My first few weeks of the 2014 River Season

When Pat Gillett isn’t in France fishing for carp you’ll find him bankside at a number of English rivers. Here’s his diary so far…

I had three trips in June, two to two different stretches of the Upper Trent and one to the Dove. These were pretty uneventful really, with just a chub of 4lb 10oz from the Dove to show for it. Geoff and myself did have one incident when challenging five poachers on the Dove, after giving us a load of abuse, they did eventually leave, at the same time threatening to come back and “f**king have you, you b*****ds”…. now, I don’t go fishing for hassle, so we moved well downstream just in case.

Monday 9th Upper Trent

Back to what was last year ‘the new stretch’, but this time in an area that I hadn’t fished before. Although very shallow on the inside there was plenty of weed in the middle, a little more depth and a pronounced crease, so it looked a good swim.  I had a chub of about 4 1/2lbs before I had even set my second rod up, an encouraging sign in a new swim! Another chub of a similar size soon followed.

River fishing in the UK blog


There was only me and my mate Geoff on the whole of the stretch when at about 7pm, two other anglers arrived. With the whole of the stretch to go at, both of them dropped into the swim next to me! Now, i’m not anti-social, but I do like my own space when fishing and I wouldn’t dream of fishing in a swim next to another angler on any river (unless with a mate on a social). After catching a couple of chub so quickly I decided to give it another hour, to see what happened.

The two guys next to me were nice and quiet, weren’t casting in every five minutes and with the heavy rain now falling, I decided to stay put.

Another slightly smaller chub was landed before at about 9.30pm the downstream rod pulled right round, and I hooked a fish which tore off at a hundred mile an hour across to the far side.  A good battle ensued (I had forgotten how hard these Upper Trent barbel fight!) with the heavy splashes in the shallow margins drawing the attention of one of the guys from downstream. The fish tipped the scales at 10lb 2oz and was returned straight away. All of the fish came to the Quest Baits Special Crab and feeder combination.

All in all a very productive first session on this new area!

Wednesday 11th Upper Trent

With the river rising slightly (1.10m), it would be a risk trying the Upper Trent but after having a few bites on Monday, it would be worth a shot. The level seemed well up from Monday (about 12”) and so was obviously still rising. The fishing would be difficult and so it proved. Even fishing a swim with quite slack water on the inside, the rods were bent double within five to ten minutes because of the amount of debris being washed downstream. This was made doubly difficult by the high winds which were blowing loads of leaves into the river, thus adding to the ‘rubbish’ gathering on the lines.

barbel river fishing blog

6oz Feeder and all this debris after just 5 minutes!

Even with 6oz of lead it was difficult to hold for more than 30 minutes. I never had a wrap in five hours of struggling and was packing most of my gear away (about 10.30pm) with my back to the rods, when one of the bait runners burst into life. The fish, obviously a barbel, was on for a few seconds when everything went slack. The hook length had been ‘cut-off’ about 12” above the hook. I was ‘gutted’ after such a difficult evening. I hadn’t got snagged up all evening, so I can only assume it was a rock that did the damage.

Wednesday 18th Upper Trent

The river was back down to more or less normal level and so it was back to the ‘new area’ on the ‘new stretch’. The river was once again incredibly clear and so it would an evening of ‘scratching’ for one bite.

It was a really warm, humid evening and after a couple of hours it went really dark and the heaven’s opened. This would improve the chances of a bite in the clear water conditions. After an hour or so of heavy rain the upstream rod pulled round very slowly and after a short battle a spawned out barbel of an ounce over 10lbs was safely landed.

uk river fishing blog

Did I want a bite in this?

The bite again coming on the trimmed down Special Crab whilst the other rod fishing alternating between pellet and paste never moved an inch. At least this new area is showing some consistency in these very difficult conditions.

River Trent barbel fishing blog

Worth getting a bit wet for!

Monday 21st July  River Derwent

Checking the EA river level site it soon became apparent that it wouldn’t be wise to go to the Upper Trent, as it had been rising sharply and was still showing a level of 1.90m after the weekends deluge. On the other hand the Derwent was showing 0.66m after being 0.99m the previous day. So although the Derwent was lower than ideal it would probably still be the best bet and so it would be a first trip of the season to this lovely little river.

Arriving at about 4pm it was nice to see no other cars in the car park and after walking along the river for a few hundred yards it soon became apparent that it had hardly been fished, with most anglers looking like they had been put off by the poor start to the season that most appear to have had. The river was surprisingly clear and what really struck me (has with the Upper Trent and Dove) was the distinct lack of weed (compared to last season) in a lot of the swims. This was bound to make the fishing much harder, has with the clarity of the water the extra cover that the weed offers the fish always makes location a little easier.

