Steve Pope Barbel Fishing

Catch more barbel!

November Update


Well I’m up to date with my writing elsewhere, Fishing Magic Diaries etc, and so I’m able to get cracking on this update.

Reading other blogs that are out there I sometimes wonder if my efforts are just too easy going, but then again I’m at a certain phase in my life where I have found contentment. I don’t waste too much energy sounding off about things I can’t possibly change or influence, perhaps I’ve given up.

I’ve done the angry man bit and just can’t see me doing much more of that in the time I have left, I’m comfortable in my own skin, have no more real ambition and lead a pretty good life, so that’s why my blog finds me in a pleasant place, its where I’m happiest and where I will hopefully continue to stay.

Life has been very hectic on the fishing front and I’m enjoying a little bit of a break while I wait for the Severn to level off at a height that I’m happy to venture out on.

My guiding days for this year have come to an end although I still have a handful of days to arrange for auction winners.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been out with me, the most since I started, and say that I enjoyed every single moment and I hope you all took great memories away as I have.

I’m taking bookings for next year already and don’t forget these days make a brilliant Christmas present – just in case wives and partners are reading this!

I’ll give you a brief run through of the fishing since the last update, we located some nice fish!

Unfortunately we couldn’t find the barbel on the lower Severn!

Last year my venue on the river fished well, lots of fish and plenty of doubles and a friend of mine had a big thirteen, so confidence was high for this seasons quest.

However the conditions have not worked in favour of us barbelers and couple that with the continued presence of the seal added to a growing belief that something is far from right with the river and its easy to see how negativity can prevail.

A two day session with James and Matt failed to produce a single barbel and these guys are very good anglers. They stayed for an extra few hours and I understand that one fish showed, not a great result for a lot of effort.

A few days later I was back – I’m a glutton for punishment – with Dave and no surprise it was tough once again but Dave did catch one around the five pound mark.

Since then – back end of September – the rain has arrived, a little too much as its rendered my venue unfishable but I will be on the lower throughout November as long as the water temperature hasn’t taken a big dip and I’m confident that some fish will show, time will tell.

Fortunately the fishing was a lot better on the Kennet.

John from the south coast had two days booked with me , a man by his own admission new to barbel fishing, far more at home fishing the Test and Itchen for chub and trout.

Our first day was hard, one lost fish for a heck of a lot of work, that’s the way it goes at times.

Day two and I decided to rotate the swims to see if we could pick up a bonus fish while showing John some of the different techniques we use in barbel fishing.

While John was rolling a piece of meat around the weirpool and managing to connect with a decent chub I found myself up close and personal with an otter!

Now I know we have otters on the stretch but I have to say I have yet to see evidence of any fish kill that I could lay at the door of these creatures, that’s not so say it doesn’t happen, its just that in getting on for ten years and many barbel I’ve yet to see it here.

Anyway to add credence to that view within twenty seconds of a meatball being lowered close to the bank, less than fifteen feet from where the otter surfaced, the rod took on an alarming curve and was on its way into the drink as John lifted into a good fish.

So here we have nine and a half pounds of pristine Kennet barbel that wasn’t at all fazed by an apex predator swimming around close by, not sure it proves anything other than the fact that barbel can be daft at times!

We spent a few hours in another favoured spot and a barbel in the six pound range responded to the caster approach, so we managed to get John off and running barbel wise but it hadn’t been easy.


John with his 9-08


Day three and I was looking forward to catching up with Ken once again. I first met up with him on the Wye Valley Experience and he came along again this year when the sun was blazing, the river was low and the barbel were not having it!

Ken is one of the new young guns, still the right side of thirty, keen as mustard and catching lots of barbel on his home patch, the iconic Royalty fishery.

Ken had never fished the Kennet before so the mission was to make sure he caught his first barbel from the river and to show him how effective the caster method actually is, we succeeded in one of those!

We set up in the swim that hadn’t produced on Monday and I left Ken for about fifteen minutes while I shot off to the tackle shop to collect fresh casters from Tony.

When I arrived back I could tell that there had been activity in my absence, the landing net wasn’t where it was left, the mesh was now below water level safeguarding what was obviously a decent barbel!

Ken couldn’t resist using his favourite tactic while I was away and he had rolled a piece of garlic spam right into the barbel’s lair and the result was an immediate pick up, the fish weighed in at 11-02, a right result.

Unfortunately that early fish put the kibosh on getting anymore from there as the fish just dropped back and sulked, we wandered off down the fishery and Ken put his rolling skills to good use in the pool landing another nice fish not far off nine pounds.

So Ken’s first visit to the Kennet produced a good result, have to say it was never in doubt as Ken is a very good barbel angler, not only that he is a master at casting straight off the ‘pin and that’s not easy to do!


Ken's fish from the pool



Ken's eleven!


Thursday morning and a day with Richard beckoned, another angler still in his fourth decade, am I envious? Yes!

