Putting my angling skills to the test

Fri 07 November 14


The past couple of months have been fairly varied, I like to mix my fishing up and make sure it never gets stale.I have been lucky enough to get a very exclusive ticket on the River Test this year. It is run as a course syndicate through the winter and boasts a very good head of large Grayling and Roach. The season starts on the 1st November and sure enough I was there on the 1st to enjoy the fishing on this beautiful stretch.

The river has an abundance of features to keep any angler busy and is a joy to fish come wind rain and shine. I don’t think you could ever get board of this stretch of river. The classic attack on the river is to utilise a long float rod coupled with a centerpin, and trot through the varying flows. I have found that I have been producing more fish ledgering a light feeder on the tip. A method that I am sure many would frown at me using but if it is putting fish on the bank why should stop?!!! Not to say I do not use my float rod. I always carry both with me as you never know when one method may out fish the other.

On the feeder rod I have been using a 3lb Gardner Hydroflo mainline going down to a 1.8lb hook link, with either a small maggot feeder or a small cage feeder. I have used bread flake with bread crumb and crushed hemp in the cage feeder with a small amount of CC Moores Live System liquid added to the mix. On the maggot feeder I have just been using maggot as hook bait.

I have a had a mixed bag of fish so far including Grayling to 2.6lb, Dace shy of 1lb and Chub to 4.8lb. I will be writing a full report on my fishing on the Test in a couple of months (‘Testing Times’).

I am planning to put some quality time into fishing the river after Christmas. Due to the warmer temperatures at the end of November I turned my attentions to the River Kennet and the Barbel. To ignore the warm weather would have been a crime.

With Barbel now on the brain I was determined to get the most out of the warm spell. I set aside the weekend, sorted all of the kit out making sure I had enough bait and all the tackle was up together.

I check the weather almost daily due to the nature of my job, so I always know what the weather is planning on doing. It actually looked like the weather would be good for the next 4 days, with this in mind I was very tempted to put in a couple of extra nights after the weekend.

I have adopted a static approach for my Barbel fishing on the stretch of the Kennet I am fishing. I know the areas to which the larger Barbel I am targeting have fallen to other successful anglers so have decided to keep bait going into these areas knowing the fish will eventually fall foul to my traps. It certainly paid off earlier this year with a fish of 16.12lb gracing my net. Would I be so lucky over this weekend?!

With big Barbel in mind and the possibility of a large carp showing itself I like to use strong reliable kit. I am currently using two 2.75lb test curve Greys Prodigy carp rods, and Shimano Baitrunners loaded with 14lb line. It sounds a bit over the top but as I mentioned these are big Barbel and the Carp go over 25lb, this combined with the rivers flow and lots of lovely snags I like to be able to play the fish with confidence.

On the business end I use the above Gardner kit. I normally have one set up with a Mirage fluorocarbon hook link and the other with a Trickster braid hook link. I have caught Barbel on both and find some days one out fishes the other so figure it is best to try both!

The main difference to a carp set up is that I use a much longer hook link, this being about 14 – 16 inches long and pinned down with Critical Mass. I find the longer hook link sits more naturally on the river bed giving better presentation and seems to get more confident bites. This is personal preference and worth playing around to see what suits your own fishing.

The bait for the job is CC Moores Odyssey XXX, a bait which has caught me many Barbel including my PB and is a bait I am very confident using. My hook baits are air dried and left to soak in the XXX glug, I like to make the hook bait that little bit more irresistible to the fish! I also use some well oiled pellets of varying sizes to draw the fish in. When using the feeder I use the pellets as they are, but if I am using a gripper lead I will scold the pellet so I can mould it round the lead ensuring I get a decent amount of bait directly around the business end.

The weekend was a little slower than expected with only three bites, one lost chub, a bream and most importantly a fine fighting Barbel of 11.10lb!!!! This fish came at wee small hours of Sunday morning but was a very welcome disturbance to my sleep. With this awesome fish banked, the weather still looking like it would hold and a swim which had seen bait introduced over the weekend, I decided to fish through till Monday. Sadly no bites were had but I was still buzzing for another fish. I then proceeded to fish the following two more nights heading back down after work and then to work again in the morning with once again no more action. You can’t catch fish without bait in the water, but sometimes even if you have bait in the water you still can’t catch them. I won’t be beaten and shall be waiting until the back end of the season to target the Barbel at their heavier weights.

Over the past couple of weeks I had spotted a few larger Perch appearing in the press, so you guessed it I was going to get my Perch head on. I have had varied success for Perch over the years and am now even more determined than ever to get a worthy fish of well over 3lb. I decided to call on Alan Stagg from Gardner Tackle and good friend of mine for a little advice. Alan is no stranger to catching big fish generally and has recently caught a 5lb+ stripey so I thought a good person to talk to.

Alan and I have been out on a few sessions and I am getting closer and closer to my target fish. Sadly not on the water where the 5lb fish lies as this will remain a secret to me forever!!!

Targeting a few local commercial waters I have managed to catch a large number of fish to 2.7lb.
Commercial/match fisheries are producing some outstanding large Perch and are worth checking out in your local area.
The one thing that has definitely increased my catches of Perch over the past few weeks has been reducing resistance. When ledgering I am making sure I point the rod at my bait, use a very light bobbin and making sure when I get a run the fish can peel line off the reel very smoothly.

I have lost count of the Perch I have caught during recent sessions, which have been caught on a variety of methods. But I do remember the tactic which has produced the larger of my fish, this is a very basic running ledger set up with an air injected lobworm as bait.

I have been using a Greys Prodigy Barbel rod with a 1.25lb test curve, soft enough not to bump fish off but at the same time beefy enough to work when it counts! My mainline is 6lb with a small 1oz running lead slid on, followed by a Gardner Tackle Covert Safety Bead to protect the knot to a small swivel and also stop the lead from sliding over the swivel. The hook link is 4lb Mirage Fluorocarbon (10 – 12 inches) and the hook a size 8 Covert Talon Tip.

I have been using two lobworms as bait and injecting one with air to make it buoyant (I strongly advise to be extremely careful when using needles) the second worm makes the bait very well balanced and very tempting to any wary Perch!!!

To attract the fish and get them into a feeding frenzy I have been using a ground bait mix and found it to be very effective. The mix has comprised of a fine ground bait and then added to it, chopped worms, red maggots, CC Moore’s Worm Protein and of course a little water to reach the perfect consistency. This is enough to make a ball that will not break up when thrown out but breaks on impact on the water creating a fine cloud of attraction all the way down the baited hook!

On one of the fisheries bites came in burst throughout the day where as one of the others produced most action in the last half hour of light. It is worth getting to know your water well and optimise the best bite times. This could save you a whole day when all you need to do is spend two hours at the end of the day at the lake with the same results!

I am sadly not fishing until after Christmas now as I am off skiing but will be out to try for a jumbo perch as soon as possible!!!

I wish you all the very best on the bank and will have more news from the Test and my Perch quest in the not too distant future.
Andy Loble


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