Steve Pope Barbel Fishing

Catch more barbel!

October Update

I’m feeling distinctly old.

Stating the obvious and I’m well aware of that, but for the first time ever it’s actually playing on my mind, not too much I have to say but just enough for me to feel the need to mention it.

In days gone by I would certainly be seen as an old man. Sixty five years have flown by – a pensioner, a senior citizen for chrissake, reduced rates for all manner of things. When I cast my mind back to the late fifties and think of my grandad at this age he seemed old enough alright and through the eyes of a child I often wondered what it might be like to be as old as he was, well now I know!

I can see him now, baggy turned up trousers hitched above his waist to a height that would no doubt please Mr. Cowell, precariously held in place by braces buttoned down in at least half a dozen places but often with a button or two missing. A collarless shirt with the sleeves rolled up – think ‘Goodnight Mr. Tom’, the ubiquitous waistcoat and well-worn bedroom slippers – perhaps we’re not that far removed!

Time is on my side, yes it is – sings Mick. No it’s not says I.

The years are disappearing too quickly and time is fast running out for me to leave those footprints in the sand.

But this is 2015, we are forever young or so we are led to believe, anglers especially so, but my aching body appears to be telling me something quite different and with a much more resonate voice when I’m endeavouring to look after my four year old grandson!

But I digress, this past month or so has just been so busy and the next sees little let up, the day will eventually arrive when the pace will have to slow down but for now it’s still full steam ahead.

So on with the fishing.

Pixham Ferry, the BS stretch on the lower reaches of the mighty River Severn and a venue that has a very special place in my heart.

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Fond memories abound and while sticking to my firm belief that you should follow the maxim of never going back I have to say I might well be tempted to cast another line, perhaps more than just a few more times, especially as the river from a big barbel perspective has been on fire this season!

On two recent occasions I have found myself back on this stretch and while each swim holds memories from twenty and more years gone by the feeling that there are more memories to be made was quite overwhelming.

For me it’s all about the mystique, and on this stretch the mystery abounds.

When the ‘pin spins and the rod arches over there’s just no telling what size fish is on the other end of the line. It could weigh four pounds, it might be twelve or it just might be that mythical barbel that features in the dreams of all lower Severn anglers!

On the first visit eight pounds or so was as heavy as it got but as I’ve previously hinted that was quite enough to relight a dormant fire.

The second visit was the day of the BS Midland Fundraiser, an inaugural event which following its great success must surely become a permanent calendar fixture.

A good number of anglers fished through the day on three separate venues and as afternoon faded into evening they all convened to Malvern and the fabulous Abbey Hotel.

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The fishing was far from easy but barbel were caught and the tricky conditions didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of all those in the dining hall as they fully entered the spirit of the event and helped raise three thousand pounds to go towards conservation projects in the Severn Catchment area.

After driving around the town for what seemed an eternity I finally found a parking spot at the hotel and once inside discovered I was sitting next to Martin Salter. I only mention this because the announcement had just been made about Jeremy Corbyn, suffice to say we spent a great deal of time discussing the ramifications of this new political appointment!

Aside from that, Martin delivered a really interesting presentation focusing on his mahseer fishing trip to the northern Himalaya’s, the man as you would expect is a superb talker – and no mean angler either!

Something he mentioned, which really pleased me, was the number of ‘younger’ anglers in the room. I mention this because it’s a perception that people who are in or get involved with fishing organisations are generally from a particular generation. Let’s not beat about the bush here, I’m sure you know what I mean, and we are back to that expression I used in my opening paragraphs, the O word – old!

These past few years I have been on a bit of a mission to encourage as many younger guys to get involved as I possibly can and I’m pleased to report we are getting there. For Martin to pick up on this was particularly pleasing.

The average age of the Barbel Society committee has come right down and that can only bode well for the future.


I have recently received my copy of Coarse Angling Today, the latest issue where I have written the editorial. I am pleased with the way it has turned out, something I wanted to get off my chest!

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The rain has largely kept away during the summer months but towards the end of August it made its presence felt to such a degree that I had to cancel a day on the Wye but as the level dropped back I met up with Stuart and we located a few chub and barbel willing to feed in the coloured water.

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But around that time and into early September my time was taken up with things more important than fishing – the arrival of my grandson from Australia and as we hadn’t seen each other for the best part of two years my priorities were all about making up for lost time.

Henry is now four years old and much had changed since we last met, not least the fact that he has acquired an Aussie accent. I can forgive him that and comfort myself in the knowledge that he talks for England!

Henry and his mum were in St. Albans so I made what has now become the regular drive down through the Cotswolds to meet up. It was good to see my family from afar once again. The following day we all somehow ended up in Chipping Ongar, a place I know very well having spent the best part of my life thereabouts.

The reason for the excursion into Essex was another family gathering, and it was primarily set up because my brother in law was over from Hong Kong on a fleeting visit. David is an interesting character and someone I have known since he was about the same age as Henry!

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He has done rather well for himself and is now the main man when it comes to Polo in Asia! How a North London boy has managed that is a story in itself but suffice to say that I’m really proud of what he has achieved and he epitomises the fact that with a good head and hard graft anyone can make a real success in this life.

Back in St. Albans and with the child seat fixed in the car, along with Henry we set off for home with a hectic week to look forward to!

