2009 – Mid July Blog

Some Like It Hot…

Work on the next volume of Barbel Days And Ways continues apace and the schedule is becoming demanding. It’s also pretty punishing in the heat.

Stu and I slipped down to the Welsh borders hoping to fill our boots on the Wye but to say the conditions were against us would be something of an understatement. Air temperatures soared into the mid-eighties while the water temperature was an astonishing 72 degrees F, that’s 22C for the younger readers. Honestly, it was as clear and as warm as bath water except I reckon bath water probably has a higher dissolved oxygen content.

A bronzed battler (holding a nice barbel!)

Finding fish was like finding rocking horse droppings while wearing a blindfold but we got there in the end. Saying that, two of the three stretches we fished failed to produce despite careful baiting and fishing in the prime spots. Unfortunately, when you’re making a DVD you not only have to abide by the rules on baits, you have to catch in daylight, and thereby hangs a tail.

You also have to catch to order in the shortest possible time. Any fool can chuck out a feeder, lay back and wait for a few hours but that is the kiss of death for film making. The viewer wants action and the cameramen – that’s Stu and me – know that they don’t get to fish until the other guy has caught a fish so the pressure really is on to come up with the goods.

Chatting with Simon Evans

We were given every support and assistance on this trip by the Wye and Usk Foundation, particularly Deputy Director Simon Evans.

The work the Foundation has put in to open up salmon beats to the coarse angler is fantastic. I first fished the Wye some 19 years ago with Des Taylor and back then you were severely restricted as to where you could fish but today the W&UF provides access to 27 lengths of the Wye, most of which can be booked online. Some anglers complain about paying £15 or £20 for a day ticket without ever giving a second’s thought to the fact that they might have a mile or more of river reserved for the exclusive use of a couple of rods for that pitifully small sum. What’s more the beats are rotated so the fisheries don’t exactly get pressured.

Stu plays a fish as the light fades

To put this in context, it cost that much to watch Doncaster Rovers play in Division Two a few years back! I’ve personally paid for season permits up here in the grim north in the past few seasons that, when I divide the cost by the number of times I’ve fished on the waters, it works out a lot more than £20 a throw, I can tell you.

But we still felt priviledged to be fishing in glorious surroundings surrounded by abundant wildlife. Some of the atmospheric footage we shot will take your breath away when you get to see the finished DVD. Alas that is unlikely to be before next spring at the rate we’re going. By way of a change I’ve dropped in a little gallery of scenics, just to whet your appetite…

Of course, we British go a little mad whenever the sun shines for more than five minutes. On the final evening of our trip, Stu and I had identified two nice looking areas that warranted a bit of effort. One was upstream, the other downstream, so we set off in oposite directs to go and bait up. We’d deliberately waited for the hottest part of the afternoon to pass feeling that a teatime baiting would give us a better all-round chance.

It was as I quietly approached my swim that I came aware someone had beaten me too it. Not an angler mind, just a young couple taking advantage of the desolation. However, it was immediately clear things had progressed beyond skinny dipping…

What is the protocol in this situation? Cough, and ask them to move to a different swim perhaps? Brazen it out and start chucking a bait dropper around? I mean, good fishing times were very short!

When I told Stu his first question, after I’d convinced him I wasn’t making up the story was, “Did you get it on film? It’d make a terrific cut-away!”

No Stuart, I didn’t. We’re not making one of those films but I’ll tell you what, it’d be a damn site easier than filming barbel fishing in a heatwave.

 Wharfe Update

I wrote last month about the River Wharfe and how we had to abandon a filming session with Mick Wood because of the state of the river. Well, two weeks on it’s not looking a lot better. Just have a look at this picture sent to me by a mate. I’m sure if this had been floodwater we could have expected to fill our boots but the river is at normal summer level and the sheer volume of suspended sediments has knocked the fish right off the feed.
Yorkshire Tea Anyone?

Yorkshire Tea Anyone? This river is at NORMAL summer level!

What effect it will have on their recovery from spawning is anyone’s guess and I genuinely fear for this season’s fry and may those from the past few seasons, too. Dead fish have been reported higher up the river where the impact may be even worse.

Apparently it is the result of a very large moorland landslide, caused by the flash floods at Lindley Wood Reservoir. The suspension is actually in the reservoir itself and Yorkshire Water appear to be trying VERY HARD to rectify the situation by installing pumps to lift water from behind the landslide where the suspension is obviously less affected. They have also been compensating with ‘drinking water’ at a time when we traditionally approach the drought season which indicates just how seriously they must be taking this.

A Cracking Chub For Andy D

I walked my local stretch of the River Dearne at the weekend. Boy does this place get busy. I guess that’s because the fishing is free and it’s easy to get to but what a state it’s in. Litter everywhere and more empty lager cans than Des Taylor could drink in a month. Frankly it’s a tip yet it’s a rather appealing bit of river and quite capable of throwing up some rather nice fish.

If only the anglers would show a bit of respect. I watched a couple of guys beating down the undergrowth with bank sticks to create a swim above a lone hawthorne bush. I’ve crept up to this bush many a time and watched chub drifting in and out, completely oblivious to my presence but here they were, barely five yards away making more noise than the average act at Glastonbury. By the time they’d finished you could comfortably have erected a two-man bivvy had you wanted to and there was no cover whatsoever in front of them.

Did I mention the river is at least 18 inches deep here…?

