Steve Pope Barbel Fishing

Catch more barbel!

November Update



Well I’m back on here at last, sincere apologies for the delay in publishing regular updates on my website. I have excuses but to be honest none of them really stack up, truth is at times I hit a wall when it comes to writing. At times the words flow and I’m more than happy with the result, and then there are other times when no matter how hard I try it just doesn’t happen, I know what I want to say but putting together decent English is way beyond me!


This past year has been far from easy in fact it’s been a rather difficult one, not quite an Annus Horribilis but not far off! The loss of Fred has hit much harder than I would ever have thought. I’ve said before that I always operate best  in tandem with someone and Fred was my rock when it came to fishing, he’s irreplaceable, and while I hugely enjoy the days I spend on the river with wonderful people it’s when the day is over and I want to talk about it the emptiness kick in. There would always be a joke to share, now its just an empty sky.


Plus, I haven’t seen my grandson for over a year and there’s no telling when I’ll see him again, that’s hard and it hurts at times but I’ve come to accept the situation. It’s highly unlikely I’ll be heading back to Australia any time soon and children grow up so quickly and another year to me is, and I don’t want this to sound morbid, just me getting that much older and closer to that inevitable finish line.


Fortunately I’ve seen lots of my adorable little grandaughter and those moments fill my heart with joy, fishing is fine but nothing beats that feeling when she falls asleep in my arms. Perhaps she’ll enjoy a day out fishing with grandad sometime in the future? I hope so.


I’ll pick up on all of these topics as I go through this update but let’s start with the fishing which has been rather good at times.







Lower Severn


Still my spiritual home but a place I find  incredibly hard to be at exactly the right time!


Daft I know, I have all the time in the world but events always seem to conspire against me and then the window shuts, most irritating but there you go!


Four visits are all I’ve made, but each of them provided a moment to remember and for Pete, the session we shared was the springboard to much greater things.


The end of September, about the time I like to make my first serious forays on to the lower river. First job at 7am bankside, as always get the hemp in. The biggest Seymo dropper on a heavy old rod and in no time at all two gallons of the magic seed are spread around to form a carpet a third of the way across the river, intention being to provide an area that a few barbel might be prepared to forage around in for the fourteen hours or so to follow.


An hour after the first dropper hit the deck Pete arrived full of enthusiasm, totally fit and ready as he only had to make the short journey from Tewkesbury.


Bait tactics for daytime Lower Severn fishing when the river is low tends to be a couple of 10mm Elips pellets or a Crave boilie, as a backup a medium sized piece of meat again cut in half and superglued to the loopless hair.


A Fisky feeder stuffed with Dynamite groundbait and mixed small pellets or a straight lead for the meat, simple rigs, nothing too complicated, it’s always worked ok for me.


We had to wait a few hours for the first barbel but that was no problem at all because once Pete told me he spends all the winter in Australia in his house on the Northern Beaches we found another common bond and the time just flew by.


But around lunchtime the rod went over, line peeled off the reel and the first fish was on!


No monster but that’s the whole point when you fish the lower Severn, you just don’t know what will turn up. There are techniques which are very successful for being selective but I tend to bring those out later in the day when it’s a guiding session.



Late afternoon and barbel number two, again we didn’t bother with the scales, no point, it was a really nice fish and it mattered not one jot whether it weighed six, seven or eight pounds. That’s not to say weight is irrelevant, but it tends to be for me until the scale says ten pounds or more! Daft I know but it is still important when a barbel gets into double figures, it’s the benchmark for me anyway!



As the sun set over the hills darkness set in although it never gets pitch black on my venue, I like it like that at my age!


Just as we were thousands of miles away on Whale Beach waiting for the Mulloway to bite we were rudely interrupted by the rod tip heading downwards and line being taken so we were back in the moment! This time we had a feeling that one of the bigger barbel had picked up the meat and so it proved to be as the scales and large Pegone weighbag came into play for the first time. A satisfying 10-09 reading brought an enjoyable day to its end.



Three barbel in a session is good enough for me, in days gone by when the lower Severn was considered to be one of the finest barbel waters in the country, that result would have made the long journey more than worthwhile – we have tended to become perhaps a little too greedy these days.


The following day we met up just a few miles away on a different river, the Teme. No doubt about it that this beautiful river is not what it once was in regard to its population of barbel but they are still there in sufficient numbers to warrant a day in their pursuit. Many theories have been put forward to explain the obvious reduction in numbers and a study is being carried out to try and establish what has happened. Perhaps there were too many barbel twenty years ago, hopefully we will get to the bottom of it because the Teme is a delightful place to fish and there are positive signs on the lower reaches so its fingers crossed.


