Oktober Fest, (or so I had hoped).
One of the great advantages of working in a school is the breaks from work that come round every six or seven weeks and no mine are not all paid!
So the weekend before school ended for autumn half term we had enjoyed excellent conditions on my local river Nene. There had been some much needed rain during the week and by Saturday it had dropped a little but still had some tempting colour. So after lunch on Saturday I arrived at the weirpool at the top end of one of the backwaters on our club ticket and was soon rewarded with a good pull resulting in a small barbel which went 2lbs 1oz.. I get as much pleasure in catching small barbel as I do the bigger ones because they are the future of the fishery and I would like to think this fish is a result of natural recruitment.
Due to the nature of this backwater and its small size it is rare to get more than one fish from a swim unless thy are “really on it” so after a while I started making my way back downstream stopping off at a couple of swims for three quarters of an hour or so each. Along the way I met Pete, one of the Bailiffs, and we passed the time with fishing talk before one of his dogs scalded him indicating it was time to continue their walkies.
At the lower end of the backwater is a swim that has become named “The Royalty”. There is a footbridge rather than a train bridge but the water does drop into a deep pool just below the bridge. Strangely no one had fished this swim for the first couple of months of the season but the water has been so low this year it is now possible to fish from a flat ledge which normally is under water at the bottom of a steep slope. A bit of gardening was required by one angler to cut through some tough brambles and nettles but a well worn path has resulted. I have had some success from this swim both during the day and at last knockings. Today was no different and within five minutes of the bait hitting the river bed my rod tip went round and a barbel of 6lbs 5oz was on the mat glistening in the evening sun.
There is something I call the “five minute rule” which is the phenomenon of getting a barbel within five minutes of the bait going in with no pre-baiting having taken place. It is almost as if they are waiting for you to arrive.
The following day being Sunday I was able to fit in another session and having got a couple under my belt I decided to take a look at another venue that I had not visited for a while and had not produced as well as last year which I put down to the low clear water. With the better conditions I figured it could produce but there are only a limited number of swims on this stretch but I had a particular one in mind. As I strode across the meadow it looked like I was in luck and the swim was available but as I got close I could see it was taken and so were the ones above and below. A brief chat with one chap I recognised as a competent local angler confirmed the fish were on as he had had one barbel and was experiencing a lot of bites, but where to fish?
The weirpool upstream was a possibility but this has sadly changed in nature since I first fished it two seasons ago. The main pool has become very shallow which I can only put down to the force of winter floods but with the extra water it could be an outside possibility. No joy after half an hour and I got a feeling it was not going to produce so I made my way to another swim that had produced last season.. Soon I was getting indications on the rod tip but after wrestling with an eel I decided to move again to a deep hole I had caught some chub from in the past. Nothing doing there either so it was head scratching time.
The main river has produced some large fish but usually as a result of pre baiting over time to draw them in. There is a pool below a where a lock cutting and sluice converge which I had heard of barbel being taken form but never witnessed any captures from myself. It is a nice comfy swim with a flat grass area to sit on and looking across the river I could see a nice foam line in the coloured water from the sluice about two thirds of the way across.
Out went my piece of Garlic Spam and true to the five minute rule a solid pull round of the rod tip resulted in a cracking condition barbel at 7lbs 9ozs. Two of the anglers I had seen earlier were now wandering around looking for a new swim and they kindly took the picture below.
The angler on the far bank had just arrived so my next cast had to be more downstream which I did not feel so confident about but half an hour later another barbel of 4lbs 12ozs took a liking to Garlic Spam. I had promised to be home for Sunday dinner so with that I packed my gear away and went home satisfied with a good weekend and the prospect of one more week before I could be back again.
So the end of the week came and I was straight back to the spot in the photo for a Saturday afternoon session but now the water had lost its colour and flow, not a confidence booster. Unfortunately a blank so it was back to the alternative venue the following day.
So after an early lunch I wandered along the bank armed with both a fixed spool set up and my old Youngs Rapidex centre pin mounted on the second rod. I have picked up a few bonus fish this year by dropping a bait close in on the ‘pin, in fact all my doubles this year have fallen to this set up, but that is another story.
I set up in the weirpool with a plan to make my way downstream during the afternoon. The bait on the ‘pin outfit was dropped close in and the other rod was cast across into the flow which resulted in a snag up. I set this outfit up again but decided to move a bit further up stream to keep out of the snag at which point I was aware of being watched by a chap who kindly offered to pass my tackle over the barbed wire fence. I cast out and we continued talking with him telling me about his salmon fishing exploits and agreeing that I was in a swim that shouted barbel. Just as he was making his departure the rod top started bouncing around an I told him it looked like I was about to bring an eel in. We were both surprised to see a barbel of around 12-16ozs grace the net a minute or two later. More good signs of natural recruitment.
Soon after another barbel at an ounce under 4lbs came my way then it all went quiet so time to make my way downstream. With half an hour of daylight left I decided to finish the day at a swim known as The Nursery because its a good place to learn how to catch your first barbel. What you might call a “banker swim”.
Once again the five minute rule applied and a barbel of 5lbs 12ozs landed on the mat shortly followed by a chub of around 2lbs just as the light went.
I felt I was back on it but sadly the next two days in both venues with a variety of tactics were both blank. Confidence squashed.
Despite taking up serious barbel fishing two seasons ago I have continued with my syndicate membership on a trout fishing lake and when I feel a confidence boost is required I go and do some “fluff chucking”. It was now Wednesday and the temperature had dropped as a cold front came in with the threat of rain and no fish were seen to be moving despite being around lunchtime which we have found a good time on our lake.
