When I joined Petworth and Bognor Angling Club and started fishing for the barbel I realised it wouldn’t be easy. I knew it could be quite a few sessions before I landed one, if at all, although I do know a few lucky members have landed one on their very first attempt, but eh! that’s fishing isn’t it?
Although I had to suffer many blanks as far as barbel were concerned my first one when it eventually came was a superb double, weighing 11lb 2oz, not bad for my first season. After the thrill of landing and seeing that fish it made me even more determined to catch more.
As reported in my previous article, this season I caught several early on up 7lb 14oz which although I was pleased with I always fancied another double and often wondered if and when I would be lucky enough to land one again. Fortunately I didn’t have to wait too long as I was rewarded with a 12lb 8oz fish which I considered a monster barbel at the time and I was over the moon with it.
I said at the end of my last article there could still be time before the end of the season to catch a bigger one. That was said more in hope than anticipation and although I managed a couple of sessions over the Christmas period I had no joy. To be honest I didn’t really think there’d be much of an opportunity to be fishing much more with all the rain we were having. Keeping a close eye on the forecasts I noticed a small window in the weather, mild and no rain. I headed down to the river and having rained the day before conditions looked ideal I thought. This was confirmed when I heard that the barbel were feeding, two very good size fish came out during the day. I couldn’t settle into one swim so was moving up and down the bank giving it half hour in each swim hoping that I’d eventually find a group of feeding fish and be in with a chance.
The day went on and still no joy, although when I was in one swim and I thought it was time for a move I reeled in and my line was snagged. I walked down the bank to try and free it and when it came loose I realized a fish was on the end. Well! the next thing I know there’s a sea trout attached and it’s leaping out of the water. It spat the hook but not before it had caused quite a disturbance in the swim, good job I was moving anyway I thought. I moved upstream, only about 15 yards to a swim which had a nice slack which looked like it could have fish holding there.
It was on my 2nd cast when I noticed my rod tip flicking back and forth, although not a typical bite I thought there must be something on so struck into it, Fish on! It felt a good weight too, once it realised it was hooked it started to pull hard using the power of the flow to it’s advantage, repeatedly trying to get me into snags. I was so glad I’d previously upgraded to a Fox 2 1/4lb test curve rod and loaded the reel with much stronger line for this trip. I knew there were snags in some swims and expected more after the recent floods. The heavier tackle made it easier to deal with the fish and it wasn’t too long before I was in command and it came to the surface.
At first glance I thought to myself I may have another double here, that’s probably around the 10lb mark. It didn’t appear to be that long and although not disappointed I said to myself, looks like I’ve caught the smaller one today.
Anyway, once I had the fish safely in the net I waved to bailiff Mick who was in a swim downstream. He quickly came up to assist and held the fish in the net for me whilst I got the necessary bits sorted. We lifted the fish on to the mat and Mick said I think you’ve beat your PB this looks a good 14lb, I was like, Really??? Although hoping Mick was correct I was still not convinced myself, we made sure the scales were zeroed and then put her/him (the fish that is not Mick!) in the weigh sling and lifted it up, I was absolutely gobsmacked when my Fox digital scales read 16lb 7oz, I just couldn’t believe what I had in front of me, I had indeed achieved yet another PB! and what a way to do it, with such a superb fish.
We took some photos and put her back in the net to recover before I returned her back to her home.
So that was how it happened, I knew there were fish of that size in the river and although I often dreamed of it, not for one moment did I believe I’d be the one to catch such a superb specimen especially as it is only my second season. I hardly remember the journey home and it took me a while to get to sleep that night, in fact I’m still buzzing now. Only one cure for that, get back on the bank, let’s hope the weather is kind enough in the next few weeks, who knows what awaits.
I’d like to thank Bailiff Mick for the assistance with witnessing and weighing my fish. I’d also like to thank him and all the guys I chat to on the river bank, they’re a great bunch of guys, always offering advice and encouragement!
NB Stephen has had another specimen Barbel weighing 14lb 4oz since submitting this article. Check out the Gallery