But I know he'll probably look tonight so a very big thank you to Darren for, wait for it, prebaiting, insisting on giving the swim another try, net duties, weighing duties and photography! He did get a fish himself, so it's pretty cool. Cheers Darren.
Anyones who's been pike fishing with me knows I like to experiment with rigs, lures and especially bait, and barbel fishing is no different. In fact it's better, who knows what these things will eat? Today saw the beta test of Stink Bait number 4, it will soon have a different name because it works.
OK, the bait is luncheon meat, but it's what we've added to it that makes it shine (stink). I offered a cube of it to my cat, she didn't try it or lick it, she didn't even paw it, she bolted - I might have well introduced her a rottweiler!
We got to the river and it looked less than ideal, it was very low and clear. First cast sat for about 10 minutes before a stick caught on the line and washed it out of position, I wound it in slowly to avoid disturbing the swim, and after 3 or 4 foot a barbel dashed out and grabbed the meat.
I've never seen one do that before, but 6lb 11oz, a great way to start an experiment! A very light coloured fish that tried it's best to convince us it was a double before it hit the net. Next up a 5lb 15oz barbel fell for it (I shook the scales, it really looked like it wanted to be a six!).
It took about an hour before fish number three decided to give it a try, 3lb 10oz, this stuff works!
Dan was unimpressed, he wasn't going to be convinced by Stink Bait #4 until it worked for him. We had to wait until well into dark before a 5lb 6oz nailed it. As Dan says - Happy days!
Stick Tennis. This is what I spent a lot of the closed season working on (I was only one small part of it - characters & animation). It's by far the best game I've ever worked on. Making games normally puts me off playing them, but this one breaks the rule.
So if you've got an iPhone I think it's a great way to waste time between runs (and I'm not a tennis fan).
This isn't an advert, I don't get royalties, just rather pleased with it. Plus the game is free!
Unfinished business! I hate losing a fish, everyone does, you've done the hard work - you've found it, conned it into biting a hook and then for whatever reason you don't get your prize. And losing the last fish of the session - as I did yesterday - is even worse. Losing that fish last night has played on my mind all day at work.
So this evening I was back! First off I baited the swim where I lost the fish yesterday, then I went to the spot Darren lost his fish and tackled up. Bite first cast, nicked the bait. Next cast I was in, cracking 5lb 8oz barbel to start the session - I was feeling better already.
I then set about exploring a few new swims. And getting stung. I found a few more spots worth further investigation, and had a few little knocks. Only one real bite, a real barbel-like rod ripper and landed my best chub so far this season 4lb 4oz. I was going to try a self-take photo but I got so stung netting it I settled for a photo in the net.
As darkness fell I crept back to the spot I lost the fish yesterday, this time my usual 6lb line was swapped for 8lb to give me a little bit more persuasive power over who was getting in what snag.
Half an hour without a knock and I was packing my bag for home.
A last minute bite hooped round and I connected to my fish, it was quickly bullied past the snag then put up a great fight. Not the biggie I hooked yesterday but a lovely 4lb 1oz barbel to end on - I can sleep easy tonight!
Dan, Darren and myself spent the evening exploring some new swims (or wading about in nettles - my hands are still tingling as I write this). Second spot and I connected to a chub about two and a half pounds (above) then we leapfrogged our way down the river searching for a barbel.
We found a few great swims, which will see me chucking a few baits in over the course of the summer. Fishing off a high bank I had a wrap-round bite just as Darren walked past, perfect timing - as it would have been very tricky to net the fish on my own, and a 3lb 10oz barbel.
Dan then had an eel before I lost what felt like a big barbel, got it snagged in the side and after ten agonising minutes trying to free it the line broke and it escaped unseen - barbless hook, so it will be fine. Then just as we were leaving Darren hooked a barbel, but again it escaped unseen - gutted...
Can't wait to get back down there and give it another go!
On a separate note; there's 20% off all Jack's Pike books, simply enter the promotional code CHASEUK at the checkout, hurry offer ends Friday 29th June. Oh yeah, link.
Fished the last day of the opening week, but water conditions were against us - the water rose about 8 inches, then fell back, then started to rise again - and was a murky gray colour. Not ideal. Dan lost a chub about 2-3lb then we were plagued by eels with the best one going about a pound and a half... Perhaps we should have gone carp fishing?!
Well I managed to squeeze at least a few hours in every day of the opening week, I had to really, I've been chomping at the bit to get on the riverbank.
