Saturday, 27 July 2013

River Derwent barbel - double figure diversion

A week or so into the river season I took a few bits of stalking kit down to a local stretch of the river Soar and spent a couple of hours wandering about. Half a dozen or so spots were baited and observed in turn but I didn't see a whisker of barbel and so the rod was never assembled let alone cast. To some that seems like madness when I could have been in with a chance of a bite just sitting somewhere and fishing blind but sometimes it's the method that appeals to me rather than the result and I do love watching fish on the bait.

Another week or so passed with me having no intention of fishing the river, tench were firmly in priority spot number one. Then I succumbed to a quick session on the Derwent due to getting rained off work. I blanked on the stretch that I first visited but the seed was sown and I couldn't resist nipping to another favourite spot where a whisker of 8 1/2lb's saved the day. Better still I watched the fish hoovering up the free offerings before the rod tip heading downstream at a hundred miles an hour caught my attention.

The wife then announced that she was going out on the Saturday night. Well I fancied a dawn attack at the tench on Sunday and that meant that I was going to get up not long after she stumbled to bed. It seemed a much better idea seemed to me to spend the night on the river for as long as I could keep awake, grab a quick kip in the van, and head to the lake from there.

It was 6pm by the time I arrived bankside after loading the van with two sets of rods and the necessary kit and bait for both species. It was something of a shock to the system not to have to put a coat on but I stuck it in my rucksack anyway and picked up the brolly too, just call me doubting Thompson! I headed upstream to a swim I hadn't fished before but it looked the part. Fast shallow water sloping off into a more steady glide is prime barbel territory and I suspected that the shallows could well have served as spawning areas hence giving adding to the attraction at this time of year. Three hours later I decided that I had proved myself wrong and that I needed to move.

I headed off downstream to a swim with similiar flow characteristics but with the addition of a snag too. I think I had only fished it once before but I had the impression that it was popular. It wasn't that popular as I had to thrash down a bed of thistles just to get near to the water. I swiftly positioned two baited rigs with small pva bags of pellet hooked on, though to be fair the second rod was a bit of a lucky chance job as I knew full well where any residents would be. Dusk was fast closing in as I sat back in anticipation and to soak up the atmosphere, I have to say that it was magical to be back on the river and being the only angler in sight only added to that.

Just on dusk I had what I can only describe as a bit of a mishap, in fact lesser fools wouldn't have even admitted to this one. There I was sitting comfortably maybe three feet behind the rod butts when the right hander belted around. I shot up to grab it and somehow managed to trip over my own feet. The result was that I ended up kneeling in the bashed down thistles with arms outstretched as if to support myself but only my rods lay in front of me and so I kind of half balanced half teetered and my only thought was to grab the rod as best I could. Well that didn't go too well as in the heat of the moment all I had available to be was the blank a foot or two up from the reel, and of course the cheese wire taught line that was rapidly being pulled from the reel, ouch. It could have only taken a matter of seconds to get on my feet and in some sort of control but the moment was lost, as was the barbel. Oh dear I said. I got myself sorted out as best I could though thistle thorns aren't the easiest thing to remove in daylight and I eventually decided to put up and shut up. When I finally sat down again that "magical" feeling had, funnily enough, departed.

At quarter to eleven the same rod was off again and I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice, or was I? Sorry to dissappoint, no! The flow under the rod tip in this swim makes netting fish a cross between an art form and sheer luck but I got the combination of surrendered fish and fast drifting net right at the second attempt and the two collided resulting in a nice kipper of 9lb 5oz posing for the camera.

A quick note on weighing and photographing these fish at this point. In a swim that holds some steady of slack water it's an easy job to secure the net with a bankstick and allow the fish to rest while you set up your gear. In fast swims such as this that isn't possible and I deal with it in one of two ways. If there is a suitable spot very close by where I can leave the fish to rest then that is my first option. If that isn't possible then I make sure that I have everything out of the rucksack and set up ready to go, that means wet sling, scales out and camera attached to extended tripod with the case stuck back on for protection. Once I've netted the fish I don't remove it from the water straight away but rest it while holding the net for a few minutes and then quickly get it out onto the bank and get the job done without delay. Fish safety is the number one priority and if it comes down to it I'll put a fish straight back rather than risk putting it in any danger.

So it was turning into an evening of highs and lows and I was back on the upper rung once more. On an average barbel session I would have been off home at this time if not before but as I am now equipped with a luxury mobile home aka works van I have the luxury of pleasing myself and so I got the rig back into the water once again. Just at the crack of eleven thirty the same rod shot off again, I told you that the second rod was an afterthought didn't I. Blimey this fish scrapped. I could see great boils in the moonlight as it attempted to reach cover and I just had to hold and hope with no chance of pumping it back at that stage. Steady pressure took its toll eventually and once more the landing net dance was carried out. This one was a tad bigger and my first double of the season at 10lb 5oz. I couldn't ask for more than that and with my eyes starting to feel more than a little droopy, plus the thought of a 3.30am alarm call, I decided that it was time to get back to the van.


  1. Nice write up and entertaining again mate , still looking for my first double this season off the trent and had a 9lb 8oz last night

  2. I can never decide wether you love fishing as much as writing or more, or wether its just your shear passion for fishing that exudes into your writing, both equally fine in my book, well done and well executed! It's a pleasure to read!

  3. Rob.

    Well done on the nice barbel. I taking plenty of fish but nothing big sadly?

    Great words about the care of barbel, should apply to all fish too.

    Nice piece.