What started seven years ago with rumours of barbel fishing a bus ride away, and rekindled my love of fishing for things other than predators - barbel number 500 is in the bag. It would have been nice if #500 was a double but at 8lb 13oz and a hell of a fight - I'll take it!
Word on the riverbank is they've turned nocturnal, which has made these last ten more difficult as I like daylight fishing. I like to stalk a fish wherever possible, it's nice to spot and target an individual fish - real heart in mouth fishing!
Winter is coming and the barbel are going into hiding, they are leaving the shallows and I'm spotting fewer and fewer fish. The fishing is going to get a lot tougher from here - so I’m glad #500 found the net without a dreaded blank this season.
I also added another four plus chub, number nine, 4lb 3oz above - while I had a barbel resting in the net.
A Brief History
It all started back in September 2010 when Dan and I set out to catch a local barbel, that first season we struggled but eventually had a few splashers, Dan then broke through the three pound mark before I landed a cracking best of 6lb 6oz - we were hooked!
Pike Blog had become Barbel Blog!
The following two seasons we were practically camped out on the riverbank, and after a sharp learning curve we were into the bigger fish, both catching double figure barbel (Dan was first), and our average weight improved to just under seven pounds.
We were on a roll...
My 2013/14 season was written off with work, we did get out a few times - one of which was to be Dan's last trip to the river. I still see him occasionally, we talk about the good old days, he sometimes reads this, and promises to return one day.
Pike Blog returned to pike. And barbel. And all other species!
Since the beginning of the 2014/15 season I’ve mostly fished the river with short (1-3 hour) missions. Bait ‘n’ wait has been replaced with stalking, and specimen hunting with quantity - something to pull my string (although an occasional biggy is rather nice).
A quick trip here and there started to add up... to 500!
And the future; I'd imagine you're expecting me to say 'next target is 1000 barbel' but at this time I have no idea - perhaps? Or perhaps it's a new river, or species, who knows? But five hundred - fantastic! Would never have believed it at the start!
Some Of The Big Girls
Strawberry at 11lb 15oz, caught twice in 2017, initially some confusion over weight - but I'm now sure she was just under twelve.
Stitch in 2016, even though she regularly exceeded double figures this was the heaviest of the three times I’ve caught her, 9lb 14oz.
A scraper double at 10lb 1oz in the summer of 2014, wondered what the winter weight could be but haven’t seen her again.
My personal best - twice! Caught at 11lb 10oz and then a month later at 12lb 4oz in the winter 2013.
The Pig in 2013, I caught The Pig four times between 2011 and 2013 weighing between 9lb 12oz and 11lb 7oz in the photo above.
My first double figure barbel, I had been stuck on 9lb 15oz for so long. Weighed 10lb 6oz back in 2012.
Not included in my count but can't resist posting Dan's first double back in 2011. The Pig at 10lb 2oz - happy - nope - ecstatic!
Low cloud, drizzle but mild - perfect conditions for an evening zander fishing on Bury Hill. To cut a short story even shorter; I hooked and lost three zeds, best looked about 6-7lb in the spotlight - bugger!
Saved from a blank by a 12oz mini-zander it's time for a bit of a re-think. Bury Hill is expensive, difficult to get to and soon to be season ticket only - we need find some local zeds.
Time to track down my first river zander... to the Thames...
Another whirlwind trip to the river, the weed is starting to die off - which you’d think would make fish spotting easier but these fish are great at hiding. Sometimes the river looks completely devoid of life.
After a bit of walking I spotted a barbel and soon tempted it to nail a bait, 6lb 0oz. Next fish spotted was the one above, either 6lb 11oz or 7lb 11oz, I got distracted and didn’t write the weight down and now I can’t remember - getting old!
Next one I spotted looked big, a cracking fight and I was convinced I’d bagged a double - until I lifted the net, 9lb 7oz, best of the season so far and she’ll be a double in March. Then I wrapped up proceeding with a couple of splashers - 490 caught, 10 to go!
And why the title of this post? Does he even know what a rampant rabbit is? Well I’ve caught some weird stuff over the years but I think this will take some beating..!
It's impossible to take a selfie with a fish in a boat. Fact. That's why you need two anglers in a boat - which is good news for me! We set out to explore another section of The Thames.
It's better to explore the winter fishing grounds now in the clear water - we can see the obvious snags - and if one of us is going to fall in (test a life jacket) I'd rather do it before it gets cold!
A lot of water covered, some interesting spots discovered and a few jack pike for good measure - a lovely afternoon in the sunshine - just need a lottery win to do this full time...
I'm really close to cracking 500 local barbel, so I'm putting some quick sessions in before autumn turns to winter. 485 caught, 15 to go, which would take my season total to 95. So I might as well aim for one hundred then - you see how this gets out of hand?
The quest for a tidal-twenty starts here. Me and James spent the afternoon floating about on the Thames - there is a lot of water to explore and it's easier in clear, bright conditions - but we both really wanted to start the campaign with a fish.
And James was soon into a pike, and not just any pike - a double. An eleven, that's the way to do it. It was a couple more hours of searching before I had a run and after a fantastic fight in the little boat a 8lb 8oz pike was in the net - my first tidal pike.
