Hemp and caster were introduced to a few areas and a trot taken here and there. All efforts resulted in one conclusion...minnows. Stacks and stacks of them. I could see my hookbait engulfed by a ball of these ravenous little chaps time after time..I tried to get through them, I really did, perhaps a little too long. It drove me a bit bonkers, so a move a mile or so downstream was in order.
Back on my usual beat and having seen a lot of cars parked I thought the chances of me getting in to last weeks pitch to be trifle slim, especially when I noticed two old fellows strolling up to the top of the beat.
The lower beat is always busy and I hurried past the hoards to the lesser fished upper beat, all the time hoping that one of the the old boys hadn't bagged my roach swim.
Now let's have a think about how their conversation went.
"It's a lot more peaceful up here. We can afford to spread out a bit"
"Good idea, we'll leave a pitch between us, give ourselves a bit of space"
Yep, you can guess which swim they left. I'll have that if you don't mind.
Looking through the polaroids, I could clearly see that the chub shoal was still in residence and a large shoal of roach, all around the three quarter pound to a pound and a half mark, that'll do I thought.
The river was lower and clearer today, and feeding caster and hemp soon had the fish feeding confidently.
As I sent the balsa float on it's maiden voyage I could clearly see fish racing to my bait and turning at the last moment. This process was to be repeated time and time again. Something was amiss.
The difference in water clarity and depth were working against me. I tried different shotting patterns and eventually changed to different coloured shot, which resulted in a few perch.
It was around this time that I saw a roach that certainly concentrated my thoughts. In fact it was so big that I initially thought a bream had shoaled up with the roach. It was so big that it scared me a bit!
Now, I did of course try a few glory casts with the float, but as the bait trickled towards it there was investigation, then reluctance....I needed a plan.
The next half an hour was spent just building up an area of feed. Hemp and caster were placed quite close to me on a gravelly area, where I could view the fish. It was perfect, I learn so much at these times.
Every now and again one of these skittish fish would spook for seemingly no reason at all sending the shoal scattering. In these times I'd re-bait the spot. Thereafter they'd regain their confidence and once again return to eat, including the big fella.
Rummaging around in my bag , I figured I'd fish my reliable drilled bullet leger method with a large hook, the biggest I had was size 12. This, when stuffed full of caster seemed a good way of selecting the big fish.
I waited maybe ten minutes for them to spook themselves, then cast to the spot.
Sitting there watching the returning shoal, including the big one pick at the river bed whilst the rod tip bumped and tapped was amazing. I resisted the strike a couple of times, waiting for a definite take...It came soon enough, the tip whacked round and I struck..a spirited fight was on. The culprit was this ....
Incredibly, even though the barbel had led me all round the swim, the roach had regrouped and were now back on the feed....I tried again.
This time my persistence and method payed off with this beauty, not the big one, but handsome nonetheless...
I now have a method that in low clear conditions on this river might trip up the big roach I have seen here.
However, the next attempt resulted in this fellow, who scattered the shoal for good..
With the barbel unusually feeding so well in the swim it would've been foolish to not capitalise. Deciding to adapt to the situation a tub of 4mm soft hookable pellets was found and three were delicately threaded on to the hook and cast centre channel.
..A violent take was almost instant and the old centrepin spun against my thumb as the fish disappeared around the downstream bend.
With cane rods, one must be patient and you soon get a feel for these situations. The fish always come out of reeds and always eventually come back upstream with patience and delicate coaxing. After a fantastic battle, viewed with much nostalgic enthusiasm by the aged bailiff, the fish was safely in the net. She deserved a well earned rest in said net to recuperate.
With constant feeding the barbel were veritably queueing up for the pellet, and the rod was soon going from this......
And these feisty fellows just kept coming.
I told this one to fetch his Dad..
Although my set-up was a bit makeshift, I had set out for roach remember. I do think that I have stumbled across a perfect combination for these low/clear river barbel. A small hook having obvious advantages and three pellets camouflaging it completely. I'm pretty sure that a hair-rigged bait would've been ignored in these conditions.
Also, the bait of choice is more akin to a feed pellet that has been in the water a good while and perhaps deemed safer to eat by the fish.
Well after nine barbel and with light levels diminishing I re-tackled for trotting. To be honest it was still really difficult going but with heavy feed I managed to tempt just one more roach of more modest proportion.
It seemed wrong not to try for that tenth barbel, so the experiments continued with a size 14 hook with a single pellet. These tactics soon had me in double figures.
It seemed a fitting time to pack up.
As I strolled back through the mist laden meadow it struck me that the day had began so differently to how it had ended. An angler can learn so much by viewing his quarry and the ability to adapt ones methods and outlook can turn a bad days trotting for roach into a good days legering for barbel.