Steve Pope Barbel Fishing

Catch more barbel!

POPE’S PATCH April 2009

I don’t hear the minutes ticking by,
I don’t feel the hours as they fly,
I don’t see the summer as it wanes,
Just a subtle change of light upon your face.


“He’s lost the plot, living up in those hills with just the sheep to talk to has frazzled his brain.” I can hear you all now as you digest the first few words of this piece! Well I have to tell you not to worry, my mind is as intact as it ever was and those words are the first verse from a song called Kingdom of Days. You can probably guess the artist and writer.

They are written as a paean to a partner in a long-standing relationship, the words can just as easily be applied to a fishing attachment. I’ve often used the analogy of barbel fishing as the other woman or as in some of our cases substitute the word fishing for Society, it fits the bill equally as well. Unless you’re one of the very lucky ones whose partner understands and accepts your other passion or indeed may even share your love and then you really are a fortunate person, you will understand exactly what I am saying! The writer is a man my own age and he is looking back over his life, something you tend to do, as the cake with sixty candles burning brightly looms ever closer.

I suppose it’s because the Ludlow Regional meeting still lingers in my mind as I write, giving talks at these occasions allows one the great indulgence to reflect, look back and remember days and friends gone by. Ludlow itself is more than an ancient market town, it is Britain’s first official slow city, it simply invites you to chill out and take it easy. Our meetings just reflect that wonderful precept.

Since moving to the Marches, I’ve met up with a good friend from years gone by, Lol Breakspear. Those of you who have been in the Society since we started will know that Lol put the first two magazines together, both now collector’s items.

Reminiscing with Lol has rekindled many memories from those early days and brought back into sharp focus the guys who helped out then and are no longer around. Peter Stone, our first President, Gordon Scott, our first Secretary and Mike Burden the man who laid the foundations which Pete Reading has built upon so successfully. These men are no longer with us but their influence and memory will live on as long as people wet a line. Then there are the many who have worked on the committee and became firm friends, the likes of John Found, Barry Norris, and Phil Buckingham to name just three.

When you have been involved as long as I have you make many friends and it becomes more and more difficult keeping in touch let alone trying to arrange fishing trips. Each year at this time I convince myself that these fishing days will be arranged and then as six months go by the  realisation that once again it hasn’t happened sinks in, this year will be different I’m sure.

Helping Rich Frampton to establish a new region has enabled me to rethink the qualities that make a region thrive and maintain support and popularity. Over the years I’ve been to some where the room was packed and resembled the mosh pit at a Stones gig, I’ve also experienced an empty hall even though a top line speaker was on the bill, the conclusion I have come to is that big does not necessarily equate with being the best. If attendances go past a hundred, they peak and then fall back, which creates a feeling of disillusion for all concerned. With the benefit of hindsight we know that to be true. At the other end of the scale we have the  Cambridge/Bedfordshire Region as the perfect model, which has thrived for so many years under the watchful eye of Mike and Harry. For longevity, like my tee shirt size, small to medium is best, keep away from XXL!

Something in the middle is my personal preference. A room with thirty to fifty people generates its own special atmosphere; everyone feels part of it rather than being an interested onlooker. This feeling of belonging is essential and means that people want to come back, they look forward to it, they feel comfortable and friendships follow. There is absolutely no reason why many more regions should not flourish across the country, it isn’t difficult, just needs a bit of vision and commitment from one or two in the area to make it happen.

Before this reflective mood came over I was ready to write a scathing piece on Internet Forums, I’m glad the more natural calm side of my character won through. Suffice to say that these forums are not for me, I enjoy talking to everyone but for some reason it just isn’t the same communicating via the keyboard and screen, it seems at times that the demons within often take over when people stare at the computer. Some like the forums so much they invent a dozen different personas and start talking to themselves, I’ve no idea what that’s all about but the title of that sixties comedy film,  A Suitable Case for Treatment, certainly springs to mind!

A prime example of forum madness came to the fore recently in regard to a barbel related dvd.

When Bob Roberts called to ask if I would be interested in helping out with his next filming project, little did I appreciate the furore that would break out when the product became available.

Incredible really when you consider that two guys, Bob and Stu Walker devoted a great deal of time and effort to put together a dvd that sits comfortably with the very best on offer and superbly portrays the sheer delights of barbel fishing.

Anyone who enjoys the fun and thrills that barbel fishing has to offer and I would have thought that means everyone who reads this will certainly appreciate this film. Bob and Stu deserve not only our support but also our appreciation for their skill and hard work in delivering a first class production.

Barbel Days and Ways, Volume 2 is available from and I can wholeheartedly recommend it to you.

Now what’s that saying?

