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Flying Start (18th June 2004)
My first outing of the season was to the Kennet. I arrived at about 8.30 am, and got off to a flying start when I had a thumping bite less than two minutes after introducing a bait into the water. It was a barbel of 5.04, and was followed by two more smaller barbel and a chub in the next three casts. I had to wait a couple of hours for some more action, when I had another two barbel in consecutive casts. One more barbel of 5.08 was to follow in mid-afternoon, plus one that got away under an overhanging bush, somehow leaving the still-baited hook attached to a branch. Pellets accounted for all the fish. This was certainly the best first session of a season I've ever had, and I can never remember taking one with the first cast. Although the fish were small, they were fighting fit, and gave very good accounts of themselves.
Still Flying (27th June 2004)
A second session on the same stretch of the Kennet saw eight barbel coming to the net. Again they were mainly small to middling fish, but were topped by a first cast 8.14 - a venue p.b. Pellets were the successful bait for all the fish, used in conjunction with a feeder. This change in approach to feeding seems to keep the fish coming more consistently. I fished the same swim quite a few times last year, and it often produced straight away, but would die completely after a couple of fish. I was using a dropper last year to put out a fair bit of bait to start with, then adding occasionally by hand, but the "little and often" approach seems better.
This is the best June I've had since 1998/99, which was my best season ever for numbers of fish, and also when I caught my p.b.
During the day, I had an encounter with a baby grass snake, which crawled through the vegetation on the bank. It was about 8-9 inches long, and I could clearly see its tongue flicking in and out. I tried to get the camera, but as soon as I moved, it shot away at quite a speed.
More Kennet Action (3rd July 2004)
Back on the same stretch of the Kennet as the first two sessions, I continued in similar form, taking five more barbel over an afternoon/evening session. As before, they were all small to middling fish, but it's always good to catch a few fish. In fact, for the most part I'd rather be getting plenty of action, rather than sitting it out for the odd biggun.
A Rare Catch (10th July 2004)
Arrived on the Kennet to find the stretch unusually busy, and ended up fishing it much lower down the section than I normally do. Having spent about fifteen minutes in a swim, someone came down the other bank and dropped in right opposite where I was casting. Despite me pointing this out to him, the selfish prat still continued to set up (bivvy and all!). I can't be bothered with idiots like this, so I moved down to another swim well away from him. All I managed was one bite, which turned out to be a roach of about a pound that had taken a liking to my pellet bait. This was the first roach that I'd caught for probably about ten years! To be fair, most of the baits I use (in particular the size of them) means that it is unlikely that I would catch them too often.
A Week's Holiday (17th to 23rd July 2004)
A week off work saw starting on the Kennet. After taking one barbel quite quickly from the first swim I fished, I then didn't have any more bites in the next three hours, so I moved swims, and proceeded to take six more barbel to 7.09 in the next four hours.
From the Monday to the Wednesday I spent three enjoyable days fishing the wonderful River Teme, catching eighteen barbel in total. Although there were no biggies amongst them, they all fought like tigers, and it was great fun. I caught the fish pretty steadily over the 3 days. However, I did get broken up three times on the last two days, firstly on a 10lb hooklength, then twice on a 12lb hooklength. These breakages did somewhat take the edge off the pleasure of the trip, and I'm at a loss to explain why this should have happened, as the braid I was using has always been reliable on previous occasions.
On the Friday, I was back on the Kennet, and the weather had got somewhat warmer than of late. I spent the day mainly catching the sun, but also managed to catch a small barbel and a very large chub of 5.11, which is the second biggest I've ever had. I was also rather surprised to see a Stealth Fighter go overhead - not what you'd normally expect to see! As it was the weekend of the Farnborough Airshow, I guess that's why it was here.
All-in-all, a productive week, spoiled only by those losses on the Teme. All the fish fell to pellet baits, and I'm more convinced that the feeding methods I'm using this season are having a positive effect, as I'm catching in much greater numbers than last year despite otherwise similar tactics, locations, and baits.
