Monday, 21 May 2012

Dream Fishing

Steve Williams

A cold shudder of fear spread over me, sweat beads started to form on my forehead, my palms went clammy and I started to feel a bit sick.Why? Because I'd just opened up a PM on the Pikers Pit, and it was from Rob, asking me if I'd be willing to write something for the Pikers Pool.... 

The problem is, I'm not a full time Piker, so I don't feel qualified enough to attempting to write a 'Pike' article.Don't get me wrong though, I love my Pike fishing, and have a real 'thing' for Zander too. Perch also figure in my thoughts, but none of these figure any more than say Barbel, Roach, Eels or Chub. For me, almost every species has a place in my plans at some point throughout the season, depending on the time of year, weather, my mood, or even a tip off or snippet of info from a mate.

I still class myself as an all-rounder, with the exception of Carp.I'm not 'anti' Carp by any means, and I do have a few Summer evenings on some of my local club waters targeting them with bread fished under a piece of quill, on a Barbel rod and centerpin reel, but they just don't get under my skin like most other species. I rarely fish the circuit waters, preferring to challenge myself on local venues, so my PB list, although not anything by nationall standards is something I'm pretty pleased with, and more to the point, still leaves me some challenges to increase my biggest fsh of the different species.

There is, for me, something special about catching a 'big' fish from a local water.They may be small on a national scale, but I get a real buzz from catching say a 2lb Roach or a 5lb Chub from my local river Severn. I've lived in Bridgnorth, Shropshire for almost 20 years now. I brought my first house with my then, soon to be wife, Joanne, back in 1994, and immediately began scouring the local Ordnance Survey maps for waters, as you do.There were quite a few within a 5 mile radius, but one particular chain of lakes caught my eye. I soon had Joanne and myself out on an enjoyable morning walk along the Severn and then up across these pools to take my first look at them. Stunning just doesn't do it justice. The first lake we came across was a 19 acre estate lake, with reed beds, lilies and snaggy margins and a beautiful ornate boathouse.On the way home, I stopped off at the local tackle shop to enquire about who controlled the water, only to be told that it was private.....

I was gutted, and it was not until two years later, while flicking through Angling Times, that I discovered the water was actually controlled by a local angling club, and the feature in the Angling Times was basically saying that if they didn't get more members, the club would probably fold. I did think at the time that no wonder they were in trouble if even the local tackle shop didn't know they controlled the water! I couldn't write a cheque out quick enough, and only a few days later I received my Kinver Freeliners Angling Club membership card. The water I'd first seen was the 'Big Pool' on the National Trusts Dudmaston Estate, and although it turned out its not the best Pike water around, it is a stunning Tench water, holding massive natural stocks of these hard fighting, stunningly beautiful fish. Within a year or two I found myself getting involved in the running of the club, serving first on the committee, then as vice Chairman, Chairman and now 15 years on, I'm secretary. The club control a number of other waters around the area, including Hampton Loade on the river Severn, made famous by Matt Hayes and his Total Fishing/Great Rod Race programs.

I soon found myself spending many session out after Barbel. Staring off on conventional methods, fishing a feeder with small pellets and a bigger one on a hair rig, catching lots of what we know as 'splashers', which are what we class as any Barbel below about 4 or 5lbs. To be honest, catching 'specimen's didn't really figure in my thoughts.Don't get me wrong, I caught a few 8 and 9lb Barbel, but they tended to be few are far between, and I always felt it was just a numbers game. The more we caught the more chance we'd have of catching something a bit bigger.

One thing that soon became apparent, mainly from all the visiting anglers we get coming to the Severn Valley to fish for Barbel, is that at times they can be very difficult to catch. These fish are some of the most pressured in the country, regardless of their size. It was obvious that the 'standard' feeder approach was fine when the fish were really having it, but if we were suffering low clear water conditions, coupled with bright sky's, the visiting anglers would soon start the moaning about there been no Barbel in the river. The problem is, most of them would be on the beer during the evening, then a curry, back to the digs and sleep it off, rise at the crack of 10 or 11am, breakfast then head out, at what was probably the worst time of the day to fish. They would then fish till 5 or 6 in the afternoon, pack up, moan about how crap the river is these days, and bugger off back to the pub. Now don't get me wrong, if your having a lads holiday, and the fishing is secondary, then that's fine, but don't blame the river, the conditions or the fish.....

