Monday, 14 January 2013

Barbel forays and more commercial perch

On Sunday I conceded and spent the four hours that I suddenly found that I had free barbelling on the River Soar. The temperature was well up and the river was just about within it's banks, so I was told, plus I couldn't think of anything else to do at short notice so I went for it. Pulling up at the road side I looked across towards the river beyond the lake that the field had become and it looked like I could make it to the bank, Once I'd got within twenty yards of the lake I started to have my doubts but I found a fairly narrow crossing point that just about failed to swamp my boots at full tip toe.

Just about within its banks
 Starting at the top of the stretch I worked my way through a swim an hour most of which required five ounces of lead to hold steady, but of the whiskered ones there was not a sign. What I did see though were some tracks running along the bank in the freshly deposited silt. It would be very unusual for a dog to be in the area and I suspected that it was an otter which I confirmed when I compared them to some pictures on the internet. Sightings are now being reported on a very regular basis on most of the stretches of river, only time will tell what impact they will have.

It looked the part

The far bank snags looked a bit iffy!

The warm spell continued into the week inspired I was not but eventually the need to fish persuaded me to visit another commercial fishery to try for a perch or two. This particular fishery had been kind to me in the past and in fact was where I had caught my biggest stripey to date at 3lb 11oz's several years previously on a day which had given me another three captures in excess of 3lb's, I say captures and not perch as one of them visited me twice in the space of half an hour or so.

Was this fella still there?

I arrived at dawn to find the place empty which was not unexpected to be honest seeing as it was midweek after a holiday. My mate Rob would be joining me later but until then I had solitude which was some compensation seeing that the water isn't what I would call scenic, more functional in the normal fashion of this type of fishery. I started off on the windward bank and float fished a prawn down the edge in four feet of water over a bed of chopped prawn and maggot. After an hour and a half I got wander lust and wound in to have a look at a swim in the opposite corner that covered the largest reedbed on the water, it certainly looked good. As I was debating the move Rob pulled up behind me and after five minutes of chatting I had convinced myself that it was the place to be, Rob was going to drop in further along the bank towards where I had started.

Once I had got myself reorganised and had plumbed the depth in my new swim I started to feed a pinch of maggots every few minutes along the reed lined margin while I set up another rod with a live bait rig. Within twenty minutes I had the odd fish boiling sub surface, this was starting to look good. I decided to give it half an hour on the prawn before trying to catch some bait but that didn't produce any positive bites so it was time to get the maggot on. Straight away it was a bite a chuck, a couple of micro perch first, then a 6oz roach that I returned as being a bit big for what I wanted, then a small carp of some description, possibly one of those F1 hybrid type things, it certainly didn't look quite like a true carp anyway. The bites kept coming but very few were from my perfect bait sized fish. Eventually I had three small roach in the net and gave up at that, I stuck a prawn back on the float rig after I had swung out the paternostered roach on the other rod.

This time the prawn was getting more attention, mostly nibbles from small fish but I had two more small carp and a bream of about 2lb's, no sign of the decent perch at all. A shout from down the bank told me that Rob was getting a similiar result, he'd just been given the run around by a carp of 3 or 4lb's. I gave the lure's a go for an hour before dusk and thought I felt one possible hit but it could have just been debris. The method was very productive on the water previously and I was starting to think that maybe there was no longer a head of larger perch present. I don't plan to return any time soon to try and find out to be honest, it was a days fishing and it was nice to get a few bites in these hard times but I do find many of these commercials to be soulless places especially in the depths of winter.

I needed to get back on the rivers, levels were almost back to normal on the Soar and with the weather being incredibly warm for the season I decided on another barbel trip. The stretch that I had in mind had been difficult to get to for quite a while due to the floods and I wasn't certain that I would be able to park in the usual area, there is a layby that can be used but memories of broken windows from years gone by puts me off of that one if at all possible. I drove slowly across the first field avoiding the main ruts and it was looking good, then I saw a very soggy looking patch of grass ahead and no way was I going to risk that so I swung the motor off into the rough grass and carried on towards the second field. Within a hundred yards I could see that I wasn't going to make it and decided to park where I was and carry on by foot, the field was a mass of mud made worse by a heavy vehicle of some sort that had been through making walking tricky and driving suicidal.

As I suspected the banks hadn't seen much traffic since the flood had receded and as I also suspected the going was tough, it was slippery as hell and great clods of mud stuck to my boots making every step hard work. I started off in my old faithful spot which was looking in great condition with the floods having pushed away a lot of debris while also scouring away the river bed to create what will be an excellent sight fishing spot next summer. if we get a summer that is.

Thoughts of summer stalking came to mind
Two rigs went out complete with pva sticks of small pellets and crumbed boilie, a spicy tuna boilie being on each hair. After an hour or so the downstream rod banged over a couple of times, no doubt due to a chub attack, but other that that it seemed strangely dead. I stuck it out for three hours which is much longer than I would normally stop in a swim on the Soar but I was confident that barbel weren't far off, eventually though I knew that I had to move.

