Conditions couldn't have been better for a couple of days barbel fishing on the river Teme. Mike Osborne and myself certainly had a good drive down from the north of England, we didn't even have any hold ups on the M5 M6 junction. With Mike driving I could relax and read all about the abysmal display of cricket by our team in Australia. As for Hussain, the less said the better. I certainly think the English ladies team would have made a fight of it.
It was 11-0 am when we arrived at the riverside car park. The river was up some four feet, the colour of milky coffee with a water temperature of 48 degrees farenheight. The weather was most delightful, blue sky, warm sunshine and the air temperature in the low 50's F
After putting on the kettle for a fresh brew I tackled up with a Masterline BJ barbel twin tip. It's a 12 foot rod with a detachable butt. The tips are one standard and the other a quiver. I used the standard tip which I find ideal for fishing fast water with the use of big leads. The stopping power of this rod with its standard tip is extremely good. I suppose it's best described as being a powerful rod with an action that goes through to the butt. Much of my barbel fishing demands a rod that will pull fish away from snags. This one, does just that.
I did find my Relum centre pin reel didn't fit into the butt, thankfully some work by Mike on a grindstone during my recent river Kennet trip had the reel fitting securely in the screw winch fitting. I had some sixty yards of 12lb line on the reel, threading the line through the guides, I put on a three ounce lead followed by a swivel to stop the lead going down to the hook. Some twelve inches of braided hook line material to which Mike had tied on a size 4 Partridge barbless hook with a hair, was then attached with a Palomar knot. I find it very difficult tying hairs on hooks and other small fiddly things with my hands, which these days which never seem to be free of pain. Sometimes I have to ask my friends to tie on a hook.
Having sorted out tackle and baits for the day, I finished off my tea and cake. Then we headed off for the river. We decided to fish the same area, which I suppose can be described as three separate swims. I decided to fish a big bit of luncheon meat, which I cast out to an area on my left which I thought might produce a fish. Within ten minutes I had to retrieve my tackle, after a load of rubbish dragged the bait out of the swim. In doing so I snagged on the bottom. All was solid, I had to pull for a break, losing all the end tackle. I tackled up once more, this time tying a size 4 Partridge barbless hook direct to the 12lb line. I also decided to move swims, after walking some two hundred yards or so downstream I came to a nice looking bit of water with a steady flow. Upstream about twelve feet were some fallen trees and bushes in the water, downstream some twenty feet a big tree over hung the river, many of its branches trailing down into the water offering overhead cover to any fish in the area.
I pinched on three LG shot some six inches from the hook, then baited with a big bit of crust, casting out I allowed the bait to roll in close to the bank where it settled in some quiet water. Within ten minutes, I had a tap on the rod then a slow pull round. A chub of some 4lbs plus gave a brief struggle before being netted. On the tackle I was using any chub would be quickly dragged to the net. Another big bit of crust was cast out. Ten minutes later I had another chub of 4lb plus. It was time to move on.
In my third choice swim, I had a bite within ten seconds. Another good size chub was quickly released. Baiting with a big chunk of meat I fished on for half an hour or so without a bite. It was time to move back to the previous swim, which I had previously baited up with half a loaf of mashed bread. Moving quietly into position, the hook was baited with a big chunk of meat. In the next hour I didn't get a bite. Hoping the barbel might have moved in and pushed the chub out, it was time to change over to bread crust.
Within ten minutes I had a slight tap on the rod tip, then a slow pull of an inch, the answering strike connected with what I thought was a snag on the bottom. Nothing moved. Cramping on the pressure in the hope it would pull free. I felt a slight movement, a good fish moved slowly out in the faster water. It felt heavy as it hugged the bottom, slowly moving out in the flow then upstream. No way did I want a fresh powerful fish upstream of me, where it could gain sanctuary in the bushes and tree branches that were in the river. As the fish moved level with me I cramped on as much pressure as I dare in the hope of turning the fish close to the bank and downstream of me.
The tactic worked. The power of the Masterline BJ twin quiver, 12lb line and centre pin reel worked to perfection. For some five but what seemed like ten minutes I kept the fish slogging away under the rod tip. Suddenly the fish gave up the struggle, then rolled on the surface where it was quickly netted. On the scales it went 9-1-0. A solid fish, all muscle. This fish certainly gave me a lot of pleasure. Laying the net and fish in the water, I went off to find Mike who had moved from his first choice swim. After saying I had got a nice barbel, I said "Can you take a take a picture for me". "Yes, of course, how big?" "Its a nine" I said. After a couple of pictures the fish was released, we both admired the fish in the waters edge until it suddenly moved off strongly for the deeper water. It was time for tea and sandwiches.
In the car park we chatted about the fishing, and the prospects. Agreeing things looked good, one of us might even get a double. I hoped it would be me. I was desperate for a double figure barbel having caught most fish of my dreams. We had beef sandwiches on bread baked in the old fashion way. None of that plastic, cold pudding type of bread we get insulted with in most supermarkets and shops these days. My local baker Crabtree of Clitheroe, personally bakes my loaf each day, a beautiful golden brown. After sandwiches we had fruit cake and more freshly brewed tea followed by a banana each. As we sat enjoying our food and drink, we both agreed it was nice to be retired. After packing away the tea brewing kit, we made our way down river, chatting as we did so about various swims, the different species of birds we had seen during the first session of fishing.
Before starting to fish I decided to have a good look downstream. I was most disappointed to see several swims from the past, no longer there, having been destroyed by the recent floods. Making my way back upstream I stopped off for a chat with Mike who was fishing a delightful bit of water with a steady flow. Upstream Mike had a willow tree over hanging the river with some of its branches trailing in the water. After chatting for some time in the late afternoon sunshine I moved off upstream to my swim.
