Its 5:05am on a cold February morning and I’m already running a little late, I’d arranged with Adam Bowen (Team Beechwood Member and Owner of Fishing in the North West) to be with him at 5am, and I was still ten minutes away trundling along the M56. Still, Adam’s a nice chap, and I dropped him a quick message to let him know I wasnt far off, and as expected he was cool as ever with the news I was a little behind time.
Today Adam was going to treat me to something a little different, something that links in nicely with one of our ‘Team Twister’ challenges and something we’d talked about for a while, a full on barbel trip! As you know our Team Twister is a series of challenges and ‘twists’ that Team Beechwood are all having a go with throughout 2017, one is simply called ‘Hunter’, and sets target weights of loads of fish to achieve. The Barbel target is 8lb, and although I’d be happy with any sized fish on this trip, I couldn’t help but have that 8lb target rattling around in my mind.
The journey down for us took around about an hour and a half, but it genuinely felt like ten minutes, such was the constant flow of fishing chatter filling the car. I’m a relative barbel novice, Adam however knows his onions, so whilst I had him as a captive audience we talked about barbel fishing all the way down.
When we arrived, in what is Adams favourite swim on the river, it looked truly epic. The sun was just coming up over the horizon, lighting up the strong and meaningful flow on the water, and the river looked in great condition! I’d been buzzing about this trip for weeks, and as always we anglers dream of what might be; could today be one of those days the dreams come true?
Adam set about rigging the rods up, and I setup camp, all in all it took us about 20 minutes and we had three rods in the water and were sat with a (posh) Douwe Egberts coffee each.
Tactics for the day would be:
Tackle – 12lb main line through to 10lb hooklengths, 4oz gripper style leads, each rod with 2xfloat stops 20″ from the lead, size 12 Drennan Specialist Microbarb hooks. All setup running rig style.
Bait – 6mm Halibut pellets, Excelsor paste, Meat and some of the soon to be released bait, the FEED+X. Being carp baits, we did add some blue cheese and garlic to the paste and hookbaits to really make a stink the barbel could home in on in the flowing water.
We fished the three rods along the crease, at different points from far left, central and right of our swim. The tackle was brilliantly balanced, held bottom on the crease perfectly, and the float stops 20″ from the lead is a really neat trick. We weren’t really troubled on the day by weed and stuff being brought down stream, but what did flow through and catch on the line gathered behind the stops, ensuring our presentations weren’t effected. I seriously recommend you try it on your setup if you like fishing flowing water, and never find your self tearing your hair out over being wiped out by weed again!
We fished meat to our left, and Adam commented this was the rod he thought would go first, being down stream, centrally we fished the boiled bait, and to our right pellet. All leads we’re wrapped in Excelsor paste, and the boilie and pellet hookbaits also got wrapped in a big dollop too. The paste worked perfectly in the powerful flow, sticky and grippy enough to stay put, slowly releasing oodles of attraction over the hour or so between re-casts, with just traces left by the time we reeled in.
Over the course of the day we had lots of attention on the FEED+X hookbait fished centrally of the three rods, but very little indication on the other two rods, and no barbel off any. It was early February after all, and winter fishing can often be a challenge in itself! We focused on the middle rod, adjusting hair length, changing hooks, casting at spots around the central crease to try and turn the indications we were getting into solid takes. We stuck to the plan throughout, re-casting to firm spots every hour to hour and a half, each time with paste around the lead and hook baits, this way throughout the day we would slowly build the swim without risking overfeeding it in the cold wintry conditions.
The day rolled on, lunch was a cracking bacon and cheese baguette and chips from a local pub, whilst we fished on, watching the river relentlessly flow past us, and our rod tips sat defiantly upright, and still……….
It wasnt until we entered the last hour of our trip that one of the rods finally ripped off. Adam said just one word, ‘BARBEL!’. I zipped over to the rod and lifted into it, sure enough we were into a powerful fish, somewhere out there in the inky blackness! Adam took the left hand rod out-of-the-way so I could play the fish towards the left of the swim where the water was deep close in and snag free. The unseen creature tore down stream on a powerful run, using all its strength and the rivers flow. I teased it back slowly, we’d waited all day and now into a fish I really, really didn’t want to lose it! Closer in it came, then tore off again, seemingly still as full of beans as when it was first hooked. I wasn’t sure it’d make it over the 8lb mark, but as Adam slid the net under the fish, I had second thoughts, it looked long and solid. The scales would tell us……
On the scales the fish crept around to 9lb 8oz, so not only had we got what we came for, but I’d also got a new PB fish, and mission accomplished on the Team Twister! Bingo bango banjo, or words to that effect!!
We were just in the process of preparing to return my fish, when the same rod hooped over and the alarm screamed in delight! Adam had quickly, and sensibly, re-baited and re-cast the rod whilst I got my waders on to return my fish, which was recovering in the margin. The fish had clearly switched on, and we were right in the middle of a feeding spell. Now the way we’ve fed the swim really pays off for us, because we’ve used largely Excelsor paste with a few pellets pushed into it all day, there isn’t a lot to eat in the swim, but there is masses of attraction. Had we lumped loads of bait in, the same feeding spell would have taken place, but our hookbait would have had a much reduced chance of being picked up.
Adam plays his fish in perfectly, and as he draws it to the net it looks a very similar size to mine. However, as it rolls over the net cord, its depth and width are really impressive, it’s now clearly a bigger fish, and Adam quietly passes comment that it might be a PB for him, might be.
We hoisted the fish up on the scales and both hold our breath, it registered 14lb 20z, we deducted the sling, and the fish entered angling memory at 12lb 10oz, and yes, a new PB for Adam!! I was made up with my fish, and of course my new PB, however I was over the moon for Adam. He targets the barbel and as such his PB is much harder to improve on, and I felt really privileged to have witnessed him bank it. Two PB’s, two Team Twister challenges ticked off and two very, very happy anglers!!
With my fish now safely returned, we took some pics of Adams fish, once he’d expertly removed some old netting from its dorsal fin. Fortunately Adam’s not only a well seasoned and conscientious angler, but he’s also a nurse, so his forceps and surgical scissors are of the very best quality, along with his skills in using them, and he removed the netting expertly. It is worth noting though, that landing and keep nets are not something anyone should skimp on, poor quality nets can cause you and the fish all sorts of problems, and none of us want to see fish with any damage.
With that we released Adams fish safe and sound, and begrudgingly reeled the rods in and started to pack away our gear. We were both grinning from ear to ear, it’d been a long time coming good, but we kept the faith and stuck to the plan. Anyway, is there any better way to spend a day other than sat by a really stunning piece of river, in great company, watching the world slowly drift by?