At Last

Determined to get it right this time I set off again on the long walk, hauling my coarse fishing tackle  to the swim I fished on my last visit. This time it was a morning session and I noticed that the river had dropped a little and was crystal clear. These are great fish spotting conditions but they are wary and feel vulnerable in such clear water.

At the swim I put in a little bait as before, some across to the gravels and some in close. I waited ……… and waited. Eventually, a couple of decent chub ventured out of their cover and began picking up my mixture of pellets. Once a few fish appear others usually follow so I kept a trickle of small pellets going onto the gravels but lobbed a few bigger Elips pellets in close.

I suppose it took an hour before I had any confident feeding underway. The low conditions and bright sunshine was making the fish uneasy but I slowly got their confidence, that is until I introduced my bait. I made a horrendous cast and sent everything scurrying back under the overhanging bushes. I wasn’t happy with myself but figured that I’d take the opportunity to position my bait exactly where I wanted it then ‘feed’ them out again.

It took some time but eventually I had both chub and barbel milling about over the loose feed. Nothing wanted to come to the nearside bait today, they were all staying across the far side of the river. Ah well, if the mountain won’t come to Mohammed and all that…… I put my bait across a bit further but it was a chub that took it. Again, I let the fish ‘feel’ the rig and it let go. I was using a long hair which always seems to put the chub off so, I was still in with a chance.

Exactly two hours after I started I had a decent pull and found myself attached to a barbel – at last! It took me all over the swim but I never allowed it to get amongst the overhanging branches so it was soon beaten. And there it was, after so many years – a Lugg barbel of maybe seven pounds or so. I felt very satisfied and decided to pack up there and then. I’ll come back again soon especially if we have a spot of rain and the water colours up.

Written by Dave Burr

Back to the Lugg

Having walked about a mile from the car, I lowered my gear and collapsed in a sweaty heap next to a good looking swim.

Composing myself, I catapulted a small handful of mixed pellets across to a shallow gravel bed about ¾ across and lobbed a few just a yard or two out onto a clear patch of river bed above a dense weedbed. I sat back and started to assemble my 11′ fishing rod and centre pin reel, the ideal tools for small water fishing.

By the time I was sorted the fish were already mopping up my freebies. There were plenty of chub cruising back and forth but there, beneath them and moving in a slower, more positive way were the barbel. I counted four of them and, much to my delight, one of them was over the nearside bait.

There was no hurry to get my baited hook in the water; first I had to narrow the chances so that it would be a barbel rather than a chub that took the bait, despite the fact that some of those chub were 5 if not 6lbs in weight.

I used all of my tricks; it had been a while since I sight fished like this but my plans seemed to work quite well. I kept the bait going in on the far side and made sure that it was spread well to keep the chub occupied. Although the barbel joined the feeding frenzy over there, they would occasionally come inside and appear out of the weed and feed on my tightly baited spot. Unfortunately, some of the chub had found it too but the odds were far better there than across the river.

Chub can be a problem when fishing in tight spots. One fish caught will usually send everything back to their cover for a long time, so it’s important to get it right first time. To this end I tied a ‘bad rig’. This may sound confusing but I’ll explain. A standard hair rig is fine for barbel, they suck it in and won’t let go so they get hooked pretty much every time. Chub however, are a tad smarter and can eject a hook without getting pricked. I have been tinkering with rigs and have come up with one that nails chub just about every time which is great when chub fishing but not for today. I’ll cover this topic in more detail at some time in the future.

My rig comprised of a size 10 straight shank hook tied to a short length of braid. This is connected to about 15” – 20” of 10lb fluorocarbon which helps to keep it nailed to the bottom and out of sight to the fish. Using just enough lead to keep it in place, I then add a good lump of plasticine 3 or 4′ up the line to act as a back weight again, to keep the line out of the view of the fish.

To prove my rig decision was correct, three times my bait was taken by chub and three times, despite every nerve in my body screaming Strike! I held back and the fish dropped the bait.

