Who’s been fishing in my peg then? (barbel article)

Planning and preparation are important ingredients in ensuring that the fishing trip goes well; even more so if you are a specimen angler and bites may be few and far between at the best of times! Therefore, if you are like me, the planning goes as far as which swim you will fish. And so it was, as I headed for a lower Severn barbel session, that I had already picked my spot.

On this particular stretch, in all the times I have fished, I have never had a problem with other anglers in regards to swim selection. In fact, although others have arrived after me on the odd occasion, I have always turned up and had the pick of which meadow to fish, never mind which peg!

However, this time there was another car in the car park and as I walked along the riverbank, I discovered that the angler was in ‘my’ peg! Well, what do you do? You fish somewhere else of course!

Now, funnily enough, not every angler agrees with that statement. Fishing a peg once, someone came and stood behind me laden with all his gear. ‘How long you going to be?’ he enquired.

Another time I was fishing a southern gravel pit for the first time. I was the only angler for a day or so before another one turned up. He informed me that I was in ‘so-and-so’s’ swim! Apparently, the locals had got the lake sown up amongst themselves. Well, that’s fine if you are talking about a syndicate water and that’s what you’ve agreed on.

But if it’s a day/season ticket venue open to the public – tough! It’s first come, first served. Hence, when I arrived at the Severn, in reality no one was in ‘my’ peg, for the simple reason that it isn’t mine! The onus is on me to fish somewhere else – which is what I did. I dropped into a swim that I have had a look at before, but never actually fished.

One of the main considerations when choosing swims, certainly when on a venue like the lower Severn, and particularly when fishing into dark, is safety. And being the clumsy type, I know only too well what it is to fall into the river. Hence I go for pegs that should the worst come to the worst, I only go in up to the knees and not the neck!

After baiting up with particles I set up my two rods at leisure and with still an hour to go before dusk started to set in, I cast out. It was dark before I had my first fish, a chub on the left-hand rod. A decent enough fish, but as I’ve said many times before, it was seriously out matched with the heavy barbel tackle. Half an hour later and it’s chub number two, this time a much heavier fish, one that you could call a ‘clonker’!

But still no barbel. Until 9.35 pm that is, when my right hand rod came alive for the first time. It fought incredibly well; the sort of fight that if you lost the fish you would have sworn it was a double. Instead the scales registered a mere 5lb 5oz. A real baby compared to some of the fish that inhabit this part of the River Severn.

Still, I was grateful as it proved to be the only barbel of the session. This was my eighth barbel on my fifth trip this season. That is an average of 1.6 fish per session. Although there are some monsters lurking in the murky waters of the river below Worcester, they don’t always want to come out to play.

I stayed until almost 2.00 a.m. My wife and kids think I’m a raving lunatic, but at least they are happy for me to indulge in my fanatical pursuit of big fish! And I think they do understand really what drives me to spend long hours at remote venues in freezing weather, drenched to the bone, pounded by gale force winds, when most people are tucked up in bed with the central heating turned up full. Come to think of it, I do sound like a mad man don’t I!

And almost prophetically, the weather descriptions above were what greeted me on my sixth session of the season. As I arrived and set up, it was definitely what you would describe as an autumnal day. There was a chill in the air, the wind was strong and leaves were being blown everywhere, like confetti at a wedding.

This time I was the only angler on the stretch, and so was able to choose the peg I wanted! After baiting up, it was time to begin the wait until dark, which is when the barbel are likely to turn up. Whilst still light I had a few chub runs, but didn’t connect with any fish. Still, they keep you on your toes!

Less than an hour into dark and I had a fish on the left-hand rod. It didn’t feel like a real biggie, but nevertheless it still put up a good fight. The fish weighed in at 7-13-0. It’s hardly surprising that barbel have such a dedicated following amongst anglers. Anyone that has ever caught the species will know exactly what I am saying.

It was well and truly pitch black when I had another fish on the left rod. Again, another good fight, although I must ask the question, is it really worthwhile saying that? After all, when does a barbel not give of its all? No disrespect to the species, but we’re talking chalk and cheese as far as bream are concerned.

As it came to the net, it looked quite chunky, and if it were a little longer then I’d have been looking at my second Severn double of the season so far. Instead it was some way off that, although it did weigh in at exactly 1lb heavier than the previous barbel, at 8-13-0.

I certainly didn’t object to that becoming a pattern, but the third barbel, instead of 9-13-0 was 7-8-0. And yet ironically, it gave the best fight of the three fish. Still, I wasn’t complaining, it was nice to add three barbel to my tally for the lower Severn.

My catch rate for the river so far is much higher than last season. Mind, it’s not about quality but quantity, and if I can beat my Severn personal best of 13-11-0, which I caught last year, I will be happy to see my catch rate drop significantly!

But it wasn’t to be on this trip. I finished at midnight and walked back to the car, ready to undertake what has become a very familiar route over the last few seasons. And before this one is ended, I’ll be making many more I’m sure!

(Article 10, originally published September 2003. If you like, why not share? Thanks)