When you soar like an eagle you will attract the hunter, luckily for Bob and Stu and anyone else for that matter who dares to put their head over that parapet, the Internet hunters are more crackpot than crack shot and wouldn’t hit a barn door from ten paces!

Moving on, there has been a lot of talk of late about diminishing barbel populations. Very well respected and experienced anglers have been expressing the view that the good times are all gone and we may have to get used to a reduced level of expectation.

If that means moving away from the incessant drive towards biggest is always the best then perhaps it’s not a bad thing. Enjoyment and pleasure is just as easily derived when catching small barbel in beautiful surroundings as it is from landing a heavyweight. It’s all a matter of mindset, this line of thought received a round of applause when put forward by Des Taylor at the Ludlow meeting, and he certainly struck a chord.

But back to the doom and gloom, for sure on certain stretches of certain rivers there has been a marked reduction in the numbers of barbel caught. But the question is how serious is it, what has caused it and will things recover?

Many theories are being put out at the moment, the floods, crayfish, otters, water quality, you name it and it’s a potential culprit. I take a far more optimistic view.

These past years have given rise to a huge explosion of big fish, and the expression “You’ve never had it so good” could have been written for us barbel anglers. The reasons for the upsurge have been well documented but as with all things there is a price to pay.

More big fish, fewer small fish, you cant buck the biomass rule. When the big fish die either naturally or as in some cases through otter predation it is very noticeable, a void is left that can only be filled as smaller fish take up station. Now whether there are enough fish to fill the void is the question and as to the answer, we will have to wait and see. Nature has a way of looking after itself but with other unnatural factors acting on the ecosystem we will have to keep an observant eye.

My last session on the Lower Severn only served to confirm my thoughts about that part of the river, the barbel are still there in good numbers and sizes, but you have to be methodical in your approach. We’ve had it so easy for so long that perhaps we’ve taken many things for granted and dare I say, lost a bit of our edge.

Applying the approach that has always served me well on that river rewarded me with a decent catch of barbel and a last fish of the season that fills me with great optimism for these coming months.

There are plenty of barbel out there of every size, enough to keep us all happy.

Towards the end of last year I had a very interesting experience. Sitting in my inbox was an email from a Brian Pope. When I saw the name I instantly thought of a cousin I had not seen for nearly thirty years and when I opened it my thoughts were confirmed. Brian was enquiring if I was his long lost cousin who had introduced him to fishing way back in the mid sixties. He had seen my picture in Angling Times and recognised the family likeness and from there it was an easy task to find my email address through the BS website and contact was made.

We’ve since met up, Brian came along to the excellent meeting held in Leighton Buzzard where Trefor, Fred, Adrian Busby, Pete and myself gave talks to a hundred or so barbel anglers.
What is truly amazing is that Brian is a mad keen barbel angler himself, caught some nice fish as well!

Anyone doubting the power of the press would have to think again after reading this story and I’m now looking forward to adding Brian to my ever-growing list of fishing companions. It goes without saying that Brian joined the BS, I’ll see you soon mate!

Another topic that has received a good deal of attention in recent weeks is the one concerning the ability of the barbel to smell. It was picked up on the Internet and found its way into a monthly magazine. Together with Fred I put together an article approaching five thousand words but was beaten to the punch when the magazine published a similar feature.

I’ll bide my time, another opportunity will present itself. I understand that Fred has revisited the subject in this issue of Barbel Fisher and that is bound to provoke more discussion. For my part I’ll stick with what I said originally, I’ll still lay a bait trail rather than rely on a scent one.

Drawing to a close now, I’m full of optimism for the coming season, both with regard to the Barbel Society and barbel fishing itself.

I’m still every bit as committed to the Society today as I was nearly fifteen years ago, I’m very proud to be working alongside a very able and dedicated group of people who serve you the membership. Times are hard and are likely to get harder so maintaining a strong sense of belonging is important to us all and the Society certainly gives me that.

Your support is never taken for granted and I hope it continues as we strive to move forward.
On the fishing front I’m beginning to understand the moods of the Upper Severn a little more and hope to spend more time on the middle reaches, which are really worth some considered attention. I’m looking forward to meeting up with the auction winners and hope to be taking others out as I tread tentatively into the guiding world. I’m also hard at work putting my own website together which should be up and running for the start of the season, I’m a big fan of websites; it’s just the forums that turn me off!

There’s every chance that I will get out with Fred a bit more this summer and hopefully embark on a little of the journey we hoped would happen last year but which didn’t materialise as events conspired against us. Fingers crossed.

So having started this piece in slightly introspective mode I’m ending on a buoyant note and leave you with the last verse,

“I watch the sun as it rises and sets,
I watch the moon trace its arc with no regrets.
This is our Kingdom of Days.”

With thanks to the Boss (You’ve guessed that already) for the words and a little inspiration.




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