In Search Of Bigger Fish

Late last week it dawned on me that it had been a long time since I sent an update up to Anglers’ Net, so I quickly scrambled to find my fishing diary. After a lot of searching and a few phone calls home from university later I was still none the wiser. So I tried remembering my various fishing trips at the end of the summer, and struggled to get any firm dates. So for this month only I’m going to give a brief summary of the past few months and give a detailed account of my most successful trips, of which I remember the dates exactly.

So what did I get up to between August and November? Well as I remember (!) my plan was to not only catch a personal best barbel, but also another 30 lb carp before I went back up to Nottingham in mid-September.
“Here’s the moon on a stick you ordered Mr..”
Then I didn’t expect to fish again until 2nd November, for the Annual Somerley charity match.

I had a quick barbel campaign on the St. Patrick’s stream, going three or four times in late August, and managed fish on every trip. My tactic was to dropper in hemp and pellets, leave it for two hours, and then fish big halibut or betaine pellets over the top. I struggled with liners and fast bites, and despite persevering with different rigs, including backleads; I think it was my baiting strategy that was wrong. In hindsight I think just introducing a couple of hook bait samples would have been more successful. The fish were probably pre-occupied picking up the tiny pellets and hemp grains and not really taking the big items. What I do know was my location was right, so the heavy baiting was maybe a bad idea. In total I had seven barbel, best nearly 9lb. The bigger fish avoided me, but at the back end of the season I’ve got a few spots that I really fancy when the water is higher.

The carp plans were more successful! A few trips in late August confirmed my suspicions that the carp had changed their feeding times, seeing little fish activity on my evening trips. So I tried one more trip at a different time before I headed back up to Notts…

1st September 2002. Berkshire Gravel Pit

So I had one more trip to try and achieve my summer’s goal of a thirty. I baited up for a couple of days beforehand, determined to put this summer’s failures in the past. The day was set, and I had a time challenge on my hands!…… At 9.30 am I had to be at work! I was on the water at 5am, and had decided to fish pop-up flavoured rubber corn on one rod and the Neons Plum pop-ups, which I discussed in my last article, on the other. I used one ounce swivel leads, on cut-down lead clips, to ensure the leads ejected in the heavy weed, and used a long lead core leader and light home made backleads swung off the rod tips. The first rig was the Plum pop-up and dropped about 10 feet out over the previous few days bait, but while I was rigging up the second rod the first one absolutely screamed off. The alarm pierced the dawn chorus, sending coots and ducks fluttering away and turning me from a relaxed angler into a nervous wreck. The fish here fight like demons! As usual it was very hectic, with some mad runs and direction changes by the fish, they’ll do anything to get to the weed, but you can’t give them an inch. Once you think it’s netting time you have to be 100% committed, because if you miss the fish, they’ll be in the marginal rush roots and lose the hook for sure! My nerves held, and despite my hands shaking like a leaf, he went in the net.
Holding the spreader and standing ankle high in the water, I knew I had this target in the bag, quite literally! A gorgeous chestnut brown mirror lay in the mesh, probably as emotional as me. I was absolutely over the moon with the weight of 30lb 10oz, and as usual I was on the phone to Dad straight away. He agreed to come on his way to work to do the photos. Amazingly this was my first trip out with my new digital camera, so I had to explain the process to my Dad when he arrived.
“It’s quite simple Dad, press this, look at this, and if it’s O.K., press again, and job done!”
This took a while to sink in, but eventually he managed a couple of good pics! Cheers Dad. I didn’t fish any longer, just packed up a happy lad and trundled off to work. My fourth thirty! Come on!

That trip was my last for a few months, as I headed back up to Nottingham, ready for the start of term. As usual I’ve been kept busy by my tutors, so there was no time for a break until November…

2nd November 2002. Hampshire Avon, Somerley

My first trip in 2 months wasn’t exactly the relaxing time I needed after a hectic half-semester at university, and was a struggle from beginning to end.

