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My first 5 days of the 2013 river season.

Posted by Shaun Harrison on 22 June 2013 |

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Saturday June 15th 2012

At last, the start of the river season that I have so looked forward to is finally about to start. Although I have set my sights on the River Trent and the River Derwent, this season I have actually decided to kick my river angling off in traditional style down the tiny river where my angling life started.

There are no hidden monsters here, but the older I get the less important this is to me and I find myself now paying as much attention to where I angle, than what I angle for. I take so much pleasure from employing pleasing methods in pleasant surroundings, especially if I can also avoid the crowds. 

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All I needed to start my season

My small canvas bag containing the absolute bare essentials as well as camera, tripod  and scales, is already packed and sat at the side of my chosen cane rod and centre pin reel. I very much wanted to start this season in a similar vain to how I had started my angling life all of those years ago with cane rods and centre pin reels. My first reels were wooden but I felt it fitting to use my Grand Fathers Speedia instead. That reel has been with me to so many places now and has won many a battle.

Sunday June 16th 2012 – Part 1

I purposely didn’t set the alarm for the morning of the glorious 16th.  I would simply rise after my body had slept for as long as it needed to. But as is the case on most ‘special days’, my in-built body alarm woke me much earlier than would have been normal. So, 5.30am saw me swinging my legs out of bed, a quick brush of the teeth, check the beard in the mirror, that was okay but my tongue could have done with a shave!

Downstairs, Brook my ever faithful Staffy opened one eye and watched me from her chosen place to sleep whilst giving me one of those looks as if to say… You needn’t think you are walking me at this time on a Sunday morning! So I was off the latch with that job and out the door with my bag over my shoulder and rod and landing net in my hand.

I arrived at the side of the river to see the slugs slowly slithering back home into the shade for the day after a night on the leaves. There were no new visible footprints along my route and soon I was pushing my rosewood rod rest from a special place into the bank and swinging out a light link leger (3 SSG) into a likely looking hole. The bank side really was a little too overgrown to be able to run a float through without spooking everything by disturbing the bank side foliage and I really didn’t want anyone knowing I had been there if I could help it, so a simply link leger swung in as quietly as possible would be my approach.

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My first cast of the season

I had a bit of a problem with a swan and her young turning up and deciding that my Rahja Spice paste was rather tasty so ended up having to bide my time and remove the end tackle. Eventually they drifted along downstream and I started to introduce a little more bait. It didn’t take long for a few chub to start feeding on my bait and the time came to try and trick one into taking the hook bait.

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The swans really enjoyed my Rahja Spice paste

The first bite didn’t take long to come but I was a little too anxious and pulled the bait out of the mouths of the fish on two occasions before third time lucky I connected. I find it often better to look away when a fish is taking a bait and rely on the feel through the line to judge the strike but I so love to watch them take it. A rather hectic battle ensued in such a tiny little swim but moments later I was unhooking my first river fish of the season. I photographed it but didn’t feel the need to weigh it and after returning it I packed my rod down and returned home for breakfast feeling rather content with life. I had been out on the 16th, not seen a sole, caught a fish and returned for breakfast with no-one other than Brook knowing I had actually been out.

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My first fish of the season

Sunday June 16th 2012 – Part 2

I sorted a few things out at home and with the first day falling on Father’s day I did my duty and then thought about my first trip of the season to the Mighty River Trent where I ended last season. I had wanted to get down for a proper look around before the season started but alas had simply run out of time so found myself seeing the river at close quarters for the first time in 3 months on the actual first day.

Well what bit of water I could see that is. I was amazed just how overgrown so much of it was and really needed a bit of jungle warfare to get even close to the river. The thought of making a discreet path into a swim with the smallest area possible to be able to angler from wasn’t particularly high on my priority on this purposely relaxed and chilled out first day of the season. So I opted for the easy route and simply found a swim that was easy to set up in without having to remove any foliage. There was no flattened grass so I knew I was the first person this season in there. 

