It seems like forever since I've paid the Avon any attention. I have had an odd look here and there since the season opened up, but frankly I've been a bit preoccupied with trying to catch a crucian out of Napton Reservoir. Anyway whilst away on holiday the idea to get my arse in gear and head back to the river really came to the forefront of my mind. It just happened that a bit of rain the few days before I got back had the river in tip top conditions for my return.
I have a new membership for a bit of the Avon which some of my angling buddies have been recommending for years, which this year I decided to get on. So with a couple of rods set up ready to go I decided to head down the A46 for a morning session. Normally I would have tried to be on the bank for first light, but my early morning bumbling roused BB and he discovered some presents which had been stashed in his room that were to big too transport on holiday, so my leaving was delayed a little whilst they were opened.
In the end I found myself pulling up in the car park around 9am and shockingly there was only two other cars evident. Where was everyone? I asked myself, as I had suspected everyone would be on the river given the conditions. The first angler I came across was on the first peg through the gate and a quick chat turned up that he'd already had three chub and two barbel from out in the faster water. This was good news and got me quickly heading off looking for a swim up river. I soon found a great looking swim where the fast water is deflected by a big bed of reeds and with the extra colour on the water it looked great for the barbel I so much wanted.
Trying to be as careful as I could I gently cast into the crease with a PVA bag full of goodies attached to my rig. Although I did receive several taps of interest I was soon recasting again and again, working my way down the crease in subsequent casts towards some cover where I suspected the barbel might be lying in wait. After a few hours I was getting concerned I may have missed or messed up my shot at a barbel from this swim, but rather than just move off I opted to make one final cast a bit further out, away from the crease I'd been targeting into the faster water.
I'd been sitting on the cast for a good fifteen minutes before another angler from upstream dropped by to see how I was doing. We'd been whacking on for ten minutes as I kept an eye on the white rod tip out the corner of my eye. I clocked a slow nod of the tip which grabbed my attention then a quick sharp pull got my hand hovering over the rod and then bang, as predicted, the rod bent over as the fish tuned onto the weight of the lead.
In the fast shallow water I lent hard on the fish to stop it finding any of the weed beds which I knew lay hidden by the coloured water. A long pause with both of us refusing to give an inch ended when the fish was pushed down stream by the flow... then all hell broke loose in the deeper clearer water under my own bank. This powerful fish worked me hard to keep it from getting back over the river into the fast water but everything held true and the soft action of my rod soon subdued the fish and a gaping mouth lined with barbules appeared on the surface before what looked a big fish slipped into the net.
After letting the fish recover in the water I lifted the net out and put it onto he mat. I lifted back the folds of the net to reveal a perfect long lean summer fish. I can truly say I was beaming with the sight of this perfect first barbel off of a new stretch of river, and my companion who had stood silent the whole fight seemed very impressed too. We both agreed it looked to be a good one though on the scales my suspicion that it was in lean condition proved true and even given its long length the fish was only 7.14lb.
Maybe in the winter this fish could have been at least nine pounds or more. The weight though hardly mattered at all to me as I was over the moon that I should catch such an amazing fish for my first barbel off a new stretch of river.
The rain came in quickly after that and I opted to make a tactical retreat, but I was back a few days later to fish another swim aways downstream. This time the river had cleared and with that in mind I had brought a second lighter rod along to fish the maggot feeder upstream of the barbel rod, with the hope that the maggots going downstream, combined with the activity from other fish might draw up any wary barbel to have a look see what was going on. The plan actually worked, but not quite exactly as I wanted it to. The maggot line was alive with fish chasing the freebies as I dropped the feeder again and again onto the same spot at the head of the swim. Roach, dace, gudgeon and perch were queuing up waiting for the feeder to release more free maggots into the flow.
As the session went on the interest in my downstream rod increased slowly but surely. It took a while but random jags on the rod tip indicated something was afoot. Soon enough the rod bent over hard as something took the bait. After those initial moments when you lean into a fish feeling something powerful abated, the fish power dwindled and I realised the chub had turned up, attracted by all the activity. The first fish was a greedy two pounder but the second was a much longer fish just under four pounds, which like that first barbel would be much larger come winter.
