Pat Gillett’s October Fishing Diary

Pat Gillett’s monthly fishing diary installment, once again on the hunt for Barbel…

Friday 4th October 2013 – Upper Trent

Not much to say about this session really. The river was rising quickly (1.20m +) and with it came the inherent problem of loose weed (that really ‘dogs’ the Upper Trent) flowing downstream. This made fishing really difficult and I would say it would have been nigh on impossible if I hadn’t have employed the back lead method. Anyway I endured six hours without so much as a tap on the rod tips, even though I tried many different varieties of bait before packing up at 11pm.

Barbel Fishing


Tuesday 8th October 2013 – Upper Trent

Back to the new stretch (same as Friday) with the river having ‘fined down’ nicely. My only concern that we may have been a day late and that the barbel could have gorged themselves during the extra water of the previous few days. This is something that very often happens and has the year wears on, it becomes increasingly important to get the timing of your fishing sessions right.

The weed problem was nowhere near has bad after the good flush through and so I was able to fish a pacy swim that had been quite productive for me. I still needed a back lead to fish the upstream rod correctly but the downstream rod was fine fishing has normal.

I had only been fishing about ten minutes when the upstream rod baited with the Special Crab was away. The fish didn’t really fight very hard and was soon in the net. It proved to be a short stocky barbel that was as ‘fat as a pig’. It weighed 9lb 2oz and had obviously been feeding it’s head off in the previous higher water conditions.

This proved to be my only bite of the session (fished from 5pm to 11pm) leading me to believe that I was in fact a day or so late and had missed the major feeding spell induced by the extra water in the river. But then again this is still very much a new stretch of river to me and so it will be very much of a learning curve getting to know location etc. for the varying weather and river conditions.

Wednesday 9th October 2013 – River Derwent

A very much colder day than yesterday with the air temperature struggling to reach double figures, add to that the bitingly cold strong north easterly wind and it felt more like 5 or 6 degrees C. Not really ideal barbel fishing conditions! But has with the new stretch on the Upper Trent this is very much a ‘new’ river to me. Despite having some excellent results already I have only fished the river a dozen or so times (including last season) and so I am always keen to see how things develop in various conditions.

Arriving at about 4.15pm and seeing the river very low and clear I opted for a good walk and to fish an area which had a good flow and plenty of cover in the form of streamer weed on both sides of the river.

A very uncomfortable evening ensued has I just couldn’t get out of the wind under my little 45 inch brolly that I like to use on the river. I am about 6ft 2” or 6ft 3” and 15 ½ stone so there is always a bit of me sticking out and this meant that for the first time in a long time I was actually cold whilst out fishing.

barbel fishing autumn

A windswept River Derwent, it got stronger later on! You can’t even see which way the river is flowing!


I stuck it out till 11pm without any bites (there was actually frost starting to form in some of the dips in the field). It was impossible to see if there were any small knocks or taps due to the force of the wind. Wrong swim or just poor conditions ? Something to learn more about has I spend more time on this lovely river.

Tuesday 15th October 2013 – River Derwent

Checking the E.A website the river had been up to about 0.9m on the previous Sunday but had now dropped back to about 0.7m and with the Trent still rising at 1.7m the Derwent seemed the best bet for a chance of a barbel. I was concerned that with the continuous cooler weather and rain since last weeks trip, the water temperature would be falling too quickly (this can be the kiss of death whilst barbel fishing). The river was carrying a nice brown tinge of colour to it and the water temperature was 12 Degrees C, which was a drop of 2 Degrees from last Wednesday. I had expected it to be a lot colder than that and so with the little bit of extra water and the nice colour I was quietly confident that a good fish could be on the cards.

I dropped into the swim that produced the 16 in August (only fished it once since as I think its too shallow to fish when the river isn’t coloured) and adopted the familiar approach of one rod well out and upstream, with the other one just a rod length out and further downstream.

I had been fishing since 4.45 pm and with the glaringly bright moon and mist rolling over the meadows I have to admit, my confidence from earlier was beginning to flounder. However at 9pm I had an unmissable bite on the upstream rod…. that I missed! Upon checking the hook it soon became apparent why, the hook point had ‘turned over’, meaning that there was no way it would penetrate the barbels rubbery flesh. Now I usually check the hook point before every cast, but I gues s I must have been so into listening to the England v Poland match on five live, that I forgot. I tied a new hook length on straight away (after cursing myself) and recast the feeder carrying a trimmed down Quest Special Crab boilie to the same spot.

