at 290lb to Dave.

Pike-minnow bait ready to cast out.

Pink salmon chunks.

Back out the following morning, we went through a similar routine of getting bait then off to one of Marc’s known hotspots.  It did not take too long before John had taken a 5ft-7in fish soon followed by me with a 6ft-2in specimen.  Although medium fish by the standards of this river they do give one hell of a fight and both of these would take 15mins to land.  Then at about 11am John struck into a fish that really did fight and it would 45 minutes before this fish thought it would be ok to have his photo taken.  At 8ft-5in and a 40in girth, it was estimated at 340lb, one hell of a beast and it prove such when after one very poor photo on my camera and one other better shot on another camera it broke free of our hold and disappeared back into the deeps.   Three other sturgeon followed that before close of play, but with the best at 5ft-10in to me they were comparatively small.

                                                   At 6ft-2in a little powerhouse.

                                              A poor shot of John's 340lb.   Better one later I hope.

                                               Clayton Jones our guide for three days.

The evenings had settled into a nice easy routine of wash and brush-up then out at 7.00pm for a visit to one of the many restaurants in the area.  With the weather holding at a very comfortable level of around 25C maximum the fishing was great.  Meet up with the guide at 8.00am and fish all day through to 4.00pm when the rods would come in and we would head back to the boat launch area.  Each day was different and today we had Mark Laynes as our guide and he headed right upstream to one of his favourite spots on the river.  With fishing being what we all know we moved several times in the immediate area and saw sturgeon roll, but not one fish took bait despite our best efforts.
Moving downstream and dropping into other good swims I took the first fish of the day, one of about 4ft but that was eclipsed by the next taken by John yet again.  This fish truly gave a fight worthy of one 50lb heavier and when it finally gave up it was measured at 7lb-9in length and a girth of 36.5in.  Again using the formula we got an estimated weight of 260lb a very worthwhile specimen to the growing list.  Just before close of play I latched into another hard fighting specimen that was eventually measured at 6ft-1oz to give a very pleasing end to our days sport.

                                               John's 260lb with Clayton & I holding it.

                                                Last fish of the day at 6ft-1in to me.

We were now at Friday and all along the forecast had been for rain to begin at that time and then to stay over our remaining days.   Fortunately for this day at least we only had the occasional shower and with four fish going to 6ft it was yet another good sporting day.  

                                                           John with his 6ft specimen.

John had been on several trips to the region from 1997 onward and in those days twenty fish catches coming to the boat were not unusual.  As with most fishing those that arrive early get the best sport and today a catch of say six fish would be slightly above average, between two and four is more the expected normal day

                                                       Rod watching on a sunny day

Saturday the weather had certainly come in with a vengeance, heavy rain overnight and early morning was accompanied by very strong winds and considerable damage was caused by falling trees.  Fortunately Clayton went upstream to an area that experience had shown him to be a little bit better sheltered in these conditions and it was not until evening when we returned that it was realised how fortunate we had been.  Three foot waves coming at us made it necessary to slow the boat almost to a crawl, but in the calm area we made hay while the sun shone.  John was first with a fish of 6ft-8in length and 34in girth giving and estimated weight of 180lb.  A very hard fight and only different to the larger specimens in that the fish gives up that little bit sooner.  That was at 11-15am and at about 1.00pm we were in action again this time with Dave having a good fish on his rod.  A very similar fight to John’s followed and eventually he landed an almost identical specimen.  This time it came in at 6ft-9in length and 33in girth and again an estimated weight of 180lb.

                                                      180lb for John.

                                                                  180lb for Dave.

With these larger fish coming to both John and Dave I was getting a little concerned that maybe I would miss out, just the rest of this day and one more to go and then it was back to England but I need not of worried.  My bait was taken and after an initial twitch the rod bent over and I struck into weight.  John and Dave went to bring in the rods positioned behind me whilst Clayton went to the rod to my left, This meant the he saw the fish leap as well as myself, and his comment as the fish came totally clear of the water was ‘that’s a big mother ***.’  One of the best feelings to any fisherman must be holding a rod with a tight clutch that is screaming as the line peels off with a very large fish trying to make his escape.  Once the other rods were in we could up-anchor and slowly, but surely, get back into control.  Not totally, in that the fish still went off in long runs but each time I could get line back onto the reel until he was just off the back of the boat.  At this stage I was tired and I hoped the fish was as weary as I, but Clayton obviously felt not and he powered the boat away from the fish with the reel giving all that hard earned line out again, dam!  It was probably another 15min to 20 mins before I got into a similar position as I had previously attained but this time we could take him slowly to the shore for the photos etc.  I had come out on this trip hoping for a 7ft plus specimen so I was well pleased when the tape showed it to be exactly 8ft long and a girth of 41in, 320lb of solid muscle and I left Clayton to hold the head for the photo as I was sure the fish could break my grip as John’s fish had done to him in making his escape.

                                                                           320lb for me.

Along with the rain the temperature had dropped by about 10C and this reflected in our bait catching, where we caught enough in 20 minutes at the start of the week it now took a lot longer and we actually left with less than we had hoped for.  Today we suffered a number of dropped takes and dropped fish which did suggest the fish were far more reluctant to take bait.  We did take three fish to 5ft-6in over the course of the day to give a final total for the week of 21 sturgeon.
That was the end of the fishing but not the end of the excitement if that was the right word for it.  The transport to the airport was arranged for 9.00am for a 1.25pm flight, plenty of time and we got to the airport at about 10.45am.  The journey took a little longer than usual due to some work still being carried out in clearing fallen trees and our driver had taken us via some back roads rather than the main highway as usual.  Walking through the doors into the airport my mind went to the paperwork etc. I would need and I immediately realised I had left my passport in the room safe back at the hotel, panic stations!

                                                  The Coast Hotel  - Chilliwack

A quick phone call to the hotel reception and the problem explained, ‘could they get the passport and have a taxi bring it to the airport’ a task that was done very efficiently.  Meanwhile we went to the check-in desk and explained the problem only to be told the gates close at 12.25pm on the dot, no exception.  In fact the chap said they were overbooked and were looking for three people to agree to stay over.  Although I hoped the taxi would make on time I knew it was highly unlikely and already I was prepared for and expensive delay with the need to get another ticket and overnight hotel room.  Sure enough the 12.25pm time came and went, John and Dave had already gone through and they wished me luck.  I had been in touch with Joe Taylor about my error as he is a well-travelled angler and would be more likely to be able to advise me what to do and I was actually talking to him when the taxi arrived a 12.45pm.  Once the passport had been sorted we continued to talk and Joe asked what airline I was on, I could not remember so as we talked I walked down along all the different airline check in desks.  I had gone right to the start of in international departures to meet the taxi and the check-in was at the other end so it was a little walk to get back there.  It would now be about 25 minutes after the desk had closed but as I spoke to Joe and related what airline it was I realised there were three people checking in, nothing to lose and I went through and put my case on the conveyer expecting to be told ‘go away’ or something like that.  Instead the chap started to issue my boarding pass and put the tickets on the suitcase.  He explained he had put me through as a priority passenger and explained I could use the express route through to the loading area.  Quite amazingly I actually got on the plane before the other two as they waited for the low number seats to be called.  Hopefully I will never leave my passport again; though I will never know how I got on that plane the gods were certainly smiling down at me.

I could not close without a couple of the animal shots taken at range.  A brown bear that swam across the river behind us and a deer with her fawn.