After the Lord Mayor’s Show

Buoyed by my recent success at Atcham I decided to try another day on the stunning River Severn venue at which I’d blanked on my first attempt and so it was that I arrived mid-morning at Rossall, one of Lymm AC’s fantastic stretches of river available to members. As I completed my arrival paperwork I noticed that a fellow member had completed his catch return from the day before but omitted to post it in the box. Hence I was able to discover that he’d landed two Barbel the previous evening weighing 9.5 and 11lbs. Brilliant, the fish are in the mood. Let’s get it on.

One of the lessons I’d learned from my previous visit to this venue is that the walk back up the hill after a day’s fishing can quickly take it’s toll on a middle-aged man’s time for the quarter-mile dash and so I’d resolved to trim down the amount of gear I deemed necessary  for a day’s fishing.

Even so, after this cull, I chuckled as I realised the cavernous main section within my backpack was actually filled with tucker and drinks. Never mind, I thought, I certainly won’t be carrying any back uphill with me!

I proceeded to walk the length of the entire stretch, noting the shallow sections, deeper pools, potential holding areas, ranunculus beds, overhanging cover in the form of willow trees and bushes before deciding on a tasty looking swim containing all of the above. What could possibly go wrong?

A perfect looking swim

A perfect looking swim

I prepared the inside line 10 metres downstream by gingerly backwinding six humungous bait dropper’s full of hemp, buck-wheat and pellet, home-prepared to my own specific recipe(!) and then delivered a precision cast to the far side, just upstream of the overhanging branches, allowing the pellet and hemp-packed feeder to drift underneath the cover before hitting the river bed. Perfect. Marlboro time.

There was to be no take on my first cast this time. Nor on my second, or third. After a couple of hours fishing the far side I decided it was time to drop a bait into the near side buffet bar I’d created when I first arrived but, as I retrieved, I was greeted by a cheery ‘good afternoon’ from Phil the Bailiff.

Phil’s a very experienced angler and knows Rossall better than anyone so I listened extremely carefully and employed some subtle questioning techniques that Slipper of the Yard would have admired in my quest to ascertain where the fish might be, what methods and bait would increase my chance of success and why the bloody hell I hadn’t a bite yet?

In summary, it was too early in the day, too bright and although the water was up and showing a little colour it was too cold on account of a release from Vernwy. Excellent. So it’s nothing whatsoever to do with me being a crap angler!

30 minutes later I bid him a cheery goodbye and implored myself to store in an easily retrievable crevice of my mind a smidgen of the knowledge he’d so willingly shared.

Dear reader, I’m not going to drag this out any longer. The nearside didn’t produce so much as a line bite either. Nor did the mid-stream runs between the Rananculous beds. Feeder, rolling ledger, small pellet(s), large pellet, meat and paste all failed to produce so much as a tap.

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It only lasts a few fleeting minutes but it’s the most wonderful late evening light

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time available to fish into the night on this occasion so with the last of the stunning evening light fading, I packed away and congratulated myself on the minimalist approach I’d adopted as I stumbled marched back up the hill to the truck, stopping only a couple of times to catch my breath admire the view.

Rossall 2  Tony 0

I’ll be back

’til next time

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Hidden Gems

After the excitement of losing my barbel virginity on the Severn earlier in the week I decided to take a drive over to Peover Eye with my light 13′ float road and centre pin. Two reasons for this; I only had a couple of hours in which to indulge myself so somewhere local was required and I’d seen some great photographs of the stunning countryside surrounding this location.

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The place is a hidden gem and Geoff, the owner of the Mill and surrounding land is a brilliant guy to shoot the breeze with. He bought the Mill and surrounding land in 1958 (paying less than £200 apparently) and remembers a time when he wouldn’t see a car cross the bridge for days at a time.

A promising looking glide....

A promising looking glide….

Anyway, a walk upstream revealed an appealing glide with a bit of depth and cover on the near bank so I approached quietly, chucked in a handful of casters, set the tiny stick float to 4′ and with just one x no. 8 shot 10″ from a size16 barbless hook carrying a freshly dug worm, I gently cast into the stream. The float had just about settled and started trotting down the near side when, bang, fish on.

There followed a great scrap on the light gear in a very tight swim and a decent rainbow trout eventually succumbed to the net. Second day in a row that a fish has taken my bait on the first cast so these lucky underpants might not see the laundry for a while if this carries on!

Great fish for a small stream

Great fish for a small stream

The following hour saw no bites whatsoever as I roamed in a couple of other tight swims, eventually arriving back at the Mill where I checked the position of the sun before setting myself up in a position alongside the Mill Race where my shadow wouldn’t be cast onto the water and gently lowered a fresh worm into the clear running water below. Bang, fish on! Two minutes later, after hanging on to a seriously angry fish in a very tight swim, it shook the hook and I ended up in the mother of all tangles as the hook and float were catapulted into the backside vegetation. Time for a Marlboro.