The bug had really bit and another evening session was penned into my diary for a week or so later, after seeing that the long range forecast predicted another deluge of rain to bring the river into peak condition.
I arrived as quick as I could get there after work to find only one car in the car park, and after rushing over the fields to the river I scouted the whole section, baiting up a few spots as I went. The other angler was nowhere near where I wanted to fish and after a quick chat and finding out that although he was really after the silvers he had been skinned out a couple of time by big fish. This was perfect, no other anglers and feeding fish, how could I fail..?
The scene of my first barbel capture seemed the logical starting point and I was soon set-up and watching the river, trying to figure out the water in front of me as the added water and flow had seemingly changed the whole dynamic of the swim. It didn't take long to figure I'd chosen the most complicated swim to start with. There must have been seven or more areas in front of me screaming for a bait to go on them. In the end I began close in targeting a small crease right under my own bank. This produced nothing at all so I went about casting into each area I thought might hold barbel one after another for the next three hours. In the end I spent far too much time trying to logically cover the whole swim, in which time Mick had turned up and headed off upstream to fish for predators.
Having kind of shot myself in the foot time-wise, I decided to move downstream to fish one of the swims I had pre baited. With only enough time to fish one last swim I missed out a couple I had dropped bait into and went for the one I thought most likely to produce in the conditions. It was quite a simple swim I went to, with a large bed of bulrushes at the head that was creating a crease right down the centre of the river between the fast and slow water.
My first cast sent a tasty bag of morsels quickly down to the river bed just in the fast water, attached to a two ounce lead. The reaction was instant as my pre baiting already had fish nosing around on the gravel. Convinced the rod was going to bang over I had to sit on my hands as the small fish attacked the hook bait. I waited patiently and as I did, the rod soon indicated the presence of a bigger fish. A couple of nods later and the rod was nearly ripped of the rest and I was into a barbel. The initial savagery subsided and an interesting battle ensued in the slow water. It was only about four pound but this solid and fresh barbel took no prisoners as it dived into every possible place it could get snagged. In the end though the fact I was fishing gear capable of landing even the biggest fish won the fight and I netted an immaculate barbel that saved my session.
The next cast produced the same response but this time I thought I'd hooked a small chub or something until I went to lift it out and a tiny sub pound barbel managed to shake itself off the hook, vibrating mid-lift, and dived straight back into the river. They were only small but two barbel in two casts were good numbers for me. I really wanted to get my bait right onto the bait I had put down earlier so I tried my very best to land the rig and new bag of freebies on the very centre of the crease. In doing so though I tightened up and it was more than obvious my bait was on the inside of the crease in the slow water. I decided to give it a chance and wait, letting it sit there for fifteen minutes at least, but I didn't feel in was the best place for it at all.
The bite came out of nowhere with no warning which made it all that more shocking. One moment the rod was stationary the next it was bending double, lifting the butt out of the rests. Straight away I could feel this was a fish in another league. It powered all over the swim through both the fast and slow water with me just holding on tight and trying my best to steer it away from any hazards. After covering every bit of water in front of me, the fish dived straight into some lillies in the slow water, but its power and my power linked by the line just cut straight though the stems leaving the pad floating away downstream. A few dives later and I had what I knew was a good barbel in the net. As it rested in the water I made the call to Mick to ask for a spot of help taking a photo or two which turned out to be a brilliant decision as my camera phone, although great in day light, was useless in the half light. Luckily Mick brought his camera and I was soon proudly holding up my first double from this new stretch and beaming from behind all ten pounds and seven ounces of it.
In three close sessions this new bit of river has proved exactly how honest it is. By that I mean; it looks like it should contain barbel and chub and it does, it looks healthy and it seems it is and in the right conditions the fish should feed and they do. Which for the Warwickshire Avon, isn't that common from what I've seen in the past. A lot of the time I fished sections of the Avon and thought, this has to be a good area for this or that, and been let down. This place though seems different and I hope my theories about other different sections come to fruition over the autumn and winter. If they do, well, a few more red letter days for other species could be on the horizon.