Scenic Blank Shots....

Over the past couple of months my fishing hasn't as such gone to plan, I missed the boat around October to target barbel and my winter campaign targeting pike was some what lacking in Pike!

Nevertheless I still enjoyed every session and enhanced my watercraft on waters that I will be targeting in spring! So having just moved house and now currently refurbishing it, all my tackle is packed away we are aiming to have it completed before the middle of March, this will hopefully then give me a couple of weeks to pre-bait for a spring carp campaign. A species that I have not given much attention to, hopefully I can trip up a few. What I have realised already just reading up on different rigs and approaches is how my barbel fishing can be improved especially with regards to end tackle. I think this is where specimen anglers come into their own cross referencing approaches and methods over a variety of species. A matchman can learn alot from a pike angler whilst a bream angler will learn even more from a pike angler...if you get my trail of thought.

So the next few blog posts will focus on how I intend to target the chosen venue and the good numbers of (ex) Tidal Trent commons in contains. To finish off this short post a few photographs from sessions over the last couple of months. 

Big Perch- PB to Heartbreak!

Back in the middle of October I had a successful session on a Midlands Reservoir with Andy, Giles and Kev; landing my biggest perch to date at 3-01. We covered a large amount of water, varying tactics suiting the location to target zander, pike and perch. I am very much looking forward to meeting up again with these guys when the reservoirs reopen again. 

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. 

New Swim, First Cast...RESULT!!

Having sat in an air conditioned committee room all day, stepping out of work a wall of heat hit me instantly. Rushing home from work and frantically getting the gear together I was physically dripping with sweat. After making up a feeder mix consisting of crushed trout pellet, bread crumb, bread and Hookbait Company micro pellets this was then flavoured with a new test flavour. I was soon on the road, windows down and heading towards the Tidal Trent.

I have been targeting a swim fairly close to where I am able to park, though have found this swim only produces when the river is carrying some extra water as the fish move out of other features. Arriving in the car park the river was clearly very low with exposed banks. The suggested swim was out of the question from viewing the river. Loading the barrow up I walked upstream a fair distance with sweat dripping from my nose at regular intervals. I had put equal time into another couple of swim in the area I was heading towards but had had limited success in them when the levels are low. However throughout the time I had spent in these swims the vantage point upstream and dowstream allowed me to plot on an Google maps image where fish crashed. After a few sessions plotting on the image a consistent area emerged where fish were crashing at dusk. Arriving at this ‘crashing’ swim it is an area I haven't targeted before so was unsure on the bottom structure. With boulders at my feet and very shallow slate bed going as far as I could see with the polaroids, on the far bank there was a gravel/sand/silt bed. It was on the edge of this gravel/sand/silt bed where the slate bed begins that I wanted to target. With a clear crease in the water it was this line that I targeted. Moulding up 6 or so grapefruit size balls these were thrown upstream so they were feeding the top stream rod.

Over the last few seasons I have been playing around with how to keep scent in the swim for longer once the feeder had emptied. Therefore I have started to mould paste to the inside of the feeder and then fill with a few free offerings and plugged either end with the feeder mix. The idea behind this is that the past will breakdown much slower than the plugged ends and keep scent leaking from the feeder and over the hookbait.
Fishing feeders on both upstream and downstream rods they were cast onto the line where the balls of groundbait were thrown. I purposefully fish a heavier feeder on the upstream rod as this is the mark where I want the feed and scent to originate from consistently and this will be compromised if the feeder is bouncing down stream. In comparison I fish an oz lighter feeder downstream, on this rod it doesn't phase me if the feeder bounces further downstream.

After around 20 minutes of the baits been in the water I brought the upstream rod in to refill the feeder, the 20mm Hookbait Company test bait re-glugged and the feeder re-pasted and re-filled. I had just nicked a PVA bag of micro pellets onto the size 6 hook when the heavy swinger dropped and the downstream rod banged violently then bent over into a single tone on the alarm. Dropping the upstream rod I lifted into a powerful run which brought the fish to the surface very quickly indicating the shallowness of the swim. I made several meters of line on the fish before it would turn and run again bringing it back to the surface. Unsure of how far the boulders and slate bed extended into the water I stayed high on the bank as long as I could before negotiating my way to the water's edge once the fish came up stream of me. This allowed me to slip the net under the fish at the second attempt. Seeing the 20mm boilie in the barbels mouth as she slid in the net I knew she was a decent lump. Resting her for an extended period due to the heat I lifted her from the net into the sling and worked my way back up the bank and to the unhooking mat. Peeling the sling back she was a very clean short stocky fish and a good double. A few quick photographs and I was resting the fish again ensuring she was strong enough to kick away. With a flick of her tail she was on her way as I splashed water over the top of her she kicked again instantly and went back to the rugged river bed of the Tidal.

