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Hampshire Avon, Ringwood

First Double

River Kennet, Upper Benyons

10.09, River Loddon

River Teme, Bransford

As well as introducing me to West Ham, my dad also started me off in my fishing career during the sixties (he’s got a lot to answer for!). I really got into the sport during my early teens, fishing with my school-friend, the late and still-missed Peter Marsen, and with my local club, Bourne End Anglers on the River Thames, which is only a mile or so from my home.

At the time, most of the club members were essentially river anglers, and among our annual outings were trips to the Hampshire Avon at Ringwood. While I never caught a barbel on these trips, I did see a few landed. I also found myself captivated by the nature of the river, with its clear water and flowing weed beds, which were such a contrast to the slow deep waters I was used to on the Thames. I soon decided that barbel must be the ultimate fish to catch. In my mind, the barbel developed a kind of mystical quality that I still retain today, despite having landed hundreds of them. It’s a feeling I hope I never lose and each and every one I land, whether 2lbs or 10lbs, still gives me a thrill.

I caught my first barbel in the weir pool on our club water in 1972 – a fish of 3.06 on cheese. For many years, opportunities to fish specifically for them were very limited, as I didn’t have my own transport, and was fishing mainly club matches. Over the next 13 years, I caught a handful of barbel from the Thames and Kennet, but it wasn’t until a holiday on the Severn with my pal Graham Kent that my catches started to take off. Over the next few years, regular holidays in Bewdley saw us landing plenty of fish. We also began fishing the Hampshire Avon, and though we didn’t catch many fish there, we were able to increase our personal bests. In the early nineties, I gave up match fishing to fish exclusively for barbel. At the time, I thought it would take only a couple of years to get the barbel bug out of my system and return to matches, but a decade and numerous barbel later, the urge to keep catching them is still as strong as ever.

My first “double” fittingly came from the venue that had provided my early inspirations - the Avon at Ringwood - in 1992, and weighed 10.10. It was taken on a rolling meat bait. Until that day, I’d never really believed that I would ever catch a "double" - that was something only other anglers did, usually ones much better than I’d ever be. It was a magical moment when I saw the needle on the scales go over the 10lb mark. I hardly slept that night as I replayed the capture over and over again in my mind.

Possibly the most significant event in my barbel fishing career (other than that first double) was a day Graham and I spent under the tuition of master barbel angler Trefor West in 1996. Using many of the techniques he taught us that day, I've significantly increased my catch rate and the number of large specimens that I've caught.

In October 2005, a very special day happened on the famous and historic Royalty fishery on the Hampshire Avon, when I landed barbel of 13.00, 14.09 and 14.11. As well as including the first 14 pounders that I'd ever caught, this catch was recognised as both the best brace and best triple catch of barbel ever recorded from the Royalty.

Despite having caught a reasonable number of big fish, I wouldn’t regard myself as a specimen hunter, simply an angler who enjoys catching barbel of any size. Most of my fishing is done with the aim of catching a barbel - any barbel! My favourite method is a roving style with meat baits after dark or in floodwater, and I rarely spend more than 20 minutes in one swim when fishing this method. I also very much enjoy the style of feeder-fishing I use on the River Severn, where it is possible by the very heavy use of particle baits to get very large shoals of barbel on the feed. When the fish switch on to this method, it can get very exciting as the fish will often take the bait within seconds of it being cast out, as they compete for the food.

 

I am a member of The Barbel Society, and of the A.C.A.

 

I am firmly opposed to the introduction of barbel into still-waters, an environment which I believe is most unsuitable for this magnificent fish. Click Here for the facts on this important issue.

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