Big Fish Column: Briggs 'takes no prisoners' to land 10lb 12oz barbel in poor conditions
The warm, wet winter continues and although the prevailing conditions may not always be pleasant to be out in there are certainly a few fish to be caught, both on the local rivers and the lakes. That said, like most anglers, I am longing for a run of frosty nights followed by bright, sunny days just to give a bit of variety to the fishing.
As it stands while we may have not seen anything like the flooding experienced in some parts of the U.K. the rivers are mostly well up, coloured and pushing hard, with the fishing perhaps best described as ‘tricky’. Given a more ‘normal’ winter the arrival of a warm flood after a period of cold weather usually means exceptional fishing but when it has been mild all winter the fish do not have a limited window in which they must feed, conditions for them are relatively easy and they can pick and choose. For us waiting to tempt them it is often pure chance in these conditions. We may arrive on a day when something is going to feed. We may not…
Someone who did arrive on a day when the fish were playing ball was Cookham’s Justin Briggs, a Big Fish Column regular who spends a lot of time targeting the barbel and chub in and around his home village. Justin spent an afternoon into darkness session in one of his favourite River Thames swims and after encountering several problems with floating weed, debris and snags finally connected with solid pull which felt decidedly ‘fishy’.
At first Justin thought he had hooked another clump of weed but a couple of sharp ‘taps’ on the rod top before line was taken from his clutch in a couple of long bursts convinced him otherwise and after five minutes he sunk the net under a nice barbel of 10lb 12oz. In poor conditions Justin employed what he described as his ‘take no prisoners’ barbel gear with a light carp rod loaded up with 15lb main line, 20lb coated braid hook length, a 3oz lead and a size 6 hook baited with a large chunk of luncheon meat. Crude on a bright summer’s day perhaps but after dark on a swollen winter river just the job!
Coloured water can make for tricky chub and perch fishing but a few anglers have been getting amongst them including a nice Thames perch of 2lb 2oz to Bourne End angler Terry Savin who fished areas of slack water around the marina with his brother, John. Alternating between small spinners and soft rubber lures the pair missed a couple of small hits early on until fading light late in the afternoon switched the fish on, both anglers connecting with fish around the pound mark before Terry connected with the big specimen on a ‘firetiger’ pattern shad fished to a 6lb Fluorocarbon trace and 10lb braided main line.
On the chub front I have received a few reports of fish from all of the usual venues but the fishing does seem a little below par. There are fish to be caught, with big, smelly baits particularly successful, but cooler, drier conditions with the rivers fining down slightly would bring a massive improvement.
As far as chub in the net were concerned the best reported last week was a fish of 5lb 10oz taken by Twyford’s Jamie Fuller from a free section of the River Loddon. Jamie legered cheese behind a near bank snag to tempt the fish.
On the stillwaters there are still plenty of carp to be caught and on venues such as Royal Berkshire, Island Lake and Finch Farm the fishing has been more like October than January, with plenty of fish moving and feeding.
Top carp catch reported last week was another from the very in-form Island Lake at Woolwich Green where Gaz Peterson used mini boilies topped with a grain of artificial corn to net mirrors of 12lb 12oz and 16lb 4oz. Windsor-based Gaz presented his baits on 15lb braided hook lengths to 12lb main line with a 2oz free-running lead arrangement.
Conditions are not ideal for the larger predators and locally many pike anglers appear to have been struggling so far this winter but a levered smelt accounted for a nice pike of 14lb 4oz from one of the Reading and District gravel pits to Maidenhead’s Tim Walker.
Tim tells me he thinks the pike may already be beginning to gather to spawn on some waters (I would not be at all surprised) and he purposely visited one of the shallower spawning bays on the water in case some of the big females had started to move in. He took his fish, along with another around the 5lb mark, on side 8 barbless trebles on 20lb wire to 15lb line.
I would like to be able to suggest changed angling prospects for the week ahead but the forecast seems to suggest we are in for more of the same, so much for changing seasons!
Any anglers wishing to report catches may contact me at email@example.com