Noting the time of when I received the take and when I was ready to cast back in, the tide had clearly turned and river had began to fill back up. As previously mentioned in another blog post this period of the tide I find very unproductive though I gave it another hour to see if there would be any interest. To my surprise I received 2 savage bangs on the downstream rod, sitting on my hands I left the rod on the pod. With such a still warm evening it was very evident as a breeze emerge from nowhere looking into the distance I could see a storm rolling in with lightning flashing through the purple tinted clouds. Weighing up the situation I decided to call it a night and packed up fairly quick to avoid getting caught up in the storm, it was at this point when I brought in the downstream rod I found that the hair had twisted and turned the hook backwards hence the 2x bangs could have possibly been converted to runs if the hair hadn't affected presentation.

I will look to be out again before the weeks is out to see if I can pick up anymore at dusk whilst the weather is favourable.

Relegation, Wind and Rain

Having been rained off at cricket at mid-day and subsequently relegated from the Lincolnshire Prem the rain continued to hammer down until around 6pm. This gave me chance to get the gear together checked over and set up ready for an evening assault on the Tidal Trent. Having struggled lately in changing conditions and fishing on unfavourable tide times I had the chance to fish later into the night and hopefully trip up a decent fish.

Receiving a fresh batch of slightly altered test bait from Darren at the Hookbait Company the day before, a flavoured groundbait was mix prior to arriving on the bank. Anticipating the water level rising with rain that had fallen earlier in the day and water clarity decreasing I chose to fish large feeders on both rods aiming to get as much scent as possible in the vicinity of the 20mm glugged hook bait.

Marking up both rods with fluro pole elastic to ensure they were fished on the same line I catapulted a few 14mm boilies upstream of the line and balled in the usual mix with added Hookbait Co glug. I recast for the next hour every 10 minutes or so building up a bed of bait. After this initial hour I wanted to start leaving the bait in place for longer catapulting balls of bait over the top. Adding extra scent to the swim I also moulded paste to the inside of the feeder before filling with crushed boilies and plugging with quick break down groundbait mix.

The wind was still causing the rod tips to bank around on the pod and the chain from the swingers swayed violently in the breeze. Regretting not picking up the brolly to get out the wind there was a light drizzle but I sat it out in the ever faithful Northface waterproof.

It was evident that the flavour in the test baits had been enhanced and they certainly held their flavour for much longer than other boilies I have used. Each cast a quick re-glug and they were good to go again breaking down at a very nice rate, just roughing up in appearance and only washing out/lightening up in colour ever so slightly.
At around 9:30 after constantly feeding the swim- little and often for the last 2 hours the upstream rod banged twice and I lifted making up line quickly as the fish came to the bank easily, flicking the head torch on to net the fish the flash of a bronze flanked showed a good size bream of around 5lb had taken a liking to the 20mm bait. Re-bating the rod I had just nicked a PVA bag of micro pellets on the hook in addition to the loaded feeder and poised with rod over my head lining up the silhouette mark on the far bank when the downstream rod bent over double and stripped line, the swinger dropping on its chain as the alarm kicked into a single tone. Lifting the rod the fish felt heavy but then unusually came towards the near bank very quickly, once again I flicked the head torch on when in range to net and seeing the flank of a fish it promptly turned and stripped line as it ran again to the middle of the river. Feeling it's head bang and the power in the second run of the fish I thought I had a carp. Though after gaining control a barbel soon emerged at the surface and slipped over the lip of the net. Climbing back up the slippy wet bank with net in hand the fish was laid on the mat, hook perfectly positioned in the corner of the mouth. Resting the fish in the sling I quickly set up the camera on the tripod and brought the fish back up the bank, kicking in the sling it was clear the fish had recovered well. A quick photograph and weigh and she was soon released fully recovered.

