Steve Pope Barbel Fishing

Catch more barbel!

December Update – No. 1


Something a bit different this time around, a sort of needs must!

If you follow my Fishing Magic Diary you may have noticed that it hasn’t been there for some time, there is a reason.

My text and pictures didn’t get through and by the time I realised what had happened Ian, the FM editor, was away on holiday and I think he thought I wasn’t interested any more!

Either that or I’ve been given the sack!

Anyway I’ll try once again to make contact on his return and see what’s going to happen in the future.

In the meantime I didn’t want to consign the write-ups to the bin so I’ve decided to put them all out on here in a bumper round up of my summer and autumn fishing.





Fishing Magic Diary – August 2013


Well August has been and gone and for me it was a month of highs and lows, exasperation and delight but when all was said and done it truly was a reaffirmation of what fishing is really about.

There’s no hiding place when you write a monthly diary, what you read really is how it is, warts and all. Sometimes the fish oblige and you feel on top of the world, more often than not they don’t and you are reminded – as if it was needed – that the barbel always call the tune……this time with more than a little help from the weather!

So let’s go back to the start of the month when the summer sun was blazing, a nightmare at times for us anglers but I suspect we were the only one’s moaning and let’s get real here, I’d rather have a nice hot summer, much prefer to be in shorts and slip, slap, slopping instead of thermals!

Before the fishing got under way I had an appointment at the local hospital to see if there was anything they could do about my hearing, I’ll rephrase that, my lack of hearing!

Those who know me or have been out with me know only too well that my Germaine Greer’s are not what they were and there’s a reason I may appear at times to cock a deaf ‘un!………………………I’m a bit Mutt and Jeff!

Anyway the specialist only confirmed what I already thought although I still carried a rather fanciful notion that perhaps the old lug ‘oles were just blocked. I’ll have to consider whether to go down the hearing aid road or not, it’s likely to destroy the image I’ve carefully cultivated but there really is no stopping Old Father Time!

The Wye took up a good bit of my fishing and the impact our weather has had on the barbel fishing was once again all too apparent, to put it bluntly the fishing was hard!

The second and third Wye Valley Experience were both tricky in respect of total numbers of fish caught. The former took place once again when the sun was shining, the temperature was sky high, the river was low and even in the usual guaranteed hotspots the fish, chub as well, were just lazing around waiting till much later in the day before thoughts of feeding entered their tiny brains!



Peter, who owns the hotel, and myself were considering packed dinners instead of packed lunches and even brunch so that we could stay out well into dark to catch the feeding spell.

Barbel were caught but these trips are really about having a holiday experience as well, the hotel, the food and the camaraderie are equally important.

The mix of characters and the way personalities unfold over a four day period fascinates me, it’s very much like the barbel fishing equivalent of Big Brother or perhaps I’m a Celebrity! Those who are the quietest when we first meet up often turn into the loudest by the time we are saying goodbyes and vice versa.

We are moving the dates for next year’s holiday’s to try and ensure the guests have the very best chance but you can bet the weather gods will no doubt intervene.

On one of he stretches we fished that old chestnut the halfway rule raised its ugly head. I can see potential problems on the horizon on some Wye venues.

In a nutshell we are witnessing anglers, and I use that term loosely, happily casting right across the river to where people are already set up fishing their inside line.

I was only made aware of this after the event, if I had seen it for myself then sparks would have flown!

Staying with the Wye I had a few guiding engagements during the month and even managed a couple of hours to myself when it became very apparent how downright awkward the barbel can be in these summer conditions.

As the clock struck eleven and I was alone in the total darkness someone rang the dinner bell, it was a barbel every cast. The pellet had hardly touched the bottom before the tell-tale pull across my fingers registered yet another take. It was fun and I’ve no doubt if I had stayed on I would have kept on catching but I had to be awake bright and early to see if I could repeat the process in daylight for a couple of guests.

The swim that was seemingly full of fish after dark just switched off during the day but fortunately for us the barbel were feeding a little further downstream and we managed a few to a good size.