The bait had only been in the water about fifteen minutes when the same rod was away again. I could tell straight away that it was a big barbel has it just hugged the bottom making slow dogged runs (non of the speed of the smaller fish). After a slow ponderous fight of maybe ten minutes I was lucky enough to get it in the net first time. The fish looked absolutely massive in the light of my head torch. It was a really long, immaculate fish of approximately 35 inches from nose to tail with very little in the way of fat. The Avon’s showed a weight of 14lb 3oz and I was well pleased. Pictures taken and fish nursed and released just in time to hear Steven Gerrard make it 2-0 against Poland – Happy days!

barbel autumn fishing

14lb 3oz of immaculate barbel

winter barbel fishing

Approx. 35 inches long!


That was the only action of the session, but I wasn’t bothered as once again the Derwent had been really kind to me in the short space of time that I have been fishing it.

Thursday 17th October 2013 – River Derwent

After further rain since Tuesday’s session the Dove and Trent were both rising whereas the Derwent was steady after rising to 0.78m (the E.A . river levels website really is a ‘god send’), so the Derwent would once again be the best choice and with the river still holding some colour conditions looked pretty good.

Arriving at about 4pm it was disappointing to that unusually there was a number of cars already in the car park. Walking along the river I could see there were already three anglers in the area where I had fished on Tuesday (hardly anybody ever fishes here!) and so I would have to find somewhere else. I ended up fishing a swim which I hadn’t fished before (or seen anyone else fish), the river here was wider with the fastest flow from three quarter of the way across and along the far bank where there was also a bit cover offered from some small bushes. These would be where I would offer my baits. I used the usual feeder mix with one rod carrying a pellet hook bait and the other on a ‘whittled’ down Special Crab boilie. I was fishing by about 5pm and although I knew nothing about the swim I was feeling quietly confident. This didn’t last too long though as a heavy mist soon descended. As darkness fell you couldn’t even see the far side of the river.

I wasn’t confident that I was casting into exactly the right area’s and so at about 7.30pm I decided to move. With the visibilty down to about 5 yards due to the mist and pitch darkness, this wasn’t the most enjoyable of experiences but I eventually ended up in a swim where I had caught a nice brace on just my second visit to the river, last October. I knew that in this particular swim I could fish close in or in the middle so the lack of visibilty would not be a problem. The sky had been crystal clear with a bright full moon, but just before 9pm the sky clouded up and the mist rolled away, I was know much more confident! My confidence was proved to be correct when at around 9.30pm a ‘short jabbing’ type bite produced a really stocky barbel of 12lb 5oz. Has usual the fish fought really well and once again fell to the Special Crab.

winter barbel fishing diary

12lb 5oz – Not the best pic, but I had forgotten my tripod!


Around 9.30pm has been the catching time on the last two trips now, even though they are a good half a mile apart. No more bites and so I packed up at 10.45pm, still more than happy with another good fish, especially has there had only been one other small barbel caught by around nine other anglers!

Saturday 19th October 2013 – River Derwent

River rising – loads of rubbish – full moon – not a tap. That short statement really sums up what was really a very forgettable and difficult trip. I enjoy more or less all my time on the river bank, but I must admit I wasn’t sorry to pack up today.

Thursday 24th October 2013 – River Derwent

After the torrential rain of the previous weekend and following couple of days, the rivers had been carrying a lot of extra water, the Upper Trent still being around 2.6m with the Derwent showing 0.96m after it had been up to about 1.50m a couple of days ago. With this in mind it was off to the Derwent to see what the fishing would be like at this level (hadn’t fished it this high before).

Arriving at about 4.15pm I was surprised to see nobody elses car in the car park on what was a lovely mild afternoon. However after a couple of casts into the first swim I fancied I soon found out why there was no one else there, even though the swim looked perfect I couldn’t hold bottom with 7 1/2oz of lead because of the amount of leaves (after the heavy winds) and other rubbish and debris that was being swept downstream. This could well turn out to be a wasted journey!

I soon upped sticks and had a good walk to try and find somewhere more placid to fish. Even when I found such an area I could only fish close in because there was so much rubbish coming downstream. It was probably about 6pm by the time I was fishing somewhat more comfortably and I was joined my old mate Geoff Dace, who dropped in a couple of swims above me. Geoff had a couple of small barbel almost straight away, whereas I couldn’t get a sniff. I was constantly getting ‘hooked up’ on the thick underwater weed beds that were present close in, in my swim. I was concerned that my bait wasn’t being presented properly, so after 3 casts I cast a little further out (only about 6 feet more), to the back of the weed, hoping I could still hold bottom. This worked a treat has at about 8pm I had just turned to reach for something out of my rucksack when the baitrunner absolutely screamed out. After a terrific fight in the extra water a nice barbel of 12lb 2oz was in the net. I could see that Geoff had also got his head torch on and it turned out he had, had a fish at exactly the same time, his turned out to be a fish of 12lb 1oz, so a really nice brace within minutes of each other!

