Steve Pope Barbel Fishing

Catch more barbel!



Fishing for Beginners


Retirement can be a funny stage in your life, especially if like us you are a bit faddy and have no particular hobbies. Since leaving work I have completed many projects that were on my to do list, but then found myself with a clean sheet and no one to play with.

A seemingly throwaway comment from a distant relative struck a chord with my semi-retired husband Howard though – “Find something you used to enjoy doing as a child then do it again”

“Fishing” Howard announced, “I went a few times as a boy, I wouldn’t mind trying that again”

Oh my days! Do I really want to be out on a river bank, in the cold getting muddy, dirty and fishy?

Howard reminded me of how I had dragged him kicking and screaming to ballroom dancing classes following watching ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and had discovered that he not only had two left feet but that he could only dance one way up the village hall – and nearly always heading for the exit! Suffice to say the dance classes were short lived.

“Great news” I exclaimed a few weeks later” I have signed us up for Spanish classes.” He groaned, but willing to please, he accompanied me but told the tutor in no uncertain terms, not to call him to the front of the class to write on the board and not to give him any homework! The next time we were in Spain, he mumbled repeatedly to himself “dos cafe con leche por favour” The waiter arrived at our table and looked at Howard expectantly…..”Two white coffees please mate” – Hopeless!

Ok, so back to fishing. “Actually,” I said, I might be able to help you out there. My brother in Law is the Chairman of the Barbel Society, he does Guiding for a living, maybe I could arrange for him to take you out for a day and give you a few pointers” Note to self…. engage brain before putting my mouth in gear!

Well, that was it. Straight on the internet and before you could say ‘Jack Pike’ he had ordered a complete Carp fishing tackle set for two! “What a bargain, all this for a hundred quid” he gushed excitedly as he unravelled bags, rods, reels and rests from their packaging. “I can’t wait for us to get out there and try it out”

The journey from Essex to Powys in Wales was fairly uneventful and we spent a pleasant evening with my sister and brother in law Steve, (Also known as ‘The Pope’ in fishing circles) as Howard drank in every fishing word uttered by this legend. It was 31st October 2015 and they were to fish on the River Wye the next day.

“Hmmm” mused Steve, I haven’t heard of that make of rod before, “Fishing gear is usually a bit lighter these days” he said politely. Howard didn’t actually catch anything that day but was in awe of Steves’ catches, mastery of the cast and insurmountable knowledge of fishing.

All fired up on our return home I suggested a one off fishing lesson at a local carp lake. Boy was he up for it. He booked us in with Danny a well-known teacher at Newland Hall in Roxwell just a short drive from our village.

15th November – a bright day with south westerly gusts of 42mph! Deep joy!

What am I doing here? I am wearing so many layers of clothes to keep warm that I can hardly bend and Danny is speaking in what seems to be a foreign language ….hair rigs, bait runners, bite alarms, pop ups, boilys, method feeders and braid. He then proceeds to show us some useful knots. His hands appear to be talking Italian as he twists and turns them in thin air like a magician or at least that is what it looks like as I can’t actually see any line that he is knotting as my eyesight isn’t what it should be. It is only when he spits, that I see small bubbles form showing a tiny blip on the line. Well, I won’t be doing any spitting, that you can count on.

Howard is now in full swing, and is pulling fish out of Park Lake fast and furious. I am taking pictures so it looks like I am joining in. “Quick” shouts Danny “Fish on!” he is looking at me! What do I do? What do I do? “Keep the bend in the rod” he yells, “keep the fish away from the reeds” What?? How? “Reel it in slowly” “No, not like that, let her tire” Easier said than done, I feel like I’ve got a great white shark on the end of my line.

A few minutes later, Danny brings in my fish with the aid of a huge landing net. “What a beauty” he exclaims – a mirror carp. I had to agree, it was certainly beautiful and weighed a massive 7.5lbs! So, Howard – 9, Di – 1. Size matters, he went for quantity, mine was quality!

Our house is now strewn with every fishing magazine in print. Howard has become an avid reader, I let him disseminate information to me. Between articles, he is back on line scouring tackle shops for ‘must have’ items. We have found a large fishing superstore in Chelmsford who are very helpful and very patient with our constant stream of questions. I think they are more used to seasoned fishermen who know what they want as they have been fishing for 20 odd years and have caught whoppers in just about every lake from here to the Ebru.

The choice of fishing gear is truly amazing. Howard says when he fished as a young lad you just bought a pint of maggots and dragged a deckchair to the bank to cast your hook line and sinker out.

29th November-our first fishing trip on our own. We decide to fish at the same swim as we had fished with Danny, it was familiar and felt a little more comfortable it was slightly warmer but that’s because it was raining, well drizzle actually but by now I had acquired some salopettes {in purple so I didn’t look like a boy} I also got myself a hat. It says on the front ‘Ain’t No Wifey’ – did I mention how competitive I am?

Well, Howard has got me all set up with a float rod to which I have to attach one single kernel of sweet corn to the hook. Squelch, oops, squashed it, pass me another- this was going to be a long day. So the first line out, I look down at my reel, ah, this must be what they call a birds’ nest…yards of glistening line screwballed around my rod and reel. Help. Howard is still getting his rod out of the bag. It reminds me of a weaving class that I attended, once you get in a mess it’s a real devil to untangle! ”Help” “What? I’m trying to set up here” so grouchy! “Oh what have you done? Didn’t you close the bail arm” “Huh?”. ”Give it here”

Time passes…..quite a lot of time actually…..a few expletives then finally .”Here you are” followed by instructions. I cast the line and settle down. Howard proceeds to rig up his rod. “Fish on!” I yell. He drops what he is doing and grabs the landing net. Wow a lovely common carp, not a blemish on it, then another and another and another! Howard says, “You are going to have to start dealing with them yourself, I haven’t even started fishing yet” Another bite…. “Look, I will show you how to unhook it, then you’re on your own” Jealousy is a terrible thing!