Another guided day on the same stretch put everything into perspective. I met up with Paul who just wanted to learn as much as he possibly could about fishing on a river like the Wye. He was happy getting bites, catching chub and his very first barbel and the joy on his face told me that fishing really is special hen everything is new and we must never forget that in the quest to catch more and bigger.

I’ll be fishing again with Paul on the Kennet where we will spend hours covering the many aspects of how to tempt a barbel from a small river, I hope the river gods are smiling and Paul meets up with one of the larger residents but I know he will be happy just being there.

Having mentioned the Kennet I did enjoy a great day there in the company of James, a young lad who had made the long journey down from Sheffield to fish the river for the first time.

The Kennet where I fish is not producing the numbers, each season the expected number of chances in a daytime session is reducing all the time. If we have three chances I consider that to be a good result now and at least one of those chances should produce a double figure fish.

Often there may just be the one chance and that was how it was for James, but when it’s a personal best – not far off 12lbs, the first barbel on the ‘pin and the first from a new river then it’s well worth waiting for!

You can tell from the smile on his face that James was a very happy man!


And those are the pictures I like to see, happy, smiley people pleased with what they are catching……………………not miserable, sullen ugly mugs which is more often the case in the fishing photo’s we see!

I managed to squeeze in a day at the Evesham Festival where I did my bit on the stand with Paul Garner. I enjoy these shows, it’s amazing just how many familiar faces you catch up with and this past Bank Holiday Monday was no exception.

Apart from the fishing August has been taken up with looking after my little Aussie mate. My daughter arrived from Sydney at the beginning of the month and asked if we wouldn’t mind looking after little Henry while she took a well-deserved break travelling around Europe. We bit her hand off and Henry’s stay lasted well into September while my daughter forgot about her emotionally draining year by taking in a whistle stop tour of all the best hotels in Europe.


My life is busy, busier in fact than it’s ever been but as the song says;

It’s my life, it’s now or never , I ain’t gonna live forever, I just want to live while I’m alive.

Good sentiments that I try my best to live by.

I’m already making plans for the Sydney Test Match, Boss shows and Aussie fishing just after Christmas, can’t let the grass grow!

Next time I’ll be telling you how it all came good for a fellow Spurs man on the Kennet, how the Severn is slowly picking itself up and a bit more besides.

Enjoy your fishing, the rain should arrive soon I hope and then the barbel fishing should really take off!




Fishing Magic Diary – September 2013


An interesting month, after a slow start the Kennet doubles began to put in an appearance, the Severn stayed well and truly in the doldrums and the Wye is put on the back burner until next year, all will be revealed!

The continued lack of rain and the subsequent low level on the Severn saw me cancelling a couple of planned trips, it wasn’t all doom and gloom though as this unexpected break allowed me to spend more time at home with my grandson Henry.

I didn’t realise just how much fun you can have playing with pull back cars that cost little more than a pound from Tesco’s! Constantly whizzing across the floor, under the sofas, under the cabinets – equals hours of pure content.

Playing football in the garden until you are tired out and then suffering the ignominity of having a two year old pull you up out of the chair when you are catching your breath. Trying to get the gardening work done while you have a constant shadow mimicking your every action.

Sitting at the breakfast table while he shouts “More toooooaaaasssssttt!

Always a smile never a tantrum, you can tell I’ve fallen under his spell and am a changed man. And then finally falling asleep on the sofa and me carrying the little guy up to bed – sheer bliss.


I won’t tell a lie, there was a tear in my eye as I waved him goodbye as he set off back to Sydney, I’ll see him again very soon.

I had been looking forward to my day on the Kennet with John for quite some while; we go back a long time and share a mutual respect for our much missed friend, Mike Burden.

Mike made a huge impression on me from the first time I met him at a Barbel Catcher’s Club AGM almost twenty five years ago, he was a true pioneer on the lower Severn and he was just a very inspirational man and I’m pleased that we became good friends.

Understandably John and I spent many moments during our day reminiscing and remembering the good times, but the real purpose of our session was to try and reignite the flame of passion for John’s barbel fishing that had become somewhat dimmed in recent years. Once again then no real pressure!

