The 2014/15 river season was without doubt the worst season I’ve ever experienced. My total return for the campaign was 6 barbel and 3 chub.
This was partly due to the devastation that’s been wrought on my favourite section of the Kennet, by the twin perils of otter predation and the exceptional floods of winter 2013/14 that have ripped out much of the cover that previously provided sanctuary for the fish. Until the last couple of years, the section was always reliable for a few barbel, mostly in the 4-7 pound range – it wouldn’t have been unusual to have taken this season’s total numbers of fish in a single session. These ones seem to have all but disappeared now.
However, the upside (if it can be called that), is that what fish remain are of a high average size – it’s good for now for the specimen hunter, but does not bode well for the future, and I fear that the river may take many years to recover, if indeed it ever does.
I had all but 2 of the fish by the end of July, and after that couldn’t buy a bite anywhere (Kennet, St Patrick’s Stream, Grand Union Canal), whether fishing for barbel, pike or carp. But the last outing of the season provided a welcome surprise in the form of a new P.B. barbel from the Kennet – the second time in the season that I’d achieved that mark.
I arrived at the river around 3 in the afternoon, to find the bankside quite busy, and all the swims I’d mentally earmarked to try were already occupied. I decided to have a try in a swim that had unknown provenance (to me anyway), and set up 2 rods. One with a boilie fished tight to a near bank overhanging tree, and the other with a pellet feeder rig fished about 3/4 of the way over into the main flow.
All was quiet until dusk was falling, when without warning, the boilie rod hooped round. Striking into the fish, I was immediately embroiled in a battle to prevent a powerful adversary from seeking its freedom under the overhanging tree. I thought I might have lost the battle when I felt the line rubbing on an underwater branch, and briefly all went solid. However, I gradually ramped up the pressure, the fish suddenly came free and I was able to get it into open water.
The rest of the fight was pretty straightforward and soon the fish was in the net. It was obvious that it was going to beat my previous Kennet best, but by how much. I wondered if it might tip the 12 lb mark, but the scales settled at 11-11, a full 3/4 of a pound heavier than my previous Kennet best, set just a few months earlier. The fish was in fin perfect condition.
After the fish was safely returned and the baits re-cast, all was quiet again until around 9 o’clock, when I had a take on the pellet rod. A lively fight ensued, during which the fish made several strong runs that took line off the clutch, before I could slip the net under a fine seven-pounder.
That proved to be the final action of the day. So the last trip of the season was a good way to see it off, and at least provided some relief to an otherwise very disappointing term.
3 months to wait now until next season gets under way, and I’ll have to give some thought as to where I’ll be fishing, as the lack of bites on my previously reliable waters means I may have to look elsewhere. In the meantime, when the weather warms up, hopefully I’ll be out after some canal carp, and possibly a tench or two.