Baiting and waiting on the lower Severn (barbel article and video, entry 422)

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When you talk with barbel anglers you often hear references to a) that they can’t wait till October because that’s when it really becomes worthwhile and b) we need lots of rain, a river without it is a waste of time. Whilst I do think that the autumn is a good time to pursue barbel and there’s always something confidence-building about a river with extra water on it, I certainly don’t neglect the alternatives.

I write from time to time about the ‘self-fulfilling prophecies’, where ideas get repeated that many times they are treated like facts instead of opinions. And more importantly, because people take them on board they become self-fulfilling prophecies as no-one fishes that way, with that bait, in that swim or wherever, so they become realities as such.

One venue that is often the subject of comments is the lower Severn, with two of the common opinions stating that summer barbel is a waste of time and if the river is at minimal flow then basically try somewhere else. But on a personal level it’s when the venue is exactly like that I see the words ‘window of opportunity’ flash before my eyes.

With bait presentation easy and no debris wrapped around the line I actually relish those conditions. And more importantly, I’ve caught and as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And it works for me. It’s what I call ‘angling outside the box’.

On this particular occasion the river was well down, although bear in mind that this is the lower Severn I am writing about. Depending on the swim you still have twenty feet of water so it’s not exactly an issue when considering the ethics of targeting barbel in times of low water. Whilst some venues can get pretty busy the further you go down the Severn after Worcester the general rule is the fewer anglers you see.

Although one or two spots are popular and get a regular mention whenever someone posts on an angling forum about where to fish on the lower reaches, in the main bank activity is pretty quiet. And not without surprise too as it’s not for the angler who wants multiple catches of barbus barbus. There are plenty of broken barbel hearts left on the banks of the lower Severn.

As you can see on the accompanying video, the first thing I did on arrival was to put my seed mix out. This is made up of pigeon seeds ( you can check out an article a few weeks or so back where I gave details of where I buy them), well-soaked of course, and then some SBS corn steep liquor added after the water has been drained.

I then mix in brown crumb and ground wheat (5:1 ratio) and on this occasion added a handful of 14mm SBS lobworm boilies, which was my hookbait on both rods. Once the balls of bait had gone out I began to set the rods up. With plenty of time before evening I wasn’t racing against the clock. I always feel rushed when I am doing that as I prefer time to be on my side.

I recently got hold of some Korum Supernatural which I have been using as hooklength. It was only because my trustworthy Drennan carp Dacron was not in any of the local shops and looking on-line the postage was as much as the product, so I bought a spool from Dudley Tackle and Bait. Well actually my wife got it for me, it’s close to her mom’s and she picked it up on the recommendation of Jim who owns the shop.

Like the others I had tried, he hadn’t got any carp Dacron in, but said to me wife, ‘Take this, he won’t be disappointed’. And he was right, I wasn’t. I do take some convincing to actually switch stuff as I work on the basis that if it’s not broken don’t fix it, but in this case I actually think that not being able to source my braid of choice was a blessing in disguise.

Hook was a Drennan boilie hook size 6 with the hooklength itself being around twenty inches. I used a three ounce lead fixed between two beads with a powergum knot, which easily comes away in the event of a snag. Once the rods are out, as the title of this week’s article suggests, it’s a case of waiting.

And while you can do that all night on the lower Severn without so much as a take, that wasn’t the case this time round. It was action all the way through. I had three barbel but lots of chub, including some good quality fish. Plus I had a solitary bream; well you have to catch one of those on the lower Severn. By the time morning came round and I walked back to the car I was feeling quite tired and for the rest of the day I felt like a hybrid of a jet-lag traveller and a shift worker.

Although I didn’t capture any nature shots in the accompanying video, I did see an otter. I heard it first, then when it saw me it dived and left a trail of bubbles in the margins as it made its way upstream. I tried to capture it on film but by the time I had reached for the camcorder and switched it on, the mammal had long since gone.

Three nights later and I’m back on the lower Severn to complete the Angling Journal entry for the week. I fished a different swim to the previous visit, although everything else was as before so no need to repeat myself. The place I fished was even tighter than the first one, and perched on the tiniest of ledges I felt like a guillemot. I must stress though that it was a safe peg. We cannot compromise where safety is concerned.

Well before darkness descended I had a screamer on one of the rods. From the moment I struck I knew it was a barbel, and as I played it, thought that it could be a double. However, once it came to the surface I could see that although it was a nice fish, it wasn’t going to break the magical barrier. I don’t want to give the impression though that I’m only interested in fish that weigh 10lb or more and anything else is an inconvenience. That is definitely not the case.

It was a nice night weather-wise, which is why I chose a dry one for my session as I couldn’t have got a shelter in if I had wanted to, such was the tightness of where I set up for both visits actually. Having a flexible approach to my angling plus a ‘sleeves rolled up and get on with it’ attitude means I am prepared to rough it at the water’s edge if needs be. Where there’s a will, there’s a way and no matter what obstacles the swim may appear to throw at me, I will do my best to work out a way to fish there if I want.

After such a promising start for barbel, it was all downhill from there for the species. I did catch a chub and a couple of bream though. And although I didn’t see it, I’m sure I heard the otter again in the early hours. One mammal I did see though was a wood mouse. I watched it as it took a berry and ate it on a branch just a few feet away. Oh and I suppose I must mention the rat that came on my ledge mooching around.

I think it was after my boilies, pellets and me. I seem to be a rat attractor, that’s for sure. Stretched out under the stars whenever I put my torch on I found I had spiders and insects crawling over me. I can live with that, didn’t bother me in the slightest. Rats though, don’t like them. (Published August 13 2011)


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