Using this technique I was able to stay in with a good chance of getting my barbel but these fish had seen it all before. I watched as one of them saw where my line left the riverbed and spooked. Their visits to the nearside spot decreased and my chances dropped considerably.

Rain was approaching and I didn’t want a long, wet walk back to the car. I opted for the ‘all or nothing’ approach and cast to the nearside edge of the gravel bed where the barbel were still feeding albeit with less gusto than before. I didn’t have to wait long. The line tightened and the rod stabbed forward – but it was a chub. It fought well and was in pristine condition but it left behind an empty swim as every other fish bolted for cover.

Ah well, another lesson learned and another victory for this little river.

Third time lucky?

Small River Barbel

After about ten years leave of absence, I’ve decided this year to give the little river Lugg a go in an attempt at catching a few of its elusive barbel. It’s a beautiful little river winding through the Herefordshire countryside but one where the fish are as ‘spooky’ as can be and few are caught by casual means. I’ve watched shoals of chub drift away at the least disturbance and when the chub leave they usually take the barbel with them.

My fishing is usually done in short two to four hour sessions and the mobile ‘hit and run’ approach suits this river perfectly. On this trip I had a wander before taking my gear from the car and soon saw a barbel ‘ flash’ as it twisted in the current over a gravel run, that’ll do for me.  I set about introducing some feed then sorted my gear out. Despite my best efforts and keeping low amongst the thistles – ow! I only had a modest chub enter the baited area…… which then immediately left.

I gave up with that swim but put in some more pellets and a few broken TF Gear Yellow Peril boilies on a clear spot before I left. This makes it easy to check your swims later and see if they’ve been visited.

I tried a few more swims without a sign of a fish then wandered back downstream. On my way I looked in on the swims I’d been fishing for any signs of feeding fish, there were none until I reached the first spot – the Yellow Perils had gone!

I put more bait in and waited. I saw a puff of silt drift beyond a feeding fish, then – a flash! This continued for a while but still no bites until three swans started feeding in the shallows upstream. This had the effect of sending a ‘smoke trail’ of coloured water through my swim and, as it passed, my 11′ Avon rod bent forwards.

It was a barbel of at least eight pounds and looked impressive in such a tight swim. It fought well but I soon had it over the net which I extended from a difficult position on the high bank. In it went but then – splash – out it came  again and the fight continued. Annoyed at myself, I played it back to the net and said to myself, ‘you won’t do that again’…… it did. This time however the lead caught in the mesh and the fish snapped my hook-link ……. Damn!

I haven’t lost a fish like this for ages, I was not happy, I had it all but landed and, either through bad luck or, much more likely bad angling, it was gone. I always claim that it’s the fish that we don’t catch that brings us back to a water and I shall certainly be giving the Lugg some more attention.

Written by Dave Burr

TF Gear Boilies

In the past I’ve gone through periods of making my own boilies, a laborious process, and I’ve paid high prices for ‘specials’ in the hope of finding that impossible dream – the ultimate bait. I used to question the quality of commercial shelf-life boilies but I have learned a vital lesson, nowadays many are good, indeed – very good.

I was given a kilo of TF Gear Amino Active CSL boilies with an order at the Brecon store and they went into the bottom of my bag.  Soon after I was fishing in high water and hair rigged one of the Amino Active CSL boilies, baiting the feeder with a mixture of crushed boilies and a few pellets. I soon caught barbel and chub. Those boilies went on to catch on every occasion I used them, I was impressed.

Earlier this year Fishtec had a cut price offer on their TFG Boilie range and, as I had several fishing trips to France lined up for the year as well as plenty of local carp and barbel fishing, I took the opportunity to stock up. I opted for the Amino Active CSL’s (obviously), Frootie-licious, The Crunch and Yellow Peril boilies. This gave me a wide range of flavours, textures and colours to cover all of my options.