The Barbel Challenge is off and running - although we now realise how difficult it's going to be (seemed easy in the closed season). And I've had a blast at some smaller species, probably just to get a few more fish on the bank!
I'm hoping to get out at least one or twice a week over the coming months, mostly local but I fancy a trip or two to the Thames. And perhaps somewhere to track down a zander.
One of the things missing from our season so far (I know it's only a few days old) is a decent chub, so here we go, 3lb 15oz - not a bad start. With a bit of rain water in the river we thought the barbel might play today but we were wrong, the only other action was from a dreaded chinese mitten crab.
One more day and I've fished the whole opening week, it's tough going getting up really early to get work done then fishing the afternoons and evenings, think I'll have a break over the weekend. Now what's on the agenda tomorrow... Carp or barbel?
During the gudgeon match yesterday my phone rang, I had a healthy lead so I answered it. It was Roger on a terrible line 'zzz... barb... pel.. zz.. ten pound five and a half ounces... ri... ma... ten pound five and a half ounces...'
First session, first fish and he's cracked it, a Wye double, a spawned out solid 10lb 5½oz barbel - and people call me lucky! It's not his first double but it's the only one he's weighed and is therefore his official personal best. Top fishing that man!
Probably best to skip the rest of the barbel season and move straight on to cracking the 30lb pike!
Chub Eat Mice!
When I was fishing on the opening morning I saw James (My Fishing Exploits) catch a nice 4lb chub, from which he extracted the remains of a recently eaten mouse - I'll leave the gruesome details to his blog.
A beautiful day here in South London, and only one thing for it: Gudgeon fishing competition! We headed for Clapham Common and fished the little pond as the place is carpeted with the little mud-skippers. Rules were simple, first one to catch 20 gudgeon wins, loser buys the pints.
I opted to fish a waggler, 3lb line and an 18 hook right in the side. Dan opted for similar tactics but fished half way to the island. Dan was on the fish, I was waiting for them to come to me.
Long story short, I kicked his ass - despite the fact there were millions of them the bites were very shy, and very hard to hit at range - the pint was soon mine! I'm sure he'll get revenge when we're barbel fishing. We fished on for a bit and ended up just shy of 50 gudgeon between us, great way to waste an afternoon.
There were a few small carp thrown into the mix, nice to catch but they didn't count, I had a common carp about 2lb right to the net before it threw the hook.
Then just as we were about to leave a had a little dip on the float, strike, bow wave and big double figure common carp on. It went nuts, right round the pond for a few minutes before inevitability caught up with my 3lb line... Might come back with some carp gear in the future.
To the winner the spoils! And there was the double figure barbel, but that's a blog post for tomorrow...
I'm not going to include barbel under a pound in the challenge. Using maggots when after roach I will bump into baby barbel once in a while but they will unfairly bring the average size down. And for every barbel under a pound we'd need a double to even attempt a 5lb average.
The plan: Same plan as yesterday, it seemed to work. But not today, we tried baiting and waiting but we didn't see any fish moving, there were no knocks on the rod tips and worst of all it didn't feel right...
Dan had a new plan, stalking. I've stalked fish, you sneak up on them, lure them into a false sense of security with free samples, then bam; one with a hook in it!
Dan's plan was different, wander along and spot places that barbel would like. Shallow gravel runs, submerged rocks and snags etc then mark them with a stick in the bank. Stalking features.
It didn't matter that there were no fish in them, we'd either get in well upstream of them and cast down later or revisit them under the cover of darkness. The former worked on this occasion, a great long-range fight and a 7lb 3oz barbel. I really like this plan.
I found a couple of places it turns out boot-lace eels like to hang out - but I like the ideas of marking spots to try at night. Areas a couple of foot square as opposed to whole swims.
Afternoon session, this time joined by Dan (who was ill yesterday). And a change of plan, instead of searching for barbel we baited a swim and waited for them to come to us. Kit was also scaled down as light as we dared - wasn't sure if they were on to me yesterday.
After about an hour I got completely distracted and was returning James' rod rest and having a chat a little way from my rod, I glanced round to see my rod hammer away - time to demonstrate the running strike! Fortune smiled on me the fish was still there and after a delicate fight on light line the first fish was in the net.