A nice barbel duly picked up the casters and that spark was enough, job done and John is now back on the barbel trail and I slept easy later in the day knowing that the next challenge was going to be every bit as tough, Martin from the first Wye Valley Experience was joining me for two days and let’s just say he is what is often referred to as larger than life!

Three score years and ten and looking at least ten years younger Martin pulled into the car park in his gleaming Cayenne and I just knew we were going to have an interesting couple of days.

Now I don’t know about you but I’ve never been fishing with a man who has owned fourteen airplanes, and yep I did say fourteen……….the iphone tells no lies!

I must have spent two hours at least just listening to the stories of Martin’s – aka Biggles – days and he kept me totally enthralled.

Anecdotes? You need to think Michael Caine, I put Martin in that sort of league, and here we had a man who could just keep rolling them out!

This was a man who had seen and done just about everything there is to do but fortunately for me barbel fishing lagged behind in his portfolio of successes and so I was on a winner.

Just one barbel came our way but it was enough to put a broad smile on Martin’s face and send him back to Nottingham a happy man. We will be meeting up again, not on the riverbank but at the Sydney Cricket ground later in the year, Martin is a cricket nut and he’ll be at most of the Ashes test matches in Oz, as I said a real character.

Then I found myself on the Severn, on the lower reaches and I just knew it was going to be difficult. The lack of rain has meant the levels have remained painfully low and in my opinion the barbel have just become lethargic with little inclination to want to feed. It’s happened before, many times in fact during the past twenty years or so that I have fished the river in earnest.

There is the added concern of Keith the transsexual seal, but, and I know I may well regret saying this I doubt very much that he/she will have had a telling effect on the barbel population. Only time will tell of course and if I find over the next twelve months that the barbel fishing really has suffered then I’ll put my hands up and admit to being wrong.

I do believe the seal should have been removed by now, I’ve read all the reasons why it is so difficult but I have to say it doesn’t wash.

Anyway back to the fishing, we blanked over two days and the two guys I had with me are excellent anglers, last year they caught well and were obviously disappointed to find the river in such bad form. I had another day booked just a couple of days later and one small barbel was the result. We desperately need rain and lots of it to kickstart this river.

I know that the stretch has now started to produce one or two barbel and I intend to fish it hard in November as long as the weather stays reasonable by that I mean I don’t want frosts!, I’ll let you know how I fare.

Back on the Kennet I had six days on the spin which produced four double figure fish and plenty of fun!

First up was Keith – no, not the seal! – and having enjoyed a good deal of correspondence with him I knew we would hit it off straight away, a Spurs fan, a Boss fan, an Aussie fan there was no way we could fail!

But as always it would be down to the barbel to put the icing on the cake and although it took a while the one bite came and produced a personal best, a first on the ‘pin and a big smile for Keith!


At 12-07 it was the biggest on a guiding day for more than a year, happy days.

Next I had an appointment with John from Southampton who spends most of his time fishing the Itchen and Test and is totally new to barbel fishing. We managed to get a couple of fish, the largest of which came in at 9-08, and in unusual circumstances.

Keith was happily rolling a piece of meat in the “weirpool” catching a nice chub in the process while I surveyed a swim close by. Standing well back from the water’s edge and well hidden in the bankside vegetation I watched the surface thinking about where we should drop a single bait, as I did so a head popped up no more than fifteen feet away and on seeing me promptly sunk beneath the surface, it was an otter.

So it was with just a slight concern that we dropped a piece of garlic spam into three feet of water very close to our bank but within twenty seconds the rod gave that three foot twitch at the butt and a barbel was attached!

Now I’m not entirely sure it proves anything, but one thing is for sure that barbel was not overly fazed about being in the presence of a potential predator.

I’ve seen an otter on the stretch before, a few years ago, and there are still plenty of barbel………….you tell me because it doesn’t tie in with much of what I’ve read or heard.

Something that has pleased me no end since I started taking people out is the number of shall we say younger anglers who have booked days with me; I’m talking about guys the right side of thirty!

Ken and Richard fall into this demographic and they were the next in line for a day on the Kennet.

I had met Ken twice before, he is a regular on the Wye breaks and he is a very good angler. Living in Christchurch he is right on top of the Royalty and he has honed his skills rolling meat there and has landed some mighty fine barbel. But he had never fished the Kennet and this was the chance to put that right.

