Steve Pope Barbel Fishing

Catch more barbel!

Dreams Of Adam’s Mill by Fred Bonney

 My expeditions to Adams Mill, MKAA’s stretch on the Upper Great Ouse, started in late November 2000 . Being only four miles from my home and with all the media reports and comment in the angling press, curiosity got the better of me. So I decided to go and have a look at this now legendary fishery.

 Adams Mill


If the place was as crowded as reported, with people queuing to get in at the appointed hour, I could trundle down to another MKAA water at Ravenstone, another couple of miles or so, into the Northamptonshire countryside.

In the car park at 8.30am there was only one other vehicle, still, it was a weekday and some people do not like fishing in the cold, do they? I had many similar visits, most of the time blanking and on occasions being alone all day.

My catches to date are two chub, 6lb12ozs and 4lb 14ozs, a barbel of about a 12ozs (which was a good sign, demonstrating that some smaller fish were coming through) and a few perch to ½ lb.

I’ve made possibly 20 trips, maybe more. I didn’t start a diary until this year, not a lot to enter in it, but on every visit the anticipation involved in fishing this water is unbelievable.

I have never experienced anticipation to this degree before; you just do not know what may be lurking below your rod tip.

On one of the days I visited, at the end of January, I spoke to a guy named Gary, who I think is a head bailiff with RMC. He travels the motorways for about an hour (on a good day) to get there. We had shared a couple of blanks and a passing chat on previous occasions. On the Thursday of the week before he had witnessed the photographing of an 18lb 13oz Barbel, and was determined to get amongst them.

Tackling up in a swim just above me and just below the weir, he was straight away into a 7lb Barbel. On the next cast he lost one at the net of approximately 8lb. Than all went quiet for both of us.

I blanked again.

The next day was miserable, fine persistent rain, the kind that soaks you through. Only one other angler on the bank, who I later learned was Ray Walton, as I witnessed him catch and assisted him with the photography of a 14lb 6oz specimen, later to appear in his DVD Barbel.

I didn’t stay much longer, leaving at about 2 o’clock. I’d got snagged and broke off a few times and had left my backup leads in the garage.

I needed quite a bit of weight to hold bottom in those flood conditions, conditions I couldn’t get used to at that time.

That night I was sleepless after witnessing Ray’s catch, the most beautiful specimen of a fish I have ever seen, very stocky compared to my previous sighting of a good barbel. My first, and therefore my personal best, a sleek 8lb 9oz Throop specimen, caught in November 1972.

The image of his great fish has made me even more determined to have as many hours as possible at the Mill, until at least the 14th March, the sell out day, in an attempt, to match, or improve on, the size of Ray’s fish.

Perhaps I may even buy a syndicate ticket from MKAA, having taken ‘early retirement’ last March following 35 years of commuting into London as a property manager for the C&A retail empire. I should be able to get my money’s worth. That is, if my face fits. (It didn’t!)

What is also on my mind, at this time, is that I want to catch, and get a picture, of at least a 6lb 12oz chub, my personal best, having forgotten my camera when I landed it, on the 18th December last.

I’ll never forget it again, my FUJI Finepix 4700Z is now a permanent fixture in my  Double T carryall, although I do like the look of the FUJI Finepix S8000 .

The day started as normal, breakfasting on Walls dry cured smoked back bacon layered on thick-sliced Kingsmill, coated with a sliver of Flora (I am watching my weight) and splashed with HP brown sauce, together with a big mug of Assam from Tesco’s Finest range.

Having chauffeured the wife to Milton Keynes and her offices at Parcel Force meant my duties were over,.

 I arrived at the entrance road to Adams Mill at 8.15 am and traversed the potholes in my totally unsuitable Ford Escort 1.8 cabriolet. I said to myself, I shall have to get the wife a Skoda Estate, it must be more suitable.

As experienced on previous occasions I was the only angler there. The river was just below its banks following overnight rain, but was still lower than when I arrived for the previous day’s session and was the colour of milky Nescafe Instant Coffee.

It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining quite brightly, so I reached for my Optilab’s prescription polarising glasses. I was not sure that the Sundridge Nimbus two-piece I was wearing would be needed.  Settling myself down in a swim just above the bridge, which is where I caught my best chub, I was just in time to get my first glimpse of the kingfisher – what a wonderful life I live. (I keep telling myself that).

