You don’t always get what you want (barbel article)

As an angler I tend to be very focused. Even a casual glance at my angling journal reveals that I tend to concentrate on no more than two species at a time – currently chub and barbel – and usually just the one venue for each – the Sow and lower Severn respectively at present.

One of the advantages of a focused campaign is that you get to know the water very well. Now of course, it’s each to his own, and I don’t have a problem whatsoever with the angler who fishes a different venue each week, and even targets a new species – if any – every time he ventures out. That’s the great thing about angling, it can be whatever we want it to be to. But for me, well, I’ve already explained my approach to fishing!

However, for as much as I do set a very focused stall out when I go fishing, it’s important not to get disappointed when things don’t go to plan. And this diary entry typifies exactly why. The session in question saw me heading once more for the lower Severn.

For me, the lower Severn is from Stourport downstream, although some people do consider the river from Worcester onwards as the lower reaches. Of course, it’s all down to opinion really; there is no right or wrong as such. Personally I go for Stourport because that’s as far as you can go upstream before the river ceases to be navigable by boats.

But there is no doubt that as far as big barbel are concerned, it is below Worcester that most anglers think of when the lower Severn is mentioned. There are certainly some big fish in the river; however a word of caution is perhaps needed. The fish aren’t easy. The fish that inhabit the Severn as it deepens and widens are certainly no man’s debtor. They are under no obligation to be caught and will clearly prove that time and time again!

It’s easy to read the angling press, or even listen to the reports of individual anglers and get carried away. Fish of thirteen, fourteen and fifteen pounds are certainly caught every season, but they also most likely represent many hundreds of rod hours. I say ‘most likely’ because it is always possible to turn up somewhere for the first time and catch a biggie first cast. That’s the magic of angling! But the reality for most of us is that we have to work hard for our fish most of the time.

I find that the lower Severn, on its day, is a cracking river, where it’s more than possible to catch multiple doubles from the same swim. However, it seems that this extreme is equally matched by the flip side of the coin. It’s also quite realistic to fish for a couple of days and not even get a line bite!

And so it is, when one heads for the river, you simply don’t know what to expect. On this occasion I baited up as usual, putting out some particles in two different areas of the swim. With the water temperature now beginning to drop it’s also time to cut back on the feed. A bucket of particles in the summer has now become half a bucket. Very soon it may be just a couple of bait droppers, although when it’s that cold I’ll most likely be pursuing chub rather than barbel!

I am currently fishing home made boilies on my barbel campaign. In fact I have been doing so for the last couple or so seasons, and most of my doubles have succumbed to the little red balls. Of course, I’m not giving away any more information than that, and I’m sure you understand! I’ve had lots of e-mails on the subject, some asking very subtly what ingredients I recommend for boilies, to the more direct ones such as ‘Give me your recipe, I don’t have that much time to experiment’!

I am very happy to give out a certain amount of information, but some things you have to take to the grave with you. Well, maybe not quite that bad, the recipe is in my angling notebook at home! The one thing that I am sure about though is that the recipe works and I have total confidence in it. I’ve caught on it first time in venues where barbel are few and far between and therefore don’t see many anglers’ baits; I’ve also caught on it on what you might call a pressured water.

As well as barbel, I’ve also caught bream and lots of chub on hair rigged boilies. It seems that fishing bigger baits doesn’t always deter the other species. In fact, an examination of the size of the mouth of even a 4lb chub reveals that even a large boilie is not guaranteed to deter the species.

And so it was, as I set up on the banks of the Severn and cast out, I had a number of chub runs, characterised by a two to three second run (I fish with baitrunners on the river) and a strike into nothingness. However, I did finally land a chub, a fin perfect fish that weighed in at 2-15-0. Even a relatively small fish of that size made a size 4 Drennan boilie hook look minute when compared to the cavern that passes for a mouth!

More missed runs followed, until eventually I connected with another fish, taken from mid-river. It felt like a good fish and initially I assumed it to be a very small barbel, perhaps about 4lb. Or possibly, I thought to myself, it could be a big chub, once it had been hooked for more than a few seconds, and I had chance to assess what it was.

When it finally did come within netting range and I had my first glimpse, my revised opinion was confirmed – it was a decent chub. In fact, looking at it as I scooped it into the landing net, I did wonder whether I had broken the six-pound barrier. It certainly looked as if I may have done so.

However, the scales never lie; well certainly not in the case of my super accurate – and expensive – Salters anyway! So, I had to settle for a five-pound bracket fish instead of a six. And whilst it is true, as the title suggests ‘that you don’t ways get what you want’ it is equally true that one should not be disappointed either when a barbel fails to oblige, but a decent chub decides to take its place.

Looking at the photo of the chub though it certainly does look like a bigger fish than it actually was and I’ve no doubt I could have passed it off as a ‘6’. Now, there’s a topic for another day perhaps…

(Article 13, originally published October 2003. If you lile then why not share? Thanks)