I am worried that I hurt the fish and concerned as to how long they should be out of the water. The bailiff arrives… his name is Ian he has a wealth of knowledge that he is happy to impart to us, excellent. Did you know that although the land owner owns the fish, the environmental agency owns the water it swims in!

Two more beautiful fish – Di – 7 Howard – 2 ha, I could get into this fishing malarkey.


All The Gear – No Idea


Because I am a wimp, Howard decides we should buy a bivvy (all the gear-no idea!)

We look at loads and measure out sizes in the living room. Too big, too small, too low, too much money. We finally settle on one that is 134cm in height so as to accommodate us both comfortably in our chairs.

20th December. Our second fishing trip. Newland Hall, still at Park Lake and still with a south westerly wind though only 25mph. Howard tells me, Fish bite best with wind from the West and wind from the South they like feed in their mouth, what a poet! A win, win situation weather wise eh? I tell Howard that we should set up our bivvy first, then we can store all our gear in there in case of inclement weather. He agrees and up she goes, easy peasy. Connecting rods in place, pegs in ground and…oops, why isn’t it very high? Without being branded heightist we would have to be a lot shorter to get in under the bivvy, then we would not be able to see out unless we sat on the ground. “What a waste of money, are you sure you measured it right?” We can see other fishermen arriving in the distant car park so decide to pack it away and sort it out later. Howard dismantles it quickly and stuffs it in its bag. Nonchalantly, we start to set up. Out of the corner of my eye, I spy what I perceive to be two black squirrels. I am just about to point them out when Ian the Bailiff arrives in time to see them dive into the water and swim to the opposite bank. I am still bewildered…swimming squirrels? Ha, Ian shakes his head, they’re not squirrels, they are Mink! I cannot believe my eyes, a pair of fur coats have just swum the width of the lake and emerged happily skipping and playing on the other side – in Essex! I did tell you he is very knowledgeable didn’t I. Ian spots our Bivvy half in and half out of its bag and asks why we were not putting it up. I tell him it’s not high enough and that we need to buy a taller one, he says “You did attach the tension strap along the base didn’t you?” Sheepishly, I ask him to explain – well, we are not campers, how were we expected to know, it didn’t come with instruction. He laughed with us and told us to give it a go next time. Howard flashed me a look which I read as saying “you idiot Di”

For the last week, Howard had been setting up our rods in the comfort of our living room. I am to be fishing for a while until I get more experience, with a float rod and Howard who is now very experienced because he has read 18 magazines has progressed onto a feeder rod called method fishing? He has purchased some ground bait and some pretty coloured balls – boilies, they are all different flavours and sound quite appetising, coconut, pineapple, tutti frutti banana, white chocolate and mango. He tells me I will still be using my one sweet corn kernel, but tells me to throw some out into the water near to where my float is bobbing about.

Have I mentioned my failing eyesight? Where is the float? “Just follow your rod then you will see it at the end of your line” Very helpful – I can’t actually see the line either. No matter Howard shouts at me “quick strike, you’ve got a bite!” Strike? Hit what? I hate all this jargon. I start to reel in my line and Howard gets the landing net. A quick photo shoot then Howard keeps me fetching and carrying for him while he hauls in 11 fish in quick succession. Well, the little boily balls seem to be working. Howard – 11, Di – 2. I might mention at this stage that none of his fish weigh more than 3.5 lbs. I still hold the record for biggest fish!

29th December, 3rd Fishing trip. Howard, fisherman extraordinaire of 2015 says we are now ready to fish in Brook Lake, here there are much bigger fish. Ok, I’m game.

We arrive at first light, up with the Bivvy and across with the tension strap. Amazing our Bivvy is a proverbial castle, we can practically stand up in it without crouching! Our only miracle of the day. As the sun rises in the East, the glare on the glassy lake is blinding my already failing eyesight. All I can see is the reflection of the trees, a perfect mirror image. Great if you are a keen photographer but hopeless for fishing. Howard who only needs spectacles for reading pulls out of his pocket his latest sneaky purchase-polarised sun glasses! “Oh these are good” he says “You should get some”. Well I would have done had I any money left after buying him a fishing barrow for Christmas!

This trip, I remembered to bring a flask of steaming coffee, I put some sugar lumps into a little bag for Howard as he takes and I don’t. The winter sun got brighter and stronger as each hour passed. I could just make out fishermen on the opposite bank pulling in some lively fish while we sat and sat without so much as a nibble. “They should call this ‘sitting’ not fishing” I quipped. Just then Howard was up and out of his chair. I turned with speed to grab our 42” landing net. As I turned back Howard was sitting in the chair again. “Did it come off?” I asked. “No” he said “Here it is” I looked down to his lap where he was holding a 3” fish. Well, laugh, I nearly cried. It must have weighed all of an ounce when wet. Unfortunately, he released it back into the water before I could take a picture, then proceeded to pack away the fishing gear leaving himself just one rod on a rest. A sudden bend in his rod grabbed his attention. He struck and the fish started to take off, “quick take a hold of this while I get the net” I took the rod from him while he struggled to get the net connected back into its pole. He arrived at my side just in time to see me winch in his fish. We couldn’t weigh it because he had already packed away the scales. Another lesson learned! But as far as I am aware, without a weigh in, I am still the record holder between us of the biggest carp.

I do hope you are inspired by my fishwifetales on Fishing for Beginners.

Please keep tuned in for our next fishing trip in January 2016 and send in any helpful advice especially on your favourite fishing tackle and method feed practices as Howard says it won’t be long before we upgrade our gear!












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