This autumn I have been bang into my barbel fishing. After gaining a ticket to a rather special stretch of a Thames Tributary, I decided to dedicate a fair amount of my time trying to track down and catch some of its big, yet nomadic residents. I have fished some hard and low stock section of the river in the past, however this venue has to be right up there with the trickiest stretch I have fished to date. As I touched on, the fish are nomadic, often travelling several miles between captures and combine this with a low stock of big fish, you can begin to understand the appeal.
I always relish a challenge and with lots of effort I have been able to slip the net under a few good’uns. After putting some prep work in, my first trip resulted in a bite just 2 hours after setting up, which resulted in a nice fish weighing 11lb 10oz. As the water levels were low and clear, a trusty mag-aligner rig proved it downfall. Knowing that I couldn’t get back to the river for an actual fishing session until the following week, I visited the river most evenings, which allowed me to locate some good areas and keep an eye on what was going on. This preparation work paid dividends as on my next session, I managed to slip the net under the stretches biggest known resident. The fish weighed 15lb 8oz and again picked up my hookbait just a short while into the session. Pleased as punch with this fish, I couldn’t help but have another couple of trips, which resulted in fish weighing 12lb 10oz and 14lb 4oz. I suffered a couple of blank trips after this before I decided to quit while I was ahead. My presentation solely depended on the river conditions. If it was low and clear maggots used in combination with a mag-aligner rig proved devastating. However, if any amount of rain had fallen then a change to a 14mm XXX boilie tipped with a piece of Enterprise corn to add some colour and balance the rig proved successful.
After a couple of weeks away from fishing, I began to formulate a plan for the winter ahead. I had a burning desire to travel south and fish some of the chalk streams in search of big roach and dace. After doing my homework and lots of walking with a set of Polaroid’s, I settled on two stretches that I was happy might produce the big fish I was after. I decided to split my time between the two and learn as much as possible, which I hoped would in a put me in a good position for the cold winter months ahead. Well I was to get a little more than I bargained for.
During my first couple of sessions I caught plenty of fish and soon began to put a picture together of where I thought I thought a big fish might put in an appearance. I arrived for my third session late one morning and after walking the stretch, I was soon set up in an area that I had one of those ‘gut feelings’ about. As it was a blustery day, float fishing was out of the question, so I settled for a small maggot feeder. My first cast produced a trout, which I prayed had not wrecked my swim. I left the second cast for around five minutes before retrieving and casting out a fresh feeder full of maggots. Shortly afterwards the tip pulled round as the feeder dislodged and a strike was met with what I presumed was another trout. I played it towards the waiting net and in the clear water I soon noticed that my assumptions were wrong and I was attached to a monster roach. I gingerly played it for a couple more nerve racking minutes before I was able glide it over the waiting net. Parting the mesh it was indeed a monster, which tipped the scales a 3lb 3oz 8dr. An ambition achieved!