Saturday, 29 June 2013

Two rivers, four fish and a donkey

I've managed to get out twice over the last seven days the first trip of which was a another night session on my local bit of Trent. My daughter Charlotte was to join me on what was to be her first ever night fishing trip, she was very excited!

The swim I chose was very shallow but I knew from past experience that the Barbel move through there at night and seeing as its something of a natural bottleneck something would have to pass the baits at some point. Once we got everything setup and sorted it didn't take long to get a bite. I was quite surprised to get one in the daylight and the fish was proving to be a tough customer out in the flow and streamer weed. I passed the rod to Charlotte who was completely unprepared for the power and nearly let go altogether! She passed it back after a minute or so and Grabbed the landing net instead. eventually we slid the net under a very rare fish indeed, a Trent Rainbow Trout! At around 4lb it wasn't a bad un either. Charlotte had no hesitation picking it up to have her pic taken although she wasn't so keen when it flipped about!

As day became night it began to rain and we got settled in our beds, Charlotte went out like a light! I remembered back to my first night session which took place on a lake in the middle of a theme park in North Yorkshire, lightwater valley I believe it was called. It rained that night too very heavily as i remember and I certainly never had the luxury of a bivvy, bedchair or even a decent sleeping bag! I was on a sloping bank under a 45inch nylon brolly in an Argos sleeping bag and trying to sleep directly on the floor, that was a seriously long night! Despite not sleeping a wink I did catch a couple of small bream and they were PBS at the time so I wasn't put off one bit. Since then I've fished hundreds of nights and even now I still struggle sleeping a lot of the time despite having all the creature comforts.

Back to the session anyway, at around midnight the Delkim warbled urgently as a fish shot off downstream with my bait. I rushed out telling Charlotte that we've got one and she didn't even stir! After a hectic tussle in the dark I managed to net it and get it on the mat. At this point her ladyship decided to get out of bed just as I was doing some pics for the blog. "Can i get a photo please?" was all she said as she picked up the fish off the mat. I took a pic and then she announced she was going back to bed, leaving me to return the fish and tidy up! Charming!

By the time I got back to bed she was snoring again, for all her worried talk of foxes and other creatures of the night she certainly seemed to be taking things in her stride. The rain really started hammering down and I had to half zip the bivvy door down to keep it out.

At about 2ish I had another bite and went running out in just my socks to hit it getting my feet soaked in the process. The fish powered off downstream and I tried to give it the butt to stop it reaching the snags about 40 yards away. Unfortunately this proved too much for the size12 hook and it pulled. I reset everything and dug out my spare socks, Charlotte? She was still asleep!

Dawn broke and as I lay there listening to patter of the rain on the bivvy I was suddenly jolted to attention by another bite, this one on my upstream rod. I hit it and the fish immediately powered into the streamer weed and buried itself. It kicked a couple more times and then everything went solid. I tried slackening the line and waiting to see if it moved and then I tried changing the pulling angle all to no avail, I was well caught in the rocks. Braid doesn't like rocks and after a bit more tugging the line parted.

Charlotte finally awoke at about 7.30 demanding breakfast, " that was great dad when are we going again" she kept saying. Blimey she slept through most of it! Me on the other hand, I was knackered and after a quick brekky we packed up and headed for home.

I had originally planned another night the following Friday to try and even the score a bit but work got in the way and I ended up heading out on an evening session instead, my first non- night fishing river trip of the season. I didn't hold much hope for success in daylight hours on the Trent so I opted to head to the Dove instead as I'd heard some good reports of late. It would be the first time I'd fished the river with Barbel in mind for a good few years.

I got down the river for about 3.30 and after beating back the overly friendly Donkey which lives in the carpark field i made my way to the river. I didn't have any particular swim in mind and upon seeing the river in its full summer glory my decision was made even harder. Big rafts of weed intersected by golden gravel runs and overhanging trees with deep looking pools beneath seemed to be everywhere I looked, what a stunning piece of water.