Regrouped, rebaited and now hidden deep in the bankside vegetation, I lowered the float into the water alongside some near bank cover with good flow and a decent back eddy 5 metres below me and was rewarded instantly with a clonking take. A brief but spirited fight ensued before I managed to slip the net under a beautiful wild Brownie. Geoff, the owner, reckoned it was bigger than a pound but I’d be surprised if it was even 3/4. To be honest, who cares? A picture-postcard venue, a warm September afternoon, light tackle, strikingly beautiful fish and just a privilege to enjoy.

Fabulous wild Brownie

Fabulous wild Brownie

Fabulous.

’til next time.

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Beginner’s Luck

Well, where to begin?

First time on the River Severn at Atcham and my second attempt to tempt a barbel and I’m left thinking I should put my gear on ebay tomorrow because I can’t imagine it will get any better than this…

Anticipation builds...

Anticipation builds…

Arrived at 14:00 planning to fish a few hours into darkness so put six large bait droppers of home-cooked (secret recipe) hemp and mixed pellet down the near bank, 20 metres from my swim, in order to ‘lay the table’ for darkness and then proceeded to chuck a hemp and pellet-filled feeder with a couple of pellets on a 3′ hair rig across to the far bank. Fell short but let it find the bottom 3/4 of the way across and reclined in the chair for a well-earned Marlboro in the afternoon sunshine.

A devastating home-brew of hemp, buck-wheat and mixed pellet with hemp chilli oil and Belachan extract. Irresistible.

A devastating home-brew of hemp, buck-wheat and mixed pellet with hemp chilli oil and Belachan extract. Irresistible.

Two puffs and the tip of my rod took off toward Bridgnorth as I hung onto what had to be a Barbel. Unfortunately, I’ll never know for sure because after a brief fight it had me around a snag and the 10lb hook-length frayed and broke. Bugger.

Disappointment turned the air blue but I re-rigged and this time made the far bank with a precision fortuitous cast. Time for a consolation Marlboro.

20 minutes later I was into another fish determined to head for Bridgnorth but I managed to hang onto this one and after a great five minute fight, which only really got serious once it saw the landing net, I safely netted my first ever Barbel. Although I’m a novice, I’ve read extensively (Barbel Society Books, Trefor West, etc) and spent more hours on tinternet than is probably healthy, so after unhooking I was conscious of the recovery time Barbel require and duly attended the fish in the net for 10 mins. It was at this moment I realised I’d left my scales at home and so I shouted to the occupant of the upstream swim (sorry mate), an extremely helpful guy called John, who came to the rescue and weighed my prize at exactly 7lb. Happy days. Two casts, two fish, one landed, virginity broken. Time for another Marlboro.

You Beauty!

You Beauty!

An hour disappeared with no more far bank action so I changed from pellet to plain old, unadulterated, un-garlicked, un-curried or fried, spam. Straight from the tin, hair-rigged……….and immediately devoured by my next far-bank Barbel. No dramas and slightly smaller at 6 lbs 12 oz. How do I know this? Because I’d had a good rummage through my bag and found my digital scales! Early Alzeimers perhaps?

Anyway, the afternoon proceeded in the same vein with further fish of 6 lbs 7 oz, 7 lbs 4 oz and 7 lbs 9 oz before, once again, I accidentally fell short with my cast but let it rest as the feeder appeared to have registered a hard landing between the reed beds 3/4 across. Time for a relaxing Marlboro.

5:45 and the phone startles me as the Leader of the Opposition calls to tell me she’s stuck in traffic on her way home. “Yeah, my day’s pretty Spangles too love. Tell you about it later. Oh, I won’t be home for tea so best get yourself something. Love you. Bye” BANG, rod keels over again and I’m into another train heading for Bridgnorth but this one seems intent on getting there….. A fantastic fight eventually sees the biggest one so far in the net and I’m beginning to wonder, ‘could it possibly be….no, not on your second trip, not your 6th ever Barbel, your eyes are deceiving you, it’s not THAT big’ Or is it?

Another beautiful River Severn Barbel

Another beautiful River Severn Barbel

10 lbs 06 oz. Size matters, of course, so I checked it three times and all I can say is, thank god for digital scales. Time for an uninterrupted Marlboro (or two) so after releasing the fish I didn’t bother recasting and just sat back in the evening sunshine to contemplate what had happened to me during the afternoon and consider whether I should perhaps buy a Euromillions ticket this week?

Swans in late evening formation flying display

Swans in late evening formation flying display

As I reclined, four swans flew in formation low over the river in front of me as if practising for the Red Arrows and although, after a truly stunning sunset, I fished on into darkness for a couple of hours, no further fish graced my net. It did give me an opportunity however to test the disposable isotope on the rod tip (aren’t they mesmerising!) and also give my new head torch an outing before I decided I’d had enough luck for one day/week/month and it was time to pack up and head home after a simply unforgettable day.