Barbel fishing

12lb 2oz – part of a brace of 12’s within minutes


Geoff with his 12lb 1oz, 1oz off each other!


All was then quite until about 9.15pm when I had a lovely coloured barbel of 10lb 14oz. There was still loads of rubbish coming down and I was surprised at the size of some of the branches etc being washed downstream. You don’t normally get this on a river that is dropping. A quick word of warning here, remember to take utmost care when fishing a river where the level has dropped significantly especially in the dark. I have been doing it for years but I very nearly ended up in the river whilst netting the 10 pounder, I lost my footing and just about managed to grab the top of the bank to stop myself from falling in the river. Scary stuff in the dark, no fish is worth risking your life for!

barbel fishing tips

The nicely coloured 10lb 14oz that nearly saw me fall in the river!


That was the end of the action for me but Geoff had another nice fish of 11lb 12oz shortly before packing up at about 10.20pm. Both my fish fell to the Absolute Seafood boilie and matching paste fished with the feeder mix (mentioned in earlier articles). Geoff’s four fish all came to the Special Crab Boilie, his other rod on Garlic Spam, never produced a tap.

We both left at 11pm, more than happy with a good result in difficult conditions and also adding more information to the learning curve for this river.

Wednesday 30th October 2013 – River Derwent

The river levels had continued to fluctuate since last week and with the Upper Trent still being too high, it was back to the Derwent. The EA website showed 1.06m so this would be the highest level I had fished this river. The water temperature was 10.2 Deg. C, which was well down on last week (a sharp drop in temperature the previous night) and with winds gusting up to 35mph, it was hardly favourable conditions.

I was fishing for about 4.15pm and after about an hour it soon became apparent that with the previous few days of heavy winds, there were loads of leaves being washed downstream making the fishing even more difficult. To try and get a better presentation and to try and ensure my hook bait was clear of leaves, I upped the length of my hook length to about six feet. This is something I first started to do many years ago when faced with a similar situation whilst fishing the Lower Severn years ago. I had my first bite at just after 6pm and two more followed before 8pm. These produced three barbel of about 7lbs to approx. 8 1/2lbs. The first two bites were really tentative (only moved the rod tip a couple of inches), whereas with the third fish, I picked the rod up to recast and the fish was on. Obviously with the poor conditions the barbel were in no mood to feed properly. All the fish fell to the Quest Baits Absolute Boilies with a paste wrap. This is a very good indicator for this bait for the coming winter has the fish weren’t feeding properly but still wanted to eat it.

That was the end of the action, I packed up at 10.15pm pleased to have caught again on the new bait (these were the only fish caught from the stretch that evening).

Thursday 31st October 2013 – River Derwent

A difficult choice, stay at home and get hassled by ‘trick or treaters’ or spend an evening on the river! The river won!

Another windswept evening and even though the river level had dropped about a foot, there were still loads of leaves coming downstream, which meant that once again I would be restricted to fishing close in (I usually like to fish one rod to the middle or far bank).

As soon as it got dark the sky became has ‘clear as a bell’ and with the wind again gusting at over 30mph it felt much colder than last night. Huddled behind the brolly I hadn’t had so much has a tap (was thinking of a blank) when at about 8.45pm the downstream rod gave what was once again a very tentative bite. A nice barbel of 11lb 2oz with a massive tail was the culprit and once again the Absolute Seafood had proved to be its downfall.

barbel fishing in cold weather

11lb 2oz That was ‘tricked’ into giving me a ‘treat’


Packed up at 10.15pm without another knock, it had actually warmed up by then has it had clouded over. Bait wise it has been an interesting last few trips, I had had a slow start with the Absolute Seafood, but now my last six fish have fallen to it and I haven’t had a touch on anything else. Just goes to show how being prepared to change your baits or methods can regularly bring you some extra fish.

I keep meaning to get my carp rods out, but for the moment I am enjoying the solitude and expectation on the quiet rivers that I am fishing, so much, that they just keep drawing me back.

So about 55 hours fishing in October which produced some really nice fish, with most of the anglers I speak to struggling, this is testament to the pulling power of the baits used.

Pat Gillett

This article first appeared on the Quest Baits Blog & is reproduced with kind permission



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