Sunday, 29 September 2013

Big Derwent barbel - Jungle warfare

A little earlier in the summer I had been messing about in a swim on the Derwent that holds a lot of barbel but which is a devil to fish, the story of one particular session is here, Barbel stalking The long and short of it is that I can almost guarantee a fish per visit but I have never hooked more than one barbel and despite seeing one or two better fish in amongst the hoards have never had a double figure fish from there. It was on that last session that I got to thinking about an alternative line of attack. To say that the area is overgrown is an understatement and combined with high vertical banks which make fishing impossible along the majority of the stretch it was hard to see what else I could do. But after a bit of thrashing and poking about with a long bankstick I did identify a possible swim from which I could just maybe draw some of those resident fish to me, the problem was that it was somewhere in the region of forty yards upstream from the fish holding feature. Maybe next time I would give it a try.

Now until I had seen it with my own eyes I never imagined that you could possibly draw fish as far as is actually possible with a little bit of bait. It was when myself and my mate Steve had a day's fishing on the river Teme with Tref West years ago that our eyes were quite literally opened wide to the possibilities. With the river largely shallow and gin clear in the area that we were targeting it was amazing to watch fish home in on a dozen or so pellets from distances I simply never thought possible. The one particular swim that always comes to mind featured a tree on the far bank perhaps twenty yards downstream of where the free offerings were thrown in just feet from the near bank. On a river twenty yards wide those few pellets had the effect of drawing barbel, and in fact a couple of carp too, right up and across river in the space of ten minutes at the most. If you've never tried it and have a suitable river give it a go, you don't have to be able to see the whole river bed just a small clear area near the bank will do and two to three feet of water is plenty deep enough. What you have to consider is the head of barbel present. The more fish in the area the more competition there will be and the quicker the feeding response. On the Teme we were giving a swim fifteen to twenty minutes before moving on, when we brought the method back to the Soar I found that it could sometimes take an hour to see a fish or two arrive on the bait, you have to adapt the method to suit. If within the space of that hour you have chub visiting the swim then a few pellets won't last long at all. As with every kind of angling there are no rules set in stone.

Teme double figure barbel
10lb 2oz from the Teme. where DID I get that hat?

So, back to the Derwent. Trying to draw fish from forty yards away was a bit of a gamble to me though I knew full well that there was a good head of barbel in the area which was a great help. Of course there was also the possibility that fish could come on to my bait from a different direction too but I was sure that the vast majority of barbel were living in that hoofing great snag tree. With the water being too deep to allow me to see the river bed in the new swim there was only one way to test the theory and that was to fish it and a couple of weeks after my stalking visit I knocked off work mid afternoon and returned to see what I could pull out of the bag.

It was roasting hot, in fact after putting my kit down I just sat in the grass under a tree for ten minutes to try and cool off after the long walk. The next job was to make myself a bit of room amongst the head high bed of nettles, which was no easy task, and then it was time to get some bait in. First I got the bait dropper on the go and I had made the decision to bait two spots in the swim, eight droppers of mixed sized and different types of pellet went into each area along with half a dozen boilies. I then intended to use feeders to top the bait up regularly, not an approach that I use much on the smaller rivers but I felt that it was the way to go in this situation. As a rule I tend to keep disturbance to a minimum on this kind of venue and feeders are anything but stealthy but as I was fishing well away from the holding feature and also knew a large head of fish was present I decided that even if I was unfortunate enough to drop a feeder amongst feeding fish then there was a good chance that they would return.

I plopped the two rigs out to their respective areas and plonked myself down on a chair that only barely fitted between nettle stems and in fact one or two were poking at me which prompted the gardener in me into action. Out came the scissors and I set to snipping off the offending foliage, then spotted another bit here and there that would be best gone and it went on from there, just one of the odd traits with which I'm afflicted I'm afraid! Ten minutes later and just as I was at a critical stage in creating a topiary cockerel I was rudely interrupted by the upstream rod tip signalling a bite, there's no peace is there. After a very spirited fight considering its size a barbel was in the net, it must have taken me longer to thrash out the swim than it did to catch that one, I hadn't worked my Pied Piper magic on him and made him swim forty yards that's for sure.

Half an hour later it was the downstream rod that was rattling in the rest but old chubby checker was to blame this time. To be honest when I first saw it in the water it looked a big old fish but its length was deceptive as once on the bank it had no bulk to it at all and fell short of five pounds by a few ounces. I was recasting every twenty minutes or so now, particularly as I knew that the chub were about. In fact another chub hooked itself despite the extended hair rig that I was using, sometimes they just go into suicidal mode and no matter what you try they jump on the hook. I was adjusting the umbrella that I had initially packed because of the promise of rain but which ended up being a god send for some shade when the downstream rod went from static to ninety degrees in a fraction of a second, signalling what could only be a barbel. I was on it like a flash and despite having already set the clutch tight was forced to plunge the rod tip deep below the surface instantly as a scaley Exocet tried its best to get to the Trent via two nearside trees. Blimey that fish scrapped. My standard barbel rods for this kind of work are 1 3/4lb test curve but sometimes I think that I'd be better off using 2lbers just for that little bit more security, I certainly don't think that it would reduce the enjoyment of the fight one bit. Once I finally gained the upper hand the fish just held station in the flow directly in front of me and I couldn't do much with it until it decided to humour me, you have to love the species don't you, they really are great sport. Scooping her up into the mesh I knew that at long last I'd cracked the double from the stretch and when it comes as the result of a little bit of thinking outside of the box the result is so much sweeter.

Derwent double figure barbel
11lb 2oz

I got the rods back out after taking some pictures in the meadow behind me and sat back content with the world. I was not really bothered if I caught anything else at all to be honest and so when the river threw in one of its annoying little curve balls I wasn't too concerned. Over the space of no more than ten minutes great rafts of weed appeared from nowhere and by the nature of the swim there was no escape, wipe-out! I recast the rods a couple of times but it was soon obvious that it wasn't just a small amount of disturbed river that the weed had been uprooted from as it just kept coming, where from and why is a mystery but it didn't really matter. I packed up and had a leisurely stroll back across the fields, dropping my kit off at the van before continuing on along the back to explore pastures new for future reference.

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