Signs of Life? Not Really

The arrival of the warmer seems to have done something to the river, as the margins were full of fry on Saturday, the first time I’ve seen that this season, and a welcome sight too. Then, when I cast a line into the water, there were signs of crayfish activity – not normally something I’d welcome, but coupled with the signs that the fish had been breeding I felt hopeful that things were returning to normal after the stuttering start to the season. But either things are not yet all right in the riverine environment, or I’m doing something badly wrong, as I failed to get a single bite. The feedback I’m getting from others on the bank suggests that I’m  not the only one struggling to find the fish, so it seems the problem could well be the river and its inhabitants. Worried 😦

God’s Own Bite Alarm…

…That’s the sound of a centrepin ratchet clicking furiously when a barbel takes the bait. It’s something I hadn’t experienced until yesterday. I’ve caught a few barbel over the years when trotting using a ‘pin, but until this season had never used one to leger with. Given the slow start to the barbel season that seems to be affecting rivers across the country, it probably wasn’t the best time to start out using one. Two leger sessions in the first week of the season saw just the one bite, from a carp, and that was a bite where the fish came upstream towards me, so no screaming ratchet for that one.

Things took a turn for the better yesterday, as at last I found feeding barbel. The first fish fell in the early evening, taking a pair of Teme Severn Sausage boilies, and weighed around 4 pounds. Although only a small fish, it was very welcome all the same and fun to play on the ‘pin. I did however have a problem getting it in, as my line managed to get caught up in some other line that was fixed fast to something. Eventually I managed to pull my own line free from the other line and land the fish. I’d reacted to the bite quickly enough that the fish had not started to take line off the reel before I’d hit it, so at this point had still not experienced that scream of the ratchet.

First Barbel Legering a Pin

First Barbel Caught Legering a Pin

Things went quiet after that, until dusk. I’d switched baits to a robin red boilie and a few minutes into the first cast, a fish made off with the bait so fast that the ratchet was chattering away before I had a chance to react. What a lovely sound! This fish was a bigger one at a few ounces short of 7 pounds.

Not sure how a tit got into the photo!

Not sure how a tit got into the photo!

So now my duck is broken, I’m hoping that the fishing can pick up from here. The warmer weather this weekend should help get the fish moving again. One thing was noticeable again though, which was that I had no interference on the baits from crayfish – very, very unusual for this stretch.

Not So Hot To Trot

Got the float rod out for today’s session on the Kennet, and a spent a few hours trotting the stream. Yet again though, the river seemed almost lifeless. In previous years on this stretch of the river, trotting maggots would see you catching plenty of dace, minnows and other small fish, not to mention the odd chub. But this time, the small fish were almost absent. However, I did briefly hook a couple of big fish (probably barbel, but I didn’t have them on long enough to be certain), but both times the hook pulled. I suspect I’d not struck hard enough, as both fish took the bait 30+ yards down the trot, so a good strike was needed to set the hook properly. Only myself to blame here I think, but very frustrating all the same.

At Least The Weather Was Nice

I can’t recall the last time I went 3 river sessions at the start of the season without landing a barbel. However, I can take some solace in that other anglers on the stretch are reporting the same lack of success. I only hope this is a short-term malaise caused by the unusually cold spring we’ve had, rather than signs of a more serious issue, and that things will pick up with some warmer weather.

Video best viewed in full-screen HD

All Quiet on the River Front

Out on the Kennet yesterday afternoon/evening. It was peaceful, so peaceful in fact that the fish decided not to disturb things by being so bold as to take my baits. There was an overall feeling that the river’s inhabitants were totally at rest. Nothing seemed to be stirring at all. No fish were topping anywhere and not even the crayfish were active, which is very unusual.

I suspect the barbel and chub may have other things on their minds at present. With the unusually cold spring we’ve just had, it’s likely that the fish are spawning late this year. That’s my excuse anyway!

The highlight of the day was hearing a cuckoo –  the first one I’ve heard for several years. Nice to hear, although not if you’re another bird that might get an egg chucked out of the nest to be replaced by the cuckoo’s one. Did you know that cuckoos have perfect pitch and usually sing in the key of C?

The Late Evening Sun Lights Up The Far Bank

The Late Evening Sun Lights Up The Far Bank

River Season Gets Underway

Out for the first trip of the new season  today. Nothing showing in the first couple of hours. Nobody else reporting anything either. Doesn’t look too promising.