And the next cast was nailed by my own double, a fighting fit 12lb 9oz pike (top photo). Great stuff; a tidal double each is a great start to the quest. James wrapped up proceedings with a seven and a jack before we went ashore for a well earned pint. We'll be back.
I'm always amazed at how quickly the summer season flies past - and we've had a brilliant one weather-wise, the rivers need some rain - but as a fish spotter there was plenty to watch as well as catch.
Here's a quick review of the summer season, and as I fished through the closed season it's six months this time...
April: No closed season blues this year, summer arrived early and the tench and carp were soon on the feed. I spent some time tracking down a new species - a golden orfe - great fun stalking these.
And I had a brilliant trip to Lechlade chasing monster trout with Steve and Dyl - Steve won the day with a 9lb rainbow - but hopefully we'll be back in November, we all fancy a double.
May: I managed to snare my target 5lb plus orfe on the last trip to the orfe pond before a couple of tench bait-n-waiters. I beat my PB three times to a cracking 7lb 12oz fish.
Then I walked a lot of miles looking for a canal pike, um, I mean bream. Hard to find and even harder to get them to take a bait I was pleased with a canal best of 8lb 1oz.
June: The month started with a few canal perch and Farm crucians while I waited for the river season to open. But the season opener was a damp squib. Tough fishing on The Stour.
I bagged up closer to home in the summer heat - that barbel pull I'd missed for three months - remember that next season! And spent a fantastic day on James' boat in search of rudd.
July: Brilliant visit from Paulos and Sammi - the River Wye conditions were pretty horrible - where was the water? But we did manage a few chub and barbel - great to get Paulos a barbel!
Locally I had a few barbel, fishing in the middle of the day made things harder for myself - but you can't beat stalking them and watching them take the bait in the clear summer water.
August: The summer sun hung on, and the barbel remained on the feed - and I filled my boots! A trip to The Stour turned up four pike - not the target - but I'm not complaining!
And I managed to bag a local 5lb chub - I've been stalking these for nearly 8 months, so it was about time one slipped up. The target is a London six - perhaps later in the year...
September: Summer began fading into autumn, in the remaining summer sunshine I made the most of some quick local sessions, taking my count to 70 barbel and 8 four pound plus chub.
I also beat my crucian PB, aiming for a three pounder, it was tough going but after a lot of hours and some serious rig development it all came good with some really massive crucians!
Winter is coming: And now predator season is here, time to track down a few new venue double figure pike - and hopefully a twenty. Zander and perch are on the radar, as is a 7lb winter chub...
Me and James have both been targeting the crucians this summer, and despite sharing rig development, catch (mostly blank) reports and fish location we've hardly fished together - so when James suggested one last afternoon on The Farm this season he managed to twist my arm.
My first cast sat out for all of five minutes before screaming away and the beautiful 3lb 2oz crucian above was safely in the net. They were feeding. This was what we've been waiting for. Bring it on!
Five and a half hours later neither one of us had had another bite, it was getting dark as I walked past James and asked him to keep an ear out for my alarms while I went for a pee. I'd gone about 10 yards before I heard my alarm scream...
I ran back, James was already on it. I saw my rod buckle over and James simply smiled and said "crucian", but I was happy enough to be net-man this time. I'll leave the details to James' blog. But I know he's waiting to read this so I'm putting it on record; you jammy bastard!
I ventured back to see if the crucians were still feeding in the last of the summer sunshine - and to cut a long story short - no they weren't (or I couldn't find them). I did land a couple of hard fighting tench though which made the trip more than worth while.
That's probably it for the crucians this year - it was a lot more effort than the blog reflects but I'm more than made up with the brace of threes and the new PB of 3lb 8½oz last time...
I had refined my rigs over the previous three crucian blanks (if you don't include a tufted duck). But today, it seemed, they wanted to play! Starting with a new personal best, 3lb 8½oz above - brilliant! And with the target three pound mark smashed anything else would just be a bonus...
Next up was this 2lb 9oz beauty...
Then a double hook-up, the roach went 1lb 3oz...
And the crucian went 2lb 15½oz (so close)...
After loosing one at the net and landing a little common carp I landed this 3lb 0oz to finish. Red. Letter. Day!!
And yes (to those who walked past), my indicators are made out of hair grips threaded though Kinda Surprise eggs - they'll look better when I add a chain and paint them up to look like Minions!
If I can string only a couple of hours together while the sun is still shining I'm hitting the river - I'll regret it otherwise when I'm thinking back in winter - a few smash and grab missions chasing barbel.
Recapture above, although a long way from the original catch area. Glad I got to photograph this one again - is it the next evolution of barbel? More mussel and a massive tail - what a fighter!
Double barbel! Two barbel in two casts, the first was recovering from a cracking fight in the net when his twin decided to join him - haven't managed that before - combine total 8lb 5oz!
No big fish, mostly fours and fives - but fast and furious action, just what I want in the last of the year's sunshine. In fact the biggest was the long skinny 6lb 6oz barbel above.
I've also been chasing down the chub, had two close-but-no-cigars at 3lb 15oz. But have added two more four pounders; 4lb 3oz above and 4lb 6oz below - and they'll only get bigger in winter...