I walked another three hundred yards downstream to an area that I've never caught a barbel from which is a strange choice maybe but I know that they do turn up there at times and the more I blank the more I want to catch one from the spot. Again I only made one cast per rod and just with a small pva stick for a bit of extra attraction, despite it looking good for a bite the last swim had proved that the barbel weren't ready to crawl up the bank so there was no point in going over the top on the bait front. I sat down and surveyed the huge amount of debris deposited in every bush and tree by the high water, almost entirely plastic of some description and the vast majority of it will still be there for months to come. Even if the rubbish does get dislodged the problem will only be elsewhere, many plastics take an eternity to degrade and even if they do so they release toxic elements into the environment. It's a sobering thought to consider that we have only relatively recently been producing these materials, what kind of state will we be in another few hundred years?

Rubbish,  that just about summed the day up
I was shaken out of my thoughts by a swirl mid river and twenty yards downstream that caught my eye. I stood looking directly at the spot and suddenly there was another swirl that developed into a bow wave that travelled for a few yards before disapearing, then two more big swirls heading into the near bank. That didn't look like any kind of fish to me, the nature of the bank stopped me from seeing any further along the bank and no other activity was seen, was it another sign of an otter? Whatever it was it was the most excitement that occured all day, it seemed so right but it obviously wasn't.

On the way back to the van I stopped to check the permits of two anglers piking. They too had struggled with only one jack between them when they would normally expect more, it's a funny old game this fishing lark. Talking about it later someone remarked that the day in general had seemed strange with hardly any bird life about and when I came to think of it he was right. No matter what we think we know there will always be a lot that we don't understand, it makes things so much more interesting, and frustrating.


  1. An excellent read Rob, sounds like the swirls were perhaps an otter, they are very well spread now, I had one run right up to me on the upper Thames last year, didn't seem to bat an eyelid either, before it dived in and paddled across the river.

    1. I'm pretty sure that it was Mark. Almost every time I speak to someone they have seen one somewhere or other on our waters.

  2. I've had a few days like that where the usual bird and fish life is eerily quiet and still !
    Makes you wonder what forces are at play that we don't yet understand.

    ....I must have seen more otters in the last couple of years on various rivers, than Bill Oddies had hot dinners!! (Ok it's five).

  3. Hi,

    I was wondering where on the Soar you fish, or is it a secret ;-)

    I fished the river as a lad 20 years ago on Zouch weir and up to Kegworth, also the Arches near the old Brush works in Loughborough.

    Back then Barbel were unheard of on the river and I mainly targeted Chub, Perch and Pike. I now live in Shrewsbury and fish the Severn. Since I've got back into fishing I've always thought about a session at Zouch again, do you know if there's Barbel on that stretch?

  4. Hello John

    No secret mate, I'm involved in running Loughborough Soar AC so really only fish our waters, here's a link if you haven't already seen it

    I used to virtually live at Zouch weir when I was a kid, used to bike it from Shepshed day after day.

    The barbel are spread throughout the entire river now, even the stretches that look completely wrong for them turn up a few. Realistically though you are far from guaranteed a bite on a one off session on the river, multiple catche sused to be common place but they have thinned out now, It's still possible if you fall lucky of course. Zouch weir itself is free fishing, you might not have seen it since the flood gate was put in but space is very limited now, not that there ever was loads of room. Downstream of the pool is Davis's and no daytickets on there.

    Your best option would be on our stretches further upstream, Arches, Cotes or the Osiers.

    If you do decide to come over drop me an email and I'll try to help


  5. Thanks Rob, didn't know it was free now at Zouch. I packed up fishing there when the construction on the gate started. I think i fished a couple of time after but by then i was past 18 and more interested in girls and beer! I remember catching bag fulls of big Chub in chunks of cheese from the island between the two weirs.

    I walked down there back in November, first time since getting back into fishing. seems so small compared to the severn i fish now. There's still about 3 pegs you could get a couple of rods out from so will certainly be down this year. will try before end of the season.

    Many thanks.


  6. As far as I'm aware Zouch weir pool always has been free, in fact in general most weir pools are for a set distance below the sill as they fall under the control of the EA for maintenance purposes or something along those lines, think it's 15 metres but don't quote me on that. Above the weir is still Loughborough Soar and that stretch hardly see's a soul fishing wise. If I was going to barbel fish the weir I'd got for that slop just above Davis's myself, less in the way of snags there too.

    Best of luck and let me know how you get on

  7. Yep, that's the sweet spot! Bait dropper with hemp then sit on it with a big pellet and feeder. If there's Barbel in there Ill get into them. getting too cold now though, think its gonna have to wait till February.