First challenge was that on Friday at 4pm I was still on a site survey in Yorkshire, and needed to be at Somerley for 9am the next day. In between I needed to drive back to Nottingham to grab some clothes, drive back to my Mum’s home in High Wycombe to sort out and collect a bit of fishing gear, and drive to Dad’s in Oxfordshire that evening. I slept there, and he drove us both to Hampshire early the next morning. I was absolutely shattered, but really tried to wake myself up because I don’t often get to fish venues like the Avon, and really wanted to have a crack at a big chub. Despite this being a barbel-only match, in aid of the Fiona Appleyard Appeal, it was my only trip for 2 months, and I wouldn’t fish again till Christmas, so I wanted to make it count. I wouldn’t win the match with a big chub, but that’s what I wanted!
I decided on a feeder attack, so obviously I had loads of maggots, a bag of feeders, and of course my feeder rod? Wrong! I had the maggots, but hadn’t packed the rest! Luckily I was fishing near the Christchurch Chairman, but more importantly absolute top bloke, Pete Reading, and he offered to lend me his prized feeder rod, and a couple of feeders. Not just this, but he told me exactly how to fish the swim I had chosen. This gave me the confidence to plug away all day on the feeder in the pouring rain and with rubbish coming down in rafts all the while. By the early afternoon it was all getting a bit much, I was knackered, soaking wet, cold and had seen little sign of those Avon chub. Stressed? Me? Never.
I was fishing a two ounce feeder to hold over to the far bank, and using an elastic band round the feeder to keep the single maggot hook bait, on a size 18, within an inch of the feeder. This is because the chub attack the feeder itself, sucking out the maggots, so this fools them into thinking the hook bait is just a maggot escaping from the feeder.
Normally when fishing this method you get a lot of liners, caused by the chub hitting the feeder, but there was so much rubbish coming down that I didn’t know whether I had fish in the swim or not. I was effectively fishing blind, either I would get a bite, or I wouldn’t, I just kept the feeder hitting the far bank.
“Whack!” As I sat there feeling sorry for myself, the tip absolutely cracked round and I just picked up the rod, firmly attached to a big fish. A typical deep solid fight, with occasional ‘thud, thud’ followed, and I knew it was a big chub on the end. It was a pretty hairy 10 minutes, hoping the size 18 and 2,6 lb line would hold firm. The debris coming down river didn’t help matters. Crunch time playing big fish on light line is when they get near the bank, and after steering the chub through the mid-river, I was waiting for a glimpse. I had the net ready, and I was determined the first look at the fish would see it in the net. And like the last fish I caught, that carp back in September, it went in first time.
It was fitting that at this point Pete Reading turned up for a chat to see how I was doing, and he was chuffed that I’d used his gear to good effect. He helped me weigh the fish, and despite looking like a scraper five, the scales whacked round to 5lb 13oz! After thanking Pete for the use of his rod, I asked for one last favour…. Could he take some photos? He grasped the use of the digital much quicker than Dad, and took some real quality pics. Thanks again Pete! It was a new personal best for me, and usually at this point, soaked through, tired, running out of bait and goal achieved, I would have given up, but as it was my only session in long while, I fished on. I didn’t have any more fish, but for the first time all day I was relaxed. I just sat there with a smug grin on my face, waiting for the sun to go behind the trees.

Afterwards at the evening fundraiser, we discovered that amongst 50 capable barbel anglers, only one small barbel was caught. And so John Harding won the match for the second time. Congratulations John! It looks like I made the right decision going for chub! Someone else who went for chub was good pal and RMC Angling Geezer, Adrian Ellis. And what a chub! After upping his personal best to 5lb 13oz in last years match (sound familiar?) he had an absolute monster of 6lb 8oz. Well done Adrian!

And that seems a very fitting and optimistic place to leave things. Two trips, two months, two gorgeous lumps. It will be Christmas before I’m out there again, but at least I’ve got those two photos to admire on my computer.

Once again, tight lines,
Fred – 2002