Agricultural barbeling

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…

The river was tanking through, but the barbel were feeding...
The river was tanking through, but the barbel were feeding…
A small Wye barbel from the floodwater
A small Wye barbel from the floodwater
A stocky Wye barbel - great fun in the flow
A stocky Wye barbel – great fun in the flow
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Extreme fishing

Okay, so fishing for chub on a Sussex stream (for example) isn’t quite as dramatic as watching Robson or Jeremy doing battle with some brutal beast on the Amazon or Atlantic, but it’s easy to overlook the incredibly diverse range of angling adventures on offer in the UK. Actually getting out into nature and experiencing the thrill of finding, hooking, seeing, holding and returning a wild fish is pretty extreme wherever you are, when you actually think about it…

Like many other fisherman I do wish one of the major TV production companies would be brave enough to fund a high quality, informed and engaging programme that really explores the stories of the fish and fishing to be found in the UK.

Late autumn colours on the Wye valley
Late autumn colours on the Wye valley

I indulged in my own version of extreme fishing on Saturday, fishing a flooded and rising river Wye in search of a late autumn barbel.

I’d been hoping to try for the river’s pike and perch populations, but with the weather mild ‘n’ wild and the river the colour of the stewed tea in my flask, I opted to fish for old Boris – a suitably extreme fish that thrives in such extreme conditions.

I made up a mix of various pellets, dampened them with hemp and proceeded to dump a few feeder full’s into the river. Even a rod length out required a 5oz feeder to hold bottom and the flow combined with the sheer amount of crap in the river and the rising water meant I made my first cast unsure as to if a fish would oblige.

And for two hours, none did. Then, just as I was contemplating a move, the tip bounced round unexpectedly – fish on! A barbel raced into the mid-river maelstrom and at this point of the battle it really was a case of simply hanging on! As the fish bored upstream, taking line off the clutch it reminded me yet again quite how much fun floodwater barbel fishing is.

A pale Wye floodwater barbel
A pale Wye floodwater barbel

Fortunately the strong gear soon told and I netted a stocky, pale barbel. I thought it may be the precursor to a few more bites, but after another quiet hour, I again considered a move. And again this thought coincided with another bite. This time the resistance was less obvious and it wasn’t long before a nice chub came to the net.

A long and lean Wye chub
A long and lean Wye chub

And that was it. The river was rising quite noticeably when I took a glance at the football results coming in. So I finished my flask of tea, made those inevitable three or four last casts and was home in time for dinner.

Floody hell!

My first session of the new river season on Saturday evening was mainly spent cowering under my cheap and cheerful Argos brolly, beside an extremely high and coloured river Wye.

Despite the fact that, as I arrived, three anglers that had been on the stretch for the day were pulling off, bite-less between them, I decided to give it a go in spite of the conditions. I settled into a swim that at least had a bit of a slack right under my feet, where my feeder would hopefully settle.

A chocolate coloured river Wye

The rain had pretty much held off all day, but of course as soon as I arrived the first drops started to fall from the heavy, slate grey skies. And it didn’t relent, pushing the already swollen river up even further as the evening wore on.

Despite such tricky conditions there were clearly a few fish about. I had two eels and lost another on Spam hook baits before a switch to pellet produced another series of tappy, eel-like bites. When the tip went around just a little bit more deliberately and then stayed there, I decided to hit the bite.

Instead of the expected writhing, fidgety fight of a small eel I was confronted with the powerful resistance of a good fish hugging the bottom in 12 feet of flood water.

A barbel! I was able to play the fish quite hard having geared up with 10lbs line and my old Hyperloop barbel rod, but she battled well and it was a relief when I finally got her in the net. A lovely fish of 6lbs 7ozs was the perfect way to open my river campaign and a memorable first ever Wye barbel.

My first Wye barbel at 6lbs 7ozs