I’m getting smaller but my fish are getting bigger (barbel article)

At the start of the year I decided to go on a diet. Not the crash type diet whereby you lose lots of weight in a short period of time, only to put it all on again later; but a more gradual – and permanent – weight loss. I certainly needed to shed a few pounds, as my weight had crept up over the years and I was shocked to see the scales register exactly eighteen stone as I stood on them on January 1!

Anyway, over the year I’ve got down to just above the sixteen stone mark, and with my final push I aim to be comfortably in the ‘fifteen’ bracket by the end of the year. Now you might ask, what has all this got to do with fishing? Well, as the years tick by, we do become more aware of our physical limitations. And certainly the type of fishing I do and enjoy, such as roving for miles along a riverbank, puts strain on the fragile body that I currently reside in!

Of course, I want to remain healthy so that I can play not only with my grandchildren, but also my great grand children as well! But a nice by-product of that is that I’ll be able to continue enjoying my angling in my twilight years as well. Well, that’s the plan. Of course, there are always situations beyond our control, but as much as it depends on me, I want to stay in good shape. Hence my angling snacks these days are more likely to be fruit than crisps and chocolate!

So that’s the first part of the title explained – I’m getting smaller! But what about my fish getting bigger? Well, the session in question was what you call a red-letter day and took place on one of my current target waters – the lower Severn. It was a mild day, but extremely windy. Fortunately, as the wind was blowing directly into the bank where I sat, the weather forecast was for a dry evening.

Although there had been recent rain in the western part of the country, the river itself showed no signs of it, and it was still low and sluggish with no colour whatsoever. I baited up as per usual – particles and boilies – and then began slowly to set up my two rods. I had set out from home a little earlier and so by 4.45 p.m. I had cast out and was waiting for some action.

Now that we’re in autumn, there is more chance of getting fish in the day, rather than having to wait until darkness, which is the case in the height of summer. And so it proved, when within an hour I had a screaming run on my right hand rod, which was positioned mid-river. As I struck into a barbel, unfortunately I had a hook pull, or so I thought.

On the retrieve I found that the hook length had snapped. I recalled that this had happened on a couple of occasions before in the same peg and in the same spot. Although there are no obvious snags in front of me, there is definitely something there that is causing the breaks. I decided to switch from mono to braid.

While it was still light I caught the first barbel of the session, a ‘baby’ at just 4-2-8. This was caught, incidentally, on the braid hook length rod, so it was nice to see the switch had produced a fish. I have been fishing for two seasons on the lower Severn with mono hook lengths, but prior to that I fished with braid, so it wasn’t anything new.

As dusk started to creep in, I had another barbel on the right hand rod. This time I could tell it was a better fish and did wonder if perhaps it could be a double. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I tend to try and guess the weight of the fish while playing it. I’m usually pretty accurate, and the ‘not quite a ten’ was thereabouts. Well, actually, at 8-15-0, ‘not quite a nine’ would have been a more appropriate guess.

I was also concerned as to why my left-hand rod had remained unusually quiet during the session. Fishing down the side, I tend to get more fish than out in the main flow. I therefore decided to reel in. I was attached to a willow branch! So it was hardly surprising that I hadn’t had a take.

However, recasting I did have a fish an hour or so later. Striking, I immediately knew that it was a chub on the end rather than a barbel. It certainly felt like a good fish and as it came to the side ready to be netted, it looked like a personal best was on the cards. I have yet to catch a six pound chub and my initial glance, as this fish slipped into the mesh, made me wonder whether this was it.

It wasn’t a particularly long fish, but it was very fat. It didn’t go to six pound unfortunately; in fact it was some way off. But at 5-8-0 it was a new personal best chub, and therefore made me a very happy man. It is the upper Severn that is synonymous with big chub, but this season I’ve had a couple of fives and several fours from the river below Worcester.

In fact, as I weighed, photographed and returned the fish, I promised myself that this coming winter I would return to the lower Severn specifically to target chub. Not to mention the decent roach that I suspect may also be there for the taking!

So the chub made me happy, but the best was yet to come. At 9.30 p.m. I had a barbel take on the right hand rod in mid-river. As soon as I struck into the fish, I could tell it was a good one; it didn’t take long to realise a double was on the end of the line.

As I played the fish I was glad that I had switched to braid. Confidence is an important factor as far as angling is concerned, and I felt good knowing that my hook length hadn’t picked up a weakness that would be exposed as the fish did its utmost to evade capture.

Like the chub caught previously in the session, as I slipped the net under the fish I could see it was a good one. ‘Definitely a twelve’ I said to myself as I took the hook out as the fish lay on the unhooking mat. And so it was, as the fish registered 12-10-0.

It’s the second biggest barbel I’ve had from the lower Severn; last season I caught a fish that was a whopping 13-11-0. But with several months still to go before March 15 comes around, there’s every chance that I can get another biggie or two. But that’s the thing about the lower Severn – you just never know what to expect. Still, even though I am getting smaller, my fish are getting bigger! And that sounds good to me.

(Article 14, originally published October 2003. If you like then why not share? Thanks)