Once again I was with someone completely new to the river and someone new to barbel fishing.

We caught early on, that prompted me to stick it out with the casters hoping that the fish would feed well later in the day.

Hours passed by and it wasn’t until six pm before another chance came along and unfortunately for Richard the fish came adrift, something that happens when you are fishing casters and smallish hooks, the hook doesn’t always locate itself in those rubbery lips where it never comes out from!

I have to say I was getting apprehensive, the day was drawing to a close and darkness was about to engulf us when chance number three came along.

This time there was no bad hook hold and Richard played the fish to the net in a way befitting a man who had done it dozens of times, a double was the prize with seven ounces to spare.

I was over the moon, Richard was a top bloke and he had a tale to tell his young lad when he arrived back home in South London, I hope we meet up again.


Richard with his 10-07


Friday and time to meet up with Paul once again.

Paul has really taken barbel fishing onboard since our trip to the Wye earlier in the season and I was hoping the barbel would still be in feeding mood for his first time on the Kennet.

Sometimes fishing is cruel and no matter how hard we tried it just wouldn’t come together and to make matters worse Paul pulled out of two good fish as well.

There will be another time, I know Paul has learned loads but the luck just wasn’t with us on the day, we’ll put it right another time.

Saturday, day six of a long stint on the river and this one in the company of Billy, a sea angler from the Kent coast.

What a difference a day makes, twenty four little hours…………..

The barbel fed, five of them came our way including a personal best of 10-10 and the first on a ‘pin.

I’ve heard from Billy since and he is well into it now, his local river which is far from easy is now a different proposition as Billy approaches it full of confidence and often that’s all that’s needed.


Billy's Best!


One from the pool.



I drove back home arriving just after my old school mate Steve and his wife Lel had arrived. They were staying with us for a couple of nights.

We enjoyed a nice old fashioned lunch in the tea rooms in Montgomery which is only a few minutes down the lane and then I was off to the river once again for another stint, five days this time.

I really enjoy the days I spend in the company of Matt Rand, he really is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet on the fishing scene.

He is part of the mighty Shimano set up and as they own Dynamite Baits once a year we meet up to put something together under my obligation of being involved with Dynamite for a long time.

The quest over two days was to get some good footage for the Dynamite You Tube channel so the pressure was on because I had to catch a fish otherwise there would be no film!

I managed to catch a couple of barbel on the first day so Matt had film in the can, we retired to the pub in the evening to draw up the agenda for the next day and I had my fingers crossed that a good fish would put in an appearance and become the star of the show.

Back in the swim just as the day was breaking and the rod top pulled round in that unmistakeable way that tells you this could be a good ‘un!

Matt was still on his way as I drew what I knew was a terrific fish over the landing net, I punched the air pleased with the fact that the hardest part of the job was now done.

Matt appeared right on cue and we had our filmstar, all thirteen and a half pounds of her!


My best in a while!


The rest of the day went well, more barbel, a nice chub on film from the pool and Matt had great fun drop shotting for perch and pike.

Looking forward to seeing the finished film for YouTube, I’ll get it up on here when Matt gives me the go ahead.

Next year we’ll get it together on the Wye.

Thursday, and time to catch up with Nick who was in need of a huge confidence boost after a run of blanks! No pressure then.

The barbel were still in feed mode, Nick landed three including a new personal best of 10-08, he had the biggest smile I’ve seen in a long time.



As soon as the opportunity presents itself I’ll be down on the Severn for another session with Nick, looking forward to that one.

And then my luck run out, two blanks on the trot, that’s fishing!!

I was still reluctant to take a chance on the lower Severn and so I cancelled two scheduled days there, this meant that I had an unexpected week off at home, I enjoyed the rest!

But a week soon flies by and next up I had an appointment with a fine group of guys on the banks of the Severn at a place that is dear to my heart, the stretch at Pixham which is now controlled by the Barbel Society.

I had agreed to give a short talk to the assembled group of anglers and I decided to wing it and hope the magic moments I had spent on this fabulous water would come back and come out in an entertaining and inspirational way, I think I got away with it!


At Pixham


I drove back home, sorted myself out and then headed back to the Kennet for what might be my last trip of the season.

Richard had taken a bit of a break from  barbel fishing, having caught some nice fish from the Colne he was now looking forward to relighting the fire courtesy of his rugby pals who had treated him – his words! – to a day out with me in thanks for all his hard work in running the junior rugby club. So there was no way I could upset a group of mad keen rugby folk!

It took us till midday but then the barbel fed and Richard landed four and wait for it………….a new personal best of 12-04!

I truly love it when it all comes together and it did for Richard.



And then my final two days guiding on the Kennet for this year in the company of Frank, a man a few years older than me, ex-army and someone who talks more than me!

We had a great time and the barbel put in an appearance, just the one on Tuesday but four of them popped up on Wednesday including two personal bests, an 11-00 and a 10-05.