Pete caught one barbel and a few chub put in an appearance and we enjoyed a really nice day.



A fortnight later, while I was keeping an eye on my grandaughter as she sat in the highchair eating  her breakfast, some of it went in her mouth,  the tell-tale bleep on the phone signalled an incoming message.


‘Hey Steve, an absolute stellar day, hooked four barbel 14-07, 11-04, 10-02 and lost one. Many thanks for all your help, cheers, Pete.’


Now I’m not a man given to envy but I must confess as I glanced at the array of cuddly toys surrounding little Eva their eyes all appeared to be green, looking staright at me and piercing me with that certain stare!


I texted back offering my most sincere congratulations and happy in the knowledge that my predictions for the river after the seal incident were beginning to come true.


My next visit to the lower was in the company of Jamie, a nice guy who had bid for the day in an online auction some time ago, for all sorts of reasons it had taken us both almost two years to get the date fixed!


Jamie is into his bikes, think Bradley rather than Foggy, and we spent a good few hours talking about his passion.


I mention the time element because as can often happen on this enigmatic part of the river the first cast produced and that was it!  Mind you it was a nice fish, well over nine pounds and when you get one right at the start it certainly helps to keep you going as it becomes clear it may well have been the only barbel there! I’m always reminded of a day on this stretch a few years ago when I found myself holding a rod in each hand playing two fish again early in the morning. I managed to land them both, nice fish as I recall, and that was my action for the day all encapsulated in ten frantic minutes before breakfast time.



The next day I shared with Dave, a local guy who had already had one day out with me last season and our mission was to get Dave his first Severn double. We worked hard all day but the only prize came late in the day, a lively eight pound plusser.


But our day was all about what might have been, I’ll explain.


We were fishing two rods, I tend to do that on the Severn during the day, and I decided to reel in the right hand rod to check the bait. As I picked up the rod for a split second I thought we were snagged, a common occurrence in this particular swim, lots of branches have taken root, but this time the branch or best I say log, decided to move!


Not fast, very slow, powerful and deliberate, this was no log, this was certainly alive and for a few seconds I was convinced we were attached to the biggest barbel – if indeed it was a barbel – that I had ever been in contact with!


I passed the rod to Dave because it was his day saying, ‘ there is a very big fish on here be careful.’ I was extremely conscious of the fact that there had been no bite so no strike ensued therefore the hookhold could well be precarious and so it proved to be in thirty seconds time! But not before Dave too experienced the ‘feel’ of what was without question a very big fish, a barbel I’m sure, before the line went slack and the prize was gone, the fragile hook hold gave way.


Now I know we all have these stories and they become part of our own folklore but this one will haunt me because I know it was that barbel  all of us who fish the lower dream of catching, it paid us a fleeting visit but it was not meant to be.


It played on both our minds for the rest of the day.


We will be back because Dave has still to land a double, he has had a taster for sure.


Three weeks later I found myself back in the same swim albeit just for a few hours as I was stopping off on my way to the Kennet. I had four hours, enough time to land four barbel including a nice nine and a very nice ten!


Not long after that perfect conditions for barbel fishing came about, but I was back in St. Albans doing my grandad bit and whilst a part of me wished I was on the river, it was truly only a small part, quality time with my daughter and grandaughter comes first, always will.


Those fabulous conditions, mild weather and the river up and coloured certainly had an impact.


The river record has been broken, a good pal of mine has just landed a big fifteen, the lower is on fire once more. The middle has not been far behind either producing quite a few good doubles to those prepared to put in the effort and use the selective method and I am pleased to record that my mate Lol Breakspear – the architect of the premier selective method – someone I consider to be one of the very best on this river, has captured a superb fish from the middle reaches.


Sabrina is giving up her riches, far from being over the hill she is in full bloom and we await with interest to see what she comes up with next………….














I wish I could be as upbeat about this river although the good news regarding the abstraction will certainly help but there are a few more factors that are certainly affecting the fishing on the stretch I fish.


During October I managed nine sessions on the Kennet, twenty three barbel caught with four doubles. No real consistency and there were a couple of complete blanks as well. No fishing after dark, so all caught during the day and quite a few before lunchtime, no pattern in spite of a considered baiting regime.


