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!
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!