With an unexpected few hours free on Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t resist heading over to the Wye to fish for barbel.
The recent rain had pushed the river levels up nicely and with the mild, largely overcast weather I knew the river’s prolific barbel population would be on the munch.
As I arrived, the river was indeed pushing through steadily and with a good tinge of colour to the water I was confident of a fish or two.
I settled into a compact swim and set about getting some groundbait into the water. The swim was snaggy at either end of the target run, with a pronounced gravel bar at the top of the run. I lost two feeders during the initial baiting and I did consider moving down a peg. But after having a good lead around I was confident that if I could get my feeder across to the crease, which was roughly mid-river and directly in front of me, it would offer enough room to manoeuvre.
I was planning on using my usual 1.5lbs barbel rod, but in light of the extra flow and snaggy swim I opted instead for my old 2lbs test Shimano Aero specimen rod – a great tool for heavier work. To the 12lbs mainline was attached a long, 10lb link through to a very strong size 14 hook.
It wasn’t long after I’d got the halibut pellet hookbait out that the rod rattled and then wrapped around, the fish immediately tearing line of the clutch – exhilarating stuff. But disaster struck as I attempted to play the fish hard in an effort to steer it from the snags and the hook pulled.
Luckily it wasn’t long until the second barbel of the day made the same mistake. This time I let the fish run, taking line off the clutch. By keeping the rod high and line away from the rocks and letting the balanced gear do its job, I was able to steer the fish over the bar and into the relative safety of the deeper, more placid near-bank water where I netted it safely.
Not long after a second fish arrived. It was another stunning copper coloured barbel that really tested the relatively heavy gear and made my arm ache.
The next cast resulted in another lost feeder, which despite my careful positioning, snagged on the retrieve.
Then, after a short wait, I hooked another fish. And, again, disaster as the fish charged upstream and despite keeping the rod high and exerting some serious pressure, everything locked-up then suddenly the line parted.
I was despondent at that point, but I decided to tackle up again and fish slightly down from the mid river area I’d been targeting.
After that early flurry of action, things had quietened down by this point. I was content to sit back and watch the river and a pair of kingfishers darting around together, weaving in and out of each other’s path – the first time I’ve seen them behave in this way. The trees leading up the valley are just beginning to take on their autumnal hues and it was lovely to be beside the river in such benign conditions.
I decided to introduce some more groundbait via seven or eight feeder loads and it soon had the desired effect as a lump of spam produced another solid pull. It was clear this was a smaller fish this time; a lively three pound fish that gave a flick of its tail as I returned it to the water, splashing water across my jeans.
And soon another rod wrenching bite and fierce tussle ensued with what was to be my last fish of the day, a sparkling six pound fish that capped the session nicely. I did fish on for another half an hour or so, but without any more battling barbel making an appearance. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable session, despite the two lost fish. Predators are next on the agenda.