It was the barely-there breeze one evening that told me a break in the relentless heat was finally on the way. By the next morning the wind had really whipped up and it was a relief to feel cooler air at last. I hoped it may have the same rejuvenating effect on the Wye’s barbel population, because tonight I was going fishing.
I drove over to a favourite stretch straight after work. The wind was now being funneled down the river, dramatically pushing against the flow, and causing the huge beds of streamer weed to churn and drift relentlessly. There had also been an algal bloom and the river was a murky brown colour, despite being low. I knew by now it wasn’t going to be plain sailing.
And for the first two or three hours it was very difficult. I had to abandon my two rod, feeder approach as huge patches of the ranunculus weed were constantly breaking free and drifting into the lines. I lost feeders and leads. Hooks and line. Bloody fishing.
Fortunately I had a plan B – big pieces of Spam fished with just a SSG shot on the line and cast just a few feet out and to a deeper hole in the river. A tree reaching into the water upstream would collect the weed in its branches and leave the spot relatively clear. Barbel would be drifting into the hole in search of supper. I’d timed it perfectly, surely!
After the fifth eel and another trashed rig I muttered a series of expletives about fishing in general and considered loping off with tail firmly between legs.
But after I tackled up again, the eel activity had suddenly abated. And I felt that second wind kick in at last…
The Wye has been well up over the last fortnight after remaining very low and clear through the winter. In the low conditions the fish tend to shoal up tightly and even productive stretches can become very ‘peggy’.
The extra water sees the fish spread out and with the water warming up I expect some really good fish to be caught before the close season.
I ventured out for an afternoon last week on a warm, sunny day as the river was beginning to fine down. Armed with maggots, worms and meat, the plan was to try the float or maggot feeder and get a few bites before switching to worm at dusk in the hope of a perch.
I had a few dace and a chublet over the first couple of hours, but it was quiet and I wasn’t getting many bites. I decided to flick out a chunk of spam while I enjoyed a late lunch in the sunshine. Just as I was about to tuck into a Kit Kat, the rod flung round and I found myself attached to an angry barbel – the first of the day’s gatecrashers!
The afternoon was very quiet and as is so often the case on the Wye, I knew dusk would offer the best chance of a perch.
I’d tried a few swims without luck, and with the light fading fast I was starting to think it wasn’t going to happen. However a final move saw me connect with a perch first cast, to a worm presented tight under a tree. And it was one a chuck. Until it went quiet. I selected the largest lob and flicked it to the zone.
The bite came and I thought I’d hooked a giant perch at first. But then it absolutely tore off into the middle of the river and I presumed it was a barbel. But then it started coming up in the water and I thought it may be a nice pike… For a while an odd kind of stalemate ensued with the fish holding mid river, me not giving any line and the rod stuck in a dramatic curve. Slowly but surely I managed to get the fish closer and it wasn’t too long until I got a glimpse of an enormous trout or salmon.
I got it just a few inches from the net before it bolted down to my left and bit through the line. Damn. I think it was certainly seven pounds, maybe bigger, and though I’m rubbish at identifying game species, I think it was a very big trout. Still it made for an exciting end to the session and I suppose you can’t rely on gatecrashers to behave as you’d like them to!
With a little extra water in the river and the first month of the river season generally seeing cloudy, blustery days – it’s been a great start on the Wye.
I’m really lucky to be able to head over to the river for a few hours after work as and when conditions dictate. I’ve made a couple of short and sweet trips to the river fishing for three or so hours each time, travelling light with the aim of tempting the odd chub or barbel.
I’ve no real desire to haul in barbel by the dozen, but it’s always nice to get a few fish in the quiet and beautiful surroundings of the Wye valley.
Interestingly, over the two trips I’ve had plenty of shoal size barbel fishing feeder and pellets into the fast water, but a trio of much better barbel and some stonking chub have come to big chunks of meat freelined into a deep slack, right under my feet.
With hot weather on the way and the holiday season about to start, it’ll soon be a lot busier on the river and I’ll probably leave it alone until the autumn. But there are lots of other angling adventures to be had…
It was by total chance that I found the shoal. In fact, I thought they were plump roach when I found them. But an unlikely gang of canal rudd is what has finally sparked a bit of interest in me going out fishing again.
It’s been an odd one, this summer. There’s nothing specific I can really point too that made me feel quite so indifferent about going fishing. Even when I had the odd chance to get out I simply couldn’t be bothered with the whole process.
And one evening, after some rain, I prepared the gear, psyched myself up and went out. I knew I’d catch barbel and I did. And while I was there, in the moment, I enjoyed the process and the fish and the session – but I didn’t even look at the pictures until weeks after. However, with the arrival of Autumn, the dipping temperatures and shorter days, my enthusiasm feels sharpened and refreshed.
One warm, early autumn afternoon we took the boys over to the canal to enjoy the sunshine, a picnic and mooch around the Gloucestershire edgelands.
My local canal is an interesting, neglected and slightly unusual place. I’ve never seen any fish of note here. The odd tiny roach and mini jack pike. It suffered a bad pollution a few years back and much of it is thick with weed and algae.
A couple of lads were trying for pike, without luck, and had resorted to catapulting maggots anywhere but the water. They assured me there were pike, roach and perch in the canal.
