Last Few Weeks of the River Season – Pat Gillett’s Fishing Diary

I haven’t done a diary type blog piece for a while, the simple reason being that I have hardly done any fishing. The constant high river levels of the winter, the fact that my boat moored on a large water was wrecked by the high winds (meaning no pike fishing this winter) and for the first time in a very long while, I actually lost my motivation to get out there and go fishing.

I just count myself lucky that I am not one of the poor souls whose house has been flooded out for months over this last winter.

Four river trips in November and December produced one small barbel of about 6lb, I didn’t go at all in January and then had 2 blanks each on the Dove and the Derwent in February. But with the first signs of Spring well and truly here and with there not being long till the end of the ‘traditional’ fishing season I became keen to get out there again. I have detailed my last few trips of the season below.

March 6th 2014 – River Derwent

There were just myself and my mate Geoff on the stretch, in what should have been good conditions. The river temperature was showing 8.2 Deg. C. with a level of 0.91m and the weather was wet and mild. Unfortunately despite going through numerous baits, I never had so much has a tap on the rod tips from 4pm till 9.45pm when I packed up.

I have found this with the Derwent in the 20 or so times I have fished it over the last couple of seasons, you seem to either catch within the first 2 or 3 hours or you sit there with totally motionless rods as if there were no fish in the river. Still it made a change to be able to fish the river properly without loads of leaves and other debris (paper and plastic etc) being attached to the line.

The Derwent is a funny river in that sense, with most rivers that are fining down or have had a good flush through you don’t get any debris on your line in the winter, not so the Derwent. On most occasions I have fished it, there has been a lot of rubbish coming down stream, which of course makes the fishing more difficult. Maybe it’s because it runs through a major city like Derby and stuff gets washed/pumped in, I don’t know, but it is certainly different to other rivers in this respect.

March 7th 2014 – River Dove

After a dismal blank yesterday, a change of venue was in order! The Upper Trent was somehow rising, so that was going to be a no no, so the River Dove was looking like the best bet. The level was quite low at 0.78m but with the air temperature being 11 Deg. C when we packed up last night I was expecting the river temperature to be rising, this was proved correct by a water temperature reading of 9.8 Deg. C.

Weather conditions were poor when we arrived at about 3pm, bright crystal clear blue skies and a cold blustery northerly wind, but with such a good river temperature there was still a chance of some sport.

Geoff opted for a well known snag swim, whereas I ventured off to a very rarely fished swim a few hundred yards away. My swim had a deep back eddy at the downstream end of it which was met by quite a fast flow, causing the ‘classic crease type swim’. I fed a couple of balls of feeder mix and a few 10mm Rahja Spice boilies slightly upstream before I set up.

It was certainly strange weather wise, the sun was that bright, that even with a cap and polaroids it was difficult to see the rod tips, yet the cold wind meant that I was sitting there with two fleeces on!

After about 20 minutes I noticed the downstream rod just ‘tremble’ slightly. This carried on sporadically for the next 15 minutes, there was obviously something there, but it just wouldn’t hold on to the bait long enough for me to strike. I reeled in and changed the rig on this rod. I scaled down to a Korum S3 size 14 hook (a short shank quite wide gape)and 2 x half cut down 10mm Rahja Spice boilies that formed a sort of 10mm pellet. I had a feeling the fish may be just holding the bait in their lips without taking the bigger hook in.

Anyway after about 20 minutes of recasting this rod, the ‘rattles’ started coming again, only this time after a few more minutes the tip moved about 1 1/2” and held long enough for me to strike. The bite was hard to describe in words, being so delicate, but anybody who has done any quiver tipping for bream will have seen the sort of bite I mean, a slow delicate flick that just holds long enough to strike.

The strike was met with the firm resistance of what was obviously a barbel. It charged off slowly downstream and felt a good heavy fish. I picked up my landing net and walked 25 yards downstream so that I could net it in the deep slack (it was to fast where I was set up). After about 6 or 7 minutes a cracking looking barbel was in the net. It turned the Avon’s around to 12lb 13oz and its lovely bronze colours looked even better in the bright sunshine. The fish was really solid and had obviously been having a good feed as the water temperature had risen over the previous few days.