Sunset at Atcham to crown the end of a special day

Sunset at Atcham to crown the end of a special day

’til next time.

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An inauspicious start

It’s taken me approximately six months to reach the point where I feel sufficiently educated, equipped and ‘tooled-up’ to venture out in search of barbel. Since giving up sailing on account of the Leader of the Opposition’s refusal to spend any more time as bow bitch or winching wench and finding absolutely no joy whatsoever in narrowboat ownership (‘Winding Down’ was probably the most inappropriate name we could have given ours), I spent some considerable time thinking about which activity(s) I might adopt that would provide the right balance of challenge and fulfilment?

Mid Atlantic swells

Mid Atlantic swells

After debating the merits or otherwise of activities such as off-roading, radio-controlled model car racing and studio (model) photography, I decided catching a 10lb Barbel ticked more boxes than anything else. Yeah, I know other people buy a Porsche but I can’t afford one, ok.

Books had been read and re-read in earnest, tackle had been acquired, the postman had delivered a succession of ‘rig-bits’ purchased on late-night, whisky fuelled, Sunday night ebay sessions and I was ready. Oh yes, I was ready. So ready that I’d even applied for, and been accepted into, membership of the Barbel Society and received my membership card. Fleetingly, it occurred to me that I might be the only full member who’d never actually caught a barbel?

And so it was on a bright sunny Tuesday morning a week ago that I fired up the truck and excitedly entered the post-code of my chosen venue into the SATNAV whilst running through an extensive checklist in my head to ensure nothing had been forgotten? After travelling just 1.5 miles from my gate I was aware something wasn’t right. In fact, it most certainly wasn’t right. It was left. Why was the woman on the SATNAV recalculating? Time to pull over at the earliest opportunity for investigation and the instant I rolled gently to a standstill the words of my salty old Yachtmaster Instructor were ringing loudly in my head: “Always double check when entering lat/long waypoint co-ordinates into your GPS because one misplaced digit could inadvertently send you to your death”.  Crikey. Perhaps not quite such a doom-laden outcome in this case, although I understand Dudley can be a tad ‘full-on’ but accidentally entering DY instead of SY would most certainly have diminished my chances of landing a barbel.

Barbel Country

Barbel Country

An hour later I was on the bank surveying a perfect scene with a choice of apparently ideal swims and no-one else fishing the stretch. Ideal. I could make mistakes in perfect seclusion and no-one would be any the wiser; overweight swimfeeders could rain down in droves, entering the water with all the finesse of a depth charger, without upsetting any fellow anglers….. or fish. They, of course, had all departed for safer waters the moment one of the legs of my new Fox collapsible chair decided to demonstrate it’s easily collapsible features at an inopportune moment as I over-reached in search of the bait box containing my choice hook baits.

The words of Trefor West rang loudly in my head: “Learn to be quiet” he states in his Top Ten Tips (Chapter 25 in the aptly titled ‘Barbel’ his excellent book detailing his lifetime’s addiction to catching barbel) “Clumsy footfalls, chairs and rucksacks dumped in the swim followed by the hammering in of banksticks will ruin your chances of a bite before you wet a line”. Right on Tref. Add to that the ejection, stage left, of 18 stones of highly-tuned would-be barbel angler knocking bait bucket, pellet tray, hookbait box and landing net pole down a nettle-strewn riverbank, as the front left-hand leg of the (expensive) seat collapses and you’ve got an additional sentence for the book’s reprint Tref. Never mind. Regroup and remain positive. This particular top tip was only number five on the list so I consoled myself that I was still in good shape as far as his top four were concerned.

Poised and ready

Poised and ready

And so the stage was set perfectly for an eight hour blank and this, dear reader, is precisely what unfolded. Not a line bite, a tug, pull, twitch or tell-tale three-foot wrap-around. Zilch, nada, nowt. My practical examination had begun in earnest.

Demoralised? Downhearted? Not a chance. I’d had a brilliant day. Peaceful, thought-provoking, a chance to test, assess and compare the casting and retrieval attributes of a couple of different styles of rig, utilising bits and pieces from Korum, Fox and Drennan plus I got to learn how time-consuming and difficult it can be to assemble rigs and tie knots in braid hooklengths on the bank. In fact, I’ve almost decided to change and use monofilament in future with a strategically placed olivette to keep the line tight to the bed of the river but more of than anon.

I got to learn about my Daiwa Infinity rods as far as casting characteristics are concerned, utilising a couple of different weights and swim feeders plus I enjoyed plenty of ‘casting accuracy practice’.

Next time, I’m aiming to put all this newly-acquired knowledge and experience of the through action features of the rods into practice as I tame a barbel, or two. Time will tell.

Stay tuned.

’til next time.

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