I eventually settled in a swim with a tree downstream, the weather was very muggy but there was rain in the air and I was fully expecting a deluge. I wished I hadn't brought so much stuff with me though because with the river being so intimate, a mobile approach would've been so much better. Within about 20 minutes of casting in I received my first bite and hit into a fish. Although powerful this was no Barbel but I wasn't complaining as a nice chub slipped into the net. At a tad over 5lb it was my first decent one of the season and I returned it hoping the rest of the session would be as productive.

No more bites occurred in that swim over the next hour or so and I decided to move to a deeper slower pool which shallowed up into some extensive beds of streamer weed at its tail. No sooner had I cast in however then the farmer decided to come into the field to round up his cows for milking. Round and round the field he sped in his 4x4, hand permanently on the horn and revving the hell out of his engine. Obviously that must've done wonders for the fishing in my swim and not surprisingly I never had a sniff there in nearly two hours. Oh well, the next spot was beckoning.

By now the wind and rain had actually started to get quite ferocious and after casting out I cowered under my brolly praying no trees would come down on top of me! I suddenly became aware of a buzzer sounding out in the maelstrom and looked out to see my upstream rod bucking violently. I hit into the fish which weeded me quite badly but steady pressure won in the end and a lovely golden Barbel was soon posing for its photo. Not huge but a nice fish in what can best be described as challenging conditions!

After returning it I was just preparing to recast when my downstream rod gave the old three foot twitch. I quickly dropped everything and hit it but I bumped it on the strike unfortunately. That was all the action I was to get over the rest of the trip. The weather continued to deteriorate badly and I packed up at about 8.30 having had a right skinful of it. The friendly little donkey was waiting for me back at the car and I swear it would've got inside with me if I'd let it!


Wednesday, 19 June 2013

A new season begins

I was literally chomping at the bit to get fishing back on the rivers as the new season approached. I'd been down strimming pegs in the run up to the big day and the river looked absolutely cracking. Id already made the decision to focus almost exclusively on the upper Trent this year as I think I've spent too much time fishing the Soar and Derwent in recent years for what is probably a smaller average stamp of fish. I'm determined to crack the 13lb barrier this year and I really think the Trent can do it for me. A trip or two to the Dove isn't out of the question either as I've not Barbel fished there nearly enough.

June the 15th finally arrived and I was riverside and setting up in preparation for the midnight kickoff by around 2pm, i was well keen! I wasn't the only one there though which made me feel a little more justified!

I'd picked what was to be a new swim to me and I spent a couple of hours plumbing and pruning in a bid to get it just right. There was more flow in the swim than I would've liked due to the rain of the previous couple of days and river had around 6-8inches on it. It wasn't long before I had done all I needed to except casting in and this left me with a good few hours to kill in the meantime.

This is where my problem began. All that spare time allowed for plenty of thinking and as usual something triggered the seed of doubt in my mind, in this case it was the extra flow. A couple of exploratory casts with a 5oz lead had me struggling to hold bottom and I didn't fancy recasting every 20 minutes or so through the night. There was an area upstream I knew well and had caught well from in the past, would that be a better bet? Godammit! At 11.30pm I decided to move.

By the time I got re-setup midnight had come and gone and had a nagging feeling I'd just made a complete pigs-ear of things. As it turned out no Barbel put in an appearance and the session was saved when my only bite resulted in that 3-4lb Chub which seems to follow me everywhere I go. At least I hadn't blanked.

Having booked some days off work I resolved to return on the Monday evening and I had a plan to bait the hell out of a swim to see if it made a difference. Again I chose a spot with past form and set about implementing my plan. I had rigged up the bottom five sections of an old fibreglass pole with a length of rope which was knotted at 12 inch intervals and a giant bait dropper was attached on the end. This setup is great for finding the depth of ones margin spots quickly whilst enabling me to put a great deal of bait down with minimum fuss and disturbance. I put 8 droppers of hemp laced groundbait ( which equated to about two pints) out in 4ft of water in less than two minutes. That was my banker rod!

