Monday 26 March 2012

Barbel Challenge 2011: Results

The Challenge: To catch 100lb of barbel from the River Wandte over the 2011/2012 fishing season.

A tall order as we're new to the river and last season we managed 35 fish for about 40lb. But we did it, a massive amount of time on the riverbank (69 barbel sessions in total) and some helpful pointers from the locals, we managed what we thought would be an impossible target by the end of August...

Then, just to make things interesting, I wondered if we could double our original target. Things went well at first but as we hit winter the fishing slowed right down. One fish in October, none in November or December - but towards the end of February the river came back to life and we beat our new target on the 10th of March, just in time. A final total of 208lb 3oz - unbelievable!

We were also after some bigger fish - perhaps even a double. Last year the fish averaged just over a pound, so again this was a mission. We managed 29 barbel over our marker-weight of three pounds, and we went on to find some fantastic fish, sevens, eights, nines... And Dan cracked the double, he still hasn't stopped smiling!

Dan had some really bad luck at the start of the season, line break after line break, hook pull after hook pull. I think it's fair to say I caught the bulk of the weight but Dan put the cherry on top with the double...

The top 10 fish are listed below, all of them are over 7lb, in fact we beat last years best (6lb 6oz) a total of fourteen times! Going into this season I was convinced the bigger barbel only fed at night, so I've added in whether it was day or night to the list.

10lb 2ozD (Night)8lb 1oz B (Day)
9lb 12oz B (Night)7lb 12oz B (Night)
9lb 7oz B (Day)7lb 4oz B (Day)
9lb 2oz D (Night)7lb 0oz B (Day)
8lb 1oz B (Day) 7lb 0oz B (Day)

There is still much to learn about this fascinating little river, and its very tough fishing - we're still just beginners, but I'm very much looking forward to exploring further next season. Roll on June!

• The full stats of the Barbel Challenge are here.
• The comparison with last year is here. Interesting learning curve!
• And all Barbel Challenge posts can be read here (51 posts!).

And next years challenge? We've got three months to talk about it...

Right, that's a season review, a season video and a barbel review - time to stop looking back, kill a couple of months and plan the next season...

Thursday 22 March 2012

Closed Season: Video

Inspired by Paulos and Brooke's cool slideshow videos I've had a bash at making one myself. Thought it would take about an hour... Was wrong... You'll need sound...

Monday 19 March 2012

Season Review 2011/12

Well that season seemed to go by in a flash, it seems like no time at all ago myself and Dan were on the riverbank counting down the the last few minutes of the closed season, hooks baited, ready to start our quest for 100lb of barbel.

And reading back through the blog what a season it's been, probably my best ever! There was the Wandte challenge, Penton Hook, drama on the Wye and a new venue, Blenheim Palace.

Thames Pike

I was determined to catch a Thames pike this season, and when Darren mentioned weir permits my thoughts turned to Penton Hook. From what I've heard Penton Hook is long past it's best as far as pike fishing is concerned, it used to be known as the home of the five minute live bait (because that's how long they'd last), but we knew a few pike were still coming out.

Over the course of the autumn and winter I spent 10 sessions there for a total of 21 pike for 158lb 13oz, including 5 doubles to 17lb 12oz. I also managed 5 perch over a pound - so some great fishing. Dan caught his first pike at 6lb 11oz and has since bought some new pike gear, a piker is born. Darren caught his new PB pike and a new PB perch at 2lb 1oz, and I'm pretty sure Stuart will be accompanying us next season in search of his first pike.

It's a bit of a pain to get to, but it's a beautiful island and with the now traditional sausage sandwiches and great company it makes it a fantastic day out. I hope to do a few sessions there next summer after the barbel, bream and carp... And my new target is a Thames twenty pound pike!

Wye Pike

It was tough going on the River Wye this season, I only managed 3 pike, 13lb 4oz, 10lb 6oz & 5lb 8oz. Roger had two pike to 16lb 8oz and Paulos managed two pike with the best going 17lb. We didn't have the best conditions and piking there all season hasn't been great. Still I love fishing on the Wye, you never know what's lurking beneath the muddy brown water.