I always pick up my casters early in the morning from the local tackle shop, that means I’m away for twenty minutes or so and when I returned with the bait there was Ken with a rather nice barbel resting in the landing net! Who needs a guide?!


He had decided to let a lump of meat roll right under the tree cover and bang he was into the eleven pounder right away.

With the job already a good ‘un we spent the day covering more swims and I watched with great admiration at Ken’s skill in casting straight off the ‘pin, it was clever stuff!

Richard from London was rather less experienced on the barbel front but that didn’t stop him landing two nice fish culminating in a new best of 10-07.


I’m sure he too will now become a member of the barbel fishing fraternity; hope so because he is a really nice fella.

Billy, an ex-rugby player from down on the Kent coast with a love of sea fishing but with an appetite for barbel after testing the local waters was the penultimate guest in my very busy week.

The barbel really came out to play for him, five in fact with the best topping ten pounds by ten ounces. From the email I received a week later it would seem the day had made quite an impact, Billy has a new Seeker rod and a centrepin reel and I’m looking forward to hearing of his exploits on what isn’t the easiest of rivers.

And then it was time to meet up with Paul once again, this is Paul who had a day out with me on the Wye and is just about as keen as it gets, you can guess what happened.

We blanked, it happens, and I suppose after the week I had experienced it was always on the cards, if you get on a roll you can be absolutely sure it always comes to an abrupt end!

Never mind there will be another time; I have taken it upon myself to make sure Paul gets a few more barbel in my company, episode three awaits

A busy month, and as I said at the beginning an interesting one too, great people as always, nice fish and plenty to dwell on.

As I type I’m getting ready to set off for the Severn to give a short talk and riverside walk to a bunch of lads on a stretch that is dear to my heart. Then it’s off to the Kennet for four days and while I’m there I’ll be fitting in a talk at the Lands’ End pub in Twyford along with Duncan Charman and Pete Reading. There’s no let up and lots to fit in before I fly back to the sun!

I’ve somehow found myself back on the regional meeting talk circuit and along with Terry Theobald I’ll be giving a presentation at the Bredbury Conservative Club in Stockport on November 18th.

Next time out I’ll tell you how it all came right on a day with Matt Rand when I landed the biggest barbel I’ve had in a few years and lots more besides.

All the best.




Fishing Magic Diary – October 2013



Every once in a while the fishing gods smile down on us and sprinkle their magic dust over our rods and hey presto a big fish is the result.

Now I’ve been very fortunate whenever I’ve “had” to catch fish to order, don’t ask me why perhaps I’m one of their favoured sons, far more likely that I’m just plain lucky!

Anyway at the beginning of the month I had a great result whilst out filming with that smashing bloke Matt Rand.

These sessions are my obligation to Dynamite Baits, a company who I have had a long and happy association with, getting on for ten years in fact.

If you follow my diary you will remember the two days I enjoyed with Matt last year on the banks of the lower Severn, we had a great time then and the ensuing result found its way into the pages of the Anglers Mail.

This time out Matt was hoping to get some film clips to use on the Youtube channel, so as always the pressure was on but as I’ve already hinted things went well.

Before setting off on the Monday for the two days with Matt I found myself sitting in a very quaint tearoom in that wonderful place named Montgomery, which is only minutes away from where I live, enjoying a very relaxed lunch with my old school mate Steve who has featured in my diary before.

Having said our goodbye’s, Steve set off on the long road back to Hertfordshire and I went back home to get ready for five days on the river.

Back indoors the phone rang, I immediately went into Mr Angry mode because cold calling is one of my pet hates, this time though the call was important. To cut a long story short I had left my wallet in the tearoom, it had fallen out of my trouser pocket.

I rushed back to Montgomery, gave profuse thanks to the tearoom proprietor and came away realising that I really must be getting old.

I only mention this little tale as it reminds me that I’m not as young as I once was and am now prone to the sort of situations that befall us all as the years creep up; even though us anglers are forever young the reality is somewhat different!

Anyway back to the fishing.