The river looked a bit dead to be honest, all the colour had dropped out and the level was down to somewhere near normal. I had a couple of taps and pulls but nothing like the three foot twitch I was hoping for. Just before dark a series of repeated taps on the boilie rod had me bring in a chunky roach of around 12oz, obviously it's eyes were bigger than its belly!

The night wore on with no action and I was starting to contemplate another barbel free night. I heard a couple of heavy sounding splashes out in the darkness so there was obviously something sizeable out there in front of me. It was around 3am when a couple of bleeps on my banker rod jolted me out of my slumber. Five minutes later the alarm sounded again, something was showing an interest. Ten minutes later I found myself drifting off back to sleep then suddenly the baitrunner went into meltdown and the delkim warbled its lovely sound, Barbel on! The fish pulled like an absolute demon, I'd forgotten just how well they scrap as it'd been so long. Soon enough it was lying on the mat though and at 10lb4oz it was a great way to open my Trent Barbel account for the season. Nothing else happened for the rest of the session and I packed up with plans to try another area the following evening.

The new area was a bit of a walk and considering the thermometer in the car read 23 degrees upon my arrival I was absolutely soaked in sweat by the time I got to a nice looking swim. I say swim but it had to be beaten out first, it didn't look like anybody had been and fished this area for a very long time indeed.

Using my plumbing/baiting pole I found I had 5ft of water over clear gravel underneath my rod tip which shallowed to 3ft over heavy streamer weed around 30 yards downstream. I decided to place my bait around 10 yards upstream of the weed, it looked textbook for Barbel.

The fish seemed really active in the run up to darkness, it was incredibly muggy due to lots of cloud cover but the fish, small and large alike were showing every five minutes, it was like a different river to that of the previous couple of days.

Despite the activity there was a noticeable lack of action on my rods, I hadn't even had a sniff as darkness fell but I was still very confident. At around 11pm I finally had a couple of indications on my downstream rod, just plucks enough to sound the buzzer a couple of times. The great thing about Barbel, especially unpressured ones like these is that they arnt exactly dainty creatures when it comes to eating and because they have great big sticky-outy fins they usually give their presence away near the bait in the form of liners and twitches. And so it was to be on this occasion, a couple more bleeps preceeded a truly savage take and I found myself connected to a decent fish. I could tell it was a goodun because I got it out in front of me and it continued to swim upstream as if it didn't realise it was hooked. Much of the fight took place upstream of me which meant the fish was fighting the flow as well as me and it wasn't giving up easily. The power of these things never ceases to amaze me. Upon lifting the net out of the water I knew it was a lump straight away and once on the mat I was confronted by a huge framed fish. At 12lb2oz it wasn't quite as big as its looks suggested but it was still a fantastic catch and I was well chuffed.

I didn't waste any time getting back out there and although I was knackered I was buzzing too much to sleep. Some heavy crashes in the water nearby told me there was still a few about. It was 2.30am when I began to get the twitches on the line again and I sat there expectantly. The inevitable take was a similar affair to the previous one and although this fish certainly felt smaller it simply refused to give up. Every time I thought it was ready for netting it would shoot off again and it got to the point where it was starting to get ridiculous. I found myself getting more and more brutal with it just to try and get the net under it, eventually I managed it but the fish still decided to beat the crap out of me on the bank, was it on steroids or something?!

At 10lb6oz it was my third double of the season and even after the weighing and the pics it was still full of life. No coaxing this one back, it didn't need recovery, as soon as it went back in the river it left me dripping as it showered me with spray as it powered off back into the depths, unbelievable!

