Steve Pope Barbel Fishing

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A Very Special Barbel

As we all stood in the pretty little churchyard saying our final goodbyes we made a vow to catch a barbel for Mike before the day was over.

The past few hours had seen us in deep, reflective, sometimes sombre mood as we remembered our recently departed friend who as well as being a superb angler had also been a great mentor to me.

As I drove past the Severn at Bushley on that summer afternoon I pictured Mike sitting there in that distinctive hat of his and remembered the times we had spent together catching barbel and putting the world to right.

Nothing lasts forever.

Back at the caravan a few miles upstream I started to get my gear together.

As I walked down to the river rod and chair in one hand, bucket of hemp and boilies in the other my mind wandered back to the conversations at the church.

An hour later the best part of a gallon of hemp laced with twenty or so chopped Meaty Marine boilies had been fed into the river about a third of the way across by way of my trusty baitdropper.

The table was laid and all that remained was for the barbel to arrive for their feast. I sat back and watched the world go by together with the multitude of boats and colourful barges that share this river with us during the summertime.

Afternoon slipped into evening before I cast out a bait onto the bed of feed. Enough time had elapsed to let the barbel get their heads down. I visualised the two 20mm hair rigged Meaty Marines lying there inviting a hungry barbel to make a mistake.

The evening was warm and humid, T-shirt weather, and as daylight gradually faded away the clear night sky came alive with a myriad of sparkling stars, they seemed brighter than usual.

The river was perfectly calm on the surface and in the distance the headlights on cars crossing over the bridge complimented the night stars, as did the string of houselights on the faraway Malvern Hills.

The picture was serene as my thoughts drifted away once more and memories of my old friend came sharply into focus.

Nothing stirred, the rod lay still in its rests, and silence filled the air.

Time passed by and I became resigned to the fact that tonight the barbel wanted to be left in peace. I checked my watch and the hands told me we were fast approaching midnight, the day was almost at its end.

And then it happened, totally out of the blue without any kind of warning. The way it often is with big barbel.

The rod tip bent alarmingly and the reel started to sing as line poured from the spool and a barbel headed off towards Tewkesbury! In an instant the rod is in my hands and that unmistakeable sensation as a heavy fish pulls hard at the other end is quickly conveyed to my brain.

I knew straight away it was a big fish, you can always tell. None of this tearing around at breakneck speed, these fish are older, wiser, they know what’s needed to win a battle. This is a war of attrition. Whose strength will desert them first, who will make that fatal error.
This fish was seeking sanctuary at its own pace and there was not a lot I could do but ensure the tackle was tested to its limits.

The rod would do its job, the rest was sound, and there would be only one winner. Gradually the fish came into the shallower water and instantly showed its indignation by wreaking havoc on the surface. A huge swirl sent seismic waves across the previously mirror like surface as she glimpsed the waiting net, I knew then that she was something special.

As the folds of the net engulfed this mighty fish the fight was over, this creature was mine, and my responsibility now.

I allowed her time to recover before gently placing her on to the mat; the shock as I lifted her from the river confirmed that this indeed was a huge Severn barbel.

The scales verified what I already knew, at 14lbs 11ozs; this was my personal best from a river that has been especially kind to me.

Back in the depths of my landing net, this majestic fish regained her strength as I tried in vain to regain some sort of composure.

I put a call through to John Found who I knew was also fishing no more than fifteen minutes away. Without hesitation he jumped in to his car and was with me in no time at all. He arrived to find me sitting cross-legged on the top of the bank totally bemused looking down at my barbel resting in the water below.

John is a great one for installing a sense of reality into proceedings and after taking photos quickly with the minimum of fuss the barbel was ready to return from whence she came.

As we watched her swim powerfully away like a giant submarine slowly disappearing from view, I looked up at the sky and said to John, “ I know this is going to sound strange but someone was looking down on me tonight.”

I glanced at my watch; a new day had just begun.


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