The Hampshire Avon has always been a magical river and I think it’s fair to say, that when it comes to barbel fishing, this river is commonly thought of as one of the most iconic waterways in the country.

The Hampshire Avon is a river that has been on my wish list to give some serious attention to, and this desire was intensified when Pete Reading appeared in the Angling Times with a colossal barbel from the river in March 2019 weighing 19lb 11oz! Trips to Chew during the autumn & winter, Covid and a minor obsession with the Old Father Thames meant that any planned trips were always put on the back burner. However, this was all about to change and during the winter of 2021 a lovely mild spell swept across the country. These were textbook barbel conditions and I soon had my gear prepped ready to travel South during the festive period in the hope of landing my first Hampshire Avon Barbel.

Arriving at my chosen venue, I was greeted with a rising and slightly coloured river and as it was my first trip, I decided to put on a pair of boots and a warm jacket and familiarise myself with the stretch. I learnt a lot during those first sessions and over the Christmas period I fished the venue around six or seven times, which resulted in my first Hampshire Avon barbel weighing around 5-6lbs. During this time specimen ace Gavin Barret landed his dream babel from the river weighing a monstrous 19lb 3oz! I remember seeing the pictures on his social media pages and the length of the fish was incredible. It was the same fish that Pete Reading had landed a few years previously and I vowed then that next autumn, I would return.

Fast forwarding to August of this year and the long warm spell of weather we experienced had made the fishing the Thames very tricky. After some great advice from Rob Young, I decided on a few exploratory trips to the Avon. The sport was very consistent and over the course of six trips I landed 22 chub with the biggest weighing 6lb 12oz. I couldn’t believe how productive the fishing was in comparison to the River Thames!

During the first week of September, I headed off to Lac Baleine for the annual GT social and typically the first decent drop of rain fell in the UK during this time. I knew this weather change would make a massive difference and although we had a very enjoyable trip, I couldn’t wait to get back.

After a couple of days to get things sorted, I was soon heading down the M3 and on my way to the Avon. Over the first few trips, which consisted of evenings after work and afternoon/evening trips on the weekend, I managed to land four chub and four barbel. The highlight being one evening when I arrived at the river on dark as the traffic on the M3 had been horrendous. I managed to slip into one of the last available swims and I quickly had two rods positioned in the clear areas amongst the thick beds of ranunculus. Just 45 minutes later the downstream rod hooped over and after a spirited fight I netted my first Avon double weighing 10lb 3oz. Another smaller fish fell to the same rod shortly after, before it was time to pack up and head for home.

The following trip resulted in a chub and as I drove home I couldn’t help but think I was getting close to one of the bigger fish. Just two days later and I was back. It was a weekend, so I made sure to make the extra effort and leave earlier with the hope of securing a reasonable swim. On arrival I was surprised to find to stretch deserted and I had a good look around before setting up. I swung a rig out to a clear area just a couple of rod lengths out and felt a satisfying thump as the lead settled on a hard gravel area amongst the weed. My tackle consisted of 12lb Hydro Tuff, which I had chosen due to its excellent abrasion resistance, a 6g Tungsten Flying back lead was positioned a metre up the main line to ensure it was pinned to the riverbed and out of harm’s way. My chosen hook link was a short length of Mirage Platinum fluorocarbon and my hook choice was a size 8 Covert Dark Wide Gape Talon Tip hook. A 15mm fishmeal boilie and a small PVA mesh bag of free offerings completed the setup. The day passed uneventfully, however just after dark the rod tip pulled round and a chub around 5lbs had sprung my carefully positioned trap.

I introduced a few more free offerings before swinging the rig back out and feeling a satisfying thump as the lead touched down on the bare gravel. I received a positive line bite an hour later, indicating the fish were back in the area and a short while later the rod arched round. Picking up the rod the I instantly knew I was attached to something special. The fish felt heavy and powerful as it headed downstream. A memorable battle ensued and as it ghosted under the surface I could see it was one of the Avon gems. It plodded around under the rod tip for a good five minutes before surfacing and I let out a sigh of relief as it went over the net cord. It looked an extremely long fish and I rested it in the net before getting the camera and weighing kit sorted.

Carefully placing the fish on the mat, I knew it was one of the Avon jewels and I was blown away when the needle settled on 18lb 1oz. It looked immense under the torch light and after a few quick pictures we rested the fish again before watching her swim away strongly. I made the drive back up the M3 a very happy angler that night!