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Big Fish Column: Briggs nets terrific 20lb 8oz carp despite fishing for barbel

By Ian Welch

There were mixed fortunes around the local angling scene last week and the final weekend of the river season was particularly patchy with most catches hard earned in conditions that were almost, but not quite, right.

One of the busiest weekends of the river angling calendar saw many anglers out looking to get a bite of two before Tuesday’s close but bright, warm sunshine on the Saturday did little to turn the fish on and Sunday’s wet and overcast conditions did little to encourage anglers to get out, although the fishing was better!

As far as catches are concerned Cookham’s Justin Briggs fished an overnight session on his local section of the River Thames looking for a barbel to finish a season which he described as: “relatively poor at best”.

It did however finish with some real excitement, although not quite in the way he had anticipated.

Justin employed a double rod set up with flavoured meat on one and a large pellet wrapped in paste on the other, both used in conjunction with PVA bags packed with mixed pellets. His evening started well with a chub around the 4lb mark picking up his meat offering just before dark, with another, slight bigger, following an hour later.

Despite an occasional quick pull on the rod top it was just before first light the following morning that the pellet rod hooped over and Justin struck into a powerful fish that took the best part of 20 minutes to get under control, having made several long, steady runs.

Expecting to see a huge barbel revealed in the illumination from his head torch Justin was somewhat disappointed when a common carp rolled into the net.

“It didn’t quite feel like a barbel,” he told me. “But I convinced myself that it was a very big one.

"Although I wasn’t too disappointed when I finally sorted myself out, calmed down and weighed the carp.”

At 20lb 8oz the carp was a terrific one and beat the weight of Justin’s previous best river carp by some considerable margin. Not too disappointing a way to end the season.

Barbel captures were, in fact, relatively few and far between over the last weekend but with a bit of extra water in the rivers and temperatures looking to rise going into the last couple of days of the season I wouldn’t rule out a big fish or two before the end.

Chub were far more willing feeders and a St. Patrick’s Stream fish of 6lb 4oz was the reward for Woodley rod Rob Edwards who fished a feeder packed with a mixture of bread and pellet mash with a small pellet on the hook.

Also getting amongst the chub was Arborfield angler Jason Miller who fished a local section of the River Loddon with cheesepaste on a size 8 hook to 5lb 8oz line to bank a couple of fish around the 3lb mark presenting baits tight to far bank snags.

It was, however, a cast at dusk into more open water that brought the fish of the day in the shape of a fish weighing exactly 6lb.

Missing out on the magical 6lb mark by just 2oz was Taplow’s Dick West who used a paste bait on a Reading & District beat of the River Kennet. Dick’s fish, the best of three caught during a roving session, took a legered worm bait on a size 10 hook to 4lb line.

River perch, just like river barbel, can be tricky beasts at the back end as they are one of the earliest species to spawn (usually just behind dace and pike) and there were certainly signs of spawning activity on some sections last week.

However, on most rivers the fish are not quite there and it was a very fat specimen of 2lb 12oz that made the day for Maidenhead’s Peter Worthington.

Peter fished a session on the River Kennet in the company of work colleague Jackie Arnett, who landed a couple of small perch and a chub of 4lb, both anglers using light leger tactics to get amongst the fish.

Doubtless a lot of river anglers will be taking a couple of days’ holiday to see out the end of the season and I’m sure quite a few are planning an evening or two out as well.

A full report of how it all ended in the column next week.


Any anglers wishing to report catches may contact me at





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