Medway Barbel 2013

27/08/13 – After being unsuccessful in catching a double figure Barbel from the upper reaches of the river Medway for two years running I have decided to dedicate a lot of time in pursuit of this elusive target. The stretch that I fish contains a small head of large Barbel to 12lb+ and some large chub to over 6lb. The river is not a typical “Barbel” river with gin clear water, streamer weed and gravel beds but the opposite with brown murky water and no weed to note. This makes finding the fish extremely hard going and sometimes you must rely on instinct or take a mobile approach to cover as much water as possible to increase you chances of a fish.

My first session was planned for 27/08/13 and I set of to the river for a quick overnight session. Both rods were rigged up with simple hair rigs comprising of two feet of 12lb Drenham braid and a size 8 Drenham Continental hook fished on a lead clip creating a simple bolt rig. I fished one rod with a Richworth halibut boilie and the other on a pre-drilled Robin Red pellet, mixing it up to add some variety to my fishing. I arrived at the river and chose not to fish the more popular swims located in the weir because these are heavily pressured areas of the stretch. I wanted to familiarise myself with all swims and the features they contain so I settled in a swim on the opposite bank fishing a small pool in no more then 2ft of water.

Just as I was settling down with a cup of tea my left hand rod ripped off and a short but powerful fight followed. I instantly knew I had hooked a Barbel from the powerful surges of the fish that made my 1.5lb test curve rod bend double. The fish weighed around 3-4lb so it was no monster but it was the first Barbel of the season from the Medway and caught in less then twenty minutes on the bank. I was thrilled to be of to such a great start and was looking forward to the night ahead. It was great to see the future of the Medway in the form of this small but perfectly formed Barbel. I managed three more fish on that one rod during the evening including a nice chub of around 3lb. The night passed quickly and I drew a blank for the rest of the session. I had a feeling something was wrong because I was expecting a few knocks on the rods during the night and my hunch was confirmed when both rods were reeled in with no bait on the hairs (Crayfish??). I quickly re-baited and cast out for an hour before I packed up and headed home to work. In this hour I managed another small chub to the right hand rod. I am returning for another session tonight (28/08/13) so hopefully a larger specimen will grace my net.
28/08/13 – I settled in the furthest swim accessible on clubs stretch of the Medway.The swim offers more water to fish then the typical swim on the stretch as it faces the river directly allowing the angler to reach some fishing looking areas. I had arranged a quick overnighter and had to be off at 7am for work in the morning. Tactics were the same as before and simple hairs rigs baited with boilies were cast out.

After a  few hours on the bank as night began to emerge my left hand rod rattled off. I instantly knew I was attached to a big fish but it threw the hook. When I reeled in to inspect my terminal tackle my hook had a Barbel scale attached to it. From this I concluded that I must have foul hooked the fish when it was feeding on my baits. Based on the size of the scale I’m sure it was a large fish. The night drew in and I managed a chub of around 3 1/2lb – 4lb and another lost fish that due to my zombie like state when I picked the rod up had already snagged me up. I am now planning a three night session and have decided to take a roving approach during the day and sit on my baited areas at night. I will keep you posted.

01/09/13 – 03/09/13 – I arranged a three night trip to the river taking two days off work in hope of catching my prize and now obsessive target in the form of a double figure Barbel. I was convinced that the methods I employed in my fishing on the previous visits to the river were worthy to fool such a specimen and decided to stick with the simple long hooklinks in conjunction with hair rigged double boilie. This conclusion was based on success in the shape of a small Barbel and some Chub from earlier sessions posted above. To add a twist to my plan of attack I made some strong smelling paste suitable to wrap around by hookbaits and then dipped the lot in a bottle of attractor glug. Good strong smelling baits, in my opinion, are essential when using “sit and wait” tactics, especially in cloudy water where visual baits are not as effective. I also had some maggots, pellets, sweetcorn and luncheon meat in my armoury to use in a plan B situation or if I fancied some trotting a stick float down the currents.

On arrival to the river at 2pm I was happy to see the water level had risen considerably and had a nice steady flow. The murky water of the Medway had upped itself by at least two feet and many of the features visible on my earlier sessions were now submerged. The weather was forecast to be warm with highs of twenty five degrees, so not ideal however, the river conditions were ideal and it looked great for a fish or two. I settled in a swim that I had been pre-baiting but not yet fished and was excited to see if my preparations would pay off. I cast the rods to the key areas and the session had begun.

As the evening approached I had managed a small but perfectly formed chub and had seen no major signs of Barbel in the area. Due to the river Medways murky water this did no concern me and I felt confident of a take during the night. At 9pm my right had rod let out a few beeps followed by a more powerful surge that kicked my bait runner into gear. I engaged the baitrunner and bent into a better fish but was immediately confident it was not my intended quarry. The head torch confirmed my suspicions and a 4lb 2oz chub lay in the net. After some quick snaps I released the fish back into his home pleased with the start to the session. It wasn’t until 11.10pm when I had my next take on the right hand rod. As I bent into the fish I could tell it was considerably larger then anything I had previously hooked on the Medway. The fight was a strange event and the fish was banging its head relentlessly trying to shake the hook. I was convinced I had a huge chub on the line as it continued to fight in the most unorthodox way by staying deep and not running with the flow? With the help from my trusty head torch I caught a glimpse of it on top of the water nearly surrendering to my waiting landing net. I thought that looks like a long chub and It wasn’t until I managed to net the fish and attempt lift the net out the water that I realised I had caught something a bit more special. As I raised the net I was in awe as my eyes were met with a huge Barbel that easily looked into double figures. The fish weighed in at 10lb 8oz and the mission was accomplished. I was elated to catch such an amazing fish and to achieve my ultimate target so quickly was a welcome bonus.

After an amazing nights fishing on the river a new day arrived and with boosted confidence my optimism was sky high. Following the success of the double figure Barbel I decided to cut the trip short and only fish the one night. During the day I opted to fish with red maggots in conjunction with a two ounce swimfeeder and centerpin reel. I am a big fan of centerpin reels and love using them when possible. I am far from being an expert of the centerpin and would consider myself a complete beginner at the art but will always use one when possible.

I continued to bait the chosen spot with red maggots and cast the feeder out every ten minutes ensuring a consistent bed of bait was being delivered to the area. After numerous twitches and some small gudgeon the rod finally pulled around double, I was in. The fight on such light tackle was great fun and the fish pulled hard plowing towards any snags within its reach. This was the first big fish I had hooked on the centrepin and was amazed at how easy it was to control the powerful runs ensuring minimum tension was applied to the low diameter mainline. After the initial battle I netted a large chub that weighed in at an impressive 5lb 8oz which was a personal best from the Medway and my largest fish on the centerpin. The Chub was scale perfect and a great example of a Medway specimen.

As night closed in and the light began to fade I re-baited my two rods and cast to the hot spots that produced the Barbel on the previous day. I managed two nice chub to just over 4lb during the night and it wasn’t until the early hours of the morning when I had a real screamer from a Barbel. I stumbled out of my sleeping bag and executed a feeble army roll before grabbing the rod in a daze. The fish immediately snagged me up in the middle of the river and it looked like game over until the pressure released and the fish was free from danger. What followed next was an epic battle of pure endurance and after ten minutes I had still not even seen the fish. It made numerous runs down and upstream making my arm ache until eventually it retired and surrendered to the waiting mesh of my landing net. The Barbel was in spectacular condition and pulled the needle on my Rubens around to 8lb 4oz. This was the perfect end to my session and I left the river elated with my quick sucess. Im now heading back to the lake for that elusive double figure Bream but until then, tight lines.

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