Steve Pope Barbel Fishing

Catch more barbel!


Reaching Emerald City…..

I really believed the journey was going to take a long, long time, perhaps filled with all kinds of mixed emotions and drama. That’s how it’s supposed to be.

After all, realising one’s own very personal dream is meant to take forever, it often stays just a dream, as The Boss himself once said when he too went down to the river, “ Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true?”

There’s no need to lie, my dream really did come true and now I’m going to have to raise the bar, let me explain.

We were now into a new year, at my age you don’t wish the time away and you tend to savour each morning when you awake, I know I do especially as my two cats are always there to welcome a new dawn with me.

Weather wise I easily found excuses not to go fishing, too cold, too wet, and too lazy although in fairness I had plenty of other calls on my time so it wasn’t until the beginning of February when I found myself back in my favourite spot hoping for more barbel action. That wasn’t to be and after a few hours I was back indoors. I did catch up with another angler who knew the stretch well and between us we convinced ourselves that there were untold riches to be found beneath the surface of this special river, I continually mulled over that supposition back in the warmth of my cottage while I patiently waited for the next opportunity.

Three weeks went by until the temperature had increased enough for me to venture out once more, Monday February 20th, a date that will now forever be imprinted on my fishing mind.

Down on the river I was completely alone, not unusual midweek, the weather was mild, the river was not up by much but it had a little more colour than usual and around midday I dropped my bait on to the area I had liberally laced with hemp and small pellets.

A couple of hours flew by with no signs of activity and I was mentally preparing myself for another biteless visit but as we all know in barbel fishing it only takes a split second to change everything and little did I realise that my barbel fishing was soon to change in the most dramatic fashion.

I would like to be able to tell you that I experienced that ubiquitous three foot twitch at the butt but that wasn’t how it was. Instead I noticed the line moving upstream and having witnessed that a few times before over the years, I lifted the rod and immediately knew I was into a heavy fish that was determined to keep going up river towards Newtown!

I’m someone who is not averse to putting a real bend in the rod after all that is what they are meant for but holding my Free Spirit Big River almost bent to the max I quickly realised that I was attached to something just a bit special!

The fish kept deep and was swimming around in that ponderous way that big barbel often do, there were no powerful runs and by applying as much pressure as I could I felt in control.

It wasn’t long before the barbel was close enough for netting but I was still cautious because the bankside depth allowed for a last second dive and that’s where the centrepin comes to the fore.

As the barbel came to the surface I wished I had my larger landing net to hand because this fish was long and heavy, I gave a silent prayer as she eventually slid over the rim and into the net that was only just about big enough.

It’s the initial lift of the net that gives it away, you just know that your prize is special and the adrenalin starts to pump around your veins.

The scales went to 14lbs, my third fourteen pound barbel from the mighty Severn and without a doubt the most significant.

A stunning fish, pristine, three feet long with a girth approaching nineteen inches, the answer to my prayers, I had reached my Emerald City.

I was in a state of euphoria and shock, my first reaction after putting this stunning creature back in the net to rest up was to call my great friend Lawrence Breakspear, he tried his best to calm me down but I was “gone”, in a total state of disbelief and wonder.

I hadn’t brought the phone tripod and tried to work out how I was going to sort out a photo, I hadn’t been in this situation for many a long year.

I quickly rattled off a few shots, none really gave a true impression of this wonderful specimen but I accepted it and after a very long rest my fish safely swam away.

I knew there were specimens to be had but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would bump into one so quickly.

The bar has been raised and I want more!

I told myself that this wasn’t the pinnacle, there are others to be caught and that belief will keep me going for the rest of my fishing days.

I made one more visit along with my grandson but we drew a blank and then the snow arrived and all thoughts were put on hold until June.

As a new season began down on the river I started to make notes on my phone detailing my thoughts as I patiently waited for my next slice of action. I’ll insert them here to give a flavour of what was or perhaps more realistically wasn’t happening on my continued quest..

“Fast approaching the end of June and I’ve yet to catch a barbel, more than that. I’ve not seen any sign of a barbel or indeed any other kind of fish!

Am I concerned?

Of course not, I’m in this for the long run and it will take as long as it takes.

A Welsh Severn barbel is very special to me and that is what my barbel fishing is today after a lifetime’s interest in the species.

I don’t enjoy driving anymore so I count myself incredibly fortunate to have excellent fishing on my doorstep. The thought of a three hour round trip to the Wye or seven hours to the Trent just doesn’t interest me although I’ll still make the odd journey to catch up with good friends who enjoy a few sessions on these rivers.

But that’s their fishing, mine is here in Wales.

Last autumn and towards the end of the season I enjoyed real success and the fourteen counts as my best ever barbel. Now Severn fish tend to travel and on the upper reaches that can mean miles and miles so finding them at any given moment is a real challenge. As I’m not prepared to travel far I need to know they are actually here where I’m fishing and as the stretch is lightly fished its very much trial and error.

I’m pretty sure the barbel aren’t resident but I need to convince myself that’s the case so my first three sessions were concentrated on the area where I previously caught.

The results have confirmed my thoughts and so far twelve hours of fishing have yet to produce a bite, these sessions have been four hour durations and I’ve yet to fish till dusk and that will be the next move.

Tactics wise I’ve settled on two rods with a small pellet on one and a 6mm meat cube on the other coupled with twenty droppers of hemp/pellet/diced meat, baits from the Dynamite range.

I really dislike fishing with rods on a tripod and set up as lightning conductors, the upper Severn is still a big river but I’m fishing close in so rods are in what I consider the archetypal position, either level or pointing down or just slightly upwards.

There’s a real possibility that there are no barbel on this stretch at this time of year, on the other hand there could be three fourteen pound fish living their lives in relative peace and quiet, the conundrum for me is trying to ascertain what the reality is and that will keep me occupied for a long time.

The beauty of fishing is that it really is very personal, we all have different hopes and aspirations and that’s dependent on the effort we are prepared to put in.

I’m looking forward to every minute I’m on this river seeking out my own very personal quest”

I managed a few more sessions in July, all to no avail.

It wasn’t till the beginning of August that I eventually made contact with a barbel and the hook pulled! It felt like a good fish but that might have been my wishful thinking but at least it told me that the barbel were there, well one at least!

A couple of days later and I was back and this time after nine blanks on the trot I caught a barbel, at seven pounds it was no monster but who cares?

To me it was another of these special fish and another step on the journey.

I’m finishing this article in October and haven’t been back since that fish, guiding took me away and family business has taken precedence but guiding has now finished and all my fishing will be focused on the upper Severn and we’ll see what the winter brings.

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