Still tracking down the barbel (Entry 11)

Another venture onto a local small river this week in search of some barbel. Although with all the heavy rain we have had over the past few days, tactics had to change to accomodate the river conditions. Let me explain.

I had planned on fishing the weirpool on tonights session, and in the end this is what I did do, but I would have prefered a little less flow on the water. I said what would prefer but I am not a barbel and in hindsight I think I had some favourable conditions to get the barbel in a feeding mood. As I have only just started fishing the river I dont really know how many barbel are in the river, I am guessing not very many so I have decided to systematically fish different swims on each visit to get any idea on the stock density.

I concentrated tonights session on that far bank eddy. It took a lead of 1.5oz to hold bottom comfortably and the bottom was clean gravel. The river was about a foot up from my last visit and had a fair amount of colour in it. To my eyes it looked like perfect conditions for a barbel, if there were any present. There was also a nice looking crease swim at the bottom of the run off and I was able to trickle in some pellets during the few hours I spent fishing the eddy so that, on walking back to the car after dusk, I could have that famous ‘one last cast’.

The rig for tonight was very simple, it doesn’t need to be complicated when fishing for barbel in these conditions. The tackle however does need to be strong, especially fishing in a weirpool where snags abound and the current can be very strong. For this reason I dispensed my usual braid hooklength in favour of a more durable and reliable monofilament. I also like to make the length no longer than 18 inches, but ideally 12 inches, again just for extra security and less chance of it finding and snags or debris. Above the hooklength its just a simple safety lead clip that is fixed on a size 8 swivel bolt rig style. Lastly, I use a rubber waggler stop a few feet above the lead to stop any weed being washed down the river dislodging the lead. It just gives you more time in the water fishing, and less time cleaning rubbish off the end tackle.

So I hooked on a small PVA bag of pellets and crushed boilies and cast out into the eddy. It felt right. It looked right. But as dusk arrived I still hadn’t had any indications. The swim at the end of the weirpool, which I had been priming all evening, was now my last hope. I decided to move into it and hope that with it now being dark that any resident barbel will have moved from the sanctuary of the branches in search of the free offerings.

No its not a black rectangle, above is an attempt to photograph the run off swim. You can just about make out my rod on the left. It truly amazes me how fish feed in the dark. Swirling water, debris, coloured water, yet they can still smell and pick out the foot items. Except for tonight maybe as I didn’t have a bite.

On the drive home I pondered the session. I felt as though I had fished well and read the river good enough. Bait choice seemed spot on too, large and strong smelling baits, with bags of strong smelling, oily pellets. And I thought the conditions were perfect for a barbel. So in conclusion either I missed the barbels feeding spell, it may have happened as the river rose during the previous night, or there was not any barbel present where I was presenting my bait. Either way I enjoyed the session and learnt a lot about the river. I shall be returning to the stretch throughout september for quick sessions after the barbel.

Until next time,



Even the best laid barbel plans (Entry 10)

It was all change from my last session as I went off in search of some small river barbel and chub. Gone were the small floats and fine lines, replaced instead by avon rods, braid and strong hooks. You see, small rivers tend to have some quality fish in them but finding their location can be the hardest and most time consuming thing. Thats why you need to use strong tackle. You dont want to put in hours of work, to get that all important bite only to lose the fish because you cannot apply adequate pressure on it as its heading for cover. Its not fair on the fish and you certainly wont go home a happy bunny. After grabbing an evening meal, I loaded the car with only the essential items (important when roving), selected some bait and headed off for an evening session on a new river.

As you can see from the above picture with river is very much overgrown with the dreaded Himalayan Balsam. I like to start my session by finding some features along the river, an overhanging tree or a undercut bank, and then carefully trample down enough of the plant life so that I am be able to put in some bait, and cast my rig out when the time comes. Once I have done this for three or four swims I set up my rod and rig well away from the waters edge. I’ll then fish a ‘known’ swim for an hour until everything has had a chance to settle and hopefully some fish will have moved over the bait. Its then a case of heading to the furthest swim and fishing them for 30-45 minutes each on my way back to the car. On this session I pre-baited three swims with hemp and a few halibut pellets and went to a swim at the head of a weir.

For my rig I keep it very simple. As I like to touch ledger I use only as much weight as is needed to hold in the flow. Today the flow wasn’t very strong so only 3/8oz was required. This lead is fished free running, stopped at the hooklength by a Korum quick stop. I put a small float stop about four inches behind the lead to stop it running down the line toward the rod tip. Its a lose fit and will easily slide off should I snap the line above it. Hooklength is a supple braid and around 12-18 inches in length. Tie a hook of your choice to this, my favourite being a Drennan barbel specialist, and you’re ready.

