Winter Blues – Pike and Barbel Fishing

I only had time to get out fishing once between Christmas and new year.  I’d had a pike fishing itch to scratch for a while and despite conditions which were far from ideal after the bout of mild weather and heavy rain, I decided to pike fish on the Dove, which is a spate river and therefore it’s notorious for the speed at which the level rises and colour increases.  So it was to my dismay, but no surprise, that I arrived to find the river coloured and rising!  I should have been barbel fishing but my heart was set on piking, so I had taken my barbel rods out of the van before I left home!

I sat it out regardless and fished to the conditions as best I could, but I only got a single dropped run all day.  A run I didn’t even notice at the time because my float, cast to the far bank, would only stay in the slack water if I let out a big bow of line.  However, It was an extremely blustery day and the combination of wind and the flow meant my float was constantly dancing around all over the place, the drop-off was forever rising and falling and my alarm was sounding every few seconds.  That was frustrating enough, but when I reeled in and found my decent-sized roach was badly slashed but the teeth marks were all between the hooks, needless to say I was gutted!  From the size of the marks on the bait, the pike was probably a good one.  It must have picked the bait up sideways but failed to turn it around head-first before it moved off.  Maybe the movement of the line going down from the float spooked it or something.  I’m 99% sure that if I’d had a proper take I would have known straight away because the drop-off did ping off in the wind the odd time, just not on that cast!  Regardless of that, I decided to try and find somewhere more sheltered where I could fish without fear of unwittingly deep-hooking a fish.

I gambled on a move to the Pride of Derby complex, to try on one of the lakes there for the last couple of hours.  However, when I arrived at the gates, this was the sight that greeted me:


The heavy rain had pushed so much water into the Trent that it had flooded the entire adjacent lake complex.  This seemed like a bad thing until I considered that the floodwater would probably mean I was the only angler there.  I was in a van, and thought I might have the height to drive through the water to get to some high ground that I could fish from.  So, not one to be put off from a fishing trip easily, I unlocked the gates and gingerly inched the van into the water, hanging my head out of the window to both monitor the depth and spot the edge of the track; one place I definitely didn’t want to end up was on the surrounding underwater grass, or I’d be stuck there until the waters receded!  Unfortunately my pluckiness didn’t pay off, the water got so deep that I feared I might damage my van, so I had to slowly reverse back out of the venue.  Had I had my thigh waders with me I could have walked to a peg, but they aren’t part of my usual winter kit so they were at home!  I thought about driving back to the Dove, but the combination of the poor piking conditions and by now, falling light, meant I decided to call it a day.  Sometimes you have to know when it’s time to quit.

I did bump into James Gould and Stu Walker (who’s been filming “Caught In The Act” and previously “Barbel Days & Ways” with Bob Roberts) during the day.  They were barbel fishing and I conceded that this was where the smart money was on such a day.  Why the hell had I taken those barbel rods out!  Both chaps were really friendly and I even got a flattering “It’s Andrew, isn’t it?  I’ve read some of your stuff…” from Stu, but I then felt pretty stupid because I recognised him too, but I couldn’t quite remember where from, or what his name was.  D’oh!

Despite my feeling that the conditions had been ideal for barbel, I got in touch with Stu & James later and found that they had just the one fish between them all day, which didn’t show until after dark.

Before that mild & wet spell ended, I got in an after-work session myself and this time set my stall out for barbel.  I’d soaked some boilies in a spicy, fishy mix and done similar with some luncheon meat in preparation.  There wasn’t a fish within a mile that could have avoided smelling my baits!  It was pleasant to sit out in, despite not casting out until 8pm, and despite seeing the odd fish rolling and conditions seemingly perfect, I didn’t get as much as a twitch on the rod tip.  So, maybe there just wasn’t a fish within a mile!
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