Many anglers bait with a single flavour boilie but I like to mix the size, shape, flavour and colour as much as possible, this keeps the fish browsing around your swim and, as the baits weigh different amounts, it reduces the chance of them guessing which one has the hook attached. Using this method with the TF Gear boilies as well as a few other bits and pieces in the mix, I have had plenty of success on my syndicate lake including four  20’s in one session, as well as with the chub and barbel on the rivers.

To sum up, the TF Gear range of boilies are excellent value and will put plenty of fish on the bank. They are well made and, despite their subtle flavours, are all fish attractors and I will happily use up my stash with compete confidence.

Barbel on the Wye

July is almost over and the rivers are in fine form, time to concentrate on the barbel. Yes, I’ve had a few trips after them already but the start of the season is usually hit and miss as the fish are often still spawning which means that those you catch are in poor condition. I prefer to let them fatten up and get over their early summer exertions.

Having said that, this year the spring was exceptionally warm and I saw chub and barbel spawning in April. This does not mean that they won’t be at it again in late May or early June but, I have found on the Wye, that they do tend to be in better condition at the start of the season

During years like this I always have an early trip or two, fishing the fast water where the barbel are enjoying the extra oxygen and the bounty of food amongst the stones and gravel. I say ‘usually’, this year my back was giving me plenty of incentive to stay at home and moan a lot, but last season I recall, I had a couple of enjoyable outings.

When I fish these fast stretches I, and my bait, are constantly on the move.  Rapids are always home to stones and rocks that will swallow a lead. To leger or feeder fish in the conventional manner will inevitably result in lots of lost quality fishing tackle and lost fish.

My set up is simple. I like to fish a low stretch line such as Shimano Technium. This is not as sensitive as braid but better than most mono’s. I don’t like braid especially when touch legering as a fast take from a barbel can cause it to cut, like a cheese wire, through the end of your finger – believe me, I know! I always attach the hooklink via a swivel that I cover with a tail rubber or anti-tangle sleeve. It just helps to keep everything straight and is also something to mould the plasticine around. Plasticine? You may well ask. Yes, in a rocky area it is your best option for avoiding snags  as it simply falls off the line when it does occasionally get caught up.  At the end of the link is your hook which may or may not have a hair attached, mine always has.

The process is simple enough, introduce some loose offerings, usually pellets or boilies and, if you can, observe. My favourite swim for this method has a high bank and it is usual that a few baits trundling through on the correct line, will have barbel flashing within minutes. Alternatively, it gives me the opportunity to feed closer in and watch the chub and barbel drift over the feed and get their heads down. Time for a cast.

I prefer to wear waders and wade in the edge, this allowes me to get right down to water level and allows perfect line control.  My bait is usually two pellets glued to a short hair or a boilie. I don’t have too many problems with the hook catching bottom but, if you do, then paste covering the hook may be a better option. I do however, check my hook point regularly and sharpen it if it gets dulled or bent by the stones.

A cast is made to the head of the stream and a little line given so that the plasticine can bounce through the swim in a straight line rather than be pulled in an unnatural arc toward the bank. It may take a cast or two to get the amount of weight just right but you will be surprised at how little weight you need to keep your bait coming along the bottom. If you have it just right you will feel it bumping along through the line which you hold in your left hand. If the flow is harder than you can work with plasticine then a small lead can be used but, before re-tackling, try pushing some small stones into the plasticine, this often does the trick.

Bite indication takes a little getting used to but basically strike at anything that feels different. A pull a tightening at a speed other than the weight catching bottom, everything going slack is another as the fish swims downstream. You’ll soon pick it up. If the weight catches on the bottom then leave it for a minute or so, this is often a great time for a bite, to move it again just lift the rod slightly and pull with the left hand, this will dislodge the weight and off you go again.

Its a great way to learn about a river and when you ‘feel’ that contact with a fish and strike into your first barbel of the season, it becomes totally addictive.