My favourite swim has gone well and truly off the boil and I’m speculating over the logical reasons for that. I’ve no doubt that what appears to be more pronounced otter activity – four or five carcasses have been found on the opposite bank – has impacted on barbel behaviour. The survival instinct overriding the urge to feed and with fewer fish the shoals appear to be smaller most of the time. So whereas in the past there may well have been a dozen or so barbel in the swim and it was not too hard to induce competitive feeding with the caster approach, there now appears to be just one or two at best.


And then there’s the crays, Ronnie and Reggie rule this turf and they seem to have a veritable army of underlings down on the river bed protecting their patch! I don’t think I will ever forget walking back down the track to the carpark alongside the cray catcher pushing a trolley with two wheelie bins full of the damn things – the result of a few hours emptying the contents of the traps. Seems to make very little difference, the more that go the more that seem to appear, it really is a problem.


So having endured a couple of blanks and finding it almost impossible to keep a bait away from the devilish creatures it was time to move downstream.


This swim has fished well, and I always ask the same question to my clients when I fish it, ‘How would you set about things bearing in mind we’re here all day, where would you place your bait?’





It’s fair to say the answer is always the same, across to the other side tight up to the overhanging tree. When I say we’ll be fishing no more than twelve inches from our bank, right at our feet , to say their look is one of astonishment would be understating the moment !


To be fair I cast across to the tree if I’m roving and looking to pick up an opportunistic fish and when I’m planning on spending no more than ten minutes or so in the swim, it has worked well for me on many  occasions. But for an all day session far better to draw the barbel away from their sanctuary over to a spot where they are not alarmed and will readily feed. It works a treat and all credit for pointing me in this direction many moons ago goes to Fred Crouch. It took me quite some time to fully appreciate how well the tactic works, pretty much anywhere, and as long as you exercise care and stealth the fish will feed all day long if there are enough of them under the tree in the first place!


Chris had this fish of eleven pounds plus fishing just that way.





And here’s another nice barbel for John that fell to exactly the same tactic, hair rigged caster fished over a bed of droppered hemp and caster that is regularly topped up.





I even managed to sneak one out for myself. This one came from the top gully swim, again fished close in, there are usually a handful of barbel under the near bank tree but the water is quite shallow and so I tend to fish the swim with  hit and run tactics after baiting with tiny cubes of meat and hemp and resting for a couple of hours. This fish came twenty minutes after I cast in with the hair rigged meat cube and was just about to reel in and move on.






So it’s definitely getting harder, it will be very interesting to see what next summer brings. I’ll stick with it a little longer because I love the place and it has produced countless barbel and doubles for me over the past ten years.


And not only that I like the guys on the syndicate, a great group of people and my last trip to the river was not to fish but to meet up with them all for our annual Gentlemen’s Day get together. I arrived just too late to see Chris Tarrant as he was heading off to foreign shores and he missed the evening dinner and notwithstanding our name for the day, Marilyn Brown is always welcome!















The last of the Wye Valley Experience holiday breaks took place and as always a superb group of guys turned up for a thoroughly enjoyable four days on the river. The barbel were playing harder to get than the previous trip but they were caught and one from Geoff’s Llanthomas fishery took the scales to 11-04.


With a great deal of knowledge at my disposal I was eagerly anticipating meeting up with my good mate Matt Rand and Gary Newman for what we hoped would produce a blinding feature for Gary’s Angler’s Mail column.


Well just to show that the best laid plans don’t work out every time, we blanked big style!


We tried as hard as you possibly can but the weather and conditions were not in our favour and we decided to pull the plug earlier than expected so Matt could at least enjoy a days fishing closer to home for a species that would be more likely to feed in the falling temperature!


It doesn’t always go to plan as I said but we’ll be back to put matters right.


This season the Wye seems to be producing a lot of double figure fish, almost a throwback to the halcyon days on the Red Lion stretch that Peter Smith is always telling me about! I’m certainly looking forward to catching a few for myself up at Hay and I’ve joined a stretch above Ross that should provide plenty of arm aching action next summer, looking forward to that.













The last days of October tends to signal the end of my guiding for the year. The shorter days and change in weather conditions make the catching trickier and to be honest I look forward to the break so that I’m ready to go again when the sun comes out!


As always I’ve enjoyed the company of many wonderful people and there have been many memorable moments, personal bests, first barbel, first double, first on a ‘pin…………you name it!


I’m already taking bookings for next year and I would advise anyone who is thinking about having a day out to get in quick. I’ve added dates to the Caer Beris Wye Breaks and that will affect the number of days I’ll be guiding on the Kennet.


I’ll probably limit myself to 25 individual days next season so as I say get in quick and if you are thinking about a Christmas present get in touch now and there will be a good reduction on the price!!


