A barbel break beckons

The first target fish from a tough water is always immensely satisfying
The first target fish from a tough water is always immensely satisfying

Still happily tenching

I know the river season is a week old but I’m having real trouble dragging myself away from the tenching. I’ve not yet landed any monsters so far this year, in my book a nine pounder is still a monster tench, and at times the fishing has been hard. The thing is, whilst I would classify myself as primarily a river angler, once I’ve got that tench head on and the rods all rigged I’m kinda loathed to make the switch to running water too early. This is no bad thing with the weather we’ve been having of late. Both the chub and the barbel have spawned late and have been slow to respond while the tench are still some way off completing their nuptials. In some respects the cold spring has prolonged the best of the tench fishing which is another excuse not to be rushing to the riverbank on June 16th.

I guess the other reason I’m keen to keep on the tench trail is that I’m trying out a new water this season with some unknown potential which is always exciting. There are many Thames Valley gravel pits that hold big tench but this is one on the up rather than a water with a reputation for past glories.

Tactics for specimen tench are reasonably straightforward and involve moderate baiting with particles in clear areas adjacent to weedbeds and pronounced drop offs. I usually rely on hemp, caster, dead maggots and a few pellets delivered via a mini Spomb, surely the best invention in recent years, or thrown in by hand if I’m targeting a float line down the edge. Hook bait on the in-line feeders is the ever reliable mag-aligner set up using an artificial caster to offset the size 12 hook and two or three live wrigglers on the bend. Nowadays I tend to favour a pva caster bag on the second ledger rod fished with three artificial casters on a short hooklink fixed helicopter style between two lengths of anchor tubing to keep everything pinned down. This is particularly effective over light weed as the bait can be popped up off the lake bed depending on where the sinker shot is positioned on the braided hooklink. On the new pit I’m trying to fish one float and one feeder line in order to work out where the tench prefer to feed. There’s no doubt that floatfishing is a far more enjoyable way to catch tench but when you are fishing waters that rarely offer more than a couple of bites in a six hour session it pays to risk upsetting the purists by deploying bite alarms and bolt rigs.

My friends and I are not fans of using the scaled down carp tactics of some specimen tenchfishers. There’s no denying their effectiveness but I like to enjoy the fight from my fish and in any case the resident carpers are usually much more willing to impart invaluable information about where the ‘nuisance’ tench are showing if they can see that we really aren’t after their precious quarry. I find that my 12 ft, pound and half Fox barbel rods are perfect for tenching for up to 50 yards and I’ve yet to need to feel the need to cast any further.

Whilst my back up waters have produced good sized tench on a pretty regular basis this year I’ve been unable to find the monsters at Reading’s Englefield Lagoon. Switching to a new water is always a bit daunting, particularly one the size of a small inland sea where very little is known about the tench fishing. The few resident carpers have been helpful and I’ve been able to narrow my chosen area down to a few preferred swims. All have clear features and a couple have produced some nice accidental captures to carp tactics. Inevitably the first session was a blank but I did see fish in the area and so decided to return three days later after I’d given it a generous prebaiting and a good raking of the inside line. There’s no need to suffer undue sleeplessness when after gravel pit tench as on most waters the prime feeding times seem to be between breakfast and lunchtime.  I’m happy if my rods are in the water by 7am and I’m usually on my way home shortly after 1pm. The fishing may be hard but the hours are nice and civilised !

Session number two started promisingly as the chosen swim was vacant and there were sporadic bubbles appearing on the float line in response my sprinkling of hemp, caster and 4mm pellet. Despite ringing the changes on hookbaits and shotting patterns I couldn’t convert the dips and nudges into hitable bites so it was with some relief when the buzzer sounded on the maggot feeder rod positioned in a gully some 30 yards out. That was at 9.30am and a couple of hours later the same thing happened and two pristine tench two ounces either side of seven pounds opened my account on the new pit. I’m keen to get back for more but first I’ve got a very pleasant barbel break to look forward to.

An Audience with the Pope

I first met the Barbel Society’s Steve Pope last July when Des Taylor invited us both to speak at a post match forum during the excellent Bewdley Festival on the Severn. It turned we are both fans of the wonderful city of Sydney – Steve because he hibernates there with his family during the British winter and me because it’s where I spent a fabulous 15 months on a fishing sabbatical in between standing down from the House of Commons and returning to the UK to work for the Angling Trust. As it happens I was in Sydney again this March to celebrate my wife’s birthday but Steve and I were unable to hook up for a fish on the Harbour. To make up for it we resolved to have a session barbel together on Geoff Maynard’s beautiful stretch of the Wye at Llanthomas. Even better was to hear that our mutual friend Will Barnard from Fishing Magic would be joining us and that the weekend rain has lifted the levels enough to stir the barbel in action.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Wye is the best barbel fishery in the UK at the moment if you want to catch numbers of great looking fish in stunning surroundings which is precisely what floats my boat these days. I’ve yet to have a double off the river and quite frankly I don’t care. As long as that tip crashes round a few times during the session I’m happy. I’ve shared some big catches on this river over recent years with plenty of fish in the 8 – 9lb bracket. I reckon on a big, prolific river like the Wye catching a double is just a numbers game. Find the fish and catch enough of them and that ten pounder will appear.

I may be wrong and perhaps Mr Pope will show me why on the Wye. I’ll let you know how we get on.

Are there any finer looking barbel around than these River Wye beauties ?
Are there any finer looking barbel around than these River Wye beauties ?

3 thoughts on “A barbel break beckons

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