As the sun began to dip, we made our way back to the car. My youngest wanted to look at a boat tied up close to the bank.
We went over and that’s when I spotted a decent shoal of plump and deep bodied sliver fish. I can’t deny I thought they were roach. But there were a few decent ones in amongst the sprats. And one fish, sat deeper than the others really did look a fish worth catching – maybe not 2lbs but, perhaps, not far off…
As I sat watching Match of the Day later that night, while my eyes were watching some infernal 0-0 it was that shoal of fish that were on my mind. How big was the biggest I saw? Were bigger fish were lurking under the boats? Would a bread or maggot approach work? Were they roach or, perhaps, were they rudd?
The next morning I arrived at dawn with a float rod, reel, net and a few bits and bobs and a loaf.
I decided to fish a small waggler close in – one of my favourite methods. 3lbs line direct to a size 16 and a pinch of flake.
I baited with some mash and set-up, excitedly.
Bites soon came, but they were frustrating. The float was dancing around but trying to hit the wonky, wavy and frankly weird bites was proving tricky. I shallowed up a touch and soon enough I hooked into a deep bodied silver fish that thumped satisfyingly in the deep, green water.
The depth of it suggested rudd – but on closer inspection looked like a bream hybrid of some sort. I think it may be a silver bream x rudd hybrid? I’d love to hear what people think.
Having that fish extracted from the shoal spooked them a touch and the bites slowed. I tried a mere fleck of flake and the next bite was just a touch more positive. A sparkling rudd this time of 1lbs exactly was the result. I was enjoying this. All too soon the dog walkers arrived and the boats started chugging but not before I’d added a couple more rudd of a similar stamp.
I returned a week later, but on a much cooler, overcast morning. The bites were quick to arrive but even more frustrating this time. Just as I was thinking about trying something different – perhaps a pellet or corn – I hooked a beautiful roach. Then another before another decent rudd made an appearance.
The bites tailed right off. I had a few old maggots with me, so tried a couple. A feisty, darting fish was hooked on the drop – a rare canal trout! And I added two small canal dace as well as more small roach before the sunshine arrived and the canal reverted back to appearing lifeless…
So, while these fishes will never set the world alight, they have at least sparked some real interest in me.
Isn’t it nice to be back on the rivers? I tend to leave the Wye alone for the opening week or two, just to let things settle down a bit. My first session of the new season was spent on a stunning part of the river, fishing a short evening session for barbel and chub. It took a while for them to switch on, but on dusk they duly arrived. Great fun.
As a method of fishing, it’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer. But hurling a feeder the size of a fist into a raging river in an effort to attract the Wye’s population of distinctly un-subtle barbel is great fun.
I enjoy the whole process of mixing up a stinking groundbait and pellet concoction, depositing a few feeder full’s close-in, before setting up with gear that feels like it would be more suited to the cod that are beginning to arrive downstream of here, where the Wye meets the Severn. It’s all rather agricultural, but then I am a Suffolk lad at heart…
A short mid-afternoon session on Saturday produced two lovely barbel that both pulled well beyond their weight. I lost one too. And despite the sheer amount of crap coming down the river, gathering around the strategically placed shot a few feet up from the feeder and dislodging it every ten minutes, the trip was great fun, in an un-subtle kind of way…
I’m really not the most serious of fisherman. Although I enjoy capturing big fish – who doesn’t – and setting new personal bests, I’m not hell bent on it. I lose interest in fishing for any one species, venue or style after a short while.
Travelling back from a brilliant session on the Wye last week, my mind started to wander. A short evening trip had produced nine, battling barbel and four chub. Special fishing on a special river. And yet as I drove home all I could think about was trying to catch a big, feral carp.
Carp: I have a funny relationship with them. My best ever carp fishing experience was on a mature, overgrown lake nestled at the top of a golf course. Previously a syndicate water, it had drifted into a state of limbo and was not really being managed by anyone. The golf course would half-heartedly charge you five or six quid to fish, but hardly anyone did. And yet there were still some good carp in there. Nothing big enough to attract the specialists, but some lovely old fish up to around 25 pounds or so.
Over one year I fished it regularly. By positioning a Nash Whiskey pop-up with a pva bag of pellets on a bolt rig (pretty cutting edge at the time!) tight to one of the overhanging trees at the shallow end of the lake, a chance or two over the course of an evening session was possible. And it was great fun. Waiting for that explosive take, sending the buzzer into meltdown and having to sit over the rods to ensure they weren’t dragged in. I only ever had commons from the place, to just shy of 20 pounds and boy did those fish fight.
But since then I’ve not really fished for carp specifically. The odd trip to Lake John after perch would usually involve a carp rod fished ‘sleeper’ style. And they inevitably make an appearance during the winter, while after perch on commercials.
I had a go on a proper, muddy puddle after them in the spring and it was as a depressing fishing experience as I’ve had in a while. After one hour and three carp I packed up and went home.
And yet just a few days earlier I landed a gorgeous, dark 13 pound common from the gin clear quarry I’ve been fishing for tench – it was a memorable fish and one I was really pleased with.
But a carp’s a carp, right? Wrong. My aim, now, is to get a proper, wild, feral carp from a local canal. I guess it’ll be a campaign of sorts, something a bit more serious perhaps…
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.