Firstly, apologies to anyone that clicked through to my blog yesterday only to be presented with an article about choosing the perfect conference venue! Gremlins in the system or something like that…
I’m fairly sure I went fishing on what was the last real day of summer last week. When I made my first cast mid afternoon from a set of large, jagged rocks jutting out of the river Wye, the genuinely hot weather was slowly being replaced by overcast conditions coupled with a cooling breeze that saw the temperature really drop. And it’s stayed that way since – there’s no doubting autumn is here.
The Wye was looking stunning as I arrived. Though the river was low and clear, it was looking fresh and healthy in the sunlight. Clambering out onto the rocks with a minimum of gear was real Boy’s Own stuff – precarious and fun.
I started off having a good look into the clear water, using the Polaroid’s to look for where to fish in the short, feature-rich stretch of water.
A deep pool at the top end of the rocks shallowed off into a streamer weed filled run that then gave way to a rocky, boulder strewn pool that looked like it’d be good for a barbel.
I made up some groundbait, pre-baited the lower pool and left it to settle. In the meantime I set up my old Avon rod, attached a reel loaded with 8lbs line and finished with a size 8 super specialist hook. A couple of AA shot were pinched a few inches from the hook and I was ready to roll!
I used to struggle with rolling meat. I think the key is really not to think of it as an exact science. It should be a fairly loose method and letting the bait settle and then bounce slowly along the river is what makes it work. I like to flick a good sized bait with the hook buried in the meat well upstream and, keeping the rod high, almost ‘walk’ it downstream with a slight bow in the line. Bites are usually fairly obvious.
It was the chub that I was hoping would respond, and respond they did. An early, sparkling fish of 4lbs 5ozs hit the bait hard and gave a great tussle in the flow, charging in and out of the streamer weed.
Soon after a second chub of two pounds or so intercepted the bait, before the shoal spooked.
Just as I was about to move down and try my barbel swim, a final cast into the more oxygenated water mid-river resulted in another splashy two pounder.
I moved downstream to the lower pool and topped up the swim with another few balls of groundbait and set up my barbel rod.
I opted to start with a small chunks of Spam on a hair rig with a strong size 14 hook, 10lbs mainline and a long mono hooklink made up of the same mainline material. A good sized groundbait feeder completed the rig.
It wasn’t long before the taps started and I was expecting a bite. But it wasn’t until the third cast that the tip finally whacked round and an arm aching, exhilarating tussle with a stunning, golden brown barbel ensued.
After a quick photo and a good rest in the net, the barbel swam off strongly. I rested the swim and introduced a bit more bait. Another wait began and after half an hour or so of inactivity, I decided to try a pellet hookbait.
Soon enough, the second barbel of the day was hooked. And again the raw power of the fish was breathtaking. I love barbel fishing and that slow build up of anticipation of that dramatic, raw moment when a fish is hooked – exhilarating stuff.
Only this time, mid way through the scrap, the hook pulled. On checking the hook point it was completely blunt! Serves me right for A: not checking the point and B: using hooks without a beaked point on a rocky river such as the Wye.
By then the weather had changed and I only had an hour or so left of daylight.
I introduced some more bait and left the barbel swim. Moving back to the upper pool, I reached for the Avon rod and spam once again. Almost straight away another good chub hit the bait. 4lbs 4ozs this time – brilliant. Last season, on the Wye, I landed a chub that was almost certainly five pounds but it slipped back into the river before I could give it a number after I foolishly left it on the mat while I reached for my scales. Since then I’ve only managed the odd three pounder, so it was nice to finally get a couple of better chub.
A few more runs through yielded no more chub, until I cast much further, into the middle of the river and let the bait bounce back towards me. A sharp pull on the line was met with a firm strike and another good chub was on.
This one was really pulling back, surging out into the flow and it was a relief when a long, brassy chub went into the net on the second attempt.
This one went 4lbs 13ozs and it was a lovely, powerful fish. I tried a few more casts but by then the chub had again dispersed and I went back to my barbel swim to fish for another hour, without any sign of a another fish.