Update: First fish of the season has fallen and it wasn’t what was expected. It was a fighting fit common carp weighing exactly 9.00.


It came from a very strange bite. The rod top started nodding gently, just an inch or so bend in the tip, and at first I put it down to the prolific crayfish population in this river. But it continued this nodding action and I began to think this was a bit odd, as normally the crays tend to pluck and snatch at the bait. On closer examination, I realised the line was coming back upstream towards me. This was definitely no cray! I struck, and all hell broke loose as the carp splashed at the surface then tore off across the river.

While I was playing it another – larger – carp was following it around for while. The one on the hook gave a very lively account of itself, taking several arm-aching minutes before coming to the net, during which time it made a number of short but powerful runs. What made it even more exciting was that I was using a centrepin.

There is a certain irony here, in that I’d had four trips to the canal prior to the start of the season specifically after carp, with only one small fish to show for it. Then when I set out to catch barbel, along comes this fish! Funny old world.

The capture was notable for me for a number of reasons…

Biggest river carp
Biggest fish on a centrepin
First fish caught using a centrepin for legering

Carping On

Out on the GUC at the moment, trying to catch the first carp of the year. Weather is lovely but no signs of any carp activity yet. image

Update: Blanked.  😦

“Oh My God, It’s Huge!”

Not the sort of thing I’m used to hearing, but this is what a young lady exclaimed recently. I was just about to offer a proposal of marriage to her, when I realised she was only talking about the carp that was straining at the end of my fishing line. In fact, as carp go, it wasn’t exactly enormous, weighing in at 9.08. But it was a feisty fish and gave me a bit of a run-around before I could get it in the net. The young lady in question was on a canal cruise boat that happened to be passing at the time. Although the evening was young, I suspect she’d already consumed a fair amount of alcohol.

It turned out to be the last fish of a decent spell of canal carping during the break in the river season. In contrast to previous seasons where I’d failed to even get a bite, this year turned out rather successfully. Starting with a Sunday morning session with Andy P, my luck changed in quite some style, as I landed 9 carp to 14.02. The catch also included two 8s and two 9s, all of which beat my previous best carp of 7.00, caught as long ago as 1974. Successfull baits were a white chocolate boilie on one rod (5 fish including the 14 pounder), and a robin red boilie fished as a “snowman” with a popup on the other (4 fish). At one time, I had two fish on at the same time, luckily Andy was on hand to assist. My two new Okuma Epix baitrunner reels were christened in fine style on their first outing then, as were my Black Widow carp rods – although it took a year longer for these to break their duck. Both performed well, especially considering the cheap purchase prices (both rods and reels costs around £35 each). Strangely, Andy, who was fishing just a few yards away, never had a bite.

A New Carp PB – 14.02

The next session, this time an evening one, saw me on the same stretch of canal, but in a different swim. I had five carp, including a mirror of 12.13, and two beautiful 9lb commons. All came to the white chocolate boilies, while not getting a single touch on the robin reds. This seemed rather odd, as the robin reds were positioned up against a large overhanging tree, where you’d suspect the carp would reside – and indeed at times I could here them “clooping” under there. Yet the fish I caught were from a more open area, with only some concrete blocks up against the far bank to act as any sort of holding feature. I wonder if they were wary of baits fished so close to their home, but were less concerned about baits in the open as they wouldn’t be used to being fished for there?

Another Double – 12.13

Normal service was resumed on the third session, where I blanked, before the fourth and final session prior to the river season kick-off, being the one where that young lady was suitably impressed. So the canal-carping season ended with 15 fish banked, 9 of which were better than my previous long-standing carp PB, with the best of them doubling that old record. Now these may not be the biggest carp in the world by any means, but they did give me some good sport and it was great to finally break my duck on the canals, after 3 previous blank seasons. There was a mixture of mirrors and commons among the fish I caught, and it was interesting to note that the mirrors gave a much better account of themselves, pound for pound, than the commons. I don’t know why this would be, as they’re the same species. Andy says he finds this too, so it’s not just me.

