The Dove runs close but it’s the Severn that does the honours (barbel article)

It was another hot day as I made my way north on the A38 to fish the River Dove. It’s often referred to as the Derbyshire Dove, but that’s not really fair on the neighbouring County of Staffordshire. For much of its life, the Dove actually forms the border between the two counties.

I’ve fished in both counties, although on this occasion it was to the Derbyshire side that I was heading. The water temperature was 19C, which was lower than I had expected, so I was quite pleased. I know as anglers, we tend to major on the lower limits of temperature in terms of our angling being affected, but we also need to recognise that the higher extremes also have a bearing on fish behaviour and feeding.

After baiting up, and getting everything organised, I cast out. As I sat there, with the sun still high in the cloudless afternoon sky, I was jolted into action as I had a take from a barbel. The fish powered off for the safety of some overhanging willows, but I managed to subdue it.

It had a mark that instantly I put it down as the same fish I had caught on my previous visit to this swim. However, when I weighed the fish it was just 8-14-0, compared to the 9-7-0 of the other one. There was no way the fish had lost that much weight in such a short time, so I put it down to a coincidence.

The fish was healthy enough and showed no signs of weight loss. It just goes to show that you need scales though, I was convinced it was the same fish, and that the weight was the same. To me, as a specimen angler, accurate scales are an important part of my fishing. If a fish is 9-15-8, then I want to know that. I don’t want scales that weigh different every time, so that you can keep going until you get your double, maybe on the fourth of fifth weighing attempt!

It’s always a ‘relief’ to get your first fish of every session under your belt. Not that I’m ashamed of blanks, but I’d sooner catch than not! And very often with my sort of fishing, you don’t get that many bites, so it’s important to take your chances.

But on this occasion I had another bite at a second cherry a couple of hours later. This fish fought incredibly well, and during the fight I was wondering if my first double of the season was about to see the inside of my landing net. As it came into view, I didn’t see anything that made me change my mind.

However, it wasn’t to be. At 9-14-0, it was the best of the season so far, for that I was very grateful, and particularly so that my barbel outings to date can all be counted on one hand! That fish proved to be my last of the session, but with a high ‘8’ and a high ‘9’ I was well pleased.

My next barbel session saw me heading South on the M5 to tackle the lower Severn. Actually it was the second time in a week I had made the same journey. However, the previous trip was not to do with fishing at all, it was to watch Wolves play in a pre-season friendly at Worcester City.

We went 3-0 up after fifteen minutes and it seemed like a glut of goals was on its way. However, just like our fishing, we need to take our chances when they come, because no more goals were scored. In fact Worcester came back to 2-3!

I am very fortunate where I live, as I’m not that far from both the M5 and the M6, and thence the whole motorway network of the nation. However, with all this Government talk of charging motorists to use the motorways, I suppose I need to make as much hay as I can while the sun still shines!

Talking of the sun shining, the temperatures were in the low 30’s! I was very grateful for the tree that overhung my swim and provided some shade as I set up on the banks of a low and almost canal-like River Severn. However, even though the river looked sluggish, that is very deceptive, as sadly many people find out every summer.

The river claims the lives of young people each year that decide to go for a swim. The Severn has undercurrents and can easily drag even the most powerful swimmer to a watery grave. Even as anglers we need to treat all water, particularly flowing water, with respect and caution.

After baiting up with seeds, I began to tackle up, ready to fish. However, a tree creeper that was working its way around a willow to my side distracted me. Although I am not in the Bill Oddie class, I’m still interested in the bird life that I encounter whilst angling. Therefore, I was happy to remain motionless for a minute or two, as I observed the bird, as it searched every nook and cranny on the tree for signs of insect life.

By the time I cast out the sun was still high in the sky. Unlike the Dove, the Severn in summer in my experience is definitely not a day venue. Funny really, when you consider the depths and nature of each river. It should be the other way round if anything.

I was fishing boilie, as I have done for most of my barbel sessions in the last season or two. I make my own boilies; they are totally original, from the base mix through to the ingredients. They have been successful as well, with eleven double figure barbel falling to their charms! And of course, as you’d imagine, I’m keeping my recipe close to my chest!

As I expected, it was after dark when I hooked my first fish, at 1.00 am. It didn’t fight like a barbel at all, and for most of the fight I was seriously wondering if I had actually hooked a massive chub! However, as it came into netting range, there was no mistaking those big, rubbery lips that a barbel possesses. They look like a lip collagen injection gone wrong! It took the scales to 7-6-0, making me wish it had been a chub. What a fish of a lifetime that would be.

Within forty-five minutes I was into fish number two of the session. This one felt a good fish. I don’t know if you’re like me and guess the weight of the fish that you’re playing? As I slipped the net under it, I could see that my first double of the season was safe and sound within its folds. However, I did remember my previous session on the Dove, when my first double was actually a couple of ounces short!

However, on weighing, this one didn’t ‘disappoint’. Mind, it was close, with the dial registering exactly 10 lb. They say half an ounce either way doesn’t matter, well believe me, in this case it does!

I had been dozing prior to catching this fish, but it’s amazing the adrenaline that your first double of the season produces. It was like drinking a whole pot of coffee in one go; suddenly I was wide-awake! An hour later, I had my third barbel of the session, this time a ‘baby’ at 6-7-8. As dawn broke, I packed up, ready to hit the M5 again.

So, if you were wondering about the title of this article, I’m sure it all makes sense now. With a 9.14 fish, the Dove indeed did come close to serving up my first double figure barbel of the season. However, it was the Severn that did the honours. And with my barbel campaign yet to really kick off, I feel I’m well set up to catch some serious fish. Roll on September!

Footnote – While transferring photos from my digital camera to the computer, I ‘lost’ the ones of the double figure barbel. What a pain! My only consolation was that it was ‘just’ 10lb and it wasn’t my first double. Imagine losing the photos of a really big fish or even your first double, which is always a special fish.

(Article number 5, originally published August 2003. If you like it why not share? Thanks)