Arriving back home my curiosity drew me to a couple of waters closer to home to drop a few rubber shad and worms in. Armed with the drop shot gear I focused solely on structures, features and deeper holes off the rod tip. Starting early morning I picked up a few small fish straight away...the classic tap tap bang. Having only 2 hours to play with before family commitments needed to take priority I had a couple of casts in each swim before briskly moving to another feature working my way down the water. Using a double hook rig with lob worm on the top and bottom hook it was the bottom worm that was getting the attention, hammering small perch after one and other. Heading back towards the car after 2 hours I chanced on a few snags and features close to where I had parked, jigging the worms I could see through the polaroids a number of small perch were make no attempt to strike at the worm and as quick as I had dropped into the swim the fish moved off. This is were time on the water and watercraft come into their own. Crouched over in a stealth like pose looking like Stevie Wonder with my polaroids over the top of my everyday glasses I was expecting a pike to glide through the swim. With all the prey fish departing it was as if moses had poked his stick into the sea to part the water! From beneath a feature surrounded by tall weed a dark broad backed perch glided out into the open water and without hesitation, mouthed the worm and moved back under the snag. It was that gut wrenching feeling, heart racing and feet fixed to the bank that I thought that would be my only chance but after a swift recast she moved out again engulfing the worm on the top hook. All hell broke loose as I set the hook and played the fish for around 30 seconds as I bent down for the net she managed to bolt into some dense weed away from the feature and the disadvantage of fishing the double hook rig was realised. She shook the hook and truly stuck 2 V’s up at me as a huge boil erupted to the surface. With head in hands I had just lost the biggest perch I had ever seen and it look and felt every bit a good 3 dare I say more. The dreaded drive home followed as I cursed most of the way trying to take some positives from what had just happened…...decent size perch located, no hesitation on the bait, rig lessons learnt.
I ventured back out to the same feature several mornings following losing the fish but had no joy in locating any big old perch. I change approach for several mornings and drop some live baits under the feature…..instinct told me that she hasn't got that big eating a low protein diet so must be a fry eating machine!
And so I fast forward to February 2017- the local perch target was not to be and so rolls over to next October where I think a short pre-baiting campaign may be the answer to draw the fish to an area.
Aided by my polaroids I blinkered the light with my hands and scanned the swim though could only see bream and roach, there was no sign of the barbel or chub. Sitting back I trickled sweet corn into the swim just upstream of the bulk of streamer weed where the barbel were holding under previously. There was no indication of fish moving out of the streamer to intercept the bait so I baited heavily and tried to get a large proportion of the bait under the weed. This would also be a prevention from the waterfowl clearing the swim in seconds once I had left. Leaving the swim I headed down stream in search of a decent chub or two.
They were holding under the same overhanging branches as the previous evening, moving in and out of cover on the far bank. With a big bed of weed in front of me spanning 6ft it was a challenge to present a bait in the natural flow with a short 6ft light lure rod (intended for the tight barbel swim). Initially firing a few lumps of fruit loaf into the swim they were soon engulfing them 10 or so meters down stream. Gaining the confidence of the fish I wrapped the size 6 wide gape in a generous amount of fruit bread and flicked it into swim, the line was soon caught on the weed on the near bank and presentation affected. The fish were clearly warey of this and didn't rise for the slower moving bait. Several chucks later and I finally presented a bait on the correct line, seeing dark shadows move underneath the bait as it drifted downstream a set of white lips emerged and mouthed the bait, striking the fish was hooked and after a short fight brought over the weed and into the net. Not a big fish but rewarding for the trickiest of the swims.
Switching baits I scattered sweetcorn into the swim and again using the polaroids watched the reaction of the fish. They were soon hoovering up baits and almost charging at grains of corn hitting the water. Mounting up 4 or 5 grains on the hook this was flicked into the area where the chub were feeding downstream. As soon as the bait settled there was interest from smaller fish as a larger fish followed and picked the bait up. Striking, the bait pulled clean from the mouth of the fish. This happened on a number of occasions and missed takes became frustrating in clear water. Having a rethink about how to overcome this it was evident that the sweet corn was rolling the hook off the mouth of the fish hence not ‘pricking’. Mounting the corn up again I pushed it further up the shank of the hook with the top grain holding over the eye and leaving the curve and point of the hook free. I also moved downstream of the fish and cast up stream towards them this therefore would creating a tighter angle to strike at and in theory increasing the chances of hook ups.
With time pressing on and still needing to walk a fair way back to the car I was well into the usual ‘just one more cast’ scenario. Finally landing the freelined hookbait on a clear area I left it for around 2 minutes before one of the bigger fish in the shoal moved over the bait and inhaled it from the river bed, seeing the corn disappear as a dark tailed kicked and angled the fish's body down I lifted the rod firmly and was rewarded with a solid weight as the rod hooped over. Charging around the swim as the fish lunged for the far bank I felt behind me for the landing net amongst the nettles, ensuring the fish didn't dive into the weed on the near bank I lifted the net on top of the weed and coaxed the fish over the remaining weed and into the deep net.
Resting the fish before lifting the net out of the water I was surprised at its weight, however with prying eyes on the far bank and some interest from a couple of guys behind me walking past the waterway I took a quick photograph and slipped her back into the urban jungle with little fuss. Back end of the season she will be a specimen for sure but that's another challenge as I am unsure where they move to in the winter months. Packing the rucksack to walk back to the car it was a relief that the last cast produced and was worth it in the end with swollen arms from mosquito bites and rashed hands from the nettle stings!!
Brought up fishing the River Torne in Auckley using classic bread and stick float tactics, bags of roach, silver bream and the occasional chub were my main targets. However looking through my dad’s old fishing album, numerous images of Tidal Trent carp caught my attention and so in 2009 I persuaded him to take me back to his old stomping grounds. It was this experience that curved my fishing attention towards barbel. In 2009 with my rod tips pointing skywards, an explosive take resulted in me netting my first barbel.
Over the last few seasons I have dramatically developed my approach, set up and watercraft skills specifically targeting barbel on the Tidal and Middle Trent. However as the season’s change I adapt my fishing to suit, aiming to land specimen fish along the way.
I hope you enjoy the blog and please feel free to leave a comment.
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