I should also thank Andy for the advice he’s given me to help catch these fish, and for taking the photos. Maybe I can return the favour on the Severn next month.  😉

Rod Bending Action as a 14lb Mirror Carp Bids For Freedom

Tales of Nelson the One-Eyed Barbel

Wow! Haven’t updated the blog for ages! Not a great deal to catch up on the angling front to be fair.

Main “event” since the last update was a week on the Severn with Andy back in September. It was a week with rather mixed results. We started on the Monday on the BAA Stanley water, where we’d both had a decent fish last year. However, although river conditions were very similar to the previous visit – a couple of feet up and carrying some colour – this time all we could manage was a single chub between us.

Tuesday saw us on the Eardington Brook section, with the river in the same condition as Monday – as it was to remain all week, with just some relatively minor fluctuations in levels. Weather was rather wet all day. Much of the stretch was boiling around the weed beds with the extra flow, but I found a nice looking smooth glide about a third of the way out. Casting a groundbait and pellet feeder with a pellet hookbait to the top end of the glide, it wasn’t long before I started to catch. I finished the day with 8 barbel, all in the 4-7 lb range.

One of the fish was notable for the fact that it appeared to have been in a lot of fights and lost them all. It had some healed battle scars down its flanks and was missing one eye. Apart from that, it seemed to be quite healthy and gave the sort of account of itself that you’d expect from a barbel of its size.

In the afternoon, Andy moved from his first unproductive swim to a spot some 40-50 yards downstream of me. He found some success in his new spot landing 2 barbel, but dropping 2 others. I was with him when he landed one of the fish. Now, rather strangely, it appeared to have been in a lot of fights and lost them all. It had some healed battle scars down its flanks and was missing one eye. Sounds familiar? Well, yes, it was indeed the same fish that I’d caught just a few hours earlier.

Wednesday saw us on Knowle Sands top end. I had a blank (I said BLANK!), but Andy managed to net a single 5lb barbel on his special sausage (?)

Thursday saw us take a look at the lower end of Knowle Sands, which was the first time we’d been there. Apart from the rather impressive sandstone cliff face that dropped sheer into the river on the opposite bank, the river didn’t look too impressive until further upstream. Unfortunately, the other bank was very busy, so there wasn’t really anywhere to fish at that end. We had a go opposite the cliff, but it just didn’t feel right, so we decided to up sticks after a couple of hours, and de-camped to Eardington.

For the first time, we tried the upstream swims. I fished a spot with overhanging willows at both the top and bottom of the swim, and a nice looking glide just out from the trees. I had 4 barbel out of there, up to 7lbs. I also nearly lost my rod to one of them. Having just cast out, I turned my back for a second to rearrange some gear, when I heard the rod clattering in the rests. I turned to see it being pulled out of the rear rest and shooting forwards on the front rest. Luckily, the reel caught in the rest and I managed to grab it before the rest also got dragged over. Unfortunately in my haste, I slipped on the muddy banks (it been raining a few minutes earlier), and landed on my arse in the river, with a resounding splash! That was the last of the bites for the day. Andy tried 2 swims, but couldn’t find a bite in either.

The final day of the holiday saw us back on Eardington again. Andy went upstream again while, after some hesitation, I ended up in the swim above the one I’d fished on Tuesday. The river level had dropped a few inches since then, and the glide started a bit further upstream as a result. Again, it wasn’t long before I started getting bites, but the first 2 fish I hooked got away as a result of the hooklink breaking about an inch below the swivel. As I was using identical tackle (literally the same feeder etc) apart from the actual hooklinks themselves as the day before, I couldn’t understand why this was happening, but switched to a heavier BS link and changed the feeder in case there was something on it fraying the line. The next 2 barbel were landed, but the next one hooked resulted in an identical breakage to the first two. I was really puzzled by this, so my next attempt to resolve the problem was to fit a small length of tubing down from the swivel.

This appeared to do the trick as all the next four fish I hooked during the day were all landed. While unhooking one of them, I was briefly puzzled by what appeared to be an excessive amount of my hooklink attached to the fish. A closer inspection revealed that it actually had 2 of my hooklinks in its mouth, and so was one of the fish I’d lost earlier.

It’s interesting to note that 2 fish in the week were recaptured later in the same day. It makes you wonder how often this must happen. In the case of the 2 fish we know about here, they were easily recognisable as recaptures, but if the fish were not so easily recognised, and you’re into a bunch of shoal fish and not particularly taking notice of the individual fish you catch, there could be recaptures that you don’t spot.