Our first day went by rather quietly, I managed to find a couple of barbel and so we were able to film some action sequences. Matt spent some time in the weir pool using the drop shotting technique and was rewarded with a splendid perch and that was it. We ended up in the pub agreeing our plan of action for the next day.

We had some good footage in the can but a good sized barbel would really be the icing on the cake and give us the result we were both hoping for from the outset.

Later that evening I decided that I would be in my swim fishing at the very first light, I’ve mentioned before how I have often found the barbel in feeding mode at that time especially if the previous days fishing had been slow even though bait had been introduced.

Dropping my hair rigged casters over the previous day’s hemp and caster carpet I didn’t have to wait long.

The rod top pulled around in that tell-tale slow motion style and the pin started to give line and I knew straight away that I was attached to a good ‘un.

Even after so many years in pursuit of barbel I still get that massive adrenaline rush when I know there is a big fish on the end of my line, the fight is just so different; no high speed runs just a determined resistance that eventually you master and the prize rolls into the net.

I quickly rang Matt to check he was on his way and then he suddenly appeared as if on cue and I said something along the lines of “Job’s done!”

The next high is grabbing the landing net mesh and lifting, this does it for me that is the precise moment you know that here’s a fish worth weighing! Whenever I have guiding clients with me I always try to understate the moment, I can tell reasonably well what a barbel is likely to weigh but I prefer to see the reaction when the scales are read!

This one went thirteen and a half pounds, my best from the venue for a couple of years, we, that’s myself and Matt were more than happy.

To put perspective on this, a barbel of this size is a huge fish in my book, you can only ever catch what is in front of you and there are very few venues where a barbel in excess of thirteen pounds would be considered anything other than big. On this particular venue to the best of my knowledge there may be just one fish larger by a half pound or so.

I’m not one to target venues that hold the monster fish although I have to admit I am tempted to have a go on the Dove but that elusive dream of a lower Severn leviathan forever haunts me as a siren’s call and the car always seems to be on auto pilot at this time of the year, destination Worcester!

The barbel duly took centre stage as Matt shot some excellent footage, the day had barely begun and the work side was almost done.


More barbel came our way and a nice chub put in an appearance while we dabbled in the weir pool and Matt enjoyed more success on the river with his drop shotting. I have to say I was intrigued watching the simplicity of the method and its obvious effectiveness but I’m sure my wrist joints would suffer after a few hours of it!

So our two days on the Kennet came to an end, once again we had achieved what we set out to do and I’m looking forward to our next session together, the Wye will be calling I suspect.

My next day on the river was in the company of Nick, a very keen barbel man whose mojo was most definitely not working for him as he was well into a run of blanks, something I was committed to changing!

Nick, like so many others, was one of those guys that is just a pleasure to be on the bank with, although totally lacking confidence he had a smile on his face all day long and rightly so as we managed to locate three barbel including a first double and a first on the ‘pin.

Although the river remained painfully low the mild autumn had kept the barbel in feeding mode and the doubles were coming more frequently.

Nick’s fish weighed in at 10-08 and you can tell from the photo that he was an extremely happy man!


Then the air temperature dropped and the following two days became a real struggle. It has become very apparent to me that a sudden overnight temperature fall definitely puts the barbel off feeding; perhaps only for a day or so but if that’s a day you’re on the river you will probably struggle too.

Mind you when I’m out on the river for a week it has become very noticeable just how few anglers there are, even at weekends you could hardly say the banks are packed. From a purely selfish perspective I like it this way, but does it auger well for the future…. who knows?

I did see someone though, Chris, a real blast from the past and an old buddy from my Barbel Catcher days, a man who I believe still holds the record for the largest brace of barbel ever caught. We had a good chat across the river and I was pleased to see that there are some of us from the old days still out there doing it!

Back home I had to cancel a couple of planned days on the Severn because I still felt the river was out of sorts and was in desperate need of a proper flush through………………..little did I know what was just around the corner!

So it was an enforced week off from fishing, to be honest I needed the break, you can have too much of a good thing and I needed to focus on things away from fishing for a few days.

Sunday , the start of a new week and one that would once again see me on the banks of the Kennet until Friday, a hard life but someone has to do it, and I’m at that age when I’m fortunate enough to be able to do what I want………….well most of the time anyway!

