Double? No Trouble

As I mentioned at the end of my last blog, the strong winds coupled with mild temperatures and some rain meant that it had to be time to try for a barbel. For mid November the weather was crazy, with night time temperatures of over 15 degrees, not to mention new record daytime highs for the month. I was chomping at the bit to get on the bank, but with things getting hectic at work I couldn’t fish as much as I wanted too.

My first trip saw me on the banks of the mighty River Trent on what is termed the ‘middle Trent’ A look at the river was promising, as it was slightly up and carrying a tinge of colour, perfect! What wasn’t perfect was the amount of dead weed that was coming down in the flow, along with plenty of leaves. This is problematic in that it builds up on your line and moves your feeders. On a boulder strewn river like the Trent, this can result in a lot of lost tackle as the moving feeder invariably finds a snag. I’d just have to do a bit more recasting than normal, hopefully it wouldn’t spook any fish in the area. In case I lose a number of feeders, I always keep a few spare in the car. You don’t want to be carrying a sackful of ‘Trent Specials’ any distance to your peg!

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Arriving at my swim with just a couple of hours of daylight left, I was confident of catching a few fish, the conditions were that good. I fished feeders on both rods and crammed into them was a mixture of broken boilies, pellets of all sizes, and fishmeal groundbait to bind it all together, a perfect mixture for the Trent. Main line was 12lbs, hook links were 3ft lengths of 11b fluorocarbon and the hooks were size 12 (one of the carp style size 12s that are more like a size 8!) Bait on both hair rigged hooks would be 2 x 15mm boilies, trimmed down to make them the size of one and a half boilies! I think this lets a bit more flavour leak out into the swim and it deters a lot of smaller fish.

As darkness fell I was ready for packing in. I was fed up of constantly recasting and clearing debris off the lines, plus the wind was blowing like I’ve never known it blow before. The rods were bouncing all over the place. The only thing that had stopped me going home was that I was now sheltering from some pretty heavy rain. I didn’t fancy a soaking too! During a lull in the rain I thought about packing my gear away, when I noticed a savage ‘twang’ on my downstream rod. Nothing happened straight after so I knew either a chub had tried to pinch the bait or a barbel had brushed the line. I made a coffee and sat tight. Halfway through that drink I had my answer to the culprit as the same rod folded in half in that oh so classic barbel twitch. Thank goodness for baitrunners!

I lifted into what felt a heavy fish, there was nothing I could do as it took line steadily off a tight clutch, aided by the powerful flow. A few times I stopped it and brought it a short distance upstream, only for the process to be repeated. As the banks were angler free and barren of any bankside obstacles, I picked my landing net up and threw it a distance downstream (down gale!) javelin style. I then headed downstream myself, carefully keeping in contact with whatever was on the end of my line. Eventually, I got the better of the fish and a pale shape came into view of my head torch. It was indeed the intended barbel, but I’d half expected a carp such was the doggedness of the fight. lt slid into the net with no problems, but it didn’t look that big, maybe a low double.

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It was only when I placed it on the unhooking mat that I realised it might be larger than I first thought. It was like a barrel, as wide as it was deep, a proper boilie muncher! I couldn’t tell when I lifted the net from the water as it was my first trip with a lighter landing net head. I weighed it, in the still air, behind my shelter and was shocked at the weight of 13b 7oz. I made sure the scales were properly zeroed and tried again, only to have the same weight as the needle flickered between 13.7 and 13.8. I settled on the lower weight. What a fish and well worth braving the bad weather.

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After struggling for a couple of decent self take photos in the bad conditions, I watched the barbel sulk away into the depths, then started to pack up. I only managed to get half of my gear packed away when the rains came again. It took me even longer when I reeled in my other rod and there was a good bream on the end. By the time I’d reached the car I was soaked, but inside I was warm. I hoped to return when the debris wouldn’t be as much of a problem.

A few days later I was back on the Trent, but this time on the tidal river. I was surprised to see a lot of colour had dropped out of the water, and that it looked more like the river in summer. This worries me as we’ve had a lot of rain. It looks like we need a lot more to get our rivers back to normal autumn / winter levels. I had my gear set up from the trip before so it was a case of casting out the feeders and patiently building the swim up, as this time I had 4 hours to fish before nightfall.

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I was disappointed not to catch a fish in the daylight, but as dusk fell the rod tops started twitching and hammering round. The first fish was a Trent special. At an ounce under 11lbs, it was like a torpedo and fought very well. I don’t measure my fish, but I’d bet it was longer than the 13.7 fish I’d caught before. It gave me hope for bigger things to come!

