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Diary 2002/03

In Summary - The season was a difficult one for me, which I kind of expected, having decided to target a Cherwell barbel. Catching my first one was a source of great satisfaction, and in the end I managed to take one over the magic ten-pound mark, which was very pleasing. Overall I managed just 22 barbel in the season - the lowest return I've had in the ten years since I began to exclusively target barbel.

 

The disappointment of the Cherwell campaign was that I never managed to develop an understanding of the river's moods. There were a number of times when I thought I should catch, but failed to get a bite. Also disappointing, was when fishing other "easier" rivers, I didn't catch as many fish as I should have. This was partly tempered by the second-biggest Kennet barbel I've ever caught, which was taken from a stretch noted more for quantity of fish rather than quality. This made the catch especially pleasing.

 

Another enjoyable aspect of the campaign was that I started to communicate with and meet a number of fellow barbel anglers, some of whom have been very helpful in giving advice on catching more fish. This has resulted from using the message boards on the Barbel Society and Barbel Fishing World web-sites.

 

Click on the headings below to read the details of various sessions through the season. (Netscape users should see the details already)

  • Last Two Sessions (08/03/03 & 14/03/03)...

    • I arrived at the Cherwell to find it well up and coloured after rain over the last few days. I was confident of some success, but as ever this season, this particular section showed that it doesn't know the rules of barbel fishing, and failed to produce in good conditions. For the last day of the season, I joined a group of anglers who all contribute to the Barbel Fishing World website for a final bash on the Kennet. In all about 15 anglers were there, but conditions were not at all good, with temperatures plummeting towards a frost after dark. Only two barbel were caught, neither of them by me!


  • An Un-Nerving Experience (8/02/03)...

    • Fishing the Kennet, I'd had one small barbel out, and lost another, and was getting quite a few tentative knocks, all on meat. Moving into one of my favourite swims for the first time in the session, I was standing in the margins of the river (though it's normally dry land at normal levels) when, totally without warning, a large tree on the far bank toppled over, heading in my general direction. Needless to say, I was up the bank like a shot, though I needn't have worried, as the top of the tree landed a few yards short of where I'd been standing. The main flow of the river runs into the far bank where the tree once stood, so I assume it must have been undercut. If the water authority doesn't remove it, it should make an interesting new feature in the swim.


  • Kennet Biggie (26/01/03)...

    • My run of blanks has finally come to an end in some style, during an evening session on the Kennet near Newbury. I started by banking a barbel of 7.04 on the first cast (always an encouraging sign!). A couple of hours later in a different swim, I kept getting nervous knocks that weren't positive enough to strike at. Eventually after a bit of experimentation with bait size, I persuaded the fish to take it properly. After a dogged fight in a tight swim, I netted a fine barbel of 10.01, my second-biggest Kennet barbel. I also caught another of about four pounds later in the evening. Flavoured meat was the successful bait.


  • River Gods Take Revenge (29/12/02)...

    • Since taking three consecutive Cherwell p.b.'s in two sessions, the gods of the river have been taking their revenge. The next session I had saw me arrive at the riverbank only to discover that I'd left my landing net at home. The following two trips I might as well have left the net at home, as I didn't manage a single bite. This was disappointing, as in both sessions, I used the same recipe of boilies/paste as I'd used to catch the 8.15 the first time I'd used it, so I know it can work. My next two sessions over Christmas saw me firstly on the Cherwell, which was well up. I had one bite on meat and hooked it. The fish tore off downstream taking 12lb line against the clutch, but after a few seconds the hook pulled out. A few days later I was on the Kennet, which was not as high as I'd expected but was pushing through very fast. I didn't have a bite.


  • First Cherwell Double (23/11/02)...

    • Had a day off work, and decided to spend it wandering the banks of the Cherwell. The river was about four feet up, but surprisingly quite clear. It was also peeing down for most of the day. I moved around from swim to swim, fishing flavoured meat baits. In about the fourth swim I tried, I had a couple of hesitant plucks at the bait. The bite wouldn't develop, so I wound in, and put a much larger lump of meat on the hook. Within a minute, this was taken properly, and after an interesting fight in a tight swim, surrounded by overhanging trees, I netted a barbel of 9.14. An hour later, in the same swim that I'd taken the 8.15 from last time out, I had a confident take. After a few nervous moments when the fish tried hard to get the other side of a willow tree, I managed to get it into open water, where the fight took on a prolonged and dogged nature. Eventually, after several arm-aching minutes, I landed another large barbel. On the scales, I was delighted to see the needle go past the 10lb mark, eventually settling on 10.07.


  • New Venue P.B. (11/11/02)...

    • Had a bit of a disaster the other day, when the freezer packed up, and my supply of boilies that had taken me hours to make, all went off. With the colder weather upon us, I took the opportunity to experiment with a different recipe for my next batch of boilies. First time out, it proved quite successful, putting a new Cherwell p.b. of 8.15 on the bank.


  • An October Week (25/10/02)...

    • I've had this week off work, and have been out on the rivers three times so far. Firstly to the Kennet for an evening session, which produced two barbel, both around the six pound mark. The first of those gave me the most disappointing fight I can ever recall from a barbel, coming straight to the net with only one very half-hearted attempt to escape. Next outing was to the Cherwell, which looked in excellent condition after heavy rain, being about two feet up and nicely coloured. Unfortunately, the barbel didn't read the script, and failed to show, only a small chub coming to my net. Thursday morning dawned with a frost on the ground, which didn't look too promising, but I'd made arrangements to meet a fellow Barbel Society member for a session together, and we ended up on the Loddon, where he put me on a swim that he knew could produce in the prevailing conditions. It duly did so, with another couple of six-pounders gracing my net.