Barbel fishing diary

It looked even better in the sunshine!

Barbel Fishing Diary

12lb 3oz

As soon as it got dark, the wind dropped, making it feel more comfortable, but I was surprised to see ice and frost forming on everything so quickly!

Barbel Fishing Diary

The frost soon started forming!

Just before 9pm the downstream rod once again showed a very ‘delicate’ type bite, again a good fight from another heavy fish saw me walking downstream. Once in the net, the head torch revealed what was obviously another double, all 12lb 2oz, a brace of 12’s in March, I was well chuffed. Again this fish was really chunky.

river Barbel fishing diary

12lb 2oz, a brace of March 12’s, happy days!

I was just packing everything away to depart at 9.45pm when once again the same thing happened on the same rod. This proved to be a fish of 10lb 6oz. Three doubles in 5 ½ hours on a cold March evening, can’t be bad!

My other rod fished with a slightly larger bait and size 9 hook never produced a tap. So did scaling down make a difference ?(it obviously didn’t do any harm!) I think the fish had, had a good feed the previous 48 hours and were basically full up. They didn’t really want to eat the bait, but couldn’t resist trying it, the smaller bait and hook was easier for them to take in and each fish was just nicked inside the mouth. I hope I have explained that well enough, I liken it to one of us having eaten a really large meal, you feel stuffed, but if somebody offers you your favourite pudding, you will still tempted to pick at it.

March 10th 2014 – River Dove

Back to the same spot has last Friday, the river was slightly lower with the weather being more or less the same, bright sunshine, cold N.Easterly wind, very high pressure, clear skies and a horrible bright moon once it got dark. Hardly good conditions, and so it proved, a barbel of about 8lbs at 8pm saved a blank. This fish once again fell to the scaled down method, has stated above.

March 12th 2014 – River Derwent

After having two trips to the Dove, a different venue was called for, on what was likely to be the last trip of the season. The river was quite low (0.8m and 9.2 Deg. C), I decided to fish the swim which produced my 16lb and 14lb+ barbel earlier in the season (only fished it 3 times), as although being relatively shallow it had a good flow and I just fancied it may produce a big fish for me again.

Starting at about 4pm on another day of really bright sunshine, once again conditions were poor. Just before it got dark a really heavy mist / fog descended and then as soon as it got dark everything was iced up. With the really bright moon and no sign of a fish we called it at a day at 9.30pm. With the weather set to be the same and the horrible roadworks on the A38 meaning it was taking me the best part of 2 hours to get home that was it for the 2013/2014 river season.

Season conclusions!

Once again I have fished a variety of rivers and venues, spending the most time on the Derwent and on a new stretch of the Upper Trent. The Derwent was really good to me, whereas the new stretch threw up quite a few fish but not of the size I had hoped for me, although my mate Geoff did have one of the highlights of the season when he had a 14lb + barbel off this stretch.

For those of you interested in stats I have had a look through my diary blogs and come up with the following results :

  • River Dove – 8 sessions – 6 barbel with 4 doubles, 2 x 12lb+ with a best of 12lb 13oz.

  • Upper Trent 16 sessions – 13 barbel with 3 doubles with a best of 10lb 12oz.

  • River Derwent – 18 sessions – 14 barbel with 8 doubles, 5 x 12lb+ with best of 14lb 3oz          and 16lb 7oz.

All sessions were around 5 or 6 hours in duration.

So a season where I didn’t catch loads, but the average size more than made up for that. With 7 barbel of 12lb+ I was more than happy, especially considering how many blanks people have had on rivers like the Derwent and Dove.  Most anglers seem to have had more blank sessions than ones where they have caught and many have recorded their worst season for years.

I know I would have caught more if I had stuck to just one stretch or even just one river, but I enjoy searching out different places too much for that. The vast majority of my fish have fallen to the Quest Baits Special Crab, Absolute Seafood or Rahja Spice shelf life baits.

Typically now the river levels are back to where they should be, the season has come to an end, roll on next June!

Pat Gillett
Courtesy of the Quest Baits blog


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