When I made my first cast this morning there was more hope than expectation. Over night temperatures were hovering around 5 degrees centigrade and the river level was on the rise. I decided to play it safe fishing two rods, a 'sleeping' Pike bait chucked along the margin and maggot feeder deployed towards the far bank willows. I settled back preparing to build a swim hoping to nail a few Roach, Dace and maybe the odd bonus.
My coffee flew everywhere when the rod tip almost immediately jumped in the rest, bent down towards the water and just kept on going in a manner that could only be produced by an angry Barbel. The anti reverse was clicked off just in time to allow the fish some line and the battle commenced. What was obviously a reasonable fish used the strong flow to its full advantage and the 3lb hook-link rendered me fairly helpless to do anything but hang on. Gently and carefully I coaxed the fish back upstream and with an aching arm I breathed a sigh of relief as it slid into the net. A short immaculate specimen that was as fat as butter. Curiosity got the better of me and I put it on the scales, 8lb 6oz.
I thought to myself that it was a one off and so stuck with the light hook-link and size 16 hook but it turned out to be a mistake. It didn't take long before another Barbel was hooked but this time the fish found a snag and with it its freedom.
Hint taken I tied on a new hook but this time using eight pound line. Surprisingly the Barbel were really having it and in no time at all I was attached to another. With more power at my disposal the battle was short-lived and soon enough I was slipping the net under another fat Barbel, this time weighing in at 9lb 6oz.
Normally I would have made the effort to take a decent photo but with a sloppy sliding bank side and a dodgy knee I settled for another 'net' shot rather than risking more damage to my painful joint.
Having never caught a Barbel in December before (I don't see the point in trying) I was made up with the mornings fishing so far. It didn't last though and following a quiet spell the maggot bait was swapped for cheese paste. The air temperature had noticeably fallen and felt much more 'Chubby'. The change of tack worked and a brace of Chub were landed, weirdly both weighed exactly the same, 3lb 12oz.
In between I also managed to land a small Jack Pike to round off a pretty good Winters day by the river.