I removed my Fox Barbel Specialist 1.5 rod from my Double-T quiver and fitted my trusty Shimano 5010 baitrunner, filled to the brim with 10lb Maxima Chameleon, to which I attached  a size 4 Drennan barbel specialist barbless  hook and added to this, a two ounce Dinsmore’s Arlesey bomb.

I decided not to feed the swim with my usual mixture of Dynamite Baits hempseed and Green Giant sweetcorn, but to try a couple of casts without groundbaiting.

My first bait of choice was a chunk of Spam, about a quarter of a big tin. I would probably follow up with a couple of lobworms supplied by Worms Direct, if needed.

I attached my offering of Spam, threaded onto the hook and cast , letting the bait settle just off the current. My rod was placed in the rests, set up high enough to keep the line out of the torrent, the baitrunner facility left off. Then I settled down in my Fox Adjuster level chair.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw the distinctive Ray Walton arrive, we gave each other the acknowledging wave. (He seems like a nice bloke). Good I thought, at least I would have a witness this time – you know that inner feeling you get sometimes?

For a few minutes I sat there with my first John Player Special of the day contemplating life and my retirement, when I noticed a distinctive twitch of the rod tip.

Rather than wait as usual I reached for the rod, hands poised ready, at the same time the top pulls around. I was sure there was no need to strike, although I did so automatically, and the quarry was on.

The fish headed into the current. I was unable to judge its size, but I thought it was a chub. It then moved to my left towards the overhanging bush. With plenty of side strain, I had control. It didn’t feel a bad size fish, but the current was deceiving. After a short battle, without too many scares, I netted the fish. It was, as expected, a chub.

From the weight I felt when lifting the net it was heavier than my usual 4lb/5lb fish of the Ouse and appeared to be about the same size as my personal best. I pulled out my Double-T weighing sling and their separate unhooking mat, reached for the Waymaster scales and zeroed them. The fish was in great condition and weighed in at 6lb 12ozs. Is it the same fish, I wondered?

Some time passed ,another JPS was smoked, and I watched the world go by.

That kingfisher was busy and was catching.

Then it happened, as usual, just as I opened my Thermos flask for a warming cup of Heinz tomato soup, the rests rattled and I lurched forward to grab my rod as it leapt towards the murky depths. Thankfully, I’d remembered to ensure my rear drag was adjusted and had a bit of give, because, as I leaned into the fish I knew this was bigger than anything I had hooked on a river before.

I’d got trouble, the fish was heading off downstream towards an overhanging willow and potential disaster. I’d put all my weight behind the Fox Specialist, struggled for a while until the fish was held. I now knew I could trust the rod, previously thinking it may be too light for big fish.

The  quarry then started coming back towards me at a fair rate of knots, but the 5010 kicked in and was equal to the fight, keeping me in touch with this unseen leviathan.

Ray was now at my shoulder, and was giving me good advice.

Just to my right was a reed bed, below the flood water level and unseen, good job I’d fished this water in most winter conditions and was aware of the potential snags.

All was going well.

I was beginning to feel I had the upper hand,  we then got our first sight of the fish. It was definitely a barbel, and it was big. I  wondered  if it could be the 22 pounder that everybody was suggesting would come out this winter?

Excitedly, with heart thumping, I reached for my Ray Walton Whitlock folding landing net, slipped and slid on the bank, that only the day before was underwater. My Country Concept 4X4 Fellsman boots gripped firmly (another good buy) but the slight slip had done the damage, my long suffering sciatic nerve had become trapped. I was in agony.

“Oy you, I’m trying to get some sleep, will you stop fidgeting”.

My wife’s voice?

What was she doing on the Ouse?

The dream faded , as I rubbed my back, I realised she had given me a good kick. I told her to push off, or words to that effect.

 I lay there, for sometime, my heart still pumping, feeling sorry for myself, waiting for Sarah Kennedy’s dulcet tones on the radio alarm, so that I could start the day……again.

Dreading the anticlimax that is almost certain to happen.

“ Now you’ve woken me up, do you want boiled eggs or  Special K? ”


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