Not long after moving to Bridgnorth, I had a day out with well known Barbel angler, Trevor West.Amongst the number of things Trev showed me, one method in particular changed my approach to Barbel fishing more than any other. Trevor's name is synonymous with 'rolling meat' for Barbel. I've found the easiest way to explain rolling meat to someone, it to liken it to trotting a waggler down the river, only without the float. The bait is cast well upstream, and a bow is allowed to form. This bow allows the bait to trundle downstream in a straight line. If you were to simply cast out and across, the flow would pull the bait off line and become totally unnatural to a fish. Now over the years I've adapted the method to suit me and my fishing. On the right day, I can out fish the static feeder method at around 5 or 6 fish to 1. The number of times I've met up with visiting anglers leaving the river of an evening, chatted to them and found out they've caught next to nothing, then I've had a couple of casts in front of them while they watch on, muttering about 'nutty' local yamyam fishermen, only to bag a Barbel first or second chuck. Its amazing how 'lucky' I am !! 

Ok lets get down to some essentials because to roll meat for Barbel successfully you need a few things. Chest Waders are essential. I prefer Breathable ones, as I'm normally out 'rolling meat' during the summer.Polarised shades are also useful, to spot 'flashing' Barbel or deeper runs and weed beds. A rod, obviously. I tend to use a 'Barbel' rod of around 1.75tc.
Fixed spool reel, loaded with 12lb clear mono. I prefer mono to braid for this method, as a lot of the swims I'm rolling baits through tend to be snaggy, rock or boulder strewn areas. Some bait will be required and the good old luncheon meat rules. I cut my meat into two slabs then into four, which leaves me 8 'fishfinger' type pieces. These are carried in a bait bag around my waist and I can tear off a piece the size I require. Obviously some forcepts are required for unhooking. Notice there is no mention of a landing net. As I'm in the river most of the time, and tend to play my fish very hard, so they are landed quickly, I rarely take a net with me, it just slows me down.

The hooks are different and i important, and the lead wire loaded onto them is the key to fishing this method. Originally they were available through Trevor's 'Double T' products, and distributed by Partridge's of Redditch, but sadly they are no longer available, so the lead wire has to be sourced from elsewhere. I'm lucky to have a good friend that is involved in the tackle trade and he's been able to source some lead wire that is used in the making of styl weights for pole fishermen. If you can not get hold of lead wire, don't be tempted to use solder, because it’s just not heavy enough.


In the past when I've been short of stock, I've used the centre out of leadcore leaders and also brought the fly tying lead for weighting fly's, but problem with the fly tying lead wire is its very thin and you do need to do a number of windings to create enough weight. Another alternative is heavy metal putty with shrink tubing over the top, but this tends to be a bit 'thick' on the shank of the hook and can split the meat. Ok, so lets look at the rig............

You need a large hook, something like a size 1 or 2 is ideal, so you can load it
with plenty of lead. I use a number of different patterns, depending on what's available at the time, but strong patterns like Nash Fang or Drennan Boilie hooks are good. I wrap the lead wire around the shank of the hook, starting at the eye and working down and sometimes around the bend.The amount of wire I use depends on the flow I'm going to be fishing in. More wire in faster flows, less in slow flows.I tend to make up several hooks, with differing amounts of wire on them, and carry then in a small box.

I then tie the mainline direct to the hook and that's it.... simples..... I don't use any weight on the line at all. The reason for this is that any weight, even plasticine acts as a snag point and although plasticine does pull off the line quite easily, the damage is already done and the rig will be snagged.

So come on, lets go on an evenings fishing......

Its summer, late July, and the river is low and clear. As I open the door to the local tackle shop, I see a couple of lads who, it turns out, are from Doncaster and down for a few days fishing and are in buying bait.After exchanging pleasantries we get down to the nitty gritty of the fishing. As predictable as a sunrise, it turns out they've struggled for the last two days.Its their last day tomorrow, and in desperation they are switching from an all out pellet attack, to hemp and Caster, a classic Severn tactic, but I cringe as they hand over £30 for one days bait. I simply couldn't afford to fish like that, but I suppose its desperate measures.

Carol behind the counter makes a comment that the lads should tap me up for some info and advice... I smile and wait for the inevitable barrage of questions.How/what/where.... they soon start to flow.I've got the rod set up in the back of the truck, so I pop out and fetch it.I love the look on their faces when I hold out a single hook with some wire wrapped around it....its priceless, and I'm not disappointed this time.The two lads glance at each other then I get the almost guaranteed 'F#%K OFF' expletive from them, as the start to comprehend what I'm saying. To be honest, I'm wasting my time. There isn't a chance that this pair will leave the fishing till 5 or 6pm and forgo the local hospitality of the many pubs and restaurants in Bridgnorth, I can but try tho.I wish them good luck for tomorrow, as I amble off to the bridge to see if a few of my favourite spots are available.

