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Season 2003/04

  • Thames Target (21/06/03)...

    • I want to have a go at raising my personal best barbel weight for the Thames this year, so with this in mind, my first trip of the season was to a stretch of the Upper Thames. It's a section below a weir, so no boats to contend with, plus, it is full of gravel shallows, and very weedy. It would seem to be good barbel habitat. All I could find on the day though was chub. I saw plenty of them, and in one swim I baited, I had a shoal of around 10 fish feeding freely. I watched them for over two hours hoping that a barbel or two would join them, but it was not to be, and in the end I couldn't resist wetting a line for one of the chub. The bait was snapped up within 20 seconds, and a chub of around 2lbs was soon in the net. The resulting commotion scattered the rest of the shoal, but as it was about time to leave, this didn't matter.


  • Wildlife Delight (27/06/03)...

    • Another trip to the venue I first visited, saw plenty of chub feeding again, but the barbel were as elusive as before. This time I couldn't tempt one onto the bank, and returned home fishless. However, the day was made special by the wildlife I saw. On a walk down the lower section of the stretch, I emerged from under some trees into the open field, and spotted an animal in the long grass, no more than five yards from me. I stopped immediately, and realised the creature was a badger. This was in the middle of the afternoon! The badger was not aware of my presence for several seconds, and I had a tremendous view of it while it snuffled about, presumably looking for food. I think it then realised I was there, as it looked around, then scuttled away into the trees. Also seen on this walk were two red deer, and a buzzard.


  • Good Company (29/06/03)...

    • This session was on the Cherwell, on a pre-arranged visit to meet a fellow Barbel Society member, Kevin. The venue has a caravan field at the top end, and Kevin had brought his 'van down for the week. When I arrived, we sat outside the 'van, and drank a couple of cold beers, while discussing various barbel-related matters, and putting the world to rights. After about an hour, we decided we really ought to do some fishing, and set off down-river fishing each swim in turn. Kevin managed a small chub, and we spotted several more, but the barbel were keeping themselves to themselves. Later we returned to the 'van for another beer, and a reassessment of tactics. A more stationary approach was adopted for the last couple of hours, but this was no more successful than the first approach. A more detailed account of the first three sessions of this season can be found here


  • More Thames Troubles (05/07/03)...

    • Back again to the upper Thames, and a repeat of the story of the first two visits, with plenty of chub feeding over baited areas, but no sign of the barbel. I'm convinced that barbel should be there somewhere, but they are proving very difficult to track down.


  • Severn Struggles (12/07/03)...

    • A club outing to the Severn at Hampton Loade. The river was very low, but I thought the swim I chose should produce a few barbel. I had a knock second cast, which gave me encouragement, but this turned out to be a false dawn. No more bites were forthcoming, despite ringing the changes with the baits. By mid-afternoon, I was in the full glare of the sun, and it had got very hot. I decided to pack up and retire to the shade of some trees, and relax until the match was over.


  • Teme Break (17/07/03 to 19/07/03)...

    • A three day visit to the Barbel Society waters on the River Teme saw me getting into the barbel for the first time this season. I had twelve barbel and four chub during the course of the trip. What was particularly remarkable was that in each of the five swims I fished, I hooked a fish first cast, usually within a minute of introducing the bait. Biggest of the barbel was 7.02. Although small, these Teme fish fought like tigers, setting off on powerful runs that stripped line from a clutch that was set to handle much bigger fish, and never giving up until in the net. Set in beautiful scenery, and packed with barbel, the Teme is truly a wonderful river. I just wish I could afford to spend more time there.


  • Kennet Trips (02/08/03, 09/08/03, 23/08/03)...

    • Two afternoon/evening sessions on the Kennet saw a total of six barbel and a chub coming to the net. The first session produced two small barbel and a chub, from two different swims, all coming to pellet baits. On the second trip, I had four barbel to 6.08, all from the same swim, as it was far too hot to roam about. Surprisingly, given the heat and very bright sunshine, all the fish came by six o'clock. The evening didn't produce any bites, except from crayfish. The third outing produced four more barbel, again all small, the biggest going 5.11.