Casting both rods back in on the mark around 15 minutes passed before the slack line was taken up as the swingers dropped and the tide stood still. I have had no success during this phase of the tide. Once again I sat out a period of drizzle more in hope than expectation but as previous experience showed I received no further takes or indications during this period.

With the weather improving over the next week I will aim to be put again giving the baits even more bank time!

'Just One More Cast...'

Having located the barbel in a very tight swim the night before I returned the following evening. Arriving home from work too late to get down to the tackle shop for casters/maggots I raided the kitchen cupboard for a tin of sweetcorn and grabbed a few slices of fruit loaf.

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!!

Its Only Taken 3 Seasons...I Have Found The Barbel!

For the last 3 seasons I have spent the summer months targeting a small waterway in the East Midlands. I originally targeted the chub in the waterway, using the very basic free lining approach- 6lb supplex straight through to a size 6 wide gape; picking up fish to 5lb.

With 2 baits in the tackle bag they cover both scenarios that I need- Lobworms allows me to get a bait down and bounced along the bottom; whilst bread crust enables nice long trots teasing fish to rise to the surface.

I was give some information by a good friend when I first ventured into the urban jungle regarding access, deeper swims and also whisperings that there are a few barbel resident. However having spent literally hours staring into the clear water I had never seen the sleek low profile of a barbel rooting under beds of streamer weed.

Roving the stretch for the first time this year I was armed with my ever faithful full Diawa 12ft specimen 1.25lb avon rod. Finding the chub fairly easily with polaroids they appeared to be much more spooky than previous seasons. They initially almost charge at any bait that hits the water and then turn away sharply. Several casts later and only a few small chublets to show for my efforts I headed to another area of the waterway.

Peering through the undergrowth the recognisable dark silhouette of several chub cruised around the swim. The largest chub in the swim flashed and rolled on a urban feature on the river bed as bream, roach, perch and eels were also present. With a bank of streamer weed to the left of the swim I saw several fish moving out from under the streamer and then back under using the current to their advantage. Sitting in the swim these fish eventually moved into the clear area in front of me with unmistakable whiskers, peach coloured pectorals and sharp pointed tail fin, I had located the barbel! 

Over excitedly I mounted up 2 worms on the size 6 and nipped the ends off to release scent. Flicking the bait upstream of the barbel I had eyes on, the spookiness of the previous fish I had cast to was not present as one of the smaller chub in the swim directly moved for the hookbait and engulfed it with its large mouth! Playing the fish it was strange how none of the other fish in the swim were spooked until my landing net entered the water and they dispersed under the streamer weed. The chub was soon slipped over the lip of the net. A quick photograph and she was back in the waterway to cruise in and out of the current again. The smile in the photograph says it all….not so much for the ‘nuisance’ chub but the fact I had finally found them!

Returning back to the same swim the following evening and watched 4 barbel move in and out of their cover, each being no more than 2lb. I gave them a second chance at a worm hookbait but they refused with the bait literally sat next to them under the stream weed. I think maggot/caster and hemp maybe the way forward so over the next week or so a barbel from this special water will be my target! It will be a massive tick on the list if I accomplish it, that’s for sure!