Things Ain’t Going Right

It’s been a funny old season so far. I’ve put a few barbel in the net, but I’ve lost around 1 in every 3 that I’ve hooked. And it’s been for a mix of reasons – hook pulls, snags, line breaking and even a hook snapping. It’s annoying to say the least, especially as the mix of reasons means there isn’t one thing to focus on and fix, and the tackle Ive been using is stuff that I’ve used a lot before, without these problems.

The Wye at Holme Lacy
The Wye at Holme Lacy

A couple of weeks ago, Andy and I went to the Wye, and just like on our first visit to this stretch last autumn, we failed to catch any barbel. Conditions seemed reasonable, with a little bit of extra water and a tinge of colour, but the fish didn’t want to play ball (or we fished it crap). I did at least hook one, which proceeded to slip the hook. As this happened mid-morning, I thought there was a good chance that there would be more bites forthcoming. Not so, apart from a greedy gudgeon that snaffled a pellet. Andy’s day consisted of catching 3 small chub and almost sitting on a grass snake.

On the Kennet, I’ve had some fascinating moments getting a shoal of barbel to instantly home in on loose-fed pellets, dropped in behind a very large overhanging bush. It’s a well known holding spot, but nobody actually fishes where I’ve been putting the pellets, as it is only about 18 inches deep, silty and sluggish paced. Everyone casts further out into the main flow. Yet every time I’ve fed the pellets, the barbel are on them literally within a few seconds, dropping back out of the bush and soon churning up the silt and debris to search out the food. Clouds of silt make it almost impossible to actually see the fish, they just show the occassional glimpse of tail poking out of the silt. I have caught one fish from there, but I think I will leave them alone now, as it’s obvious that the fish feel extremely comfortable feeding there, and it would be a shame to spoil that.

Hook Lets Me Down

22nd June, River Kennet
Weather: Fairly warm, sunny spells. River: Low, clear(ish)
Arrived: 16.00, Left: 23.00

Fished one of my favourite swims on this venue, using groundbait/pellet feeder & pellet on the hook. Unusually for the swim, it took a little while for a fish to show. I’d been there for about an hour, when I decided I needed a  drink. So I put the baitrunner on and round to get a drink from my bag. No sooner had I turned my back, than I heard a splash. Looking round, I saw that the rod had been pulled off the front rest (it was resting in the shallow water at the edge), but the rear “gripper” rest was doing its job. I grabbed the rod and found myself attached to a fish. It was a barbel of 4.02, and put up a surprisingly low key fight. In fact I thought it was a chub until I saw it. Next cast, almost the same thing happened. I thought I was safe to have my drink, and was in mid swallow when I saw the tip wrap round. Hurriedly putting down the bottle, I got the rod and was playing another barbel. This one went 6.02 and fought more like a barbel should.

I had to wait another couple of hours for my next bite, a full-blooded pull. Again a barbel was the culprit. There was a worrying moment when the fish went into some sort of snag and I could feel the line rubbing against it. However, the line held and the fish came out. A few minutes later it was in the net. It was a good fish of 9.08. Re-tackling to clear the line where it had been damaged in the snag, I re-cast, and was almost immediately in again. In a repeat of the last fish, it took me into the snag again, but as before the line held and the fish was pulled back out of it. When I saw it, I could see that it was a similar size as well. But when I was just about to get it in the net, it came off. I thought the hook must have pulled, but on examining the rig, I saw that the hook had actually broken, which was very annoying. I’d not noticed any sign of damage to it when I’d taken out of the previous fish. That proved to be the end of the action for the day.

Very pleased with the Torrix’s handling of the two bigger fish, and also pleased with the Daiwa Sensor line I’ve started using. I had 8lb BS on, which twice survived being run into a snag and still held, even though there were 9lb plus barbel on the end. Not so pleased with the broken hook, but this is a pattern that I’ve been using for quite a few years now, and have had some much bigger barbel on them, so hopefully this was a one-off.

Swifts – seems to be a lot of them this year. It was fascinating to watch them darting around, feeding on the many airborne insects. There was no respite for the insects when it got dark either, as the bats then appeared to carry on the feast.

Barbel 4.02 Pellet
Barbel 3.08 Pellet
Barbel 9.08 Pellet