  • Loddon Surprise (25/08/03)...

    • On the Bank Holiday Monday, after lounging around for a while at home in the morning, I decided to have a few hours on the bank, and just have a relaxing day watching the world go by, not really trying too hard to catch. I decided to fish the Loddon, as it's not far to travel. I was pleased to find I was the only one there. I baited a couple of swims with pellets, and moved back and forth between them, spending a couple of hours each in them. I had the rod on the handle on the ground, and used my tackle bag as a rod rest. This is unusual for me as I generally like to hold the rod and touch ledger.

       

      Just after three in the afternoon, the rod suddenly made a headlong plunge towards the river. Reaching hurriedly for it, I bent into what was obviously a good fish. Several minutes later I slipped it into the net. I left the net in the water for a few minutes to let it recover, and looking at it, I estimated the fish to weigh about nine pounds or so, maybe going into double-figures. When I eventually lifted the net out of the water and got the fish onto the unhooking mat, I was to get a pleasant surprise. The fish was very deep bodied, and much bigger than I'd first thought. Putting it onto the scales, the needle eventually steadied on 11.08.

       

      I was ecstatic. This was the second biggest fish I'd ever caught, the biggest for over four years, my best from the Loddon, and my best in daylight (nearly all my previous doubles have come in the dark). To cap it all, the fish was in pristine condition, well worth admiring in the daylight.

       

      Strange isn't it, most of the time I fish reasonably intently, yet on this day that was meant to be just relaxing, not taking it too seriously, and on a stretch I hadn't fished in over four years, I end up catching such a good fish. I like to think that this is a case of "what goes around, comes around" and some of  those sessions where I've worked my socks off for no reward are repaid on days like this.


  • More Kennet Fish and a Loddon Blank (30/08/03 & 07/09/03)...

    • Another visit to the Kennet saw two more small barbel coming to the net. The day was most notable for seeing three red deer standing in the river, browsing on the bank-side vegetation. They didn't see me at first, so I got down behind the long grass, got the camera out of the bag, and crawled towards them, trying to keep out of sight and as quiet as possible. I'd almost got close enough to take a decent photo, when something (probably me) startled one of them. From a standing start, it leapt clear over the back of one of the others, and they all shot away into the trees.

       

      The following week I paid a visit to the Loddon, but on  a different section to the one where I'd had the biggie recently. I'd never seen this stretch looking so low and clear as it did today. The bottom was clearly visible in many places where I'd never seen it before. I spotted one large barbel, possibly a double, but although I attracted it in quite close to the bank with loose-fed pellets, it didn't really feed on them and soon disappeared. I had no other indications of fish all day. I had a close encounter with a fox that I could see amongst the trees on the far bank. It was unaware of my presence until it came down to the bank. It spotted me, and for a few seconds we were "eyeballing" each other across the river, until it backed away and trotted off.


  • Quiet September and October Weeks (22/08/03 to 27/08/03 and 20/10/03 to 25/10/03)

    • My usual end of September week's holiday was less that fruitful. It started quite well, with four barbel to 8.08 from the Kennet, but two other sessions on the Kennet and one on the Loddon were bite-less. My October holiday was even worse, with only 2 small chub from the Kennet, and blanks on the Kennet again, St Patrick's Stream and the Loddon. Both weeks were very disappointing, as I would normally expect much better returns from these weeks, especially the October one, which has in the past been very good to me.


  • Remainder of the Season

    • The rest of the season was practically non-existent, due to work and illness. I only managed a couple of trips from November to the end of the season, both on the Kennet, with 3 barbel added to the total for the year. Certainly a disappointing latter half of the season - a time I normally expect to catch plenty of fish, with a few biggies among them. Hopefully, next year work will have settled down and allow me to get out a lot more.

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