28 July, 2017 |3 Comments
A few years ago I was shown a stretch of river I’d never visited before… the pinnacle of fishing for me…a stretch of river that you haven’t wet a line in! The mind races with the specimen barbel and chub that might lie beneath!
Walking the banks one or two areas really ticked all the boxes for me – the river swung around a long sweeping bend before dropping a foot or so and then being split in two by a gravel island – loads of overhanging trees just screamed barbel and chub. The water levels and power of the flow meant it was not really accessible at this time and unfortunately meant there was no opportunity to fish it but I made a mental note to get back to this place at the earliest opportunity! I just had to run a bait through that area.
Anyway a year or two passed but I just couldn’t get that swim out of my mind – this season was to be it, a date was set for an afternoon/early evening session on July 24th – I just hoped the level would be kind to us and not to high so we could get good access and that we wouldn’t get caught up too late at the office!
Anyway with the tackle ready and the bait prepared – a good selection of 3, 4 and 6mm feed pellets including Marine Halibut, Meaty Marine and The Source there was something there to suit all tastes – the different sizes and colours ensure different breakdown times and added attraction. Maggots would also be added to the mix to enticingly further waft downstream and pull fish into the baited area.
For the hook bait it was simple, the Krill Meaty Fish bites which I have total confidence in and our Hemp and Snails would be the main focus of attack. Every angler knows the power of juicy hemp for attracting and importantly holding fish – the snails epitomise the attractiveness further in the form of juicy snail meat that is cooked in the tin at the same time with the hemp. The snails come in both 4mm and 14mm sizes and both make a perfect alternative natural hook bait which most fish don’t seem to think twice about, especially when it’s tough going.
It was a bit of a warmer day than expected and without much rain to speak of since the season had started the level I was worried about shouldn’t be a problem . The low levels put a lot of anglers off – the fish are still there to be caught, you may just need to change your plan of attack. If anything I find it easier less water to find them in – simple!
Any way rain was forecast that night/ next morning – hopefully it wouldn’t arrive any earlier.
After a long trek downstream we found where we thought the access would be –the nettles and undergrowth suggested it had not been fished too heavily. A few nettle stings and grunts later and we had managed to force our way through and had first sight of the river or we thought we had. My fears of not being able to access the island easily were quickly evaporated – there was no island just extended banks – most of the Trent’s mighty gravel beds were totally exposed and gleaming like whitewashed bleached stones back at me. Nevertheless walking on further we found the main channel, which although restricted to one side of the island was still absolutely pushing through with considerable power.
The deep gully’s at the side of the island and under the trees which I had waited so long to fish were little more than ankle and knee high pools with no flow at all – they looked like they might hold a few fish but presenting a bait to them would be impossible and most probably futile!
Anyway we quickly set up a rod each and set about feeding a couple of likely looking areas on a small just off the main flow which was really flying through. The depth was nice around 6-8 feet deep, lets see what we could do. It was a nice trot and a relatively strong upstream breeze helped float control considerably. Feeding Hemp and pellets with some maggots as well, nothing was forthcoming in the first 20 minutes, something didn’t feel quite right! The water was lovely and clear but the bottom appeared quite barren … absolutely no weed growth whatsoever … not a single streamer of rannouculous in sight.
After about 1 hour and zero interest I could take no more, we quickly decided to move on and try our luck elsewhere. We decided to move back upstream where we had passed more pacey, shallower water where the streamer weed was growing in abundance. Not having fished this stretch before we had no real swim in mind, but choosing upstream was probably influenced by the fact we would heading back to the cars as much as anything else.
Stopping off every now again to check out a swim not much really grabbed my eye for the type of fishing we had come to do. Then on about the third time of dropping the gear and clambering down to the water’s edge, the bright sunshine highlighted 3 good sized chub wafting in and out of the weed behind the shade and cover of a low hanging willow tree. Carefully flicking out some hemp and a few mixed pellets revealed another chub and a small barbel. We continued to feed the small shoal whilst we decided on the plan of attack , after 10 or so minutes a bigger barbel joined the party making around 5-6 in total. We hastily made a decision for Duncan to drop a bait behind the tree from where we were, then even more quickly changed that decision before he flicked over his bale arm. At best we may have managed to extract one, maybe two if were lucky before spooking them. We put more feed in and quickly went upstream further still to see if we could get in the water and approach them from mid river and above.
Maybe 20 metres upstream and a couple of splashes and we were in. Moving stealthily downstream and mindful of not making much noise we continued to feed the swim with pellets, hemp and maggots, resisting the strong urge to straight away run a baited hook through. When we could resist no more it was time, a juicy snail was impaled and sent on it’s way. I was expecting quick action! The first cast plopped in perfectly, anticipation was short-lived , less than 10 metres down the swim it disappeared quickly below the surface, a quick strike was met with a solid thump and what felt like a good chub was on! Although a spirited fight entailed as the chub tried to get under the sanctuary of the trees it was no match for our tackle and our angle of attack- giving us good leverage.
