The eagerly awaited coarse river fishing season began on 16th June, and several members of the Fishtec team were itching to get out there and fish for barbel on the famous River Wye, one of the best mixed game and coarse fisheries in the whole of the UK. Read on to find out how the guys did on England & Wales’s finest coarse fishing waterway, and what methods and tackle they employed.
Many of the popular beats on the river were booked solid post June the 16th, but with the help of the informative and friendly people at the Wye and Usk foundation we managed to book a lovely stretch of the famous river Wye for the day, just a few miles upriver from Hereford during the second week of the new coarse fishing season.
Making a booking with the Wye and Usk foundation is a piece of cake- simply visit their website, select the beat and date you wish to fish and make payment by card online. Beat availability and recent catch reports are all very clearly shown on the website. Alternatively give the guys a call- they will be more than happy to give you advise on which beats are fishing well and swim availability. The beauty of these beats unlike some of the cheaper day ticket venues the fishing pressure itself is very light, and you either get the beat completely to yourself or share with just a handful of rods.
In our case the chosen beat was the lower canon bridge near Madely, which takes up to 4 rods – plenty of room as the stretch is over a mile long. Cannon bridge is in the beautiful rural Herefordshire countryside, situated on the opposite bank of the beautiful wear garden national trust property and was just a 40 minute drive from our Brecon HQ. A sumptuous good looking stretch of river to say the least.
Our plan was to take a half day off work, with fishing continuing into the late summer evening, with some of the other guys turning up after their shift in the Fishtec warehouse. Myself and marketing director Tim Hughes were the lucky ones with the afternoon off. We headed off to the river at lunch time and arrived at the bank approximately 2.30pm.
This beat is one of the longest walks to the fishing area on the Wye and Usk programme, being about 1/2 a mile stroll through a farm track and fields; so our intention was to seriously reduce the fishing tackle and travel very light to counteract the long walk. Despite this, after the trek to the river on what was one of the hottest days of the year in very humid conditions, we reached the river feeling a little hot and bothered. I was very grateful that I was wearing my breathable fishing waders, rather than the traditional neoprene or rubber types, an essential bit of fishing gear in my opinion for the warmer summer days.
After a quick scout up and down the banks we found two absolutely perfect swims – Tim’s at the head of a pool, where thick weed beds and a good flow faded into a deep area on a bend, and mine on the main pool itself, just 30 yards below him with a nice drop off on my side and partially submerged branches to my left side for fish cover. A bit of careful marginal wading would allow me to place a perfect cast onto where the bottom faded out of view. Initial observations indicated a lot of fish present – gold flashes in the depths and the odd fish topping and crashing about were quite evident in the swims.
Now for the coarse fishing tackle– as I mentioned we had traveled very light, with just one rod (a beat rule) a long bank stick, and a small carryall with all of the terminal end gear and baits, plus a net with shoulder strap with unhooking mat wrapped round the handle. No chairs or any cumbersome gear were brought along whatsoever.
My fishing rod choice was the great value TF Gear banshee barbel, fitted with a 1.5 test curve avon top, matching Airlite reel with 12lb TF Gear nantec mono mainline. On the business end was an 18 inch fluorocarbon hooklink made up of 10lb Airflo Sightfree G3, 23 gram guru cage feeder and size 10 QMI hook with 2 x robin red 8mm pre-drilled pellets hair rigged into place. I had a small tub of halibut groundbait mixed up with some pellets, some of which we had sparingly thrown or catapulted into the swims before setting up the rod’s on the bank sticks. We took some time to walk the banks to check out further suitable swims and feed in a sparing amount of bait into the most likely looking spots.
I made my first cast at just 5 yards out – never ignore the water close to you if it looks good, fish this first rather than blasting out to the far bank. I settled back quietly and moved slightly up the bank away from the rod, eagerly awaiting a bite. I had angled the rod as high up as possible on the bank stick, so to avoid any untoward influence from the current. Within just minutes the rod tip jagged a few times, then pulled right over with a solid take. I reeled down and felt a thumping, kiting, head-shaking weight at the end of it. This must be a barbel I thought! And indeed it was. I gave Tim a shout and after a dogged, very spirited fight we had the first barbel on the bank – these beautiful fish sure know how to hang on!
After a quick snap I took great care to rest the barbel in the net before release; it is important to do this because barbel give their all during the fight, in the summer time dissolved oxygen levels are much lower in the water so the fish may become very tired and stressed. This ensures the barbel can swim off strongly without keeling over from exhaustion later, when back in the river fighting against the flow.
The action continued for the next couple of hours for both of us – with many thumping rod wrenching takes all round, we both landed and lost several nice barbel each. At one stage the bites were frantic – it was literally every cast, and just minutes after the feeder hit the river bed in some instances. This was great fishing -what you might call a red letter day!
As well as some cracking barbel we also had some super chub, most in the 3 -4 lb bracket. Now these chub fought in a much more sneakier fashion than the barbel- what they lacked in dogged long distance stamina they made up for by heading right into every bolt hole and snag they could find, and they definitely knew them all.
Fishtec’s Warehouse manger Mike Morgan showed up at around 6.00pm, and took up a promising position on a gravel bar at the very tail end of the pool. Mike made some risky long range casts close to the farthest bank into some weed bed slots- a spot where Tim has catapulted some pellets into earlier. This strategy paid off for Mike with three hard fighting barbel being his reward.
The bites in my swim had finally slowed down as evening drew on, up until now the fishing had been so good there had been no need to move swims. If the bites dry up then don’t be afraid to make a move! So I took a walk and baited up a few likely looking spots first, then switched swims to a few hundred yards further downstream and cast my feeder rig into a perfect looking area just opposite an old boathouse- depth, flow and cover all combined together in this area to make a sweet looking spot.
Four decent chub came to the net in quick succession, but with absolutely no sign of any barbel in this area. The clock had finally ticked down on us – doesn’t time fly when your catching fish? So we called it a day with a dozen barbel and eight chub landed between us, plus numerous other chances and fish lost. A productive and fun afternoons fishing on this majestic river to say the least.