Des Taylor’s Diary of a Countryman
Stunning wildlife and lots of bites – there’s never a dull moment on the bank
WHAT an interesting time of year it is to be out on the riverbank!
In the mornings young tawny owls are active and vocal while they establish their territories and I don’t think I have ever heard so many as I have this year.
The fallow deer up at Coalport are rutting, and the impressive sound they make echoes down the valley. As I left the river one day this week a pheasant shoot was going on and I pulled in to watch the beaters and their dogs expertly scare the birds into the sky. On the way home I stopped in a local pub to see a friend that had also been shooting pheasants, and I picked up a brace for the pot along with a rabbit, destined for the same.
The bond between gamekeepers, shooters, farmers and anglers is what the countryside is all about for me and I hope it stays that way.
On to the fishing. Well, it’s been difficult because of leaves falling off the trees into the water and snagging the line, but if you don’t mind reeling in to remove them every 10 minutes and recasting, you’ll be in with a great chance of a decent barbel or two! I have caught barbel the two times I have fished recently at the back of my house on the Dudley waters. One of the sessions was in fast water and the fish fought like tigers, making it even more enjoyable. Here’s how my week went…
I took Kev Hewitt from Milton Keynes up to the Severn at Coalport on the Rowley DAS water to catch a few barbel. Kev said he would love to catch a Severn ‘double’ but I explained that even today a barbel over 10lb from the middle Severn is a rare fish.
However, after putting him in a very good peg and telling him the pitfalls of the swim, he cast in and eight hours later had caught barbel of 8lb 8oz, 8lb 13oz and a cracker of 10lb 15oz - a fish that took him way downstream on the first run and then hung deep for the rest of the fight.
Kev was up to the task and as the photo shows he landed a truly wild river fish in great condition. Well done mate!
In the evening I went down to the river on my own and caught five barbel to about 8lb in two hours, as well as a couple of 3lb chub. All the fish were caught on the straight lead, with a six foot hooklength and a boilie on the hair.
On the Dudley waters again, this time just on dawn, for two barbel, but it was windy with lots of leaves coming down. It always happens at this time of year so you just live with it and carry on.
Most barbel anglers fish in the evening and into dark, but be in no doubt, to catch a wary old fish try the morning; you will be surprised how well they feed at that time of day. I know this will sound strange but I like it very bright with the sun coming over the trees. I think this almost forces the barbel to feed before the sun penetrates the water any deeper. On dull and overcast days you never seem to get that intense short feeding spell in the morning.
Met up with Paul Walker from Tasmania in the evening. Paul was a friend from years ago in the days of the National Association of Specimen Groups, and I hadn’t seen him for over 35 years.
We’d been in touch on Facebook for two years and he told me he was visiting England this month so I suggested meeting up and having a day on the river.
We met in the pub and talked for hours about the ‘old days’ before hair rigs, bait boats and
underwater cameras... days when butter was 10p a pound! We drank good English bitter and followed it up with a whiskey or two. A great evening followed by an early night as we were going barbel fishing the next day!
After an early start, Paul and I were walking down to the river at daybreak. He kept himself busy taking photos of the Shropshire countryside as I tackled up. I baited a peg for him for about an hour before suggesting he cast in.
His biggest barbel was a 2lb’er from the Trent 40 years ago, so you can imagine the look on his face when first cast his rod bent double as an 8lb 6oz fish headed downstream at 100 miles an hour!
“Job done! I can go home now with a great memory of English river fishing!” he said after landing the fish, but there was more to come with another three barbel landed. Paul did well considering for years he has fished with light fly rods for brownies on the rivers of Tasmania!
While we were waiting for a take, we looked at trout flies that Paul had brought over as a present for me which I will put in my special cabinet in the front room - it seems a shame to use them.
In the evening I introduced Paul to my mate Ray Cutler and we talked again for hours over a few pints of bitter.
Paul inspired me to make a visit in the next couple of years to Tasmania. He spoke of seeing duckbilled platypus in the water while fishing, kangaroos on every corner and catching big brown trout in crystal-clear waters on a dry fly. We parted that evening and promised that the next time we saw each other would be on a river somewhere down under. This time he could show me the ropes!
Returning one of my fish from this week. It’s a great time of year to be on the river.
Paul Walker presents me with a box of Tasmanian flies.