Monday, 2 September 2019

Summer/Autumn barbel campaign (part 1)

My close season was very quiet compared to last years and was mainly spent working on the house. A new gravel pit was recced with thoughts of targeting the supposedly non existent eels in there, but being a pike rod short and struggling for time I only managed two early spring tench sessions.

Both sessions were hard work in less than ideal conditions, both during a cold snap with bitter northerlies blowing. This pit is choked with low lying weed and is definitely a challenge to present a bait, small method feeders seemed the best option and I managed my only tench on one during these sessions.

An early spring gravel pit tench (5.02lb) which looks like it has had an encounter with an otter
With the new season approaching barbel were the only species I was thinking about. Plenty of time was spent sorting gear, preparing bait and planning sessions for the upcoming months. I didn’t really need to spend much time thinking about targets for the campaign, trips to the Trent would be spent trying to beat my overall p.b, the majority of my sessions would be spent locally, aiming for my first double from this river. A few sessions on local(ish) rivers would be used as a change of scene, exploring new venues and trying to get my first barbel from a new river.

Unable to get a midnight start on the 16th I headed out late evening on opening day, as usual these first sessions are a struggle with very little interest and plenty of otter activity. My second outing a few days later saw a couple of decent chub landed but a large barbel lost due to a loop knot failure!

I always check my rigs and mainline, before and during sessions so was at a loss at how the line broke. The fluoro hooklength snapped about half an inch below the figure of eight loop knot, which was inside an anti tangle sleeve. A real kick in the balls as it was a good fish, possibly a double, it took a few days to get over that lost fish as fish of that size don’t come around too often on this river.

Next time out I managed my first of the season, nothing of size but a fine looking fish and a bit of a confidence booster. A few decent chub made for a good session.

After that first barbel was landed I started catching fairly regularly, not as many or as often as last season but definitely a larger average size this season.



5.07lb, a new river best


A good start to the season with barbel approaching 9lb and lots of good chub including a new river best of 5.07lb and plenty over the 5lb mark.

A nice looking fish during one of my rare daytime sessions
One of two 5lb plus chub on this session

The decent run continued during July, again less fish than last year, but generally of a greater size. A different feeding approach than previous seasons has no doubt helped attract barbel of a larger size, the chub have responded as well, catches of 5lb plus fish becoming the norm.

My last session in July and a visit to a forgotten peg, very overgrown and seemingly overlooked by everyone else this season. Only the one take during the session but a cracking fish which had me in the marginal reeds a few times before reluctantly going into the net.

I punched the air as I looked into the net, certain that I had caught my first double from this river, but the scales didn’t make it that far round and stopped short at 9.10lb! Obviously I rested the fish, re-zeroed the avons and weighed the fish again, 9.10lb. A new river best but a slight feeling of disappointment as I was sure this was the double I have been searching for.

After catching that new river best I decided on a change of scenery for my next session and headed to a new stretch of a river that I’ve only barbel fished once before. In the past this river used to be fairly productive but as with most waters round here has been heavily impacted by the otters/mink.

The river was in great condition fining down after a recent flood, still carrying a few foot, but it looked great. This fishing was hard with lots of weed making its way downstream and despite carrying only a few feet of extra water I needed 5oz + to hold bottom for anything more than 10 minutes.

I was surprised when the upstream rod screamed off, even more surprised when it was a barbel.

A first from a difficult river, hopefully more will follow in the future

The barbel only went 6.05lb but I wasn’t bothered, my first from this river and the fish was immaculate somehow avoiding the many otters this river supports.

I also had another take, but the hook pulled after 30 seconds. Despite the fish feeling heavier I wasn't too disappointed as I was still elated with that first fish.

This post updates the blog to the beginning of August, I'm planning on posting part 2 at the end of September. I am also planning a post about bait, methods and tactics I've been using this season. I've also been using a couple of new rods, which I am very pleased with so will try and post something about those as well.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Another catch up - January to March

The last three months of the season were spent chasing pike during the day and chub on night sessions. Nothing significant in terms of size was caught but chub and pike were landed on most sessions.

A session on the coldest day of the year, - 6.5°C when I arrived rising to - 3°C by the end of the session. I knew the river banks would be empty so I could of headed to any stretch and had my pick of pegs but I choose a completely new stretch. 

A few small chub were had on bread and cheese paste, definitely one of my favourite sessions of the season.

It was my nephews birthday in February so after a trip to the tackle shop we went out in search of grayling. Despite the river being in good condition we struggled to locate any, but found plenty of willing minnows to avoid a birthday blank.

Steady action during my evening chub sessions with a few going over 5lb, not troubling my 6lb target from this river but very enjoyable sessions, which are usually a flying visit after work.

The pike captures slowed down and things got worse as I managed to snap one of my rods whilst roving on a small river.

I had put holidays in for the final week of the season and typically my local rivers flooded with 10ft + of icy cold water and killed the fishing. A few attempts for chub with only one bite to show for my efforts. Levels started to drop and I was hopeful of a final day pike session but we had another flood, slightly warmer water this time though so I had a go for barbel.

Surprisingly I managed one, 8lb 6oz which is a good size for this river, a nice end to the river season. 

A few days later I headed down to a canal for a final pike session, a first visit to this waterway. I was hopeful of a pike or two to wrap up the season but it was hard going, a difficult session with zero interest in the baits, perhaps with the warmer weather the pike were focusing on something other than feeding.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

New jack city

Having longer than expected for my first session of the year I decided to head to a new stretch, further upstream on this river than I’d previously ventured.