The Middle Severn is made up of a series of deeper slow flowing stretches, interspersed with fast broken shallows and it’s the change from deep slow to fast broken water that I find most reliable.The stretch I'm fishing this evening is about 1/2 mile long, and has four such areas, so each one will get around 30 -45 mins, which should be ample to see if there is a fish or two at home and willing to feed.The first spot I look at is taken. An angler sits lazily on his chair, rod tops pointing to the sky, eyes half shut. I've no need to disturb him, as I can tell from his body language that he's doing about as well as everyone else has today.

Next is the bridge pool, and it’s free. The main flow comes under the far arch, so I wade out across the shallows into waste deep water, with the water flowing from right to left. I'm looking to bounce the bait along in the flow, from 30+ yards above me, to almost the same distance below, depending on how open the banks are.I impale a piece of meat around 1 1/2 inches long onto the hook, carefully inserting the point first, then rolling the hook into the meat so as not to split it. Once the hook is in almost to the eye, I grip it tight and turn it about 1/4 of a turn, making sure the point doesn't protrude from the side of the meat, as experience tells me that this is a snaggy spot and anything I can do to aid the baits passage through the weed, rocks and general rubbish normally found in urban waters, the better.

The first cast is made right under the arch of the bridge.I hold the rod tip high and allow line to peal off the rim of the reel under controlled tension,watching the line where it enters the water, because I'll be able to tell as soon as the bait touches bottom. Sure enough after what feels like an age, the line suddenly starts to 'plink' and vibrate on the surface, so I shut the bail-arm and drop the rod down to the left, allowing a large bow of line to be pulled downstream.Gradually the line tightens and I'm now fishing effectively.

Holding the rod in my right hand and the line in my left, pointing slightly downstream so the line comes off the rod top at right angles, I can feel the bait tripping bottom, with the slightest of plucks transmitted up the mine and down the rod. The bait momentarily sticks behind a rock, before the slight increase in pressure on the line lifts the bait up and over it.

Suddenly I feel a jolt, like a bolt of lightning through both the line and rod top as a fish takes the bait. I immediately let go of the line in my left hand and start to wind like mad. I need to take the bow out of the line and get into direct contact with the fish.There is no need to strike. The fish, for the first few seconds doesn't even know its hooked, but as I start to compress the rod round into a satisfying bend, all hell breaks loose and the fish strips 10 or 15ft of line off a tight clutch.

One of the beauties of this method is that most fish are hooked upstream of your position, so bringing them through dense weed beds is easy. If I'd have hooked this one on a standard set up cast across and downstream, I'm sure I'd have been snagged by now.The pressure soon tells and the fish swings downstream, gaining speed all the time,I clamp down on the spool of the reel and haul the rod over hard left to pull the Barbel off course.It works, and I'm soon cranking the reel handle hard, pumping the fish back upstream towards me. She surfaces in a cascade of spray, and slaps her tail angrily on the surface in front of me, before diving towards the bottom again. Her strength is sapping tho, and I soon raise her to the surface again. She gulps a mouthful of air and I know that the battle is almost over. I slacken the clutch, as she glides towards me and I bend my knees slightly to allow me to reach down and grip her across the shoulders. 

I smile as I struggle to get my thumb and forefinger to reach across her back. She a good fish, probably 8lb, dark on the back, giving way to the distinctive bronze flank and pearl while belly.The hook is nicely inside the mouth, and I need the forceps off the shoulder strap of my chest waders to enable me to remove it. I hold her, still in the water while she gathers her strength back. Her gills are pumping and I can soon feel the strength returning to her body. She try's to kick away, but I want to keep her for just a little longer, not only for her to recover, but for me to admire her beauty for just a second more, then with a flick of her tail and a splash, she's gone. No need for another cast here. Not only will any fish left in the swim have being disturbed, but there are more swims I want to fish.

Next spot is at the end of the island, where the two flows join.I can wade across the shallow Bylet, and fish on the crease between the two flows. Despite several casts, covering the near side, middle and far bank, nothing takes the bait.Below on the gravel, I can spot a pile of angling related rubbish left where it was dropped, and I realise that someone has obviously been fishing the area and probably put the fish down.No problem, and I put a note in my head to pop back on the way back to the car and clear away the litter.

