Redfin Riot, Barbel Blues

The barbel fishing on the new areas of the River Trent I’ve been fishing are tough to say the least. A couple of blanks, without so much as a tap, and a few bream on another trip left me frustrated and needing a bit of action. It’s all a learning curve of course. We’ll never learn anything new if we fish the same swims or places all of the time, but I was in need of a confidence boost.

I headed to Collingham on the tidal Trent. Surely I’d get a bite or two there. I was surprised to find the place empty, bar for one angler towards the weir. I settled into an old favourite of a swim, a nice gravel run that has regularly produced for me in the past.

After a short period of baiting up, followed by a coffee, I was thrilled to see the rod lurch over straight away after casting out. It felt a heavy fish as it powered off steadily downstream, when there was a crack and the line snapped! I was livid. I blamed myself for setting the clutch too heavy, though line was being taken, but then I thought there’s no way 13lb main line should break before the 9lb hook link. The line must have rubbed against a rock or something sharp, causing it to fail. It was at this point I realised why I rarely fish Collingham, unless its after October.

A couple of other anglers appeared, looking down to where I was fishing, talking quietly to one another. Then there was a shout of “You don’t mind if we drop in here mate do you?” They wanted to fish 15 yards downstream of me, where I’d just hooked the fish that still had me steaming inside! Now, I could have objected, but they were quite polite, and probably knew no better. I mean most pegs on commercial style fisheries are no more than a rod length apart. They probably thought there was loads of room. I shouted back “Course you can mate, no bother” Inside though I was raging, hence me not objecting. I’d have probably kicked off big style if I objected, so I went for a walk to calm down. I mean there was 2 anglers in over half a mile of river, so it’s obvious to fish 5 yards downstream of me you pair of f*****g f***wits. Talk about pea brained!!

Anyway, I went to see the other angler to see how he was fairing. He’d not had a bite all day and if he did hook anything other than a skimmer, it was never fitting in the smallest landing net I’ve ever seen, complete with a pole of less than 6 feet!! What goes on in some peoples heads? It just put me in even more of a foul mood.

I went back to my peg and made a big noise moving all my gear 30 yards upstream away from morons 1 and 2, halfway between them and moron 3. They looked a bit sheepish, perhaps realising I was a bit angry. I was determined to catch a barbel now in amongst all this complete lack of etiquette and basic common sense.

Soon enough, after some careful feeding to hopefully draw any feeding fish from my original swim into my new one, I was into another barbel. This one felt pretty small, but I milked it for all the morons to see. When I landed it I was surprised to see the size of it, so I gave it a quick weigh. At just under 9lbs it did little to lift my gloom, because I was now thinking the fish that I’d lost was something pretty big. Still, as I packed up I stomped past the morons with the smuggest of faces.

It was time for something more gentile to calm me down, so I settled for some roach fishing on my local river. After a lengthy walk, I thought I’d found some decent roach tight to some overhanging vegetation. I carefully fed them for a couple of hours with loads of casters, fishing another swim in the mean time. I caught some lovely small roach, plus a lumpy perch of over 2lbs, but soon it was time for the main event.

The dark shapes were hard to make out due to the mottled light and vegetation, but I was sure they were roach. I carried on feeding casters, drawing them away from their cover, until they were right under my feet. They were roach, but it was hard to say how big they were. There was also some very excited greedy chub joining in the party. Now it was time for my tried and tested methods of singling out the larger roach while keeping the rest feeding, unaware of my cunning plan.

I fed the shoal some more casters, then laid my rig (the usual trotting gear of my crystal dibber float, set 3 feet deep, with double caster fished on a tiny size 20 hook) under my rod tip in the margins. You stare at the casters waiting for a fish to see it and split from the main shoal to intercept. If it’s a chub or a small roach you quickly pull the bait out of the water, but if its a good fish you strike gently once the bait is taken, but feed more casters at the exact same time. You need to have the casters in your hand at all times or the shoal will just bolt. Get it right and you’ll catch a few specimen roach, get it wrong and you’ll end up with just one at the best.

The first roach seemed a decent one, so I let it sip in my casters. It’s a joy to watch a specimen roach gently take your hook bait in crystal clear water without a care in the world. I’ll never tire of it. Anyway, I struck gently and fed at the same time. The roach took a few seconds to realise it was hooked, but the others were already chasing my lose fed casters well away from any commotion. I used the flow to quickly get the roach downstream, away from the swim, where I played it to the net. It felt and looked a good one, and this was confirmed when I lifted the landing net. The scales said 1lb 12oz, so it looked like my shoal of roach were indeed decent fish.