Steady action from the off, I pulled out of a jack first cast and with the next cast I landed a nice looking fish which was possibly pushing double figures.

I had steady a stream of runs throughout the session, landing 5 and pulling out of a few jacks.

Enjoyable fishing in beautiful surroundings with an abundance of wildlife putting on a show over in the far bank. I was sat opposite what seemed like a buzzards favourite perch and a pair of kingfishers were continuously working the stretch. 

The pike were also in top condition, even the jacks were well marked. A couple of the jacks showed scars from lucky escapes and a much larger fish followed the last jack of the day to the net.

A good start on this stretch, it seems over run with jacks but I know there’s at least one good fish here so I’ll be heading back soon.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

2018 - a quick review

A look back on 2018 and a chance to bring the blog up to date.


Flu caused a delayed start to the year but 4 pike to 12lb 8oz on my first session of the year was a decent start. Big floods made the river difficult and unpredictable, my attempts for barbel, chub and pike went unrewarded.


An enjoyable month chasing chub and pike on my local rivers with chub to 5lb 3oz and pike to 18lb 2oz.


The rivers were up and coloured and I was pushed for time towards the end of the season, I managed to get out 4 times catching chub to over 4lb, pike to just over 10lb and a very satisfying final day barbel before the rivers closed.

A couple of still water trips with fish caught each time, nothing of size but these were my first fish from these venues so a decent way to end my pike season.

April (and May)

Any spare time I had was spent visiting stretches of river, walking the banks, making notes for the coming season and very occasionally spotting fish. I visited eighteen different stretches, some were flying visits, but most were in depth recces with a castable fish finder making copious notes for future reference.


A few short sessions on a french river whilst on a family holiday, barbel were the target but they were hard to locate I did manage a good bream and a wels catfish my first of the species.

Unable to fish opening day, my first session was a few days later, a frustrating blank. By the end of the month I was regularly landing barbel.


12 barbel plus the odd chub were taken on short after work sessions. 5 landed during one session, my best haul from this river so far.

Other sessions included a double figure net of silvers from my local river in bright sunshine on a very low river and a daytime sesssion stalking chub.


A memorable session straight from work, 12 casts, 10 barbel hooked, 8 landed and 2 chub. Catching barbel was no longer an issue but they weren’t the size I was looking for. The minor floods of the summer made things difficult, almost unfisheable as the summer weed growth made its way downstream.


I was still targeting barbel on a local river, numbers of fish had reduced but I increased my seasons best to 8lb 11oz.

A tough trip to the tidal Trent produced a couple of chub and a single barbel.


The month started with a barbel trip to the middle Trent then a pit stop at a Nick Peat PAC talk on the way back north.

Back on my local rivers, the targeted barbel were gradually replaced with pike.

12 pike in 4 sessions from a different stretch of river each visit.


Another 9 pike in November including my first twenty.

More relief than a sense of achievement as it has been along time coming.


21 pike before December, more than my total from the previous season but then the first winter floods came. 4 blanks in a row until I finally got a chub and a pike during my last two sessions of the year. The pike, a jack of 5lb or so, was taken on a small trotted bait. After taking my offering it must of grabbed a decent grayling before I struck as it had a fish of about a pound hanging from its mouth when  I landed it.

2018 highlights -

Barbel - 8lb 11oz
Chub - 5lb 6oz
Perch - 1lb 15oz
Pike - 20lb 6oz

No other species troubled the scales!

Thoughts on 2018

Generally a good year, regularly catching pike from new rivers, an upper double from my closest river plus my first twenty. My barbel campaign went well in terms of numbers of fish caught but I fell short of the double I was chasing.

Plans for 2019

From now until the end of the season I’ll be out on the rivers as much as time allows, when conditions are good I’ll be targeting the pike, not so good I’ll switch to chub, as a last resort I’ll head to a canal or still water. I am hoping to get amongst the larger chub on a certain river I’m fishing, hopefully I can find a six pounder before the season ends.

I’ve got a couple of Trent barbel trips planned for next season, but other than those I’ll wait until the close season before deciding next seasons direction.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Mid-November sessions

That twenty came on the first day of a weeks holiday during which I was planning on getting on the bank as much as I could.

My next session was a short one in between school runs, two rods, one float paternoster lives in the margin the other a ledgered dead which would be cast around the various areas I tried.

Some interest on a ledgered smelt in the first peg, but I pulled out on the strike, no doubt a jack as this stretch is full of them. 

Nothing in the next few pegs, then a positive take from the margins to save a blank. 

The next day I was up very early for the 2.5hr drive down to a Lincolnshire drain I’ve visited a couple of times in the past. Aiming to be at the water for first light and hoping to have the place to myself I was a little suprised when I pulled in and there was 5 cars already on this short stretch.

Not ideal but still plenty of space towards the lower limit of this fishery so I dropped in there. Plenty of space for three rods, so I had two on lives and one on ledgered deads.

The stretch was alive with activity, constant swirls on the surface from pike feeding on fry. Definitely a lot of pike in the area but getting them to take baits was difficult.

I’ve struggled with similar scenarios in the past, but usually a live fished close to the surface gets a fish, not  on this occasion though.

Eventually a margin fished smelt was taken by a short stocky fish, typical of the stretch.

Two more followed in the next hour or so, both smaller.

Despite working hard and fishing into dark I couldn’t tempt any of the larger specimens that live in this stretch. My third visit and and I’m yet to catch a double it but it throws up mid twenties each season so I’ll be back again in the new year.