  • What a Blanker! (8/10/02)...

    • Since that last Cherwell barbel, I've four more sessions on that stretch, but with only a couple of chub from the first of those to show for it. Three total blanks followed that, not even a bite or a fish spotted. This is a bit disappointing, as for the first few weeks of the season, bites (from chub at least) were quite easy to come by. In between the Cherwell sessions, I've been over to the Kennet a couple of times, and blanked again on the first one. The second trip provided some joy, with four barbel to 8.01 falling to ledgered meat baits.


  • Cherwell Latest (26/08/02)...

    • Saturday 11th August - Up to today, all the barbel I'd taken from the Cherwell had come from just one swim, and on the same bait, F10 boilies. I decided not to fish this swim today, and concentrated on some others that I felt could hold a barbel or two. This hunch proved correct when I had a small barbel of 4.11 late on from a swim where I've had loads of chub this year. It was caught on an Essential Big Red boily.


  • Another Cherwell Barbel (11/08/02)...

    • Saturday 26th July, Saturday 3rd August, and Saturday 10th August - More sessions on the Cherwell saw another barbel coming to the bank, this one going 7.09, plus a few chub up to around 4.00. All fell to home-made F10 boilies. Also discovered that my waterproof trousers were no longer waterproof, and my legs got soaked during a downpour.


  • Success at Last! (16/07/02)...

    • Monday 15th July - At last, at the tenth attempt, I've finally had my first Cherwell barbel. It came half an-hour before the end of an afternoon-evening session. I'd not had a bite during the afternoon, and it wasn't until after eight o'clock that I had my first fish - a chub of around 3.00. I followed this with another small chub from a different swim, before switching swims again to catch the barbel. The barbel gave a classic wrench on the rod, and I was immediately aware that it was a barbel I'd hooked, as it surged under overhanging trees, taking line from the reel. Fortunately, I managed to turn it away from danger and into open water. It gave me a lively fight, but I was confident of netting it, which I duly did after about three or four minutes. On the scales, it registered 8.00 exactly. I was thoroughly delighted, and I rate this as one of the most pleasing captures I've ever made. I certainly feel like I've earned it after all the hard work in previous sessions. Successful bait was Essential F10 Meat boily with a paste wrapping. Three more sessions on the river during the same week resulted in a another barbel on the Friday, which came first cast, and from the same swim as Monday's. It weighed 5.05. I then took a chub of 4.04 on the next cast. There were ten other chub caught over the three sessions.


  • Severn Blank (15/07/02)...

    • Saturday 13th July, fished the middle Severn at Highley, on a club outing, and recorded a complete blank - not even an eel - something I can't remember doing in something like fifty-plus sessions on this river over the last seventeen years. To be fair, this was in part because I used specific barbel baits - boilies and meat - rather than my usual barrage of hemp/casters/maggots, which ruled out the capture of smaller fish like dace and gudgeon. The river looked in quite good nick, although it was surprisingly low, given the amount of rain we've had recently, so I was reasonably confident of some Barbus action. However, it was not to be. I wasn't alone as only about half a dozen barbel were caught between fifteen of us.


  • Deja Vu (07/07/02)...

    • Saturday 6th July and back on the Cherwell. First cast I had a chub of about 3.00, which turned out to be one that I had caught from the same swim last week, easily identified by two wounds on its right flank. Next cast produced another chub of 4.01. Having then moved off to try a couple of different swims, I returned to the first one about three hours later, and soon found myself into another chub. Amazingly, this was the same one that I'd had first cast. Although in the past I know I've had repeat captures, this is the first time I've knowingly caught the same fish twice on the same day. The successful bait was Essential "Big Red" boilies (as last week). The chub certainly seem to like these, but as yet I don't know whether the barbel do. Maybe the chub are getting there first and not giving the barbel a look-in.


  • Chubby Cherwell (01/07/02)...

    • Saturday 29th June on the Cherwell again, and it seemed for a while that I couldn't put a bait out without catching a chub. I had six to 4.00, from four different swims. All fell to Essential "Big Red" boilies. Good news on the barbel front is that I spotted two together, both around 5-6lbs. Unfortunately the swim was un-fishable due to nine feet high banks dropping sheer to the water. Still, at least I've now seen evidence that there are barbel there. All I have to do now is figure out how to catch them.


  • New Season Under Way (25/06/02)...

    • I was a few days late in getting the season under way this year, and didn't get out on the river until the season was 5 days old. I managed to get the day off to watch the England-Brazil match, and after the game I made my way to the Loddon upstream of Twyford on a stretch that I've not fished before. I fished a few swims using Essential F10 Meat boilies. Only one of those swims produced any bites, but two of those bites led to the downfall of a barbel of 7.06 and a chub of 4.15. This is the first time ever that I've managed to land a barbel on my first outing of a season, and also the first time I've caught on boilies, so it was quite a pleasing start. Pity about the football!

       

      The following day I paid a visit to the Cherwell in the Kidlington area. I spent quite a bit of time up there last summer, with no barbel to show for it, though I did catch plenty of bloody crayfish! For this visit I chose a stretch just upstream of the one I was on last term. It certainly looks a good bet as far as the barbel are concerned, with plenty of likely-looking swims. I had the place to myself, so I walked the stretch, and introduced some Essential Big Red boilies into a few swims. I fished each of them for about an hour each, and (like the day before) only one swim produced bites, both of which were chub around the 2.08 mark. I didn't see any barbel, but I'm sure they're there somewhere, and I'm optimistic that I can soon land my first barbel from this river. Also - big plus - no sign of bloody crayfish!