Sunday, 4 August 2013

Barbel stalking - when chub attack!

For a while I had been pondering over a question based on a particular barbel swim that is prime for stalking. The spot is around two to three feet deep under normal conditions and more than a little tight. A big snag lies just upstream and a shallow riffle marks the downstream limit, the fishable water is about eight feet in length I would say. Now the swim is very reliable and I would normally expect to catch a barbel quickly, my question was could I catch more than one from this shallow spot where by its very nature a hooked fish would have to be played out hard right over the baited spot. A more sensible approach would be to fish an area twenty or so yards upstream and draw the fish up, that would reduce the chance of spooking them greatly as they carried out their natural cycle of moving on and off of a baited spot. The thing is I just wanted to try. The upstream swim gives no visibility at all whereas from my spot I could monitor the barbel's reactions and learn from it, not just interesting but absolutely captivating.

My plan was to bait and wait in order to try and build confidence to the extent that I could over come the disturbance factor however I didn't have limitless time and before I started I decided that three hours in would be my time to introduce a baited rig. Pellet was my bait of choice, a mixture of of sizes and types from micro up to 8mm, and I initially introduced eight bait droppers worth into the swim. Within a minute or two I started to see barbel gliding across the gravel, dropping down from the snag and approaching the bait from downstream, brilliant to watch and something I never tire of. Two or three fish were present initially though it is difficult to keep tabs on numbers when the barbel are flitting in and out of view as is their way of feeding. I left them to feed in peace while I entertained myself in trying to film some chub hanging in amongst the snag itself, interestingly they were present before I put any bait in and showed no sign of dropping down to feed on it. After three quarters of an hour it was apparent that the barbel were present in the swim with less frequency and so it was time to give them another feed. That certainly did the trick and barbel were actually moving in on the bait dropper as it hit the river bed showing very little sign of spooking at all, this was starting to look positive already. 

Over the course of the next two hours I fed three more times and I would estimate that the most barbel I had in front of me at one time was eight though I'm sure that the total number visiting was more. It was also apparent that the chub had now decided to join the party as the three that were in the snag had disappeared and I kept catching sight of the odd one over the bait, it was time to have a go at catching one.

The rig was placed with next to no disturbance due to fishing less than a rod length from the bank, all that was required was to swing the lead out and lower it just where I wanted it to end up, barbel were all around it within seconds. A minute or two passed with me half crouching behind the rod, peering into the water expecting to see the flash of a hooked barbel powering away at any moment. That is something of a dangerous game in this swim as you simply can't fish off of a baitrunner, the bite needs to be hit quickly and the fish bullied straight away in order to keep it from the snag hence the half crouch. I actually had a foot on the rod butt as a bit of security but then decided that I should just sit down. The day was roasting hot and I was started to feel the effects of standing still for so long anyway so it was the sensible option whichever way I looked at it. No sooner had I settled down when the rod buckled and I hit into a fish which it was immediately obvious was not a barbel. After spalshing around in the swim for a minute or two a decent chub was pulled ashore, how did that happen, out numbered greatly by the barbel yet old chubby chops snuck in first. It was actually a nice fish at 4lb 13oz but I feared for the result on my lovingly tended baited spot.

The question now was do I bait and wait once again or re-introduce the rig. Time was starting to run short and so I plumped for a combination of the two, a few droppers of pellet swiftly followed by the rig. To my relief, from what I could see, nothing much seemed to have changed, the fish were still in and out of the swim regularly and showed no obvious signs of being spooked. Ten minutes later and the rod whacked around again and this was without a shadow of a doubt a fish of the whiskered variety. The heart stopping scrap which is a neccessity in this swim went in my favour and a quality barbel was soon lying in the margins recovering. The scales read 9lb 8oz's and I quickly fired off a few pictures before getting her back into the wet stuff.

River Derwent Barbel Stalking
The lucky fish that beat the chub!
Now this was really going to be the big test, would the barbel still be up for a feed after that turmoil? The last dose of pellet I had introduced certainly hadn't been cleared up but I did feel the need to give a bit of a tempter and so after popping the rig back into position I threw a few larger pellets in just upstream and let them drift down to the mark. The light was no longer in my favour meaning that I didn't have a completely clear view into the swim any longer but from what I could see at least one or two barbel were still visiting, the question was would I manage to hook one in the short time remaining before I had to leave. Half an hour later I thought that the answer to that question was yes as the rod top bent over yet again, the problem was that it was another chub, the greedy so and so! This one weighed 5lb's on the nose and I'll never turn my nose up at a fish like that but I couldn't help being a tad disapointed after all of that effort. To add insult to injury the chub had the last laugh, it made me chuckle anyway!

river derwent chub fishing
When chub attack!

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