Dan held the barbel in the net while I quickly set out the unhooking mat, scales and camera. Then he hosted the net to the bank - the barbel was gone!! Fortune smiled on me once again, the barbel hadn't spat the barbless hook and was still connected, a brief fight before it was re-netted, 6lb 3oz, a cracking start!
We were listening to the football on the radio and at half time Dan decided to pop off and get some chicken and chips, while he was away I had a bite that tried to rip the rod into the water, he was back for net duties and a long skinny 7lb 5oz barbel was added to the challenge.
Next up Dan had his first rod smashing bite of the season, and hooked a fish that shot downstream and expertly transplanted the hook from its mouth to a snag... I was really hoping he wasn't going to repeat his run of bad luck from the start of last season!
We sat it out but pack-up time of 10.30 arrived (work tomorrow). Net, unhooking mat, scales and camera were packed up just in time for Dan to have another rod ripping bite, a fantastic fight and a 5lb 9oz barbel - he does seem to leave these things to the last minute...
As the alarm on my phone sang out one minute past midnight I cast out a cube of luncheon meat, it felt like an age since last time I went fishing and I was really looking forward to this.
Everything was in place for an epic start to the season, but as I found out; nobody had told the barbel, the more I fished and the more I spoke to other fishermen the more we realised the barbel weren't switched on this morning. The 'banker' swims weren't producing and some really good anglers were struggling. Such is fishing!
My plan was to spend half an hour in each swim or until I caught a fish and then move on, covering as much water as possible. The first two chosen spots were occupied, the third seemed devoid of fish. A bite in the next spot resulted in a two pound chub lost at the net, and the next cast resulted in the first fish of the season, a 1lb chub, above.
Several more swims were explored without a bite before I dropped into a spot I've always fancied but haven't given much time. As the half hour time limit ticked past I had a bite, the bite I've been dreaming of for three months. The rod ripped round and I connected to a barbel. A great fight at range (for this little river) and my first barbel, 5lb 0oz, I was off the mark.
Both me and the fish appear to be ghosts!
With new found confidence I carried on exploring, and after walking miles backwards and forwards I added a 1lb chub, a 1lb barbel and a chub about 8oz to the scorecard. It was tough going and not what I was expecting... Three months was long enough to forget just how tough this little river is!
I had planned on staying until 8am, but couldn't drag myself away, leaving at 11.30 for some much needed sleep. Not the night I'd planned, but I did better than Dan, who was a no-show. Time for a bit of a re-think?
As an end of closed season bonus, I think tonight is going to be stag beetle fight night. There are a few about and I'd love to get some combat photos (crappy camera-phone photo above). It only happens one night a year, so fingers crossed I can find them. Both camera batteries are charged, one for the beetles tonight and one, hopefully, for a fish or two tomorrow. And it'll be flying ant day soon! (Paulos).
13 hours to go...
Edit: Only saw two, in flight, impossible to photograph...
Three days to go, and after a closed season talking about doubles, twenties and even a thirty, I can't wait to simply catch a fish. A pounder will do! A tap on the quivertip or a bob on the float... It's really hard to stay focused on work... 58 hours to go...
Well it's nearly here... The talk is almost over and it'll soon be time to hit the riverbank. As usual I've had three months to over-think and over-plan everything, and as usual I haven't taken the fact I have to work into consideration... But here goes...
A running total with a target weight lends itself well to blogging, and despite the fact I've talked up a good pike challenge, we are simply too far away from the nearest pike fishing to suit the squeeze an hour in here and a couple of hours after work there approach which worked so well on the previous challenges.
And lets face it; those barbel are far too tempting! Resetting out marker-weight to 5lb, Dan and myself have set a challenge weight of 300lb. And I'm feeling pretty confident - three months is just about long enough for us to forget how tough this little river is!
Pike are by far my favourite species and I've pretty much neglected the other species since I was a kid, if I was fishing a lake full of carp and a pike is rumored to be in there, I'd fish for the pike!
But Dan's barbel obsession is starting to rub off on me, and it's made me think about taking a more serious look at some other targets. So this season I've made a wish list of the fish I'd like to catch (pike only take up one fifth of it).
Wish List Targets:
Wye (Still trying!)
Ticking just one of these off my list would make my season (especially the bottom one), but I will have a serious go at each target. If anyone has any info they're willing to share, especially about the tench or zander, please let me know. I've never caught a tench over a pound, and never even seen a zander - thanks.
Back in England on the 13th, ready to hit the riverbank on the 16th... Can't wait...