A couple more chub followed before a lost fish made the swim unresponsive. With half an hours rest I was confident they would be back. With another handful of hemp we made our way downstream 30-40 yards to another likely looking area – a few more decent chub fell to our snail and krill fish bite hook-baits before I decided to head back upstream to the swim we had been feeding. Making a round detour to avoid noise in the swim and immediately downstream of it I startled a kingfisher who had been tirelessly working the same stretch as us. Ironically he decided to set up a new perch in exactly the same bushes I was heading for.
Once in position I decided to feed the swim some more , a handful of hemp and snails, a handful of the mixed Source and Marine Halibut pellets followed by a smaller handful of maggots. I repeated the pellets and hemp a further two times…then it was time! I carefully hooked a Krill fish bite on to the super sharp VMC 7018 pattern – a barbless hook that I have total confidence in. A nice subtle matt black finish with a reversed in-turned super strong point that gives a great hold – I have landed fish on these even when they have found the snags – usually game over for barbless patterns.
Anyway first trot down – there was a bit of interest, a quick flicker but the float stayed illuminated in the bright sunshine , then it was gone straight from view in an instant …. a instant sweep of the rod and fish on! The rod hooped over into that familiar curve that could surely only mean a barbel! Frantically dashing upstream, then from each bed of streamer weed it didn’t feel like the biggest in the swim but it was playing it’s part in putting a smile on my face and well punching above it’s weight! A few minutes later after a spirited scrap, at around 4lb it wasn’t going to break any records but it’s what we came for and proof they had moved into the swim.
It wasn’t long before Duncan saw the activity and came to join the action. Taking it in turns we repeatedly fed and trotted the swim picking up chub and more barbel.
Duncan being a relatively newcomer to float fishing the rivers – we needed to get him a barbel. I took a step back and gave him free reign of the swim, within 30 minutes another dip of the float and a solid strike sure that familiar curve that said barbel. Duncan was unsure, could have been another strong fit chub but the initial speed followed by a bit of a stalemate gave it away. A few minutes of huffing and puffing and Dunc’s first barbel was in the net, and she was a good one.. we didn’t weigh her but she was easily 8 ½ lb of Trent muscle – could have been quite a bit more if she had more of the season to feed post spawning.
The Krill and original fish bites seemed to be getting the quicker response and as the afternoon wore on the fish tally was rising nicely – I’d had 5 barbel and around 7 chub and Duncan had 5-6 chub and the one decent barbel which was the biggest fish of the afternoon.
The action was starting to slow but I felt there was more fish still to be had down the run, we increased the feed and clipped the floats up for a short while to build the confidence again. Duncan had to return to the bank for some more hemp and he also wanted to make a move upstream. This gave me another shot at the swim by myself – one rod working the swim definitely seems to not spook the fish as much.
A few more quick handfuls of pellets followed by some maggots revealed a bronze shadowy figure ghosting around the trees – it looked like a big barbel but I couldn’t be sure – never the less that sighting raised my heart rate and urgency a little.
Sending the float down as close to the trees as possible – it was on the second check back the float buried from view in a split second, I automatically reacted with an instant firm strike … then all hell broke loose! A good fish was hooked, first it was solid and hanging deep not moving too much staying this way for what felt an age – just a solid deep boaring sensation as it tried to get under the overhanging bushes. Locked in a stalemate – I was worried something might give – every now and again I would gain a few feet and the thing I was attached to would drill a bit harder and gain it straight back! Eventually I the fish broke loose and was then tearing all over the swim ripping through the streamer reed and cutting it up as it went – this certainly felt a good fish and it wasn’t planning on showing itself any time soon still. Eventually a few more spirited runs and I was definitely gaining the upper hand. Duncan had now got back in the water upon seeing the action and was on hand to net it for me in the fast water… First attempt and he did his best to ‘knock it off’ as the barbel quickly dived and changed direction on seeing the net. I think it was the 3rd attempt before it was finally lying safe in the mesh… a big fish by any standards but on the float a great result at over 10lb! Happy with that on a new stretch!
After the pandemonium of the last barbel we were thinking to explore some other areas … then Duncan’s next cast confirmed it … 8 inches too long it landed in the trees and not the river….oh well time for a new swim, with around 18-19 fish between us from this swim we were more than happy with the results, most of the fish being taken on Krill fish bites or the snail hook baits or a new paste being developed.
Dropping some gear back at the cars we headed up stream to explore further….quite a few swims just screamed fish … finding one we just couldn’t walk past we made our way into the water through shoulder high nettles. We had roughly an hour or so before the light faded to add to our tally. The time ticked by far too quickly as the sun got heavier in the sky but I managed another 3 barbel and lost one, and a couple more chub on the snails and Duncan picked up 3 more quality chub from the real fast water on the outside of a bend.
All in all a great way to spend some time out of the office – 8 barbel and 9 chub for me and 1 barbel and 9 chub for Duncan … a fantastic few hours fishing on a new stretch of river!