On the way we stopped off at the Evesham Festival to meet my mate Peter who was there drumming up more business for the Caer Beris holidays, the inclement weather had certainly done its best to put a dampener on things and the site, in places, resembled a quagmire.

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But then right on cue the sun shone brightly and it was off to the Safari Park in Bewdley for what I have to say was a really excellent day out.

The animals poking their heads through the car window, the dinosaur park and the multitude of rides, our grandson loved them all.

Henry is obsessed with dinosaurs, knows all the names and is a walking encyclopaedia – palaeontology calls!

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The rest of the week was taken up with keeping him amused and winding him up – well he is an Aussie and that’s what us Poms do!

He is at that age when the word poo rather than pom seems to feature in just about every sentence so we invented a whole new world which involved superheroes such as Pooman (me) and Pooboy (him) – it kept us amused.


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Now if you’re from the same neck of the woods as me and about my sort of age you will understand that we often call boys ‘son’ when addressing them, it’s a term of endearment from as far back as I can recall, but not with Henry – oh no!

‘I’m not your son!’ was his continual response; it made me laugh and only encouraged me to say it even more! If he had added ‘I’m you’re grandson,’ then I would have been even more impressed with his take on the language!

Back to St. Albans and the return of Henry to his mum then I was off to Caer Beris for Wye Valley Adventure number two. I truly love these fishing breaks. Fabulous food and company and always the chance for some superb fishing – who wouldn’t?

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I was joined by four guys who have all been before plus my old pal Derek who I had managed to convince to come along, the fishing was tough but we landed a few.

Derek's Barbel

Derek’s Barbel

Derek was pleased he took my advice especially as a 10-15 came his way, Jon who had a great time last year kept the run going with a couple of nine pounders from Lower Ballingham and I somehow found the time to have an interesting tete a tete with Mr. Bob James!

Jon's Barbel

Jon’s Barbel

Ray's Barbel

Ray’s Barbel

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Ken's Barbel

Ken’s Barbel

Peter, who owns Caer Beris, and Bob are great friends and that’s how I came to be sharing a cup of afternoon tea and biscuits in Bob’s caravan, hidden away in an idyllic spot close to the River Wye.

We must have spent a couple of hours chewing the fat and at least now I have heard Bob’s side of the many stories that surround this very well-known figure.

After a quick break to take in the Midland Fundraiser I was back once again at the hotel welcoming the guests for the third of our Wye breaks.

This time around I was joined by an old pal Fireman Bob who brought along three of his mates, Mick who has been out with me a number of times and Ray. Six anglers all looking forward to what the next four days had in store.

Barbel were caught including some nice doubles including one not far off twelve pounds from the Llanthomas stretch. A great time was had by all.

Dick's Barbel

Dick’s Barbel

Back to St. Albans where child minding services were once more the order of the day and whilst there I slipped off to the Kennet to catch up with Jason for a day’s fishing.


My wonderful grandchildren

My wonderful grandchildren


Always a pleasure to babysit for Katie and James.

Always a pleasure to babysit for Katie and James.

I wish I could report tales of mega rod bending action but unfortunately no matter how hard we tried and we really tried, the fish did not want to play.

I’m getting more than a little worried about the Kennet. I hear all sorts of stories, mainly otter related and while I try to keep an open mind it’s becoming increasingly difficult to retain a degree of optimism. What with the signal crayfish probably eating the eggs and the otters picking off the large females the future is anything but bright.

I’m back down towards the end of October for a four day stint and I’m hoping to build a more educated picture based on the results of that trip. Late October is usually prime time for the Kennet barbel and I’ll keep in the right frame of mind and see what happens.

As September drew to a close I found myself sharing two days in the company of Andy, a really interesting character who resides on the Isle of Man.

We had two days planned on the Wye and after suffering a first time blank on the first I was praying the second back at Llanthomas would be more fruitful.

Well it was tough once again but as the morning turned to afternoon the tip went round and Andy found himself attached to a good fish only to lose it seconds later as it found the snag!

I was beginning to think it might not be our day for the second time in a row and as I knew Andy was off to the Royalty for two days with Steve, another guide, I was contemplating the sort of conversation that might take place down in Christchurch!

The last cast of the day, and it really was, the tip started to twitch. Not in a violent way but enough to suggest there was life at the end of the line.

I was caught in two minds, if my advice was to strike and there was nothing there then a blank it would be, I decided to wait just a little longer.

The rod tip jagged twice and that made my mind up, ‘hit it’, I cried.

And much to my relief Andy found himself attached to a solid resistance!

Both our nerves held firm and Andy played the barbel like a true master and it wasn’t long before I was positioning the net under a nice fish – I thought it might make the double.

Andy's Barbel

Andy’s Barbel

The scales told us it was four ounces short but who cared, not us, I was relieved and Andy was thrilled to have caught his personal best, job done!

And as September faded into the mist of time I welcomed the first days of October with thoughts of a coming barbel harvest. More trips to the Wye beckoned along with the last of the Caer Beris holidays, a fishing session with my brother- in- law, an Angling Times feature on the Severn and much more which I’ll tell you about next time.

Enjoy your fishing!


P.S. I’m joking to some degree, I’ve seen ‘old’ whilst driving around the country lanes and I’m not at that stage just yet!!






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