The overnight rain on Tuesday lifted the level and that was enough to get the fish more active, and I forgot to add that Frank lost a really big fish just as he was about to lift it up for netting, this happened in the first half hour.

Once again the curse of the dodgy hook hold had struck once again.


Frank and his PB


Thursday arrived and with it our annual Gentlemen’s Day.

A euphemism if ever there was one!

No barbel caught at all but a good time had by all.

Our day coincided with the school half term holidays and I found myself being joined on numerous occasions by the “man” of the house – he’s a good lad really!!


The "man" of the house!



We retired early enough to the usual hostelry where fine food and good banter was enjoyed by all.

We missed our main talker though, Mr. Tarrant couldn’t make it this year, he seems to be busier than ever but I have to say I really enjoyed his fishing programme on the TV.

And so I bade farewell to the Kennet for another season, it came good once again, not in numbers although five in a day is not to be sniffed at and the big ones continue to show, we’ll see what next year brings.


Sun sets over the Kennet





Upcoming Barbel Society Regional Meeting


The barbel Society lancashire Region
An Evening

Steve Pope
(Chairman of the barbel society, Angling Writer, Free Spirit, Dynamite Baits and Peg one consultant, Star of barbel days and ways Volume 2)

Terry Theobald
(Angling Writer, All round specialist angler, Hookbaits Consultant)

Monday 18th November

Bredbury Conservative Club
George lane

Entrance 7.00pm for an 8.00pm Start

Stands to include

The Hook bait Company

As other stands confirm i will advise.

Raffle with good prizes (Wychwood barbel rod up for grabs) as well as many other good prizes

Food will be available

Come and enjoy what will be a very entertaining evening

Members free
Non members £3




The Barbel Society’s Research and Conservation Auction 2013

Starts Monday 25th November

It is that time of year again and we are gearing ourselves ready for the Barbel Society Research and Conservation Auction. Below is a list of selected items up for auction so far, with more to follow over the coming weeks.

All fisheries permit and membership for the Barbel Society for the 2014/15 season

Skies of Fire Rivers of Gold book, Fred Crouch, limited edition of 250 of Fred`s sought-after book

Day with Pete Reading on the Hampshire Avon for barbel or chub

Day with Pete Reading on the Dorset Frome for grayling

Manchester United tickets, two tickets for almost any home game, with a meal in the Knights Lounge

Day for two on Dave Steuart’s private stretch of the Test, big roach, chub, grayling, trout

Set of Classic Angling magazine no 1-49, wonderful mags

Day with Steve Pope on Wye, Kennet or Severn

Medlar Press copy of The Whopper, No 125 now out of print, mint

Barbel Catchers and Friends, vgc copy of Barbel Catchers book, 1988 very sought after

Barbel Tales leather no. 30

Lone Angler luggage

Trefor West Lone Angler 12’ 1 3/4lb test curve rod, short handle

Pair of night vision binoculars

Pair of handmade rod rests, seasoned hawthorn, whipped and varnished

Day with Steve Derby on his boat on Christchurch Harbour, mullet fishing

Twyford Angling Club season ticket

Christchurch Angling Club season permit

Reading and District AA annual membership

Ringwood Angling Club season permit

Print of barbel by Chris Turnbull, no 3/100

From an Anglers Journal, lovely book by Ian Watson, No 380/500, with special postcards

Shimano Aero GT 5010 baitrunner reel

Guided day with Rob Swindells on a syndicate stretch of the Teme

Limited edition print, signed by Bernard Venables, September barbel

Day on the middle Trent with Rob Hilton

Gravel Pit Angling by Peter Stone, vgc with dust jacket, very slightly rubbed, signed by Peter

Bait package from Dynamite Baits

Bait package from Wraysbury Baits

Guided Day on the Kennet with Dave Brown

Guided day of the Teme at Bransford with Dave Brown

Guided day perch fishing on the Kennet, with lunch, with Jon Berry

Available to members only, remember half year membership still available






I’m now taking bookings for next year.

Please contact me on for more information.

Please also note that bookings are being taken for the 2014 Wye Valley Experience;



2014 Wye Valley Experience




I cannot end this piece without saying a few words about the tragic loss of a fellow barbel angler Steve Stringer.

Many of you will have heard how Steve lost his life after falling in to the River Kennet while fishing.

I first met Steve twenty years ago, on the Royalty fishery. He was fishing the swim known as Mugs Hole and he was catching a few.

No surprise there because Steve always knew how to catch barbel, he has an impressive list to his name.

I remember him joining the Barbel Catcher’s Club and then the Barbel Society as soon as it was formed.




He wrote for the Barbel Fisher magazine and was a long standing loyal supporter of the Society.

The Kennet was dear to his heart, being close by to where he lived and his captures from that river are as good as anyone’s, as I have said he was a really good angler.

His loss has come as a terrible shock to the barbel fishing world and our heartfelt condolences go out to his close friends and family.

We will all miss him.

RIP Steve.





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