Soon enough daylight arrived and with it the chance of any more Barbel action lessened significantly. A tiny 8oz Chub fell to my rod as I packed up but I was a happy man regardless. The upper Trent doesn't have the sheer numbers of Barbel that the middle and tidal does but what it lacks in quantity it certainly makes up for in quality. What a great start to my Campaign, I just hope I can continue in the same vein throughout the summer.


Sunday, 2 June 2013

The early bird catches the fish

The bright sunny conditions predicted for this weekend were going to make fishing something of a grueller especially on the clear water lakes I've been targeting of late. My wife had taken the kids away to visit family in Scotland for the weekend which meant I had a totally free couple of days fishing in front of me. With the weather in mind I planned a couple of early morning sessions to try and snag a few fish before the sun got to high.

My first trip was to the Bream lake and although it wasn't quite first light when I arrived (I overslept) I was still early enough to witness the morning rollers. Great big black backs silently broke the glasslike surface of the lake in front of me and I feverishly setup in anticipation of some lumps. After last weeks pest control episode would today be the day I landed amongst the big girls?

Within minutes of the groundbait bombardment I had fish showing over the baited area and I began to get liners practically from the off. A solid bite after around half an hour saw me land a small male Bream of 7lb, not a bad start. A lost fish shortly afterwards seemed to quieten things down a bit.

Time was starting to get on a bit and the sun was beginning to burn, the fish had long stopped rolling and I thought my chance had gone. Another bite suddenly occurred and I landed a slightly larger Bream of 8lb, nice but where were the doubles I saw the pictures off and indeed what i saw rolling in front of me earlier?


At least I can catch em now!

Another carbon copy came to the bank within minutes of the previous fish and that seemed to signal the end of the days action. I packed up just before lunch and as I made my way around the pit back to the car I came upon a small group of very large Bream in the shallows which looked like they were thinking about spawning. They were easy doubles and were a timely reminder of why I was there, I resolved to return once the spawning was done.........

On the way home I had a sudden urge to catch a Tench and after much thought I decided upon a dawn assault on another club water which, despite being fairly prolific for the species is very much underfished. There's nothing huge in there and they average around 3-5lb but they are lovely dark coloured fish due to the water being quite peaty. It's the kind of water where all the fishing is at close range due to the thick weed and, being shallow it really lends itself to the classic swim raking and lift method approach. I was hoping to give my centrepin a good workout as I haven't used it for over a year and this place was ideal for it.


I set off mega early in order to get setup and fishing for first light, I looked down at the clock in the car and realised that I really need to get my head tested at some point cos going fishing at half three in the morning can't be right surely? I got to the lake and assembled my kit, it was still too dark to see my float but I was itching to get started as fish were splashing everywhere!

Eventually I got set up, plumbed up and baited up and all was good, I just needed some Tench now. It didn't take long for the bubbles to start appearing over my bait and my float began to bob about all over the place as the fish brushed the line as they fed. The float suddenly slid away and I struck and bumped something, a little green scale on the hook told me I'd just struck a liner.



It quietened off a little and suddenly I was plagued by tiny Rudd, every time the maggot hit the water it was gone in seconds so I quickly switched to corn and this seemed to solve the problem. After around twenty minutes the float lifted and lay flat, I didn't give it chance to slide away and hit into my first Tinca of the day. It was only small but it was very well proportioned and a great sign that the species is spawning well in the pool.

Miniature perfection


A couple of missed bites which I suspect were liners followed before I struck into a proper Tench. The centrepin hissed as the fish made for some trees to my right before shooting out into a weedbed in front of me. What a great battle I thought as I netted it. Again it wasn't huge but it's fighting prowess on the light gear certainly brought a smile to my face.

Another day, another awful pic.......

That pretty much brought the session to a close, after about 7am I couldn't buy another bite on corn and I didn't fancy sitting there catching 2-3oz Rudd all day on the maggots so I packed up and headed home for brekky. It was a really enjoyable trip because my whole approach was different to what I normally do and it's a water I've rarely fished in the past. I'll certainly fish it again in the near future though.