After a good walk I found a swim which although very shallow did have some nearside weed beds which would offer the fish some cover.

Derwent river fishing blog

Plenty of marginal weed cover!

It was a hot afternoon, about 25 Deg. C without a cloud in the sky (hardly ideal conditions!). Before I starting fishing (about 5.15pm) I fed three handfuls of my feeder mix along with a few half boilies (Special Crab) above these nearside weed beds. One rod would be fished here with a chopped down 15mm boilie, the other rod was fished well upstream and a rod length off the far bank with a pellet hook bait.

I started getting little knocks and taps straight away on the nearside rod which I presumed were from small fish, but this gave me some confidence as very often this sort of activity can spur the interest of something bigger. After a couple of hours I had a ‘three foot twitch’ which I was sure would be a barbel but turned out to be a ‘bionic’ little chub of no more than 8oz!

All was quiet for the next couple of hours (apart from the odd little chub knock, I had lengthened the hair, so they didn’t hook themselves), when at about 9pm another ‘three foot twitch’ was met with a solid resistance from what was obviously a barbel. This fish fought well for seven or eight minutes finding every weed bed it could before nestling safely in my landing net. The avon’s said 11lb 3oz and after a quick photo on the mat I let it rest in my landing net for about ten minutes before releasing it to swim off strongly. That was the end of the action, but I was happy enough in what are difficult conditions at the moment.

river fishing blog barbel

A very ‘spawned out’ looking barbel of 11lb 3oz

Wednesday 23rd July  River Derwent

Decided to risk the Derwent again, despite feeling it may be to low and clear after dropping slightly more since Monday. Got to the river about 4pm and straight away I knew it was going to be a struggle for a bite has you could see the bottom clearly in a lot of areas. It was useful though, has it showed one or two drop off and sand banks etc, that I had never seen before, has I had never fished the river at this level (0.58m).

I dropped into the same swim has Monday, fancying that the weed cover would offer me my best chance of a bite. Again 3 handfuls of feeder mix were fed and a few half boilies before starting fishing.

This time I opted to fish both rods just over the marginal weed beds, the upstream rod carrying a feeder fished trimmed Absolute Seafood boilie and the downstream rod fished the same but with a Special Crab bait. Again the weather was red hot, without a cloud in the sky, I just thankful of the fresh breeze for cooling me down.

It was a very quiet evening with no movement on the rod tips and very little fish activity (apart from a carp crashing downstream). I was beginning to fear a blank until at 10.15pm the seafood rod tapped a couple of times and I struck into a barbel which turned out to be a fish of about 8lbs. A quick recast and this rod was away again within minutes, not a barbel this time, but a bream of about 7lbs. Recast again and within minutes a nice chub of 4lb 15oz was in the net. What a mad 45 minutes before packing up!

One point of interest, the bream had still got spawning tubercules on it. This is really late for bream, has they usually spawn in May or early June, could this be why the barbel fishing has been so slow on the majority of rivers / stretches – the fish haven’t yet returned from their spawning grounds? After all they usually spawn later than bream.

My three bites tonight all fell to the Absolute Seafood, even though the Special Crab was fished in what I thought was the better position. That’s why I love river fishing so much, you can never be certain about anything.

With the hot weather set to continue, the next trip will be to the Upper Trent I think, as the smaller rivers are really too low for my liking.

Friday 25th July  Upper Trent

Not much to say about this trip really, 5 pm till 11.15pm with a couple of small chub ‘rattles’ coming in the last 20 minutes, being the only indication of any fish activity. Another scorching evening, with the river getting ever lower and crystal clear, the water temperature was actually 22 Deg. C so the oxygen levels must also be very low. Think I may give the rivers a couple of weeks before my next visit, unless we have some much needed rain.

Early Conclusions!

So it has been a relatively slow start to the season (up to yet there has only been one other 3lb barbel caught whilst I was fishing), but you can have slow periods at any time on the stretches of river that I fish. Half the time you are not even sure if there are any barbel where you are fishing. That’s why I like it so much, lets face it in the modern carp scene, whenever you visit a lake, 9 times out of a 10 you know exactly what stock are in there. It’s totally different on the stretches of the rivers I fish and takes me back to when I first started carp fishing with my dad in the 1970’s / 1980’s, it was an adventure and you had that great sense of the unknown, which a lot of the stretches of river still possess.

Pat Gillett
Courtesy of the Quest Baits blog



One thought on “My first few weeks of the 2014 River Season

  1. Pat Gillett says:

    Cheers Colin!

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