Then I saw a fish rise a couple of times to the left of the boat but out of casting range. This was soon followed by a rise in front of me but slightly beyond on the limit of my cast. It then rose again slightly closer so I made the longest cast I could manage and quickly tightened the line to keep in touch. Another rise then a bow wave appeared beyond the end of my fly line followed by a solid take, fish on! A really good condition rainbow trout of about a pound and a half was soon recovering in the net to be returned as I prefer to let the other members take fish for the table.
Confidence regained it was back to the river. The cold front had passed through, dropped some rain on us and unseasonable warmth had returned so I made my way back to the weirpool with high expectations. The five minute rule did not come into action today so after three quarters of an hour I started to make my way downstream only to stop myself after a few yards. Just below the weir there is a swim we call The Nettles or The Spit as it is at the end of a spit of land that is formed between the backwater and a smaller stream that joins it. In high summer the nettles reach shoulder height and to get through to the water great care and fully protective clothing would not be out of order.
I made my way as far down the spit as I could and found a space just about large enough to place my seat without my feet dangling over the edge of the bank. The bulk of the flow is close in to the bank and at the end of the spit a large clump of now dying bulrushes indicated this was likely to be a good clean gravel bottom. The bait was cast level with the bulrushes a few feet into the stream of water which boiled a little as it passed this point. I placed the rod in the rest and started tidying my gear into limited space available at which point the rod top dipped down savagely but sprang back up. Typical chub type bite but no hook up as is common with hair rigged baits. Over the next couple of hours I introduced some free offerings via a bait dropper and had another four frustratingly similar indications on the rod tip. With about quarter an hour of daylight left I felt I just had to try something different so I wound in and recast across to the far side where there was virtually no flow, the terminal tackle settled on the river bed and immediately the tip began to flicker and then pull strongly downstream. A very spirited fight ensued and a barbel came to rest in the net which then had to carried a few yards upstream to where the was enough room to lay out the mat and set up the scales which confirmed the weight at 6lbs 12ozs.
An angler on his way home in the now diminishing light kindly took the picture below on my camera.
The following day was Friday 31st October (Halloween) and due to my wife having a lunchtime appointment my day was spent with my 12 year old daughter preparing for her Spooky Party that evening.
So it was Saturday before I could get on the bank again and after performing a number of domestic duties (fishing time always comes at a price) I headed off for the river. Two cars in the car park and I counted three anglers in the first few hundred yards so I reckoned my successful swim from two days back was going to waiting for me. It is a swim I have not seen anyone in for months so could hardly believe it when I saw another angler in there which made me wonder if news had spread on the “jungle drums”.
As I had walked virtually the full length of the fishery I decided to drop in the only other swim up stream in the weirpool and see if the other chap would move after a while. My heart was not entirely in it as I wanted to be in that Nettles Swim. Catching in a new swim always gives me the urge to return and I did wonder if there might be one of the larger fish hanging out there as it had not had much fishing pressure.
Few casts into the faster water flowing through the middle of the weir pool proved biteless so I tried one a bit closer to me off the main flow figuring they might be favouring the slacker water as I had discovered two days previously. My hunch was correct and following a trembling on the tip it pulled strongly and a fish was on. A real scrapper, as they all seem to be at this time of the year and while I gave it a good rest in the net I set the camera up on a bank stick attachment for a “selfie”. Six and a half pounds of muscle was then carefully placed in the shallow water and with a big shake of the tail it succeeded in giving my lower legs a soaking.
I had only just cast out again when Rob, another of the regulars came by walking his dogs and after some fishing chat and mutual admiration of prize captures on each other’s phones he kindly offered to see if my coveted swim had now been vacated.
Result! my competitor had vacated the spot so without hesitation I wound in, assembled my gear and walked briskly to my chosen spot while Rob retrieved one of his spaniels from the river for the second time.
I settled down quickly and cast to the far side area that had previously been successful. Immediately the tip started to flicker, could that be the lead settling in the flow? No it is slack water, must be a fish, small chub maybe? No! the tip jolted round and my hand which was already hovering over the rod lifted into a fish that took off downstream with its mind set on taking me into a big bed of bulrushes. I was on 12lb mainline with a 10lb braid hooklink so was confident in applying as much pressure as my 1.5lb TC rod would deliver and although the line was peeling off the clutch it certainly slowed its rate of progress. Again a very spirited fight and I was wondering if it could be one of the big girls but once it surfaced I could see it was in the same size class as the previous fish. A lot of surface splashing went on as I dipped the net a number of times before the fish slid over the rim. Weighed (6lbs 6oz), measured (63cm) and returned I had a hunch the commotion would probably have put paid to this swim, certainly for an hour or two so I wandered off downstream to try my luck in a couple of others. Half an hour in each and no action so it was back to The Nettles to see if I could tempt another in the limited daylight time left. A few casts around the swim and no action so I decided to try close to some bulrushes just slightly upstream. Tap, tap, tap, tap followed by the same but stronger made me lift the rod in the expectation of a small chub but given the bend in the rod this was not a small chub. It went straight into the backside cover, typical chub reaction and with some coaching away from potential snags holding the rod out at arms I had my net under the best chub (4lbs 7oz) I have caught this season. They have all been incidental catches while barbel fishing as my chub campaign does not normally start until we get a turn in the weather which was unseasonably warm at around 19 degrees C on the first of November.
Sunday followed and as I had used all my favours up during the week it was family duties including doing the Sunday roast and spending time with the children before we all had to return to school the following day.
So in all a mixed week with some successful days and some not so but that is fishing and if we just went along and caught every time where would be the challenge and the interest. The weeks was unseasonably warm with the Friday (Halloween being the warmest on record). While the warm weather continues the barbel quest will continue but once temperatures start dipping which must be soon now the chub will be my target and I have plans centred around some new paste recipes.
I will keep you informed!