Steve bucked the trend and had a fantastic day's sport, six fish, including 5 doubles for a combined weight of 92lb 10oz. And after years of trying he bagged his first twenty, 20lb 14oz - top fishing that man!

I ventured back in February but conditions were against me once again, with salt and snow in the water, Roger and I knew it would be tough fishing but you have to give it a try. One run in three sessions, for a fish lost at the net, a very big fish - The Monster! After initially being gutted I've become inspired by the sight of this fish, I'll get her next season...

Palace Pike

With no Chew Valley tickets landing on the doormat I was delighted to be invited to Blenheim Palace by Sean. A stunning place to fish. We had two trips there and on the first session we were the only boat on the lake! I was just net-man with Sean bagging two pike, 9lb and 12lb 6oz.

The next trip we fished after a frosty night which wasn't ideal but I caught my first Palace pike of about 7lb. It was great fun to be out in a boat surrounded by the beautiful scenery... Hopefully we'll do it again when the pike are more switched on.

The Wandte

The riverbank that has been my home for the last nine months, or at least it feels like it, when I wasn't at work I was there... Hundreds of hours sat next to this fascinating, infuriating, tough little river.

Well first up is the barbel challenge, we managed to catch 62 barbel for a combined weight of 208lb 3oz and 29 fish over our target weight of 3lb. And Dan got a double. I think I'll do a separate blog post charting our progress throughout the season.

We met a lot of interesting people, made some new fishing-friends and caught a lot of fish. We caught a total of 10 species of fish including koi carp, a brown goldfish and a stone loach, as well as the ones you'd expect. Dan managed a new PB barbel, a new PB chub of 4lb 6oz and his first koi at 2lb 6oz. I got a new Wandte PB barbel of 9lb 12oz and a new PB koi at 6lb 9oz (Kevin!).

We had a lot of chub and eels, they often helped avoid a blank while we were after barbel, but I couldn't land a pound plus roach (despite hooking two). The best roach went about 10oz, I'll be after a pounder next season!

I think there will be some exploring over the closed season, trying to locate more barbel, roach spotting and I'd like to go after a trout next season... Can't wait!

Full Barbel Challenge report to follow...

As I sit here now, staring at three months without fishing, it looks like it's going to be a very long closed season, perhaps we'll head out after some sea fishing over spring. To everyone that is still fishing, tight lines and for river anglers like me... Only 89 days to go...

And I've added the rest of this season's photos to the photo album.

Wednesday 14 March 2012

The Last Day...

Last day on the river for three months, time for one last crack at a barbel. And a fantastic, sunny afternoon. I tried a variety of swims spending about twenty minutes in each one, the urgency of the challenge had gone, we'd doubled our wildest expectations, I wasn't so bothered with the lack of bites. I was just happy to be there - a hippy for the afternoon!

What a season it's been for me; 25 pike, over 40 barbel, five 1lb+ perch, chub to 4lb 8oz, roach, eels, crabs and koi, probably my best season ever. OK, didn't get a twenty pike or a double barbel, but who cares... Hang on, that was a bite...

Just as the light was fading a bite on ledgered luncheon meat and a 4lb 9oz barbel - fantastic, stuff the hippy cr*p. Rubbish self take photo (forgot to bring the stand thing, had to put the camera on the floor), but a barbel to end the season! I couldn't resist and had one more cast and a chub about 1lb.

The 2011/2012 season is in the bag. Full season report to follow...

Saturday 10 March 2012

Last Knockings

A long day and far too far into the evening on the river for one lost fish, the barbel to chip us over the 200 pound mark. I had it on for a few minutes and it felt like a very big fish - perhaps the double I've been chasing - but just when I thought it was tiring the hook pulled and it escaped unseen. Nearly out of time and the challenge has stalled on 199lb...

Or at least that was the post written in my head as I wound in the very last of the day's last casts...

Me and Dan had fished hard, we only needed one more pound and we'd have doubled our target. Now, both well overdue to be somewhere else, we decided to call it a day and wind in. As Dan wound in he shouted he'd got one - I stopped and put the rod on the rest ready to re-assemble the landing net - but it was just a boot-lace eel.

