2016 – Started with a bang!

If someone had told me that my first fish of 2016 would be a Barbel of 13.3 and my second fish would be a Common Carp of 13.13 then I probably would have said they’d consumed too much babycham over the festive period.

13.3 Barbel

In all honesty I wasn’t supposed to be on the river.  I had planned a trip with Mr C to try and winkle out a Perch or two from the river but the amount of rain that had fallen over the past few days had pushed the river to it’s limit and I didn’t really fancy it and Mr C had decided to go after Pike on the Fens.  After our conversation I thought that was it but curiosity got the better of me.  On one hand I really wanted to know just what the river was like in those conditions and was it fishable, but on the other hand would I be wasting my time?

When the alarm went off it was a real struggle to get up.  My enthusiasm from the night before had almost vanished.  As I lay there I thought about what my alternatives were.  Another day stuck in the house being bored?  I’d had too many of those over the festive period so I got up and made a flask of coffee before heading to the river.

It wasn’t going to be a long session as I had to take the boy swimming in the afternoon and if the weather forecast was to be correct then rain would be looming from 9am onwards.

I wasn’t prepared for what greeted me on arrival.  In the last of the moonlight I could see that the fields resembled lakes and the river was a matter of inches from going over the top of the flood banks.  What had I done?  Still, I was here now so I took the long walk to one of my favourite spots.

Sat on top of the flood bank I was surrounded by footballs and tennis balls and numerous empty plastic bottles.  It’s not the prettiest of swims but it has produced some excellent fish.  I set up about 4 feet back from where I normally sit and put the right hand rod tight under the bank underneath an overhanging tree while the left hand rod was placed about 5 feet out straight in front of me.

The tips wouldn’t settle as bits of debris came down in the flow.  Normally a lovely slack, now it was more like a washing machine as the flow swirled round.  Despite this I could see plenty of fish topping close in and I figured any Perch would be tight under the banks.

As dawn was breaking I could make out a couple of rattles on the right hand rod.  I sat their in anticipation with my hand on the rod before another couple of rattles followed by the tip pulling round an inch or so.  I struck into a solid lump and my immediate thoughts were “bloody Pike” but as I leant into the fish I knew this was no Pike unless it was a monster.  The 10 foot  quiver took on an alarming bend and I slackened off the clutch a bit to give the 6lb line a chance of holding if the fish decided to make for cover.  The fish made a couple of short runs but I somehow managed to keep it under control but I couldn’t get it’s head up.  I knew I was into either a Barbel or a Carp and before long up popped the head of a big Barbel.  The next task was to get it into the pan sized net.  I managed to squeeze half the body in but couldn’t get the rest in so I quickly dropped the rod and somehow managed to scoop the rest in.

13.3 Barbel

For a moment I was in shock.  I knew the fish was well into double figures and there are quite a few in the area I was fishing but I really wasn’t expecting to get one on my Perch gear least of all as my first fish of 2016.  A quick weigh of the fish pulled the scales round to 13.3 before I took a couple of photo’s before I carefully supported her making sure she was fully recovered before letting her go.

With my nerves shredded I recast both rods thinking the swim would be well and truly knackered having that lump plodding around.  I poured myself the obligatory cup of coffee, had a snickers and chilled out for a while.

I fished on for the next hour but kept getting old leaves and bits of weed masking the bait so I decided to add a bit of rig foam to pop the worms up off the bottom.  It wasn’t long before the right hand quiver tip started tapping away again only this time it looked much more Perchy and I struck into something that at first felt like a Perch as it didn’t do much.  Then it started to get a bit more lively and I started to think I had a decent Chub on before it then went mental charging through the swim and very nearly tangling with the other rod.  It was then that I thought i’d got a small feisty Barbel on.  I saw boil marks a couple of times but couldn’t see the fish due to the clarity of the water.  Eventually it rolled and I could see that it was a Common.  It didn’t look like the immaculate one I had last year from the same swim.  This one had a ragged dorsal fin and half it’s tail missing that looked like it had been in a tangle with our furry friend the Otter which is a shame really because it really was a solid lump.

Ottered to buggery
Ottered to buggery

By now I really was starting to wonder what else was on the cards.  An 8lb Chub possibly or a 5lb Perch?  You never know what this river is going to throw up which really is one of the attractions.

Sadly, as is always the case when things are going well, time flew by and it was time to pack up.  It was 11am and in the short space of three and a half hours I’d managed two cracking if unexpected fish.  It’s times like this that it makes me realise that we waste so much time waiting for the perfect conditions for our chosen quarry.  I had ample opportunities to talk myself out of going but what we really should do is just get out there and fish.

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