First port of call though, Pixham, the Barbel Society stretch on the lower Severn and a place that is dear to my heart, I had promised to call in and give a short talk to the lads who were there for the weekend.

A good turnout of hardy fellows who hoped to take advantage of a slight rise in the water level and they were all assembled in the makeshift “ village” enjoying the bacon sarnies on offer.

I gave an off the cuff brief history of the place and why it is so special, the words seemed to flow quite easily as I recalled the wonderful times that took place here twenty years ago. After twenty minutes or so it was time to wind up, there were three others eager to talk about their own experiences on the stretch and to give good advice to those who had gathered.


Bright and early on Monday morning and time to catch up with Richard, a man who had taken a break from barbel fishing but who had caught doubles from the River Colne. His day with me was courtesy of his colleagues from the junior rugby team where Richard had given many years of service, so once again the pressure was on………………I didn’t want to upset the rugby guys!

It took us until midday but once again the casters did the trick and Richard, a quiet, thoughtful man, found himself playing what was obviously a good fish.

At four ounces over twelve pounds it really was a good fish, once again the week was off to a good start. Three more barbel came along sealing an excellent day in the company of a really nice bloke.



Next up was Frank, ex-army, a few years older than me and in his own words a barbel novice with just a couple of years’ experience and with a best of nine pounds.

Frank was obviously a glutton for punishment as he had two days booked with me and it was a good job he took that step, the first day was tough with just the one fish nudging eight pounds.

Fortunately the rain came down overnight and the river rose, not a great deal but enough to produce a better response from the barbel.

As always I was ready for that early morning fish and once again it happened, within the first twenty minutes Frank was playing what I knew was a heavy fish. For a self-proclaimed novice he did everything right so it was a huge disappointment when the hook pulled just as it looked as though the battle was won. I have to say Frank’s reaction was far more measured and calm than mine, the barbel was almost certainly twelve pounds plus and Frank shrugged his shoulders as if to say there’ll be another chance.

And he was right.

In fact there were three more chances and Frank upped his personal best on two of them.


One fish bang on eleven pounds and the other 10-05, not a bad day by any standards.

As we said goodbye my mind was on my next engagement, a talk I had agreed to give at the Lands End pub not too far away and for the Berkshire region of the Barbel Society.

I eventually found the place with minutes to spare; I literally just had time to catch my breath before following Pete Reading and addressing a packed room.

I have to say that giving talks does not faze me at all, in fact I enjoy it, but I had no visuals for this one, just had to hope that I could keep my brain in gear for half an hour or so.

Preparation had been done and I had listed twenty points as lessons I have learned over the years, it seemed to go down well and the list has now increased to forty and I’ll be testing that one out on the guys who attend the upcoming Lancashire Region meeting on November 18th.

The next day on the river was our annual Gentlemen’s Day, an inflated title if ever there was one!

Overnight the temperature had dropped once again and you’ve guessed it the barbel, every one of them, took a day off!

Nevertheless a great time was had by all finished off by an exceptionally delicious dinner at the local hostelry. The only downer was that one of our Gentlemen was unable to attend, the illustrious Mr Tarrant, we all missed his never ending anecdotes, never mind I’ll be switching the TV on later to catch his new fishing series and look forward to the next time we meet when he will no doubt regale us with the tales of how it all happened.

I decided to have an early hour or two on the river the following morning before I bade farewell to the Kennet until next year and once again the barbel were ready to feed in earnest in that early morning spell.

My good friend Kevin had also decided to fish another day on another stretch and it was very pleasing to get his texts informing me of a very big chub and barbel that paid him a visit, what a difference a day makes!

And that was the month that was, the threatened storm passed me by completely on the Welsh border but the rains that I had been hoping for have lifted the Severn a tad too much, but the levels will fall and I’ll be there throughout November and I’m confident that I’ll catch and that the seal has not ate all the barbel!




You will see I’ve called this Update number one, I fully intend to put another out in a couple of weeks time, been some time since I last went fishing so I hope this mild spell lasts so that I can have a dabble this coming week.
















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