Lymm Angling News author and veteran carp angler Mark Johnson decided to ring the changes and venture out for the first time in many years to the River Severn at Atcham in search of his first Barbel, Mark takes up the story which he’s kindly allowed us to share from his own creative Blog aptly named Carp and Stuff.
A long time ago, I caught my one and only barbel. I was running caster under a stick float through a little glide near to Byley Bridge at Middlewich, catching small chub and dace on a lovely, autumnal morning, at least I think it was autumn, the memory becomes weaker as I grow older. One thing I remember quite clearly, is the moment I hooked that barbel. It was no monster, I didn’t weigh it (don’t even think I had scales then) but looking back I would say it was around 3lb. The fight it put up was incredible and something I have never forgotten. Sadly, that was around the time that I gave up fishing the river, instead focussing all of my ‘fishing’ attention on my love of carp angling.
Fast forward some 30 years or more and since my joining Lymm AC, I have spent more and more time looking at the river catch reports, checking out the forum threads with barbel pictures therein, etc, etc. It was an ‘itch’ that needed ‘scratching’ and something had to be done. So, with much web browsing and several visits to tackle shops, I had sorted myself out with a 2-rod barbel set-up. I was also receiving advice and encouragement from people on the Lymm forum, with one in particular being a great help.
Thursday 11th July saw me making the fairly lengthy journey to the Lymm stretch of the Severn at Atcham for an afternoon/evening session in the hope I could catch my first barbel ‘by design’. I’d decided on the lengthy drive as oppose to the comparatively easy drive to the Dane after seeing recent catch reports showing several barbel coming out on dusk and into darkness. I arrived at about 3:45pm and after having a walk along the bank, I settled on a nice open swim but, more importantly, the trees either side offered protection from the blazing heat of the afternoon sun, just walking from the car with my kit had left me dripping in sweat.
Once settled in, I spent the first hour just trickling some bait in to a couple of spots and getting the rods setup, I didn’t actually start fishing ’til about 5.10.pm. Both rods were set up with 2′, 8lb fluorocarbon hooklengths and a 10mm halibut pellet on a short hair, one on a cage feeder with mixed pellets of 4, 6 and 8mm, the other on a running 1oz in-line lead using small pva mesh nuggets of 10mm pellets. By 5:30pm I’d had my first fish, a little chublet of about a pound, my first river fish for over 30 years! 45 minutes later and my heart almost pounded out of my chest as the left hand rod ‘wrapped’ round and was pulled from the rest, was this it, my first proper barbel? No, it was a bream. Undeterred, I rebaited and got the rod back out and removed the bream ‘snot’ that seems to get everywhere!
At 6:55pm, I had another little chub, small but perfectly formed and gloriously coloured, this was followed twenty-five minutes later by another chub of about 3lb. For the next hour or so, things went very quiet, no more little ‘raps’ on the rod tip and I was beginning to think that this was the much documented quiet spell as the barbel move in and shove the other fish out. The sun had now set leaving that beautiful ‘afterglow’ on the horizon, surely it was barbel ‘bite-time? I took this opportunity to get fresh baits on both rods and get them back on their spots.
Just after 9:30pm, I started noticing little ‘shudders’ on the rod tips, not knocks or raps, just a gentle vibration that I couldn’t fathom but just knew that everything felt ‘right’ – 15 minutes later and all hell broke loose as my left hand rod hooped over and the clutch started screaming, I hit into what was obviously a barbel (or a Ryan as I’ve christened them – one for the footy fans there!).
This thing went like a train and I couldn’t do a thing as it powered all over the place, then the hook pulled! I had a quick word with myself just as a reminder that I had location, bait and tactics spot-on, it was just unlucky and out went the rod again.
Ten minutes later and the same rod literally takes off again, another powerful, hard-fighting fish, but this time there were no dramas and I netted my first ever, caught by design, barbel. It’s size was immaterial, but for the record it went 6lb 7oz and looked superb. After giving her a few minutes recovery in the net, I got a couple of quick self-takes and then held her in the water, before watching her ‘kick’ and swim off – get in! She had literally just vanished from view , when the remaining rod flew off the rest and the clutch started howling! This resulted in another barbel, a mere baby at 3lb, but perfection in miniature.
By now it was around 10:30pm and I knew I was in with a chance of one or two more, however, it was now pitch black in my swim under the tree canopy and I couldn’t see a thing. It was at this point I realised I’d kept up my tradition of always forgetting something when I go fishing – in this instance it was my head torch! I decided it was pointless trying to continue, so I packed up and headed for home a very happy chappy!