23 October 2016

Still Searching For That Monster - Barbel

I have been concentrating on targeting Barbel recently in the hope of catching a good double and beating my long standing PB of 10lb 8oz. I have had some Autumn success and caught some cracking Barbel to just under 9lb (see previous post) but still the big girls elude me. I managed to get out for another two nights and didn't have the best of sessions starting of the first night loosing two suspected Barbel. The first one was a standard hook pull and as frustrating as it was at least the fish would come to no harm from trailing line but the second loss was a line cut from a snag which was more like someone slicing through my line with a samurai sword. I'm sure the Barbel will be absolutely fine and rid itself of the hook very quickly but I did loose some sleep over it. Sometimes there's just nothing you can do when luck isn't on your side.
The second day arrived and I finally managed to land a small Barbel pictured below that I estimate to be around 5 - 6lb.  I was off the mark and it was a nice consolation for the two losses the day previous. This was followed up with an early morning chub of around 2-3lb but despite its small size the fish was immaculate which is great to see.
My next session on the river was a quick overnighter and I decided to move to another section of the Medway further upstream. I felt that I had fished the previous swim hard and caught enough Barbel to warrant it a danger zone for the fish. I kept the rigs, approach and bait the same because of my success in the other swim. I had full confidence in these tactics. At 5am I was woken up to a take on my left hand rod and connected with a decent fish which decided to head straight towards some sunken snags. I managed to gain some control and redirected the fish into safe water. In the hast of my excitement I had forgotten to grab my head torch and with my brolly positioned up a steep slope it was far from reach. Its always difficult to land a fish in complete darkness but there I was with no other option. I gained line on the fish and he was about to surface when all of a sudden I realised I hadn't caught a fish but a giant carrot! The colours were almost luminous in the dark water and I easily directed it into the waiting landing net. It turned out to be an amazing bright orange Koi Carp with black markings to the top half of the body and orange eyes. I didn't weigh it but it was around 8lb and I was just in awe of its beauty. What a strange fish to catch, but as weird as it was to catch an 8lb koi carp from the Medway it was truly exciting and this type of surprise reinforces my love for rivers and the unknown stock they contain.
I was back down the river within a couple of days and decided to target the same swim where I had the carrot from two nights previous. As the light faded I drank a cup of coffee and thought about catching a massive Barbel of record proportions. Without a moments notice my bite alarm began to sing and I stumbled down the treacherous banks to my rod which was bent over double. I leant in to a good fish and after some strong powerful surges it came to the surface and I realised that this was the fish I had been after all Autumn and it was definitely a double figure Barbel. I grabbed my net and then everything went wrong. I managed to get the mesh of the net well and truly caught up with my bank stick tightening nut and it wouldn't come free. The fish was ready for netting and I was trying to untangle the mess with one hand when it occurred to me that this Barbel wasn't worth losing for a bank stick and bite alarm. I turned the net inside out with a flick of the wrist and threw the bank stick complete with Delkim into the mesh. I lowered it down into the river and scooped up my prize.
After a few minutes of allowing both the fish and I to recover from such an epic battle I lifted her onto the net and she went 11lb 7oz on the Rubens smashing my PB by a 1lb. For a Medway Barbel this is a huge fish and I was elated to say the least. I had achieved my goal for the Autumn and had enjoyed my fishing on such a beautiful river catching some stunning fish. To top off such a great session, after hair drying my Delkim for a few minutes it came back to life and still works so all ended well.

