Only a small one but they all count (barbel article, entry 27)

Forever the opportunist, I was determined to take full advantage of some rain that came in from across the Atlantic, and do some barbel fishing. Due to the fact that I had an afternoon meeting in the Wolverhampton area, I had to race down the M5 in order to get to the lower Severn before it got too dark to set up. However, at this point, let me say that ‘racing’ to me means doing the speed limit of 70 mph! No fish is worth risking your life for.

On the way down, I had already, in my mind, selected a number of pegs that I was going to take a look at prior to fishing. With the river up and flowing pretty fast, the most important thing to do is to choose a peg that is safe. At the end of the evening I wanted to be walking back to my car and not floating downstream to be found at Tewkesbury or Gloucester the next morning. And I say that in all seriousness.

The peg I settled for meant that I could fish safely, as the banks were very slippery due to the rain that had fallen. However, due to the level of the river, I was hemmed in a bit and could only fish with one rod as opposed to my more usual two on the lower Severn. In addition, I had to swing the bait out underhand and so couldn’t really get any distance.

That wasn’t too important though, as the racing river meant that I wasn’t looking at fishing too far out anyway. Plus, there was plenty of depth literally under the rod tip. Due to arriving late in the afternoon, by the time I had cast out, there was just enough time to pour a cup of tea as darkness descended.

With the water temperature up to seven degrees, I was quite hopeful, and my faith was rewarded after an hour or so of fishing into the night when my rod tip started to move. Striking, I felt a fish, but could tell straight away that it wasn’t in the monster category! This was confirmed when a moment or two later I netted a fish that was just short of 7lb.

No more fish followed, even though I was expecting others to succumb to my boilies. The water temperature remained constant, but as the night wore on, the air reading fell sharply. By the time I ended the session, there was a covering of frost all over the ground, including my fishing tackle. It wasn’t a hardship to get back to the car and drive home with hot air blowing all over my hands, legs and face!

Hoping to continue taking advantage of the conditions, I concluded my angling for the week with another barbel trip, this time to the Derbyshire Dove. Walking to my chosen peg, with the river racing along, I was tempted to drop into a lovely looking slack that although I had not fished it before, looked inviting. However, this is not really the time of the year to experiment, and so I resisted temptation on this occasion, and headed for a tried and tested swim.

Even though I was intending on fishing down the side, it was obvious, looking at the river, that I needed a good lead weight to hold bottom. A five-ounce lead may seem over the top to some anglers, but in flood conditions, something heavy is needed to hold bottom.

One of the first things I did when I reached my chosen peg was to insert a stick at the water’s edge. It may not be very scientific, but it enabled me to see whether the river was rising, falling or steady. In addition, if there was movement, I could determine the rate at which the river was changing.

This information can be very helpful, particularly when you know that certain rivers respond to various stages of water level movement. As it was, the Dove was falling on this occasion, which helped me to feel confident, as I’ve often done well when the level is decreasing.

However, the session produced a blank. The water temperature was six degrees, and whilst I would have preferred it higher, that isn’t too bad. The main problem was the amount of leaves that were being washed down the flooded river.

As the accompanying photograph shows, the lead weight was completely covered. But surprisingly, the bait itself remained free of the debris being washed downstream. The lead acted as a barrier and helped to keep the boilie clear of leaves.

So the week ended with just the one barbel, but as the title suggests, even though it was small, they all count. And certainly, at this time of the year we do have to be thankful for what we can get at times. And my week wasn’t too bad, as my football team Wolves did manage a win in the third round of the FA Cup against Kidderminster Harriers!

(Entry 27 originally published January 2004)