As he dealt with the eel I watched my rod for any signs of an excuse for one more cast but nothing happened. As the eel was put back I picked up my rod and conceded defeat - and something tried to rip it out of my hands - unbelievable!

The fattest barbel I've ever seen (no, it's not bent towards the camera) and another 4lb 10oz on the challenge... 203lb 10oz... Brilliant!

The barbel challenge stats are here.

Thursday 8 March 2012

Sunny Afternoon

What's orange and sounds like a parrot? My afternoon meeting was postponed until tomorrow morning - perfect chance to bag a barbel for the challenge. The afternoon looked great, so did the water, still topped up but not as murky as soup and not so clear the barbel could see me as soon as I stepped off the bus!

A cube of luncheon meat was cast out and soon the rod began to knock, a strike was met with a very hard fighting little chub about 2lb 8oz - I love it when you get a fish first cast, takes the pressure off.

About an hour later after trying a few little holes and features my rod was away again, this time it was nearly ripped into the water. Another cracking fight and an 8lb 1oz barbel was in the net. Sorry, self-take photo and I didn't account for where the sun was.

With lots of little knocks and rattles on the end of the rod I was glued to the riverbank - and afternoon soon became evening...

As darkness fell I had a bigger knock on the rod, then fall back, then knock, then fall back, then... Strike! This fish has taken the crown as the hardest fighting barbel I've ever caught (from the six pounder last year). Real arm ache, I finally netted her about 50 yards down stream - I had to, I couldn't follow her any more. 7lb 12oz, I was expecting something twice the size, a better self-take this time.

With the water thrashed to a foam every barbel in the area knew I was there, time for a long walk and another spot I fancied.

Wrap around bite first cast - miss, wrap around bite next cast - miss, tree next cast - oops, fourth cast I connected. Another great fight and a 4lb 13oz barbel to end the day - fantastic. A carrot!


Barbel Challenge
Well I'm sooo close, adding on todays fish, mine and Dan's total comes to 199lb 0oz. The search for a one pound barbel starts now...

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Cold And Raining

It was with a sense of insanity that I wrapped up warm and headed out into the pouring rain hoping to catch a barbel - the insanity that comes from only having a week left before the season ends - it doesn't feel like it's been nine months (and 65 barbel hunting excursions).

The river was dirty and rising, good news after the conditions on Saturday. The bad news was; there was so much crap floating down I couldn't keep a bait in the water for more than a minute. I tried a few swims on route down the river, stopping off to shelter under an umbrella a couple of times when the rain became too heavy.

I got to my chosen spot and about 3pm the rain stopped, an hour or so later the water began to recede and less rubbish was washing through. Now I could hold a bait out for longer and it wasn't long before I had a few knocks on my luncheon meat - I hit one and it felt like a small chub in the dirty water - until I got it right under my feet, then it shot upstream in big powerful runs.

Nice 7lb 0oz barbel - insane, yes. But delighted!

A few more casts despite being over my time limit resulted in a little eel. I wish I could have fished on, I was sure there was another barbel in the swim, but he'll have to wait for next time. And many thanks to Stuart for net and photograph duties.


Barbel Challenge
Back before the season began Dan and myself set, what we thought would be a nearly impossible target of catching 100lb of barbel between us. By the end of August we'd cracked it, by the end of September we'd cracked 150lb and I really thought we had a chance of doubling our target, something beyond our wildest dreams when we began.

But a barbel-free winter and both being busy at work now (Dan hasn't been out on the last two trips) means it's really down to the wire... 21lb 10oz still to go and two or maybe three trips left...

Saturday 3 March 2012

Nine To Five

Eight hours on the river today for one chub, around 3lb... But the water was painfully low and clear. Eleven days left, hope the threatened cold weather doesn't arrive!

Things that floated past during 8 hours: A sombrero, 2x styrofoam cups, 3x beer cans, a hula hoop, a boomerang, 2x footballs and a dead rat.