Steve Pope Barbel Fishing

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Every Picture Tells a Story


FRED THE BARBEL    by   Steve ( Scuba) Williams


A good few years ago I was lucky enough to attend a ‘charity day’ down on the Hampshire Avon run by a lady called Tina.

We would meet for breakfast, fish the day on The Somerley Estate although the last one I attended was held on Bisterne, and then have a meal in the evening, a charity auction and a presentation.

This event was run to raise money for a disabled charity in Ringwood.

The main prize was awarded to the angler who caught the biggest barbel on the day.

Well one year I managed to fluke a 12lb 7oz beauty, which equalled my Barbel PB from off the Severn.

The fish was caught thanks to an old boy known as ‘Charles the Slug’.

Not that Charles was slug like at all, but his favourite method of fishing was to freeline slugs for Chub, hence the nickname.

Charles’s advice to a young Stevo was to walk the bank and look for an area where the riverbed dropped away into deep water.

“Here my lad, you will find barbel”.

Off I went for the day, fishing a number of stunning weed filled glides, delicious slacks and some stunning carriers, all of which would have held big shoals of fish if they had being back home on my usual haunts of the middle Severn.

Anyhow, by afternoon I’d blanked spectacularly, so I decided to gradually work my way back towards the parking area and caught up with my good friend Keith.

From what we knew, nothing much had being caught during the day and to be honest I just wanted to get a bite from something.

A few hundred yards below us a lad was trotting, and catching a few fish.

Nothing fantastic, but some nice dace and grayling.

I decided to have a look at the water below this lad to see if I could find anywhere to tempt a fish.

As I worked along the bank the first thing I noticed was that the depth suddenly dropped off on the far bank…………

The wise words of Charles the Slug came back to me as clear as if he was standing beside me.

I decided to drop a bait next to the reed bed on the far bank where the water looked deepest, hoping for a barbel or chub and fish a feeder under my feet with maggots for ‘bits’.

Out went the barbel bait and I sat the rod on the rest.

I then started plopping the feeder in a clear gap in the weed in front of me.

Most of my fishing is based on luck not skill, so when 30 minutes later my barbel rod nodded twice and doubled over I was already smiling.

I knew lady luck was with me.

I immediately flicked the baitrunner on the feeder rod’s reel and grabbed the now well-bent barbel rod, disengaging the ticking baitrunner and lifting into a barbel.

It was already blindingly obvious that it was a barbel………

The fish snagged itself in a big weed bed and as we were playing tug-of-war a huge raft of cut weed came into view from upstream.

This raft caught the line of the feeder rod and started to take line off the baitrunner.

A huge bow of line formed in front of me, between the hooked barbel and myself.

I wouldn’t work the fish upstream because of the weed beds, and I couldn’t go downstream due to both the bow of line and a few willow trees below me.

The barbel thankfully came free from the weed, but did nothing for my nerves as she showed a big flank as she turned over, causing a huge splash.

I had no choice but to bring her right across the bow of line and just prey that she didn’t get snagged on the line and then make another run…….

Thankfully she dived straight into the waiting landing net and I managed to hoist her out of the water.

I quickly snipped the tangle of lines and retrieved the feeder by hand.

I rested her in a slack near by and called Keith on the mobile to come and help.

I must say Keith and I behaved like a couple of kids, jumping up and down and hugging when we had realised that she was a good double…….

What the locals must have thought!!!!!!

She was quickly weighed, a couple of photos taken, then back she went.

The rest of the afternoon passed in a bit of a haze.

We went back to the digs and got washed and changed ready for the meal, auction and presentation evening.

I must admit I was a bit nervous waiting to hear if anyone else had caught and to what size.

There was one local in particular I was eyeing up.

A man with a reputation for catching a few…

None other than Peter Reading, but luckily for me he must had an off day that day.

So the big moment came and Tina announced that the winner of the Fred Crouch Charity Trophy was …… Steve Williams…..

I was called forward to receive my prize.

An engraved tankard and a 3ft x 2ft glass case with a balsa wood barbel, carved by Mr Barbel himself, Fred Crouch (which is what I recognised in the photo’s on your blog).

As you can see in the attached photo, Fred was there on the evening to award the prize…..

You can imaging the stick I got, not only from the lads on the day (and evening), but also from the wife and kids when I turned up at home with my prize.

The cased barbel, nicknamed ‘Fred the Barbel’ by the family, was placed in pole position on top of the sideboard in the living room, in full view of everyone and anyone for the 12 months I was allowed to keep it.

I returned the following year to try to hold onto my crown, but sadly it wasn’t to be.

We fished Bisterne on the Avon, and although I did manage to catch another barbel at 8lb, I was well beaten into second spot by one of the local lads who had, I think I’m correct in saying, a fish of around 13lbs

Anyway Steve, I thought I’d share that little story with you mate, as meeting your buddy, Mr Barbel himself ‘Fred the Barbel’  and winning the trophy was one of the highlights of my fishing career.

All the best,

Steve Williams 


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