Not Quite There (31st July 2004)
After my holiday week's catches, my tally of barbel for the season had reached forty-six. Fishing the Kennet on possibly the hottest day of the season so far, I wondered if I could take that up to fifty by the end of July, which would have been a new landmark, but fell just one short. I fished right up to midnight to try to take that extra fish, but couldn't manage it. Two of the four fish I caught came from a swim I'd never fished before, which is always pleasing to do. In contrast to last week's Stealth Fighter, today I was visited by two WW2 fighters - a Spitfire and a Mustang.
An Eventful Day (7th August 2004)
Another very hot day on the Kennet. I hooked a barbel within five minutes, and all was progressing nicely until I got the net in the water, at which point the top section of the handle - the one with the net attached - parted company from the rest of the handle, and sank slowly out of sight. This gave me a bit of a problem as you can imagine, especially as there was a three foot drop to the water, which was going to make any attempt to get a hand to the fish rather difficult. Clearing away some vegetation with one hand while hanging on to the rod with the other, I found a small ledge just above water level just about big enough to get both feet on. I lowered myself onto it praying that it didn't give way and plunge me into the river. Luckily it held and I was able to get a hand to the fish and lift it out.
I then managed another five barbel, ranging from about 1lb (a lovely little specimen that even took to the air at one point!), to 9.00, plus a decent chub. So everything worked out rather nicely in the end after a disastrous start. Three of the barbel came from a swim that I hadn't fished yet this year, but in the past has only ever produced one fish at a time for me.
Up to fifty-five barbel for the season now, which equals the combined number for the last two seasons.
More Kennet Joy (14th August 2004)
I had a bit of a scare on the way to the river, when I went to overtake a car on a stretch of dual carriageway, only to find another car coming straight at me on the wrong side of the road. Fortunately I was able to get back into the inside lane in time. Talk about having your whole life flash in front of your eyes though!.
Although there weren't many anglers around when I arrived, all the swims I had in mind to fish were occupied, which forced a rethink. I tried a swim I'd never fished before for a couple of hours, but the only indications were from crayfish. I went for a walk down the bank and noticed that everyone else had disappeared, so I moved to one of the swims I'd originally intended to fish, and was quickly into a barbel. It was a very nice fish of 9.02, setting a new venue p.b. for the third time this season. It was also a nice fish to "christen" my new landing net handle with. The next cast produced another small barbel, then a move to another swim saw a mini-barbel of about 8 ozs making its way to the bank. It's very nice to see barbel of this size showing up, as it indicates that there has been some successful spawning.
Slowing Down (19th, 21st, 30th August 2004)
Three more sessions on the Kennet have produced seven barbel in total, biggest going 7.10. Despite catching early on all three outings, the returns are showing a dip from the early season results. It may be time to start varying tactics a bit more, as it seems the fish are wising up to the ones I've been using.
Picking Up Again? (11th September 2004)
After the previous three sessions that had seen catches falling away from the early season form, today saw a return to better form, with four barbel to 8.06 and couple of chub. The biggest barbel and one of the smaller ones came from a swim that I hadn't fished before, which was pleasing.
Lean Times Ended by Good Fish (20th September to 30th October 2004)
Both my regular week's Holidays' in September and October failed to live up to expectations, with just one barbel and a couple of chub coming to the net. I normally expect these weeks to be quite productive, but as it was last year, it was a disappointment. All sessions were on the Kennet, where I had been doing very well. The final session of October did see an improvement in fortunes however, as I netted two barbel, one going 9.06, which is a new venue PB. I decided on a switch of baits and tactics for this session. Having been on pellet all year, I switched to flavoured meat baits, fishing a roving style, and this seemed to do the trick.
A Grayling Test (30th December)
Had a smashing day out trotting for grayling on the Rivers Test and Dever. I'm fortunate to have occassional access to these rivers through my uncle being friends with a river-keeper. Andy was with me for his first visit to these rivers. Andy was soon netting his first-ever grayling, and I was also quickly into the fish, with a nice grayling of 1.12. Roving the banks of the Test, we both had a few more grayling and the odd trout, Andy also banking a grayling of 1.12. After some lunch, we had a go at the Dever. I managed to net a super grayling of 1.15 - a new p.b. I followed up next cast with a trout of 5.00, which is also a p.b. We both had some more fish from the Dever, before returning to the Test to add some more fish to our tallies.