I was pretty excited now and after a few more minutes feeding casters, fish number 2 was a formality, with the exact pattern followed as with the first fish. I recognised it straight away as the one Martin had landed a few weeks ago at 2lbs, with the damaged tail and pectoral fin. Again it weighed 2lbs, but it had moved well away from it’s original swim. I took a photo on my phone and sent it to Martin at work. He said he’d be with me in 40 minutes!

I had placed both fish in a keepnet, well downstream from me, where I was landing the roach. Any fish returned to the swim would end the action straight away. A few more quality roach were landed. A few that i’d estimated a few ounces either side of a pound, plus another specimen roach that still had its summer colours.

Then disaster struck. As I played what looked and felt another 2lb+ roach, it started heading downstream far quicker than all of the others. Then I saw a sizeable pike zooming up behind it. In these situations I just bully the fish hard. I’d rather lose it to a hook pull than a pikes belly, and thats what happened. The hook pulled and after 3 short chases the roach lived to tell the tale, thankfully!

This saw the end of my chances of catching big roach in numbers. Soon another pike arrived on the scene and they both sat close to my keepnet waiting for any big roach to be led into their lair. Martin arrived just then, so I just caught one more fish to show him how it’s done! This time I played it upstream away from the pike and that did see an end to the action. The commotion sent the remaining shoal in all directions. Another specimen redfin was landed though, giving me 4 over 1lbs 10oz, plus some chunky back up fish. To be honest, the success was in avoiding catching fish, if you know what I mean!

After Martin had taken some good photos and we’d watched the roach sulk back to their home, I had to catch some of the greedy chub just to see their sizes. Fish of just under and over 4lbs were landed, before the famous ‘one last cast’ produced one of well over 4lbs. I was certainly over my Trent nightmare now!

For my next barbel trip to the Trent, I headed to a stretch closer to home as the shorter daylight hours caught me out. I arrived just as it was getting dark, but the river looked lovely, like a mill pond. Fish were jumping everywhere and I was soon weighing a barbel of 3oz over 10lbs. That’s more like it!

Soon after I had a good bonus chub, but then that was it. Just as I thought the swim was building the action ended. At least I’d caught a decent barbel this time. I had intended to fish the Trent again on my day off work, the following day, but I had to take my dogs to the vets with my girlfriend for their annual check ups. That meant another trip to the local river for whatever I fancied.

The day started off on a sour note as I saw a goosander tearing into a shoal of good roach. After I scared it off, I saw the roach bolt out of the weed in a tight ball, up to where I’d caught the big ones earlier in the week. That probably explains why they’re moving about a lot, to avoid such a nasty and greedy predator. I’ve only seen one of these birds before, and it ate a lot of quality roach on that day, before the fishery owner blasted his shotgun at it. Unfortunately, or fortunately, he was closer to shooting Martin and I than the bird, though I doubt it would’ve gone back!

Feeling dejected at what I’d seen, I did a lot of walking, checking up on other stretches wondering why big roach have gone on the missing list for a year or more. I saw some interesting things. There are a number of large chub shoals, containing 20 or more medium sized chub. I fed them plenty of casters and studied them. They use cover well and are very spooky, but the casters had them lowering their guards. I was surprised to see each shoal of chub contained at least 3 big roach, all around 2lbs or more. Why they are mixed in with chub I don’t know, but when I first started fishing for them they were in one big roach shoal. Maybe it’s a safety thing, to avoid predators or to avoid anglers. Whatever the reason, it’s effective.

I fed one of the shoals that contained 4 big roach until i could single them out. I almost blew it as I lost the first roach after a few seconds, but amazingly it carried on feeding! Once, 2 big roach raced for my hook baits before turning away at the last moment. It was only when I reeled in that I noticed I had a just a quarter of caster on my hook instead of 2! How do they do that? It was only a matter of time before one made a mistake, and I was soon playing and landing another specimen roach. With time ticking away before it was time to go to the vets, I couldn’t single out another big roach, though they were still feeding. I tried my hardest but instead had a lovely chub beat it to the bait for a nice autumn brace. These chub were just over a pound a couple of years ago, but most are now well over 2lbs, with some over 3lb. If only the roach grew like that!

I’m loving my roach fishing at the moment, but I hope the barbel action hots up soon, and we need a lot of rain quickly! Tight lines.