While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to grips with my new tench water over the spring, I knew that once the 16th arrived the pull of the river would be hard to resist.
And so earlier this week I made my way down to the Wye for a few hours by the river. Grey clouds had enveloped the valley and after days of clear blue skies and hot weather it felt like a change in the weather was on the way.
I’d simply grabbed a rod, reel and a few bits as well as a few half used bags of pellets and groundbait left over from my spring tench fishing. A quick detour via Tesco ensured I was armed with my favourite river bait – a tin of good old Spam.
After a short drive I arrived at the river. And, as ever, it was a sight for sore eyes. The river’s transformation from its sparse and skeletal late-winter condition to its buoyant, vibrant summer state was striking.
I made my way downstream and settled into a nice looking swim. I’d brought my old beach water shoes so I could wade out into the shallow margins – partly to reduce the distance between me and the run I wanted to target but also because I simply wanted to get into the river and enjoy the cool, clear fast flowing water around my ankles.
I started rolling chunks of Spam around the swim and, to be honest, I thought I’d pick up a few chub quickly. An hour or so later and I’d not had a touch.
So I got the ground bait out, mixed up a quick batch and deposited a few feeder full’s at the top of the run.
I’d soon set up a feeder rig, finished with a couple of halibut pellets at the end of a long hook length.
The taps and pulls from small chub dace started immediately. And it didn’t take long for a more substantial pull to develop – a firm strike a fish was hooked and soon in the net. A lovely chub of around two-and-a-half pounds.
Another chub soon arrived, only a small fish of less than a pound followed soon after by a lovely, golden barbel of perhaps four or five pounds.
A longer wait began before another chub of around two pounds turned up. Then it did really did quieten down, though I was more than content to simply watch the tip of the rod moving backwards and forwards in the flow and stand in the cool river as it pushed the constant flow of water downstream. It was so peaceful.
Soon the sun had disappeared behind the trees and I guess it was well past 8.30pm when the rod suddenly buckled over dramatically. I lifted into the fish and immediately felt an incredible, purposeful resistance. At first I couldn’t do anything except hold on as the fish took line against a tightly set clutch. Then it began driving in a straight line, directly upstream, with me unable to alter its course let alone move it from the bottom of the river.
And then the fish turned and surged across the river at pace, heading for a sunken tree that, if it reached, would surely result in me being smashed up.
I reversed the angle and applied as much pressure as I dare – and after a few seconds of stalemate the fish turned and headed back downstream to the calmer water on the inside of the run. It was at that point I knew the worst of it was over, as long as the strong but small size 14 hook held!
And it did. And when I netted the fish I knew I’d finally done it – my first ever double figure barbel.
I let her rest in the net in the margins while I grabbed my scales and camera. A couple of snaps and a quick weigh revealed a new personal best barbel of 10lbs 12ozs – I was ecstatic. I’ve fished for barbel for over 20 years and despite many fish of 8lbs and upwards I’d never managed a double. My previous best was a 9lbs 8oz Lea fish I caught on Halloween night a few years ago.
I took a last, admiring look at her before wading back out to let her get her strength back in the flow. She was soon ready and gave a flick of her tail as she swam back into the river.
I did consider packing up there and then, but I thought I’d give it another half hour or so. A couple more chub put in an appearance, both sparkling, chunky fish that made me smile, but it was of course that big old barbel that had made my day.