Who said fish­ing was ever easy?

Not all plain-sail­ing for Martin Bowler this week, but he wouldn’t have it any other way...

Angling Times (UK) - - TIPS & TACTICS -

CROUCHED with net in hand, I was help­less to pre­vent the huge sil­ver flank from twist­ing and turn­ing in the mar­gins for fear of pulling the hook out. A small sliver of skin was all that con­nected me to my big­gest roach in a long time.

Through the gin-clear water ev­ery inch of the pris­tine fish shone out. I held my breath and turned its head gen­tly, teas­ing the mouth to the sur­face. An­other dive fol­lowed, tem­pered by the car­bon in my hand, and when it rose again and turned on its side, I took this as my cue to draw the rod over my right shoul­der while stretch­ing for­wards with the sub­merged land­ing net. Lady Luck was thanked as the mesh swal­lowed a mag­nif­i­cent and huge roach.

Duel fi­nally over, I took a few deep breaths be­fore hold­ing a prize that was truly breath­tak­ing. It would have been im­pos­si­ble to cre­ate a bet­ter-look­ing ex­am­ple of the species and when the dial on the scales spun round to 2lb 15oz, I knew that to­day I had been a for­tu­nate an­gler as well as a good one.


A big fish al­ways builds con­fi­dence and I left for my next ad­ven­ture a few days later brim­ming with it. The mighty River Trent was a very dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion, as were the bar­bel that have pro­lif­er­ated the wa­ter­way, but I saw no rea­son why I wouldn’t catch and made the near three-hour jour­ney in an ex­pec­tant mood.

My ar­rival was met with clear skies, clear water and a very low river. Al­though my Trent ex­pe­ri­ence is lim­ited, I’ve done enough bar­bel fish­ing to know

im­me­di­ately that it wouldn’t be easy. Why hadn’t I checked the river level on the com­puter be­fore leav­ing home? This is a must when trav­el­ling any dis­tance and was sheer stu­pid­ity on my part.

How­ever, I was on the bank and would have to make the best of it.


My de­ter­mi­na­tion re­mained even when a cou­ple of lo­cals told me what I al­ready sus­pected – that the stretch was fish­ing poorly. I al­ways try to think like a fish in these sit­u­a­tions and I knew that cover would of­fer them refuge. A huge snag a third of the way out pro­vided this in spades, but such was the ex­tent of it, fish­ing di­rectly op­po­site would be sui­cide. Pitch­ing 10 yards up­stream would give me a fight­ing chance so it was here that I in­tro­duced six small balls of ground­bait laced with pel­lets and crushed Krill boilies. When I’m tar­get­ing big fish on rivers I pre­fer a slow break­down rate that pre­vents the at­trac­tion be­ing washed away too quickly, so a fish­meal base was blended with Sticky Bait’s Ac­tive Mix to achieve this. I wanted a con­tin­u­ous stream of par­ti­cles hit­ting the snag and draw­ing the bar­bel to me.

I would ob­vi­ously need stout tackle, so I com­bined 18lb E-S-P Syn­cro XT main­line with two 2.5lb test-curve rods. The terminal ar­range­ment was an E-S-P lead clip and a 5oz lead, and I opted for a 3ft hook­length of Tung­sten Loaded, to a size 7 Cryo­gen Grip­per hook. An SSG shot a few inches away would help the hook­point pull into the bot­tom lip and the hair held a Krill dumb­bell with a smear­ing of paste around it.

My in­ten­tion was to fish late into the night so bite in­di­ca­tion would come via an iso­tope on the rod tip and an alarm should I doze off. I never ex­pected a bar­bel in day­light but as the sky dark­ened and the sun’s hue on the hori­zon

was re­placed by that of the city lights, I ex­pected one of my rod tips to soon crash over.


It never did, and I didn’t even have the ex­cuse that the bar­bel were off the feed be­cause Paul, a friend fish­ing up­stream, landed a dou­ble-fig­ure fish. By 3am I needed some sleep, but an in­quest would take place in the morn­ing!

What were my mis­takes? Paul’s fish came to a rod cast close to the far bank, show­ing the stu­pid­ity of putting all my eggs in the same bas­ket with a swim I didn’t know well. In my swim, cast­ing too far out would mean the bar­bel could kite straight into the snag, so I de­cided a move was the sen­si­ble choice, fish­ing a bait ei­ther side of the river. I also won­dered if I had in­tro­duced too much bait, so for my sec­ond night I would use PVA mesh bags only. Lastly, was I fish­ing too crudely? Fi­nesse and a big river like the Trent don’t re­ally go to­gether but I swapped the coated braid hook­link for a mono/ braid combi-rig, dropped a hook size and fished a small dumb­bell; all proac­tive steps in try­ing to pre­vent a blank.

I went into night two with re­newed en­thu­si­asm and once again sat star­ing at iso­topes ex­pect­ing to wit­ness a green neon arc at any sec­ond. Un­for­tu­nately noth­ing hap­pened, not even a tap from a kamikaze chublet!


Yes, the river was in a poor state but I had fished badly and the an­gling gods had put me in my place. I vowed to re­turn soon to set­tle the score and made plans for a new ad­ven­ture after bar­bel again, but this time in the Wye val­ley.

And do you know what? A cou­ple of days later the rod tips con­tin­u­ously crashed over, and I used the ex­act same tac­tics that had failed me on the Trent. There is noth­ing as fickle as fish and that’s why I love ’em!

A brace of fine Wye bar­bel was the perfect tonic.

A lead clip set-up is vi­tal if snags are present.

My terminal tackle on the first night.

I scaled down for night two... in vain!

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