The Lure of the Personal Best

The Lure of the Personal Best

A new personal best

Since the start of the river season, I have focused mainly on barbel – trying to ‘up’ my personal best – and on my second session I managed a new PB with a barbel of 7lb 13oz – beating my old best by five ounces. Obviously I’m thrilled by this, but I’m still hoping for a double-figure barbel before the end of the season.

7lb 13oz barbel from the River Dove set me a new PB

A new personal best barbel for me, at 7lb 13oz



Most of my summer fishing sessions are restricted to weekdays after work, so when I got a day off, I decided it was time for a little variety and visit a new venue, noted for its tench stocks. Tackling up for tench I also took along my light spinning tackle and a barbel rod just in case I fancied a change later on.

Arriving at the lake there was a large tent erected near the water, with recent campfires, disposable barbecues, a bow saw, a rubber mallet and loads of litter nearby. It literally looked as if someone had taken up residence. But there was no-one around! Very odd.

Then when I looked into the crystal clear water which was only three feet deep, I noticed the pond was over-run with weed. Walking around the lake with my polaroids, I only spotted a few shoals of roach and two good carp, but no tench! Nevertheless I was quite excited about the carp – and as I had some micro pellets and worms with me for the tench, I baited up a few marginal holes in the weed and left them for a few minutes. When I returned the smaller of the carp (around 17 – 18lb), was feeding on the pellets.

Not wanting to take any risks in the weedy pond, I ran back to the car to fetch my barbel rod, it being the strongest I had with me. When I got back to the swim the fish was still feeding, but as I crept up, something spooked it and it disappeared. It must have spotted my net because I was camouflaged head-to-toe! The fish returned about 10 minutes later but fed only for a few seconds before moving off, never to return. The next three hours were spent trying to lure the fish and its friend (which I think was over the 20lb mark), back into my swim, unfortunately I didn’t manage it, so I decided on a change of venue.

I headed down to the river to try and salvage the day with a barbel. I first tried trotting with grayling and chub in mind, but got nothing; so I moved onto a barbel swim. One rod was set up on an alarm while I tackled up the other rod – and within two minutes a fish tore off with the bait and I landed my smallest barbel of the season – at 4lb 4oz. I followed this with a 3lb 9oz chub and then lost another, before something caught my attention upstream.

This barbel took a bait within seconds of casting into the River Dove

The barbel which tore off with my bait within
minutes of me arriving at the swim.


Trout Attack

In a deep slow pool, a large fish, presumably a chub, was repeatedly rising for flies, seemingly eating everything that landed in the water. Out came the lure rod!

At this point the day improved (in a way). In maybe 20 casts over the same area with a tiny Rebel Ultralight Jointed Minnow, I had two takes which I didn’t connect with, then a very big chub of at least 5 pounds had a go at the lure just as I plucked it from the water (grrr!).

With a further cast just in front of the surfacing fish, all hell broke loose! With lightning speed a fish swam upstream and hurled itself from the water – it was no chub – it was a massive wild brown trout of at least 4 pounds! It dwarfed the chub I’d caught earlier.

The trout made a good eight or nine leaps from the water before I had it subdued. What a scrap! It was at this point that I realised I’d left my landing net out of reach! I’d been slowly creeping closer to the surfacing fish with each cast and I was so involved with the pursuit that I forgot about keeping the net to hand. I had to resort to the hand-landing approach.

The fish was hooked in the “scissors” with the tail treble, leaving the front treble dangling loose. As I grabbed the fish, it squirmed and slipped through my fingers. The loose treble went into my finger and the fish shook violently before the hook bent out – releasing the fish and leaving the lure stuck in my finger! I’m glad that I crimp the barbs down on all my lures or that could’ve been a very nasty situation!

So, I landed a spectacular fish which any fly-angler would be proud of, but I didn’t get chance to admire its beauty properly. A wild brown trout of this size really does look amazing. I’m really disappointed in myself for not having my landing net within reach. My first trout on a lure and no photograph to remember it by, which is a great shame. At least the fish went back unharmed with the minimum of stress.

After the explosive fight from the trout, the lure fishing went dead, so I concentrated on the barbel swim once more. A couple of hours passed with nothing until I managed to lose a good barbel in a snag, last cast. I had the fish on for a few minutes, before it bolted downstream and left me connected to a chunk of iron mesh which I struggled to move! A fitting end to an eventful, but overall frustrating day. I did get a PB out of it though. The trout was easily 4lbs, probably more, so I’ll call it a ‘four’ because I didn’t get chance to weigh it. With the 20lb carp and the unknown size of the lost barbel – the new personal best tally could have been three in one day! It just shows that taking a versatile approach to your fishing can often pay dividends.

Zander at Night

On my next day off, I went on a zander night session on the Old River Nene, near Peterborough and blanked. I missed my only run, at 6am through a schoolboy error, (after staying up all night until 5am), I was generally having a dire time. When the sun came up properly, I spotted a jack pike amongst the lilies and cabbages – so I had a try with the lures for an hour. Still nothing.

So, after a quick snooze I decided it was time to give up and pack up, but on my way home I decided to stop at a favourite spot of mine – a drain which holds both my pike and perch PBs. It was weedy, but I decided to give the lures a throw for half an hour, trying to catch a pike and avoid a blank.

I clipped on a small floating Salmo Slider jerkbait in perch pattern, cast out and gave it two or three twitches. As if by magic, first cast, there was a big swirl around the lure and a loud “schhhluuuurrp”, which I assumed to be a pike. However – reeling in I saw a deep, round flash and realised it was a good perch. Learning from last week’s mistake with the trout, I had the landing net by my side and netted a beautiful, chunky perch. It went just shy of 2lb – at 1lb 15oz, but I was thrilled! My first perch on a jerkbait and my biggest in almost two years!

After blanking fishing for zander, Andrew stopped off for a quick lure fish and landed this lovely perch

Success at last! After 20 blank hours, I landed my biggest perch for two years


Two casts later, I had clipped on a jointed Rapala Shad-Rap – again in perch colours. On the first cast I hooked another good perch which weighed in at 1lb 6oz.

More casts with various lures gave me nothing else big, so I packed up shortly after – a happy man. Three casts had been more successful than the whole previous 20 hours! Once again, lures had saved me from an inevitable blank and provided me with some beautiful fish.

Perch on lures

Following this success with lures for perch, I decided to have another try – a little closer to home in a river swim I’d discovered. On my way to this pool, I stopped for a few cast above a gravelly run and on my third cast, I landed a pike of around 7lbs using a Masterline Muskie Maestro spinner. Then 5th cast I landed a perch of over a pound and a half (this time I forgot my scales – but I did get a photo). Moving up to my chosen swim I had a feeling there would be some big perch lying in ambush. It was quite a hike to this swim, but it was worth the walk. In 25 minutes, I caught a further 2 perch over a pound, along with 4 tiny ones.

Lure caught perch

A chunky 1lb 8oz+ lure-caught perch


Standing by the swim, I spotted something from the corner of my eye, and looking up I saw two barn owls swooping over the other side of the river! One flew off upstream and the other flew over the river and hovered above my head for a second – as if to check me out! What a cracking end to an extremely enjoyable and productive evening.

So – in these three sessions, I’d proven just how vital lure fishing is to have at your disposal. A full days lure fishing in the right conditions can give you constant sport. It’s always worth having a few lures in the car, in case you spot a feeding predator or your other methods are failing to catch.

Lure fishing is easily one of my favourite methods of catching fish. The lures, methods and species you can catch are all so diverse that you could lure fish all of your life and never be stuck for something new to try.

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