A little way upstream a bunch of pre-teen kids had a battery of rods pointing skywards in front of their little tent. I smiled, thinking at least it was good to see them out from behind their computer screens and off the street corners. This was a swim where a few weeks ago I was watching a group of carp in less than a foot of water just a few inches out from the bank, feeding happily. I doubt they’re there now.

Anyway, we walked on for another mile before crossing the river and heading back upstream. As Sue and I passed these kids again it seemed there had been a little drama just seconds before we drew level. One of the baits had been picked up and the nearest kid to the rod had snatched at it and smashed off. The kid who owned the rod was not happy. It was effin’ this and effin’ that and the bait runner was on so he could have effin’ left it and that would have been an effin’ barbel, while on, and effin’ on, he went.

Yet they looked such angels…

Well done Andy

Anyway, I had an email this week from Andy D, who frequently posts about the river on BFW, saying he’d had a pb chub from the Dearne not a mile from where I’m now sat – all six pounds of it. Well done Andy.

Grub Juice – What’s That All About?

Hands up, I’m a sceptic. But I guess you knew that already. So when I received an email from Andy Barker of Eurobaits asking me to try out the new wonder additive I almost gave him the polite thumbs down. Anyway, nothing ventured, nothing gained, I accepted his offer of a couple of bottle to try and took them down to the Trent.

Grub Juice is a sticky, slimy liquid made from maggots and it smells foul. But when you think about it, a maggot is a balloon of liquid, so is a caster and fish eat plenty of those, given an opportunity. You might say that Grub Juice is an inside out maggot.

Last time I was on the Trent I had spotted a few chub near a snag. It surprised me really because you don’t see many fish when you’re on the tidal Trent unless they’re leaping and crashing or in your landing net. I’d made a mental note to drop back and have a go for them – on the stick float. Any fool can catch fish on a bolt rig but there’s nothing to match running a float through.

Shoal fish...

I turned up with a LOT of maggots but first I chucked out a sleeper rod in the shape of a pellet feeder/ barbel rod combination. Well, I did so after introducing ten droppers of hemp and pellet. That was to prove a bad decision in some respects and a good one in others. Just depends how you look at it but the bottom line is, I had EIGHT barbel on the sleeper rod which played havoc with the rhythym of fishing a stick float. Guess I shouldn’t complain too loudly.

Whilst setting up the feeder I began feeding maggots doused in the Ggrub Juice. By the time I was ready half an hour had passed. Nothing happened on the first run through but the float burried on the second and I was into a cracking chub. Then the barbel rod was away. And that’s pretty much how the morning went.

...and more shoal fish

After five or six barbel the sleeper rod went quiet on me, so, just for the hell of it I glugged the hookbait in this Grub Juice and bingo. It was only out for 30 seconds before the tip hooped over and the reel’s drag began to sizzle. Barbel on and it was the biggest of the day. Not a monster as I was into shoal fish but a respectable fish all the same.

It happend three times in all before the swim died completely. In reality it probably needed a good going over with the bait dropper because you don’t introduce a great deal of bait using one rod with one feeder.

But back to the float. As bites dries up I was letting it run further and further down the swim which didn’t matter as I couldn’t see a single angler on either bank. And then I hit something big. At first I thought it was a barbel. In fact I was convinced it was a barbel right until the point where it surfaced in front of me and that’s when my knees went to jelly. It was the biggest chub I have ever seen – a veritable monster.

What will this go in the winter?

I was shaking when I netted it and my first thought was I’d got a near seven pounder – from the Trent – on a float!

Jeezus it was enormous!

And then the heavens opened. I called Matt Brown as a thunderstorm broke overhead and while I was on the phone I watched a great oak, not 200 yards away, crash to the ground having been struck by lightning. Whoaaah!!!!

Part of my ten chub catch

Greg Whithead from Angling Times kindly offered to come out and take a few pictures but while I was waiting for him I lost a big fish. I actually lost two big fish on the float that could have been carp or barbel as they took a lot of line from me but in both cases the hook pulled out. That’s a hook pull not a break and you don’t often get that with a barbel. I’ll wonder about those for some time to come I guess.

Anyway, I finished the session with ten chub and nine barbel, the star of the show being that chub which weighed a whacking 6lb 6oz but right now in the post-spawn period it was probably at it’s lowest weight of the whole year. Certainly it had the frame of a 7lb chub, it just lacked the girth but later this season it will be up there, be in no doubt. I just wonder if she’s got any mates… 

A Bonus For All You Tench Nuts:

I’ve made precious little time to go tench fishing this season and I regret that but for those who love their tinca tempting feel free to enjoy this article that I shot with Matt Brown for Coarse Fisherman magazine a couple of summers ago. Click below, be patient, and it will open up as a 5-page PDF format document exactly as it appeared in the magazine.

 Tench Fishing Special

…and as an extra, extra bonus, I’ve uploaded a guest article by Lee Swords relating his tale of a trip to Sywell Reservoir with Mike Townsend in the articles section.

 Well, I’ll be attending the Tacklefest show in Peterborough this weekend giving demonstrations on tench and barbel fishing as well as revealing a few insights into the making of the Barbel Days and Ways DVDs so if you’re around, do feel free to stop by and have a chat. Stu and I will be tending our own stand so you won’t have any trouble finding one or other of us.

But before then I’m hoping to squeeze a couple of hours in down the river. Wish me luck!