Fireworks on the Dove (barbel article)

It seemed like ages since I last fished the Dove, and in many ways it was. Although it had only been July, the fact that I fish a couple of times a week meant that, literally, a lot of water had passed under the bridge since my last trip into Derbyshire!

The only reason I had stayed away was because of the serious lack of rainfall that we have had since the river season started. Although the Dove below Uttoxeter can hardly be described as a stream, nevertheless it was still affected very much by the dry conditions.

However, the heavy downpours that the country experienced at the start of November, saw me rubbing my hands with glee at the prospect of heading north once more in pursuit of barbel. So, giving the river a day or two to let the excess water pass through, I got my Dove barbel gear ready and booked a day in my diary to go fishing.

The big barbel in the Dove are invariably never far from a snag, whether that be overhanging willows, tree roots, rocks or some other feature that offers security to them when hooked. Hence a trip to the Dove is very different in terms of tackle preparation, than say, a session on the lower Severn.

Although the fish on the latter grow much bigger, the nature of the river means that I fish very comfortably – and confidently – with 10lb breaking strain line for example. However, on the Dove, experience has shown me that using line of this strength in many of the swims I fish will result in a high percentage of lost fish.

Hence, as I set out to tackle the Dove for only the third time this season, I did so with reels loaded with 15lb breaking strain line. Now, many anglers may consider this too heavy; but believe me, I have lost enough fish in the past when using 10 and 12lb line. Therefore the decision I made last season to increase the line strength even further, was made not only to land more fish, but also to avoid the unwelcome scenario of fish swimming around trailing line from their mouths.

And along with the increase in line last year, I also stepped up my rods. I now use Daiwa Powermesh 2.5lb test curve rods when fishing in snag swims. Again, to many this may seem over the top, and even unsporting – but after losing a number of fish in the past, the use of rods of this nature is a necessity to avoid reeling in nothing more than loose line blowing around in the wind.

Arriving at the river, it looked good. As I had thought, the floodwater had quickly passed and was now in the Trent, working its way ultimately to the North Sea. Although there were still remnants of the recent rain passing through, namely the odd bit of weed or other such debris that gathered around the lead, in the main there was no problem.

Particularly during the colder months of the year, the first thing I do when arriving at the water’s edge is to check the temperature. First and foremost this enables me to decide how much bait to put in prior to actually casting a line. The temperature reading was fluctuating between nine and ten degrees – certainly a healthy enough figure, particularly as recent temperatures have been as low as six degrees.

By the time I finally cast out it was 1.15 p.m., and I was able to sit back in my chair, relax, and enjoy the peaceful surroundings of the Derbyshire countryside. The River Dove forms the border between the counties of Staffordshire and Derbyshire for much of its length, and although I have fished in both counties, on this occasion I was on the Derbyshire left bank.

Often non-anglers (and sometimes even fishermen themselves!) say to me that they wouldn’t have the patience to sit for hours, as I do, between fish. And of course, I take their point. But it’s all down to individual choice, and what we get out of our chosen pastime. Personally I don’t get bored when fishing, I find the hardest aspect of angling actually packing up at the end of a session!

On this trip I had a mere four hours to wait because at exactly 5.15 p.m., I had a fish on my left rod. Actually at first I suspected debris had attached itself to the lead and was pulling at the rod tip – it definitely looked like that. So I picked the rod up to rewind in and clear the terminal tackle of its unwanted host.

As I did so, I felt movement on the end of the line, instead of the expected dead weight of debris. Immediately I struck and found myself connected with a good barbel. As soon as the fish knew it was hooked, it instinctively headed for the overhanging willows on the far bank. This is where the stepped-up gear is invaluable. Even though the tackle odds were in my favour, I still had to hang on for dear life as the fish tried its utmost to reach the natural snag that would bring it liberation from the angler.

However, in this battle of sheer strength, the angler won! As soon as the fish was in open water, although it still gave 100% of itself, it was just a matter of time before it was safely in my net. As I scooped the fish in the mesh I could see that my first Dove double of the season was in the bag. Confirmation came as the scales registered 10lb 7oz.

Another couple of hours later and I’m doing battle with barbel number two. Again, I knew this was a good fish and prior to actually sighting the fish itself, I did wonder if I had made contact with another double. I have had multiple doubles (two fish) from the Dove before – in fact twice I have had fish of 11lb and 10lb in one session.

This fish however was just short of 9lb – 8-15-0 to be precise. Slipping it back into the water I knew that even if I didn’t catch any more fish, then I would go home very happy. And stick with the two I did, as no more fish succumbed to my boilies.

The rest of the session proved to quite explosive though in other ways. ‘Remember, remember the fifth of November’ so goes the old saying. To be honest I had completely forgotten, but the blaze of colour that filled the sky from a constant stream of sky bound fireworks, as the evening wore on, reminded me in no uncertain terms the date!

So with barbel that weighed in at 10-7-0 and 8-15-0 it was definitely a case of fireworks on the Dove!

 (Article 18, originally published November 2003. If you like why not share? Thanks)