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The action intensified after the first fish, but no larger barbel were landed. I didn’t even weigh them, but I’d guess the 3 other barbel were between 7 and 9lbs. Good fish, but no cigar. I didn’t photograph them as the wind was getting up to dangerous levels again. I unhooked them in the net next to the water and just returned them. If I’d have caught a suspected double, I’d have clambered up the slippy rocks for a weight and a photo.

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I also landed half a dozen good bream. I’d estimate them averaging around 5-6lbs. They were pests tonight on my heavy barbel gear, but how I’d have loved catching any one of them in my past club matches on the river! Those ‘pests’ would have won me a lot of money back then! It shows how the river’s changing. In fact the Trent must be the most prolific barbel river in the country in terms of the double figure fish it produces. I’ll even say that a 10lb + barbel from the Trent is now a fairly common fish, not that I’m complaining……….In fact long may it continue!!

 

 

The Winds Of Change

Again, with the weather so mild for November and a few shoals of specimen roach on my doorstep, I was drawn into another day chasing big redfins. I used my tried and tested trotting tactics, using tiny dibber floats that have been so successful for me over the years.

Before I tell you about the days fishing, I’ll tell you how I got onto using these floats for big roach. Years ago, as a boy, I used to love trotting for big roach in small clear rivers. They were very hard to catch and you could see their nervous reaction to even a very small stick float. When pole fishing started to become popular, tiny dibber floats appeared on the shelves in tackle shops. Originally, they were designed for fishing casters on the far bank shelves of canals. The domed tip was to stop them from being dragged under by the tow of the water, as the tactic was to lay a few inches of line on the canal bed. I just thought they looked like miniature stick floats and tried a few on my local rivers. The results were very impressive. Where one big roach a day had once been a good result, I was now catching double figures almost every time. I now regret not carrying a set of scales and a camera back then, but I was just happy catching big roach, in fact any roach!

Fast forward 20 years or so and I still use these floats in small clear rivers. They can fool the wariest of roach into taking your bait in crystal clear shallow water

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If you get your feeding right and get a shoal of roach competing for bait, a big catch can be on the cards, like this net of pound plus roach, the best being around 1lb 8oz. I doubt I’d have caught more than a couple of fish using any other float as the river was only 18 inches deep!

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I’ve even used the tactic on the Hampshire Avon in the summer to fool wary roach. The below catch was taken using a dibber with elderberries and tares on the hook. It’s tricky casting such a tiny float very far, but with a bit of practice you can do it, it’s just that you look like a fly fisherman at times! A pole is a useful tool to trot your dibber with pin point accuracy. I’ve caught a few big roach doing this and once lost a huge roach on the Avon with this method. A downstream wind helps with this tactic as you can keep the pole from waving above any fishes heads. Simply lift the rig into the air, ten yards or so upstream of the intended quarry, then let the wind blow it down towards the head of your swim. All you need to do then is keep a reasonably tight line as you tease your bait through towards your intended target fish.

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Anyway, that’s the method and reasoning covered, back onto the session. The roach are a bit nervous now after I’ve caught numbers of the shoal. This means it’s tricky to catch any of the big girls as their smaller bodyguards seem to be on the bait in a flash. The rain that’s ┬ácoloured the water and debris coming down in the flow also make it very hard to pick out the largest fish in a shoal.

What I did was move around the river looking for any roach then having a dabble for them. I reasoned any roach would do, if I caught a specimen it would be a bonus. The best fish from my first swim was a lovely redfin of 1lb 8oz with a few other fish over a pound as well. These fish fill me with as much joy as the 2lb + fish. It shows that there’s a mix of all year classes coming through, the sign of a healthy river.

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Some of the roach seem to have won the odd battle with pike…….just!

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I covered a lot more river for little reward before heading to my most productive swim so far. Just as dusk was falling (and the rain!) I hit into another belter of a roach. It went into the net with no alarm, pulling the needle on the scales round to 2lb 2oz. It may have been a recapture of one of my previous ‘2’s, but I can’t be 100% whether it is or isn’t.

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After getting Martin out to take the photo for me, I watched her swim back into the river. I felt the satisfaction of an Autumn roach campaign being completed in style. I’d had my fill, though I think I’ll be back more than once in the winter. The wind was picking up, the rain was falling, but it was 15 degrees……… I think it’s time to get the barbel tackle out!