I didn’t have to wait long for a bite as 10 minutes after casting into the above swim I had a confident ‘pluck’ on the line before the rod arched round. The fish hugged the bottom and headed upstream. A barbel? Surely not on the first cast in my throw away swim. Well, no, not a barbel. Instead as the fish suddenly took off at a ferocious speed, I realised I had in fact hooked a fairly hefty trout.

Weighing 4lb 9oz the above trout is probably the biggest I’ve caught. It fought very hard and took a long time to recover in the net. It did eventually swim strongly away but with all the commotion it caused I thought it was time to head to my first pre-baited swim.

And this is where the tale ends. Well in terms of action anyway. I fished each swim for 45 minutes, the first just daylight side of dusk. The second at dusk. And the third in the dark. I never had so much as a tap. This only emphasises the point that if you do not find the fish, or they dont find you, particularly on small rivers, you will not catch. But I never class anything as a failure. I found some interesting features and, considering this was my first trip to this particular river, I didn’t blank and came away with a PB. But more importantly I have some ideas on what I need to change or do differently for my next visit.

Until next time,


Farewell crucian session (Entry 9)

As the title suggests this was to be my last crucian session of the summer and I chose to spend it on a small pond in the heart of the cheshire countryside. It’s an all too rare sight these days, a little pond nestling in a field, its margins lined with beds of lilies and milfoil, a home to the humble crucian. But these habitats still exist and I was really looking forward to spending a few hours in the evening targeting these fish on delicate float tackle. No trying to catch monsters. Just simple fishing in beautiful surroundings.

Arriving at the pond I had a wander around it and, due to the gentle south westerly that was blowing, decided to fish the windward bank. I was sure the crucians would be following this warm wind, taking advantage of any naturals it stirs up out of the silt. The peg I chose gave me two margin options both with features. The right margin was to be my main crucian swim. It took all of three sections of my pole to reach over the lily bed and being a good depth of around 4 feet I was confident as the light faded the crucians would be there. I baited this swim with a few small pellets and casters and a generous amount of hemp. I intended top this up every 30 minutes with a smaller amount of the same feed and fish it only as the light began to fade.

The swim I fished in the meantime was the one above. It was my left margin and I approached this line differently to the other, using chopped worm and caster. I did this for two reasons, the first being I wanted to catch anything and everything that was infront of me, allowing me to get a feeling for what was going on. And the second reason is that this water also contains a fair amount of decent sized tench and some truly huge perch, some to over 4lb, and with both these fish being partial to worm and caster, I thought it was a good road to go down.

From the first put in with a worm section tipped with a caster I caught steadily. Small roach and bream to 6oz being the main fish, the odd better roach invariably muscled in on the action, but not in any great number. I fed chop worm and caster from my pole pot every fifteen minutes or so or when bites began to dry up. I couldn’t feed little and often as this brought the fish up in the water and made the bites a lot harder to hit. I plundered this line for roughly two hours catching over 50 fish but not getting any action from the ponds resident tench or perch. With the light starting to quickly fade it was time to try the right margin.

The first put in on this line with 4mm expander pellet produced the above crucian. It was a stocky, well built fish and I was surprised to see the scales pull round to just over 1lb 2oz. The bite itself was confident. No tentative dips and lifts. It simply buried. Proof enough that leaving a swim alone for a few hours can pay dividends. By now it was the other side of dusk and as I was using my head torch to see my float, I decided to fish on for another 30 minutes or so to see if any more crucians would turn up.

As it happens I only landed one more fish. I did miss a few bites and bump off one fish. The crucian above was a little smaller than the first but gave a great, thumping battle typical of the crucian. They really are dogged little fighters and on light balanced tackle you can really appreciate their fighting quality.

I packed away in the dark while low flying bats whizzed past my head. What a way to end the crucian fishing for this year.

Until next time,


Tench in the sun (Entry 8)

This week I returned for a very late tench fishing session at the water I will be concentrating on come next spring. I am fishing the water now simply to get an idea or a feel for it by simply fishing a few pegs and finding out the topography of the water. Making notes for me is essential. Any interesting features need to be noted down so that I can quickly locate them the next time. And although the weather conditions were far from favourable for tench fishing, I did find an interesting feature that obviously held some fish.

The swim above offered the choice of a lot of water and it looked largely featureless apart from the thick canadian weed bed in the shallow margins. Behind this weed bed the water dropped to a depth of around 10 feet very quickly and didn’t change much until I casted a distance of about 60 yards where it dropped away to about 18 foot. During my time casting around I had noticed some very tench-like bubbles appearing from an area about the size of a dining table to my right about 35 yards out. This area turned out to be a deeper gully in the largely flat 10 foot area of water. It was a few feet deeper and was obviously holding fish. Great. I fired out two or three balls of the groundbait and particle mix I was going to use and went about setting up my simple inline method rig.