16 October 2016

Back to Barbel - Medway 2016

15/10/2016 - It has been almost two months since I last stepped on the banks of a river or lake with a fishing rod in my hand so this week I decided it was time to dive back into my fishing. The plan was to target the low stock of scale perfect Barbel on the River Medway. This year has been a difficult one with the loss of my twin sister in late February which ultimately put fishing to the back of my mind and I just didn’t have the drive to go. I did some time for the tench and a session for the eels but my heart wasn't fully in it. I planned a two night session in the hope of an Autumn Barbel but the success of capture didn’t really matter and it was just great to be back fishing.
The river was running low and like usual on the Medway was extremely coloured. I selected a swim with a depth of around four feet and fished to a deep gully over shallow plateaux in hope of intercepting the fish as they moved up the river. Two one metre hooklinks were constructed using my favourite Drennan Boilie Continental hooks in size eight tied to 15lb Drennan camo braid in clay colour perfectly camouflaged amongst the bottom of this particular river. The rigs were tied up to size eight E.S.P swivels which were popped into lead clips, the tail rubbers just nicked on to ensure the leads released. I then pinched a single split shot ten or so inches from the hook to pin everything to the bottom.
The session started well with instant success in the form of a small chub around the pound mark. I was a bit concerned that I might be plagued by small chub throughout the night but luckily this was to be the only small chub of the session. A couple hours later I got my first proper bite which bent the rod round double and sent the baitrunner into a fizzing frenzy. Picking up the rod I could tell it was a good fish and after convincing myself that a small Barbel was the culprit I was pleasantly surprised when a large chub surfaced and glided into the waiting landing net. On the Rubens she went 5lb exactly and after a quick self take I slipped her back into her watery home.
It wasn’t until 12.30am when I received my next bite which sent the rod flying in similar fashion to the first take and woke me from a deep sleep interrupting my dream about 30lb Barbel and buying an Aston with my lottery winnings. I went into pilot mode and jumped out of bed in urgency stumbling towards my screaming bite alarms but crash landing down the bank after a missed foot placement. With the finesse of a rugby player I capsized onto my waiting kettle which dug into my side just under my ribs. Caked in thick mud and with my side pounding I picked up the rod and connected with a decent fish that immediately motored upstream taking a steady amount of line with it. After a short but thrilling fight I landed a beautiful Barbel of 7lb 10oz and this was then followed up with another Barbel of 8lb 4oz at 3am. I climbed into the sack and headed back to 30lb Barbel land.
The next day proved uneventful and the action didn’t start until night set in. My mate Danny came down to see me and whilst drinking a cupper and sheltering from the rain my left hand bite alarm let out a few short burst of high pitched screaming and I connected with another Barbel. The river has a very low stock of Barbel and to have hooked three in one day is pretty much unheard of so this session was no doubt delivering the goods. This fish put up an immense fight and went on two really powerful runs trying to find sanctuary in some sunken snags. This one definitely had had his Weetabix for breakfast and it paid off when he managed to gain enough line to find refuge amongst the dreaded snags. I was now completely locked up, the fish wasn’t budging and it seemed as though landing this fish would not be a distant fantasy when all of a sudden the Barbel gods shined their rays of good fortune and my lined pinged free putting me in direct contact with the fish once again. Finally I had her ready for the net and my mate Danny did the honours. Not as big as I had hoped but at 8lb 14oz he was the biggest yet and I was elated
My next take was early Sunday morning when my left had rod had a screaming bite. The bite was so savage that by the time I got to the rod the fish was probably nearing the estuary twenty miles downstream or possibly had reached the channel. I managed to bring the fish back to England and a fantastic fight ensued. I lifted her up the steep bank and was pleasantly surprised to see I had actually caught a mirror carp of around 12lb which was surprising as this area of the Medway is a shallow, fast flowing and by no means ideal carp habitat. I put the rods back out and had yet another take early that morning. This was a completely different fight to the other fish and the power was immense. Unfortunately my rod tip got caught around the other rod tip and no line would peel from the reel. The inevitable happened and I was cracked off. I was gutted and I’m sure this was the one of the big girls. Morning arrived and I managed another carp of around 8lb and that concluded the trip.

To have caught so many decent fish on a hard low stock river was fantastic and all my hook holds were spot on. I got some great pictures of the session and can’t wait to return.