by Rich Frampton
Things had gone to plan so far this season.
By following Steve Pope’s advice I had beaten my personal best at the start of July and then again just two weeks later.
The caster and hemp approach had worked on both occasions and it was with a touch of confidence that it would work again that I invited Will Smith to come down to the Kennet in Berkshire for the day.
Will was going to fish the same swim that I had at the start of July, a deep glide with an overhanging bush and a raft it its tail. I was going to go further downstream to fish an area that had been kind to me two weeks previously.
We hoped the same technique of three or four droppers every 25 minutes would lead to Will’s second ever double figure barbel.
The drive down from Shropshire flew by and at 6am we were walking along the drive to the river. Will had read articles by Steve and my own first attempt at an article on Steve’s blog in which I had described the capture of what was at that time my new personal best. Here though was Will’s first opportunity to put that knowledge into practice.
The method of fishing is to use a bait dropper to build up a swim with casters and hemp. The chosen swim was indeed ideal for this approach and soon the first of the hemp and casters were being lowered out.
I left Will to it and headed off downstream to a spot that only two weeks earlier had given me my new personal best, a fish of 13lb 5ozs.
My swim was a glide alongside a bed of streamer weed that reaches half way across the river. A clear channel no more than four feet wide before it reaches the trailing branches of the far bank willows and alders. Another perfect spot.
By this time however the weather wasn’t so perfect. The drizzle had increased to a light rain and the clammy conditions made just being out in it uncomfortable.
A short while after I had finished baiting up and chilled out for a bit the first text came in. Will had caught his first Kennet barbel and, at somewhere around three and a half pounds, it was probably one of the smallest in the stretch. But that didn’t matter a jot – it was the first and a good sign.
I had set up a running Stonze weight with a smaller backlead. As usual there were no knots apart from the hook knot with the 20lb Powerpro braid being fished straight through to a size 10. A mono hair was tied off the bend and to this was super glued a cluster of casters.
Despite this tried and tested approach the reel remained silent while the morning wore on. I deposited 3 or 4 small droppers into the glide ever 30 minutes to try to trigger a take but …nothing.
Meanwhile, another text, then another, and yet another had indicated that Will’s swim was rewarding his efforts! Three more fish, all relatively small but, more importantly, getting bigger each time at around 5, 6 and 7 pounds.
My attention had drifted away to a Red Kite that was lolloping in flight above the meadow opposite. Last week in the warm sunshine it had sailed effortlessly in the thermals. Today in the dull but now thankfully, rain free conditions it looked leaden.
It had just landed in the willow opposite when, as if on cue, the reel screamed out.
Grabbing the rod the fish obliged and took off downstream, with me in pursuit. The major weed bed now out of the scenario it moved from one clump of streamer weed to the next and after a strong run upstream I made out its shape below the second Stonze backlead as once again it headed back down past me.
That sight made me realise that this was going to be my third double in as many weeks and so it was to prove. I was soon weighing an immaculate fish, the Reuben Heaton’s settling at 11lb 2ozs. Just at that moment a text came in from Will to say that he had had another fish of 8lb 14ozs and that he was resting the swim again. Perfect timing I thought, a photo was required.
After a short chat, Will headed back up to his swim to continue, with the sight of this double his enthusiasm was charged up even further (as if it needed it!).
I had to make a decision and it was soon made. I was going to move. It had now hit mid afternoon and I shifted upstream, past Will, to a swim that I had always wanted to try below a steep vertical bank about 4 feet above water level.
The top limit of the swim was marked by a bush that grew out into the water and which, in turn, created a slack area immediately in front of me. It was all very close in and tight and I knew I’d have to be really careful to stay off the sky line.
I had seen John Found fishing there before and he had told me how vital it was to use a backlead in that swim. I had one on already but now I needed at least four feet between the leads, the first one would lie three or four feet away from the bank.
This arrangement would allow the hook to be positioned right in the middle of the slack while the five or six feet of line on the river bed would enable even a good sized fish to turn around and feed without causing a line bite – that occurrence would almost certainly spell disaster.
Out went several droppers, and I sat well back to allow the swim to settle down before I made a cast.