The rig is very simple. I use a 10lb mainline as the water is very weedy at the moment and I wanted to be sure I could pull any fish through the weed if needed. I then start with 50cm of sinking rig tube pushed into a tail rubber fixed to a 1oz inline lead. This lead fits over a size 8 swivel but is lose enough to dislodge should any accidents happen. The hooklength is 8lb braid and is 4 inches long. Hook is a size 14 barbel specialist hook. Simple but very effective for tench. I planned on moulding my method mix around the lead and re casting every 20 minutes. And for hookbait I use one piece of fake corn on the hook and balance this with a number 6 shot so it just about sinks.

I had plenty of feeding fish activity over the deeper area I had located and it took only an hour for the first screaming run. It felt like a good tench but shortly into the fight I suffered a hook pull. These things happen and I quickly had the bait out in position again. There’s no point getting annoyed at things like this. Its just the nature of the method especially when the fish are running into weed. By now the sun was very hot and the carp in the water were taking advantage as they usually do basking in amongst the floating weed. Of course daytime isn’t the best time to fish for tench and I had intended on an early start, only arriving later than planned due to heavy traffic on the motorway.

After another few hours I had my second and last bite of the day. It turned out to be the tench above. It didn’t feel as heavy as the one I lost but even so weighed a respectable 4lb 4oz. packing away an hour later when the sun was at its highest I was very pleased with the session. I had found a swim with an obvious fish holding feature that could prove invaluable come the spring. I had tried out a new method and particle mix and the fact I have caught on a day when others struggled has given me a lot of confidence.

Realistically I probably wont have another tench fishing session now until the spring and it was nice not to blank in such unfavourable conditions. Unfavourable for tench at least. You simply cannot complain about sitting in such beautiful surroundings in some late summer sun.

Until next time,


The bad patch continues (Entry 7)

Two sessions this week spent crucian fishing. Both on quite different venues but both with a similar result. Let me take you through one of these sessions and explain how I went about tackling them.

Well what a swim! If could have designed a crucian swim it would pretty much look like the one above. The swim itself is situated on a two acre pit quite literally in the middle of no where. It’s absolutely idyllic. The depth averages about four feet with a shallow shelf round the edges of about a foot. The water is quite literally choked with beds of small lilly pads and I assumed this must harbour a rich larder of insect life for the fish to feed on. Due to the rich aquatic life the fish would probably be used to feeding on small insects and such so I decided to use natural baits in one swim, namely caster and hemp, and in my second swim adopt a more modern approach using pellets. I had no idea which one would turn out the better swim and I was interested to find out in the end which one produced the most or best fish.

After an hour I had my first bite on double caster and it turned out to be the roach pictured above. It weighed about 8oz and was fin perfect. This signalled a run of roach of a similar size, as well as some rudd, but of the crucians no signs could be seen. Not in my swims nor anywhere else in the lake. No tell tale bubbles. No fish rolling in typical crucian fashion. I put some more caster and hemp in and switched to the pellet line. Maybe some crucians had been drawn to the fishmeal aroma. The swim produced fish straight away but they were of a smaller stamp than the caster and hemp line. I persevered using a 4mm expander pellet with added scopex fished delicately under a light pole float. Small rudd after small rudd. Lovely little fish but not really what I was after. I debated changing the 4mm expander pellet to banding a bigger 6mm hard pellet. It works for F1’s on commercials when silver fish are a nuisance so why shouldn’t it work here? But for some reason it just didn’t feel right. The water clarity put me off and if anything I wanted to scale down not up. So I continued to play the numbers game. In the back of my mind I knew I could always try this on my next visit. I am even thinking about a less romantic approach of a small inline lead wrapped with groundbait with a small piece of fake corn to critically balance the end tackle. Its not classic crucian fishing but if the lakes stocking of decent crucians is quite sparse then I just cant fish with a float. I wouldn’t be able to fully concentrate from dusk until dawn on a tiny dimpled down float.

The session eventually came to and end when the light went about 9:30pm. Club rules mean that you cannot fish this particular venue at night so I once again packed away without a big crucian. Because I didn’t see any signs of them throughout the session I can’t conclude that my approach didn’t work as it may have been that the fish simply weren’t there or they were not feeding. The venue to me is a classic crucian venue and deserves some perseverance. I will most definitely try here again and will fish very similarly. I will be scaling down the tackle however just to see if this makes an difference. It’ll certainly give me a bit more confidence. And as we know sometimes in fishing this can be vital.