I’ll be updating the home page Guiding Gallery very soon!









Caer Beris Wye Valley Experience – Superb value Fishing Breaks.




The dates are set for next year and these holidays are perfect for the discerning angler!


WVE 1 – July 12th – 16th.


WVE 2 – September 6th – 10th


WVE 3 – September 13th – 17th.


WVE 4 – October 4th – 6th




If you check this LINK out you will get an idea of how the holidays work. I’ll be updating the information on my Home page shortly to bring it into line for 2015.












I’ve already mentioned how important this is to me, my wife and I simply love heading off to St. Albans to spend time with our daughter and her family. This means we get to look after little Eva while she and her husband get on with their very busy working lives.


Christmas is the time for family and for kids and that’s where my focus will be in a few eeks time and I can’t wait.










Fallon’s angler – A medley of piscatorial prose.



If you follow my blog you will have already read about the day I had in the company of Garrett Fallon, I’m delighted that his vision for a high class fishing magazine has come to fruition.


Fallon’s angler is not your usual fayre, a glance at the featured writers is all you need to confirm that this is a rather special tome.


Chris Yates, Tom Fort, Dominic Garnett are just three of the esteemed contributors or wagglers, trotters, peelers and butts as  Garrett calls them!


If you haven’t bought a copy I thoroughly recommend you check out the website HERE, and get one pronto.


I will be submitting copy to Garrett myself and I really hope my words will be good enough to stand alongside what I consider to be some of the best angling writing there is today.









Barbel Society Stuff




There’s actually quite a lot I would like to write here about whats happening in the Barbel Society but as I’m well over 3500 words already I think some of it will have to wait until the new year.


Suffice to say there is much going on.


Committee wise we’re getting younger all the time and I have to say I welcome that with open arms!


All I would say is that if you come out on a days fishing with me, are very passionate about your barbel fishing and would like to get involved with the Barbel Society then it’s likely to happen!


The annual auction to raise funds for our research and conservation projects has just got underway and with just under 90 lots there really is something for everyone.


This auction is open to non-members although you will have to get a member to do your bidding. That’s not difficult; I’m here and so are many more if needed. Contact me if you would like to bid on an item, better still join the Society today!


The list of lots is HERE.


Here’s a couple of dates for your diary;


The Barbel Show – Twentieth Anniversary.  6th/7th June 2015


Chesford Grange, Kenilworth, Warwickshire.


More information will be available in the new year and as this will be the twentieth anniversary event its sure to be a good one so don’t go booking your holidays around this date!!




The Barbel Society Midland Fundraiser – Fishing on the river Severn, evening at The Abbey Hotel, Gt Malvern.


This event uses the template we established some time ago for the Avon Fundraiser. For the foreseeable future we will be running this as an annual event to help out in the Severn Catchment and as there is a limit on numbers I suggest you make your interest known very quickly!


If you are interested please contact me and I’ll put your name forward to the organisers.




The last bit I want to say on here regarding the Society is about me.


2015 will see my 65th birthday, hopefully! It will also be my twentieth year having day to day involvement with the Society, that’s a long time, almost half of my adult life.


The BS is very close to my heart, it was my idea and as many have said to me , it’s my baby.


This time next year I will have completed twenty years as chairman, that’s something I’m intensely proud of. I’ve stayed the course, stuck it out when the going was tough, still standing……I’ve always considered that to be the important thing, the key, the rock.


Back in ’94 I knew exactly what was needed, the type of organisation barbel anglers of all experience would support, with much help from like minded friends the BS came to fruition.


Today , in 2014, the fishing scene is totally different and the template that worked so well twenty years ago may not be the template to succeed for another twenty years.


I have my own ideas for what’s needed but it’s not about me, or anyone of my age – the Crabtree generation, its about the guys of forty five and under. Guys with the same passion I and my friends had when we were in our early forties; they are the people who will carry the baton forward.


My hope is that guys from that age group, and we have them on the committee, will take up the challenge, come up with a plan, a blueprint for the future, a template that will work for them and see the Barbel Society flourish when I’m long gone, that’s my personal dream.


In the meantime though rest assured my passion is as strong as it ever was, it’s not the same without Fred but in my mind he is still there beside me and that gives me the strength to continue to give my all. I doubt I’ll ever stop completely or walk away but the stage is definitely being set for the next generation.


So on those deeper thoughts than usual I’ll bring this update to a close and hopefully get another one up around Christmas time.


All the best and good fishing to you all!





























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