A dart of blue caught my eye and a Kingfisher came to rest in the small willow that grew into the water opposite. It sat and shook the drizzle off as if it had just dived in after one of the hundreds of minnows that were frantically charging around in the shallows.
A beeping of my phone woke me from my trance and I grabbed it like a cowboy drawing his revolver. Another fish and this one needed a photo. At 9lb 12ozs Will was justifiably over the moon.
I left him with the message, “The next one will be a double!”
My reel had remained silent for what by now seemed an eternity. The dull day was closing in fast and I was thinking, hoping, that Will could end the day with the target, a double figure fish, when my reel started to turn. Now the line was going straight out so the rod tip remained calm and it reminded me of a carp run in a lake. Just picking up the rod set the hook and the fish immediately took off upstream. Holding the rod high I moved downstream where it was possible both to get to water level and find some space to control, or rather try to control the fish.
The river narrowed here and the flow was incredibly strong. Keeping pressure the fish used this to its advantage and just hung there, almost immovable.
Again, it relented to the pressure and at the third attempt, because of the strong flow moving the net away, I managed to envelope it in the mesh and next thing a large shape was resting at the bottom of the net.
At 10lb 2ozs I was really happy …two doubles in a day! I couldn’t believe it.
Fully rested the fish headed back to its home under the bush.
Now we needed just one more.The darkness was approaching and rather than move again I packed up and spent some time chatting to the trappers who had arrived to take their crayfish.Their stories and knowledge of the river are limitless and as I walked downstream to get Will their words rang in my ears.
Just at the moment I arrived Will’s rod tip heaved around and he was into a strong fish which tore downstream and then up. He knew that this was as heavy as the previous fish but would it make it, would it make the magic 10lb?
It certainly fought hard and after a strong upstream run it turned and I was able to hold the net so that Will could steer it into the waiting maw. Silently we just looked at each other, thinking the same thing, it was going to be close. And close it was.
The scales read… 10lb 1ozs! Will had done it and I’m not sure who was the more pleased, him or me. It was a fantastic moment that even whilst writing this has brought the euphoria flooding back.
It had all gone to plan …again.
Walking back to the car we noticed that the cloud was breaking to reveal a beautiful star lit night – what a perfect end to the day!!!
The Barbel Society Barbel Challenge – By Jerry Gleeson
Well after months of planning and replanning the time had finally come for me and Paul to set off on our 14 rivers adventure to raise money for the army benevolent fund, that was proudly sponsored by The Hook Bait Company, Wraysbury baits, The Print Biz and Gforce tackle. Along the way we would meet up with good fishing friends Phil Smith who would join us for 4 rivers and Dave Chambers who would join us for the 7 rivers on the southern leg.
our 1st river was the Ribble in Preston we had plenty of action on here but it was Paul who scored 1st with the doubles with a 10lb 8oz beauty, next we were off to the Goyt where Paul again produced the goods with a good fish of 10lb 3oz. Off to the dove next to meet up with Phil smith who was too fish with us for the next 4 rivers and Mark Dutton who was to be our guideand fish as a guest angler.
While Phil and mark were getting plagued by chub Paul and I were getting amongst the resident barbel but it was Paul again who had the double and a new pb to boot with a barbel weighing 11lb 3oz. The following morning we said our thanks and goodbye’s to Mark in the morning and made our way to the river Derwent where we were guests of Derby County at the suggestion of Phil, like on every other river we had a good walk before deciding on our chosen swims.
This time it was my turn to get amongst the double’s landing a barbel weighing 11lb 4oz, not wanting to be outdone Paul continuing his run of luck landed another barbel and again another pb weighing 11lb 7oz what a trip he was having.
With a last minute change of plan Phil advised we might have more luck on a stretch of the Trent at Long Eaton and again he wasn’t wrong, his knowledge on stretches of rivers was proving second to none, we managed 3 barbel here a nice brace to me weighing 12lb 8oz and 11lb 4oz, Phil taking his 1st double at 11lb 1oz.
We were all ecstatic at this point as we had taken 8 double figure barbel from the 1st 5 rivers, far better than what we had ever anticipated.