Until next time,


A change is as good as a rest (Entry 6)

Im always thinking about my fishing. Probably too much at times but its something I do and there’s no getting away from that. Because of this I try to plan sessions sometimes weeks or months in advance. I am telling you this because in this blog update I had a break from crucian fishing, and went for a roving session on a little river that I hope to use as a back up river for this years grayling fishing, which I actually start earlier than most people. I believe mild autumn days off a really good chance of a big fish rather than the harsh and freezing conditions in winter. Im not saying you cant catch big grayling in these conditions by the way but its just something to keep in mind. Sometimes it pays to do things a little different.

As you can see from the above picture the river itself is a small intimate one and not particularly fast flowing which worries me a little as grayling love fast glides. The depth averaged two to three feet and there was plenty of marginal cover and overhanging trees. I walked to the most upstream point I could and dropped into nine swims over three hours on my way back to the car park. Fishing a 6 no.6 wire stem stick float off a centrepin I edged a single red maggot hookbait down any likely looking spots. It was simple fishing and I got a good idea of what the river has to offer.

The first swim produced a bite almost instantly and I knew straight away I had hooked a trout. It turned out to be the above rainbow and weighed roughly 1lb. After all the commotion I moved to the next swim and continued fishing. Feed a few maggots and get the rig to run down the swim, holding it back slightly to match the speed of the flow at the bottom which is always slower than it appears on the surface. This swim produced a few small perch of about 4oz. I didn’t expect to encounter perch and I dont know if they grow particularly big but it was a pleasant surprise.

The next few swims all produced fish and I took a total of five trout with some perch and small roach thrown in. As I have mentioned already I got a good feel for the river and I now understand that the grayling population is sparse but when they are caught are very big fish. I think the venue will fish better when carrying extra water and if nothing else will give me a chance for a better presentation. So if the Dane is not fishable I will be giving this pleasant little river a go come the autumn. And with views like the one below to look at who can blame me!

Until next time,


Location, location, location on small rivers (Entry 5)

When it comes to small rivers finding the fish is the most important thing there. Whether it be locating a shoal of dace, sussing out where the winter chub are holding up or in this case, crashing through the Himalayan balsam in order to squeeze into a likely looking barbel swim. Having fished the small River Dane for two seasons now for its barbel and chub, I’ve come to understand if the fish aren’t there you won’t catch them. Baiting and waiting could and does work, but with the fish being very nomadic, it’s hit and miss. Yes, it’s time to travel light to get bites.

Yesterday evening I turned up to one of my favourite stretches to put the above into practice. The swim above is the one that produced the fish. But I will say that I baited and fished eight swims in the two hours I was there. It’s hard work, up and down steep banks, getting stung by nettles and brambles, bitten by insects and for the most part the tip will be motionless, except for the odd tap from small chub. But don’t despair. If you’ve put your bait in the right swims, crept in and out of them quietly, rest assured, it won’t have gone unnoticed and any barbel in the vicinity are sure to be aware.

Rig wise I use a simple braid hooklength, its length varying depending on conditions, and tied to it a Drennan barbel specialist hook. The size of the hook is once again dictated by bait and conditions. A lead of one ounce is usually adequate to hold bottom and it’s semi fixed but fish safe. Something that I always do however regardless of the conditions is use olivettes to pin down the mainline. They’re heavy and sink the line fast. They also slide off the line should any breakage occur. Barbel do not like to brush against the line so I give my rig every opportunity to be out of the way of them.

On this session, it was a swim I’d never fished before that produced, and it was the only one that did. After quietly creeping into the swim and swinging the half ounce lead just on the fringe of the trees, again as quietly as possible, I let out a small bow of line and placed the rod in the rest. This peaceful scene was disturbed minutes later as the rod tip started shaking and a powerful fish was on.

The barbel above weighed 8lb 12oz and while nationally this might not be a massive fish for the Dane, where a double is rare, I was over the moon. Incidentally the icing on the cake happened on the next cast. Once a fish is caught from a swim I usually don’t have another cast and move on to the next swim, but it just felt as if the swim hadn’t been disturbed too much. I cast in as I had before. After ten minutes I felt a gentle vibration on the line. I always hold the rod and have the line hooked over my index finger just to feel more ‘connected’ to the end tackle. I struck and lifted into what was obviously a chub. After a tame battle in comparison to the barbel I landed my PB chub at 5lb12oz. I’m certainly hoping that it will be a six by winter. And who knows they may even go bigger.

Until next time,