My two weeks leave from work were off to a flyer with a birthday weekend PB of 12lb 8oz from the river Dove at 6am on the Sunday morning. I travelled home the next day to restock the tackle and food and headed off to the tidal Trent on the Barbel Societies beat at Sutton.
The Sutton stretch is further downstream from the famous Collingham stretch and I thought turning up at 6pm on a school night would have seen the place devoid of all life forms apart from the cows but as I went through the gate of the fishery I could just see a couple of cars on the horizon by the popular ‘Bush’ peg.
Undeterred and having heard that a few big fish had recently come out from that area I headed across the field and met an angler coming in the opposite direction who’d seemingly finished for the day. He confirmed the Bush peg was taken but advised I went further down the beach where he’d put plenty of bait in and had a 10lb+ barbel from that day. I stopped and chatted to the angler on the Bush peg more so to gauge how the fishing had been and he confirmed it was good having had a few out and was actually playing one in as we spoke.
The beach area is a long straight and as the name suggests at normal tides is very shallow in the margins and when the tide is out consists of very soft mud and silt near the waters edge, good job I’d brought my wellies!!
By 7pm I was setup and ready to go, frequent casts with a 5oz feeder soon had a mixture of micro pellet and broken boilie scattered at around 70 yards in approximately the area I’d been guided to. A tactic of boilie by night and maggot by day was quite popular here so I rigged up both rods on braided hook links and the Hook Bait Co. Spicy Fish Pro dumbells, in the feeder would be the usual micro pellet to keep the swim topped up as I was fishing.
An hour late and the alarm indicated a fish was on but with no line stripping off the spool it wasn’t a barbel but a bit of head shaking later I discovered it was quite a decent bream of 4lb 6oz and worthy of a mat shot.
Three more bream of a similar size kept me active during the night but I did start to think I’d possibly picked the wrong spot. The next morning maggot feeders were deployed with long fluorocarbon hooklinks and 5 white maggots on a strong size 10 hook, the feeders required more lead adding to hold in the tidal flow and I taped the feeders up so the maggots would release slowly into the swim.
At 12:30pm whilst reeling in yet another perch the other rod was wrenched from the tripod and started heading for the river’s edge, ankle deep in mud I tried to grab it and fell flat on my backside but somehow reached across and regained my composure.
A tidal barbel doesn’t fight by the rules so it was a right old tussle of wits and after three determined runs I started to gain some line back, this is why I’ve been using heavy tackle on the more sedate river Dove not because I need to punch feeders out 70 yards but simply to allow me to gain the upper hand on the take and steer the fish away from the snags of which there are many.
It was at this point I discovered the hidden weed bed about 20 yards out from the shore, the barbel headed straight for it and having found it buried itself in the sanctuary of the cover. I maintained the pressure and eventually I felt a slight pull back then a splash on the surface showed the feeder wasn’t far away followed by the target species barbus barbus.
In the net it looked a short but stocky fish and although I could see it wasn’t quite a double it was certainly a good fish and my first tidal Trent barbel on only my second visit to the fishery.
Once rested it was weighed at 9lb 2oz and returned to the margins to recover, this turned out to be a difficult task as having given his all in the fight the fish just couldn't find it’s balance and was belly up for over 20 minutes, I had a welly full of water but didn’t mind and 10 minutes later the fish righted itself and was able to hold station unaided, this was my cue to let the net drop and watch the fish swim strongly away.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent reeling in small perch which at times was a little tedious but with some daylight still remaining I persisted with maggot and recast both rods for the final half hour before switching onto boilie for the nigh time session. I did have a nice Dace although it didn't threaten the British record of 1lb 5oz it was worthy of weighing and at 6oz possible my best ever Dace not that I've caught that many and certainly not on the barbel gear.
At just gone 7:30pm a couple of bleeps on the alarm had me standing up out of my chair and walk towards them just as the right hand rod buried itself towards the ground, I wound down and lifted into a solid resistance, another barbel and another battle ensued. The fight was less erratic than the previous and it seemed at times to be almost stationary out in the flow.
It was it just plodding about, did it fully realise it was hooked? I applied the pressure and off it went, it knew it was hooked alright and I hung on a mere passenger at this point whilst it headed straight for the weed bed. I used every inch of the 2.5lb test curve blank to steer the fish away from the weeds and after another three heart stopping runs it subsided and came up to the surface for the first time.
The mouth was huge and gulping in air as it eventually crossed the net cord and it wasn’t until it rolled onto one side I realised just how deep this fish was and potentially a contender for a new PB. Again it needed a long rest before weighing and I knew by the weight of it in the net it was a very big fish, with scales zeroed I lifted them into the air, the needle flew past 10lb as expected the straight passed 13lb, my first ‘teen’ 13lb 8oz was the final figure it settled on and what a unit built as they say like a breeze block an absolutely solid fish that had adapted perfectly to the tough conditions.
Before the photos I returned the fish to the margins and rang Bill, my best mate and the person who gave me my first 3lb 8oz barbel 5 years ago, needed to be the first to know, he was delighted and shared my excitement albeit over the telephone.
Nothing further during the evening so I reeled both rods in and had a good nights sleep. The following morning I was up early and casting out maggot feeder every half an hour.
At 10:15am I was in again this time a lovely conditioned 10lb 3oz tidal barbel.
The afternoon was spent driving up and down the A1 looking for a truck stop to have a much needed shower, the tidal mud bath was wearing a little thin now and I felt like a right old bank tramp but with limited internet signal and lack of anything definite I returned to Sutton as smelly as I started out.