Baiting with a big piece of meat, I cast out, allowing the bait to move down river then to swing in close to the bank where it settled in a quiet area of water. For some minutes I watched a Kingfisher hunting, he was very skilled in his work. Several times he dived catching a small fish. The Kingfisher then flew across to my bank, settling on a tree branch just downstream of where I was sitting. Thinking he might move closer to me, I set up one of my cameras. Suddenly, as I sat there he landed on my rod! Hoping the bird wouldn't notice the movement, I slowly lifting the camera to get the bird in the viewfinder. The kingfisher did notice the movement and flew off downstream. Half an hour later it was dusk and soon I was engulfed in the darkness.
It was just after 5pm when the rod tip was slowly pulled downwards. With a firm movement of the wrist I set a size 4 hook into a good fish. This fish, like the first one, didn't move off fast but hugged the bottom slowly moving upstream. I cramped on the pressure, trying to turn its head and pull the fish downstream away from the many snags to my left. The pressure told, the fish moved downstream. Once it was under the rod it was a slogging match. I was very confident with tackle and knots. I didn't for one moment think I wouldn't land the fish. It was more of thinking "Will it be a double?"
In the light of my headlamp I could see some big vortices in the water, occasionally when the fish was close to the surface I could see a big dark shape. It could well be my first double figure barbel I thought. Sinking the net in the water, I increased the pressure, slowly pulling the fish up on the surface, then over the net. It was a good fish, one I thought would be a double. It was certainly a fat fish. I had difficulty trying to see the scale needle in the fog that had descended during the time I was fighting the fish. Were the scales saying 10-12-0 or 11-12-0?. Laying the weigh net and fish in the landing net I wiped the scale face dry, then hoisted the fish on the hook. The needle went round to 9-12-0 then stopped. It wasn't my first double, but a good fish all the same. I was a happy angler. In the torch beam I watched the fish swim off strongly which I suppose is the most important thing of all. As I made my way back to my swim Mike arrived, where upon I told him about the 9-12-0 fish.
Fishing on in the darkness and enveloping fog I had another fish of 8lbs, again on a big bit of meat. I was lucky to get this fish. On being hooked it shot upstream very fast reaching the danger area, before I could take in all the slack line, where it tangled me up on a submerged branch of a bush laying in the water upstream of my fishing spot. As I slackened off, the fish would swim away, thinking it was free. I would then take in line until the fish reached the sunken branch once more where everything went solid. This happened on four occasions then it was free and quickly netted. This fish really did scrap. Unlike the other two barbel, this one didn't hug the bottom. From my experience of catching lots of Teme barbel between 6 and 8lbs, they are a far better fighting fish than those above this weight.
Mike arrived some ten minutes later saying "I've lost a barbel, then had a pike attack a chub. Finally I got all tangled up and decided to call it a day".
We went off to the local waterside tavern. Half an hour later, making our way back to the car we could see the fog was a lot thicker. In fact ice was covering everything. Not frost but ice. The temperature had certainly plummeted. Back at the car we quickly crawled into our sleeping bags. It was nine o'clock next morning when we unzipped them. The fog was quite dense. After bacon sandwiches and tea we decided we shouldn't fish but make our way home in the daylight when driving conditions would be better. Sadly the standard of driving was abysmal but we arrived home safely. I felt if we could have stayed I might well have had my first double figure barbel, or at least several good fish but common-sense dictated we should drive home.
A Great Day On The Aire
Having returned home early from the river Teme, I decided to join Stephen Ainscow of Ramsbottom near Bury Lancashire and visit the river Aire near Keighley. We planned to fish the Aire opposite the Keighley golf course.
I couldn't have wished for better conditions. The weather was perfect, overcast and warm. In fact in Keighley the temperature was 11 degrees C. First stop was KL Tackle to pick up some items of tackle and a couple of rod rests. Leaving the shop we headed for the river. As we approached the lay-by on the A65, I noticed a sheep at the top of the bank on the edge of this very busy main road. I could see a major accident if I didn't stop the sheep. I dialled 999 to seek assistance from the police, then spent some time keeping the sheep off the highway. I eventually managed to grab it by its horns. Some fifteen minutes later three hikers appeared, they helped me lift the beast over the fence into a field and out of danger. I again dialled 999 to say the emergency was over, I went off fishing.
The river very clear and flowing nicely. I chose to fish a deep hole on a bend, and for the first time ever on this river I baited with two pints of hemp and about a pint of pellets. These particles were left over from my river Teme trip. Tackle was 11foot Avon rod, Mitchell 300 reel 1952 vintage, 6lb line with a size 4 Partridge barbless hook. I pinched two LG shot on the line, six inches from the hook. I then baited with a big bit of crust.
Most times when chub fishing, I anchor the bait, but not today. I was going let the bait move slowly through the swim. The first bite accounted for a 6lb 4 ounce bream in excellent condition. This was followed by two chub 4-10-0 and 4-4-0. After a biteless half hour I had another bream which I didn't weigh but probably weighed around 4-8-0. In the hour before dusk I had six good bites accounting for six good chub all over 4lbs with two fives 5-2-0 and 5-4-0. Ten minutes into darkness I felt a gentle pluck on the line, and striking, I connected with a powerful fish. After some five minutes I had the fish in the net saying to myself "That's a big five" Laying the net on the grass I parted the wet mesh, then realised I might have a six pounder. On the scales it went 6-4-0 a new river Aire record beating my previous best by an ounce. The fish measured 22 1/2 inches with a girth of 16inches. Sadly the fish was hollow otherwise I would have had a fish weighing perhaps 6-12-0. As Stephen was fishing quite a long way off I called him up on my mobile. Some fifteen minutes later Stephen appeared. He then shot a couple of pictures, then the fish was weighed once more and recorded at 6-4-0.