Article For The Hookbait Co: Tidal Trent Addiction

The Tidal Trent in appearance can be daunting- from is bleak sand bank stretches to its boulder lined rugged bends. It can have the most competent anglers questioning their sanity in angling with 6oz leads rolling up stream as the water comes back up the river on the turn of the tide. In certain conditions an eerie, droning siren can be heard that will appear to get closer overlapping with other sirens as the village flood warnings are triggered. Picturing the scene I was sat on the outside of a sweeping Tidal bend last summer as sirens echoed for miles around, thinking the world was coming to an end or the Russians had done something really stupid the sirens were drowned out with a roar of noise as the water pulled away from the bank…the aegar wave rolled powerfully around the bend and upstream filling the river by another 3 feet as it crashed into the banks on either side.
Moody at the best of times the river and it’s features can be a real tackle cruncher but with selective swim choice, watercraft and knowledge of certain stretches there is something about the Tidal Trent which gets under your skin and becomes ever more addictive. What is certain about the Tidal Trent its potential to nurture some of the best barbel in the country and year on year the number of doubles caught seems increase ten fold. This could be due to the rise of social media with catch reports being more widely available though I doubt this and truly believe the river is flourishing in ever improving conditions. Salmon runs now feature alongside most weirs and their numbers are also ever increasing.
With such a volume of water especially if she is up a few foot up and heavily coloured a planned approach is crucial and this equally applies to lower water levels during summer. I don’t want this article to come across as though I am teaching people to suck eggs, this is simply the approach that works for me.
It terms of swim choice I limit the number of swims I fish to enable me to begin to understand the area I am targeting much better. Personally I now solely sit in swims that others don’t usually target and try to get to know the swim and map a picture in my head of the area I am fishing. There are too many questions to note when selecting swims – When do the fish move into this area? What time suits feeding habits? Does the tide effect feeding? Can the swim be fished in flood and in low clear conditions? Does the swim produce early season/ back end of the season? What features are there to fish to? Does the river bed vary? Are there gravel runs? Is the swim boiling with bream?……you get the idea, make sure you ask such questions though. Using short sessions at different times of the day, lead around and find the answers. Of course if you have one of these all singing all dancing castable fish finders it will give you a lovely picture on your phone of the swim your fishing which may help.Another benefit of focusing on a select few swims is that you can build the confidence of the resident fish on a certain bait/flavour. I personally over the last 3 season have select 2 flavours of boilie to use, this season I have cut down to just one. Doing this also rules out the tendency to chop and change baits when a session doesn’t produce the expected results, but if you have confidence in the bait such as what I do with the Hookbait Co there should be no reason to doubt it.
The main spear head of my approach is to get a lot of scent in the chosen swim with little free offerings. With hemp being the base of my groundbait this is blended to a pulp allowing a milky cloud to work its way downstream and avoids barbel getting obsessed with rooting for whole hemp seeds. To this I add basic crushed trout pellets, this allows the scent of a full bag of pellets to be release on the river bed with no solid freebies. Additionally I also mix in matching flavoured Hookbait Co groundbait to get relevant scent in the swim that relates to the flavour of boilie hookbait. To bind this mix together bread crumb and a very generous glug of CSL allow the mix to be balled together using a Nash Deliverance Ball Maker and catapulted into the swim.
Catapulting the balls of groundbait upstream of the area I am targeting, I try to keep all the feed within a 5 meters square area. One rule I do abide by is that when you feel you have over fed the swim, feed the same amount again- this is possible due to the mix being scent based with no freebies.
The only free bait that I want available is a large hookbait that has been soaked in matching glug or gloop to enhance it flavour longevity and appeal. This season I am currently using a fishy flavoured test bait that Darren- founder and owner of the Hookbait Company is developing. I prefer this bait to be around 20mm therefore hopefully ruling out smaller fish and bream; however with buckets mouths even the smallest barbel is quite happy to engulf a 20mm bait.
Being meticulous and anal about my approach I purposefully check several things each cast. The first being my main line specifically the length that my lead clip runs on and also the area just above the buffer bead. I find this area is the most likely area to attain any abrasion simply because it’s the line closest to the river bed. Moving down to the business end of the setup I also will check the braid hook length to make sure this has not rubbed up as it makes contact with the river bed. To finish I also check the sharpness of the hook and keep a sharpening stone to hand to ensure they remain razor sharp. With some ruthless snags and features a simple nik or roughed up mainline, hook length or blunt hook could cost you the fish of a lifetime; and with that in the back of my mind I check these 3 areas every cast (day and night).
Taking this to another level I also use high viz pole elastic to mark the distance I am fishing, this does 2 things; firstly it ensures I am casting back onto the same line therefore the feed in am catapulting upstream of my top rod benefits both rods I am fishing. Secondly it allows me to fish tight up to snags (within reason) for example if I am aware that a snag is 2 rod lengths further away from the distance I am fishing and my line marker after casting in is at the top eye on my rod I know I only have 1 rod length to play with. This would then result in my tightening up the drag to avoid the fish easily making its way to the snag if hooked.
As I mentioned previously this is the approach that works for me and is still developing session on session- as I blank, get snagged up and watch fish crash all over my swim. As long as I learn something from each blank session whether it be that an area I thought was a snaggy unfishable swim is actually fishable or I find a new feature then a blank is a success. With success comes confidence; If you can find confidence in your approach the results will not be far behind and the hand on the scales will no doubt spin and settle that little bit further!