About a hundred yards further downstream there is a nice deep far side run. The water right out to almost 2/3 of the way across is only ankle deep at best, but it suddenly falls away and disappears under a run of overhanging bushes.Knowing this run is deep and fast, I change the hook for one with more lead on it. I load the new hook with bait and flick it out and across the flow, landing with a 'plop' close to the far bank. Again the rod top is held high and the line flicks off the rip of the spool. Suddenly the line fly's forward and I feel a violent pull on the rod top.Chub!!. I allow the bait to continue to sink until I feel the bait touch down and it starts to trip the bottom.Almost immediately it snags, and I dip the rod top to increase pressure on the rig to see if it will come free.Nothing. So I slowly wind the bow out of the line, bounding the rod top as I do, in an attempt to fee the hook from the snag. Its not until I'm almost in direct contact that it all comes free and I wind the rig in to check.There is a small crushed piece of meat left on the hook shank, which is a sure sign of a chub attack.

I re-load the hook and cast out again on the same line, but just a little further upstream.The rig makes it to the bottom without the unwanted attention of the resident Chub, and I start to fish the run. First trip through, the rig makes it all the way down without a touch, so with the bait still sitting nicely one the hook, I re cast, but this time I slowly edge my way sidewards downstream, increasing the length of the trot.After about 8 or 9 steps, just as I stumble over an unseen rock on the river bed, I feel the urgent tugging down the rod top that alerts me to the fact that something's picked the bait up.

I allow the bite to develop, making sure its not just a Chublet attacking the bait, but very soon the line tightens and starts to cut upstream. I start the frantic winding of the reel handle, and the rod once again arches over into its battle curve.This fish is much quicker, zigzagging in the flow as I bring it right in to my feet.I can see its a splasher of maybe a couple of pound, and up it comes, dorsal erect and defiant. The hook hold is just inside the top lip, so I'm able to grip the shank and twist. Off she goes in a shower of spray.

I edge a few yards to my left again, as I re-bait the hook, and re cast.This is a good long run, and I haven't even got to the main area of over hanging snaggy bushes that normally hold the bulk of the fish.Once again I flick the bait out and across the flow, landing just inches short of the brambles trailing in the water.Its not as deep here, probably 5 or 6ft, so the bait reaches bottom fairly quickly.It bounces maybe 4 or 5 ft, before once again I'm letting go of the line in my left hand and winding down to make contact with another fish.

The light is fading fast now, and while the Barbel hugs bottom in the flow, fighting both the power of the rod and the flow, I notice the first of the evenings bats are out and skimming the water.This one is certainly bigger than the last, but it doesn't seem to have the same power as the first fish, and after the initial run, where it takes me round in a 180 degree turn, so I'm now playing her on the shallow side of the run, I have her circling in front of me.It certainly did a good job of impersonating a big Barbel, but I can just make out the shape of a fish of around 5 or 6lbs.Once up on the surface, the Barbel gulps air and the battle is over.

She comes in belly up, and I stoop to collect her at my side.The hook is again embedded in the top lip, and with the help of the forceps again, its out and I hold her in the flow to recover.She slides out of my hand and comes to rest on the gravel right next to my feet.I watch her, holding station in the flow, pink corral pecks outstretched like wings on an aeroplane as she gradually slides across the gravel in front of me and disappears out of sight.

I walk back to the bank and climb onto the path.Probably an hour of daylight left, but I'm more than happy to continue into the dark if I so wish.Wading, if you don't know the water well, can be problematic, but so long as you take your time, everything should be ok.

The final run is a cracker, coming out from a deep pool and sweeping across to my bank before disappearing under the bypass bridge and off through the caravan site.I start to make my way down the bank, but suddenly I hear voices.My heart sinks as I see three lads sitting side by side on the bank.They spot me, so I feel obliged to speak.Their southern accent gave me a clue, as I enquire if they’re visiting for the fishing.

They are, and struggling.

They ask if it was me in the river upstream of them, and was that a Barbel they'd seen me land.I explain that it was, and it was my third this evening, in only a couple of hours fishing.
I show them the rig, and one lad, the younger of the three seem interested, so I go into a bit more detail.He's keen to give it a try, but as he had no waders with him, it was going to be a case of getting wet.

I open the hook box and hand him a couple of spare hooks, the two older lads start to take the piss, but I recon if he gives it a go tomorrow evening, he may well catch a few.He shakes my hand, and I tell him that I may well be down again tomorrow, so I'll look out for him.I leave them to it, and make the short walk back to the car, not forgetting to stop and collect the rubbish left on the gravel bank upstream.

I wasn't planning on fishing tomorrow, but I might just nip out for an hour or two..........

1 comment:

  1. excellent article and very helpful. Trying for my first "proper" barbel this year and this method suits my travelling light preferences.... will definately be giving it a go this summer.