At the top of the slip road there was a caravan and camping sign and I wondered if they’d let me use their shower for a small fee so I followed it into a field that had just 3 caravans in residence and nothing obvious in the way of a shower block. Residing myself to a ‘showerless blank’ I came out of the campsite entrance and spotted a very tempting looking pub for a quick glass of ice cold cider.
Whilst chatting to the landlady she inquired as to what I was doing in Sutton so I relayed the shower story only to find she too had a small campsite out at the rear of the pub along with a lovely hot shower and all the trimmings so I hurriedly finished my drink and grabbed my overnight bag and a towel.
Amazing the difference a shower can make and so feeling fully refreshed I returned to the fishery for another evening into dark session. This time I tried double boilie and sure enough it worked, the fish headed straight for the weeded area but this time I couldn’t turn it and it buried itself into the snag. As I applied steady pressure the rod tip straightened and I realised I’d be had, cut off on something sharp the mainline was all I retrieved.
The final fish of the day was a pike that I can only assume took a perch that had taken the maggot rig, the pike was well and truly hooked in the scissors and required nothing more than a shake of the forceps to set him free in the waters edge. I’d enjoyed my three days at Sutton but the weekend was upon us and I’d made arrangement to meet a few mates further upstream on the opposite bank so once I’d packed up I was off on the short journey across the river to Collingham.
Part 2 - Tidal Trent Near Collingham
I arrived at 6pm and picked peg 1 as advised by my good friend Rob Hill, he’d fished there a couple of times recently and had plenty of hard fighting barbel into low doubles so it would suit me to try and do the same.
The rods were reassembled and I made the first cast on maggot at 7pm, fifteen minutes later and I was into a fish and in a similar manner to the Sutton fish it tried everything to avoid capture, darting dives amongst the rocks in gin clear water provided a few heart stopping moments but eventually it was in the net and sulking. The scales went round to 9lb 14oz not quite a double but again a short and stocky fish.
Twenty minutes later and the same again this time a smaller fish of 7lb 8oz
Time to see if they like the Spicy Fish Pro boilie as the maggot rod was being mithered by small perch again and sure enough at 9:40pm the double boilie rod screamed off and a hell of a battle ensued. This felt a much bigger fish than the last and again not as erratic just steady plodding around and trying to stay deep, eventually though she was mine and again resting in the margins it was the depth that gave away her stature breeze block no. 2 for the weigh sling.
I did think she was a good eleven so was very pleased to see the scales settle on 12lb 2oz another athletic looking tidal Trent barbel.
The swim went quiet so I took the opportunity to catch few hours sleep and was woken by the maggot rod being ripped from the tripod once again, another battle took place and it felt a good fish but close in and the small size 10 hook pulled and the fish was lost. The second rod had been moved to one side whilst I played the other fish and the feeder had become tangled in the undergrowth so a sharp pull upwards resulted in a loud crack and to my horror the last two foot of the tip section sadly drooping downwards, I’d only gone and snapped the rod!!
Thoroughly annoyed with myself I didn’t recast the one remaining rod and retired to bed for a good night’s sleep.
I was wide awake at 6am the following morning so recast the one remaining rod on maggot, mithered again by small perch I swapped back to double boilie and had a take within 15 minutes from another pristine Trent barbel of 6lb 8oz.
Matt arrived after lunch and setup on peg 2 and Rob and Ian shortly after so the social had begun and I didn’t really fish as much as I had done previously but it was great to see Rob get amongst the fish first with a couple of upper singles followed by a fine 11lb 2oz specimen.
Matt had a couple during the early hours and I took a few photo’s of his 9lb 4oz specimen before shuffling back to bed for a few more hours sleep.
Later that day I kept the maggot going in and had a couple of mini barbel that actually took a little line and gave a little head shake, a good sign of a healthy river perfection in miniature.
It was late Sunday afternoon when I headed home, a long 3 hours+ but worth every mile for the enjoyment I’d had, great fishing and good mates made my first week off work a special week I’ll remember for a long time to come.
Part 3 – River Dove
After a day at home I was back on the road this time heading for my favourite river Dove. I arrived at a familiar beat at 4:30pm and after chatting to one of the regulars started to setup however it became very dark very quickly as the storm clouds gathered. I’d just managed to get the brolly up when the heavens opened and I had to retreat to the sanctuary of the car, thunder, lightning and all sort of heavy rain bounced off the bonnet making me grateful I hadn’t been caught out in it.
Eventually the clouds parted and the storm had passed, the river was up and coloured anyway due to a few bursts of rain earlier on and the latest storm would take it’s toll over the next 24 hours, perfect if like me you enjoy fishing a flooded river for autumn barbel.
I’d had a lead around and found a deeper channel a rod length out running consistently down the near margin so I settled on one rod upstream and one rod downstream more so to ensure they didn’t get tangled on the take.
The tactics remained the same for the Dove with micropellet in the blockend feeder and a single Hook Bait Co. Spicy Fish Pro on a size 8 barbed hook to 15lb braided hook link and 15lb mono mainline. The broken rod had been put in for repair so I had a 2lb test curve 12’ rod in it’s place, more than adequate for the conditions but did feel a little floppy compared to my usually 13’ specimen rods.
The downstream rod was the first to engage with the local residents at around 10:20pm and a 5lb 13oz splasher barbel the result.