Next we off to the river Soar another length Phil had suggested, now i don’t mind saying after having a really bad day i was not feeling it on this river, but once again Phil’s wisdom proved invaluable when just after 10pm in consecutive casts i landed another nice brace weighing 10lb 3oz and 12lb 10oz. Phil got also got amongst the fish with an 8lb barbel and a double figure carp.
The following morning Phil departed from the challenge leaving us with 10 doubles from 6 rivers, we certainly
couldn’t have done it without him.
We were on a very big high when we arrived on Kinver freeliners stretch of the lower Severn, unfortunately the river was running very low and early reports indicated that those who had fished it had struggled. Still we gave it our best shot and despite being our 1st barbel blank we did manage some nice chub and bream.
With the northern leg finished we headed off to the river Lodden where we met up with Dave Chambers, not only is Dave a very fine angler he is also very funny and kept morale high all week even if half the time it was at my expense.
The Lodden was to prove another difficult river, although Dave had a lovely 7lber and a nice chub both Paul and I struggled, even the crayfish avoided us.
After a hearty breakfast it was time for the river Kennet, this was the river i had been looking forward to the most, it was a stunning bit of river, and many thanks to RDAA for allowing us to use upper benyons at such short notice. We managed 3 Doubles on the Kennet again Paul doing the business with another 11lber and another pb his 3rd one of the trip coming in at 11lb 9oz, Dave managed a 10lber as back up but not before Paul had his second double followed by an 8lber, me on the other hand all i could catch was weed and lots of it.
Slightly tired and worse for wear we arrived at the river Colne a stunning little river where Dave Gauntlet was to guide and fish with us. Although 5 Barbel were taken we unfortunately missed out on the double, we will return.
The river Thames next probably the widest river I’ve ever fished and also the slowest for a river of such size there was hardly any flow, although we was put in some good swims by Gary Lucas the one thing he couldn’t provide was extra water, I opted for an early night and left the lads to it, by this point i was knackered god knows how the other lads felt.
Paul managed a nice 6lber during the night but that was the only bite, after breakfast it was time for the long drive into Canterbury to meet Iain Macdonald who would show us around the wonderful river Stour.
We were all sat in good swims amongst the masses of streamer weed, and we could all see barbel moving in and out of the masses of weed beds, Dave lost a good fish early on and landed 2 good bream and i managed a 7lber, i did have a very nice double in my swim but i struggled to get it to feed. Although we were struggling on the Southern leg we weren’t doing bad overall, 13 doubles so far from 12 rivers.
Our 13th river next the Arun, we were met here by some of the committee of Petworth and Bognor who gave us a cheque for £100 to go towards the amount already raised, absolutely fantastic what a nice surprise.
If there was one river we expected to blank on it was this one, with a very low head of barbel spread over a long distance the arun has to be one of the hardest barbel rivers in the country.
Dave Chambers did the magic on here before me and Paul had cast out, we were still prebaiting when we heard his cheers, to say he was happy was an understatement, and myself and Paul were equally delighted for him, that was one of the many special moments we had on the challenge.
With the job done we set off early for the Hampshire Avon and the Royalty fishery where Davis Tackle had paid for us to fish the compound and the main river.
For us this was the only stretch of river where we could end this challenge, the royalty is steeped in angling history and to be able to end our challenge on there was fantastic, if only we could get that double.
I decided to stay on greenbanks all night and Paul and Dave went up onto the compound, I was having fun catching some nice bream between 6-8lb, not what we came for but cracking fish all the same, my phone went at 3am and it was an ecstatic Dave who had just had a barbel weighing dead on 11lb he had certainly done his stuff on the southern leg.
When the morning came as much as we didn’t want it to the challenge was over, we had done 15 doubles from 9 of the 14 rivers, Paul had 3 new pb’s, id had 2 braces of doubles from 2 rivers on the same day, we’d had the pleasure of fishing with Phil and Dave, we’d met some cracking people along the way, but more importantly by the time the final penny is in we should have raised in excess of £2500 for the army benevolent fund.
To donate to to the cause please visit Jerry’s Just Giving page here : http://www.justgiving.com/jerry-gleeson