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My barbel feeder mix

The River Trent is so much larger and so much more powerful than the tiny river I had fished in the morning so had to alter my tackle accordingly and now found myself casting large feeders with what is fast becoming my usual river bait mix of broken and crushed boilie (predominantly Rahja Spice with Absolute Seafood and Special Crab boilies too), Maximum Action Pellets (Rahja Spice and a splash of Ghurkka Spice), Microfeed, Mixed Pellet and Nemp. Hook bait was to be a peeled Rahja Spice 15mm boilie with a matching paste wrap. 

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I had forgotten how hard these fight!

I had only been fishing a short while when I received my first barbel bite of the year, the classic 3ft twitch of the rod tip! I was into a fish that immediately stripped line off my reel at quite a rate of knots. I had forgotten just how hard these fish fight. Over the previous few weeks I had caught several 30lb plus carp up to 39 lb 13 oz with a couple of others over 36 and was seriously amazed at how hard this first barbel of the season pulled and even managed to snag me up. I ended up having to walk downstream some way to create a different line of pull and thankfully my line came free of the snag and I was able to resume battle. At 8lb 6oz it wasn’t as large as I thought it was whilst playing it but a most satisfying start to my Trent season.

Sunday June 16th 2012 – Part 3 

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It looked unfished

Now just like the chub capture from the morning I decided to pack up after landing that first fish and go and explore another stretch of the river. The section I moved to hadn’t seen footfall at all and was so beautifully wild. I hadn’t anticipated or perhaps that should read I had forgotten about the mozzies on these totally overgrown stretches of river and soon I was sat with my towel wrapped around my head and my hands up my sleeves trying to keep the little blighters from biting me.



I was getting eaten alive!

Yes, I had turned up with no protection from them at all and eventually decided I was no longer enjoying being eaten alive so called it a day but what a lovely relaxed first day it had been until the mozzies had declared war of course.

Tuesday June 18th 2013

SK and Fennel

Nigel 'Fennel' Hudson and Stu 'Sweetcorn Kid' Harris at Mapperley

I met up with Stu Harris (AKA The Sweetcorn Kid) and Nigel Hudson (AKA Fennel) to show them around Mapperley Reservoir where Albert Buckley broke the British carp record on July 24th 1930. It was the first time either of them had set sight on this rather historic water and living so close to this historic reservoir it was a pleasure to share their joy at seeing the place they had only previously read about. The carp were really obliging as well and many photographs were taken of the fish simply lounging around in the sun with not a care in the world.

I had felt a little guilty for taking a rather rare for me lunch break to show them around. In fact I think it was the first lunch break I had allowed myself this year! But upon arriving back in my office I felt guilty for the rest of the afternoon and made peace with myself by working a little later than usual. 

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Relaxed after a day in the office

I was eating dinner and I couldn’t take my mind off the river. I still had some of my scalded feeder mix left so I really didn’t need to make any preparation to get out for the last couple of hours of daylight and that is exactly what I did. Now this is the beauty of these short local sessions they really don’t need any preparation other than bait.

Within the hour from leaving my dining table I was hooked into a fish that was again pulling really well. Same method as Sunday in fact the remains of Sunday’s bait and when I saw the length of this fish pass me by the first time my heart really did skip a beat, it looked huge and my first glance was telling me this fish was much closer to 15lb than it was to 10lb. Those last few agonising seconds passed with it inching towards the waiting net whilst I prayed the hook would stay in place. It did and the longest barbel I have ever seen was safe in my landing net. 

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The longest Trent Barbel I have seen

With absolutely no-one around it was a quick job of setting the camera up for some self takes. Now although this fish had a tremendous length, it was soon obvious that it was totally spawned out and its belly was as soft as they get. I rushed the pictures to be able to return it as soon as possible with the minimum of fuss. Now I am not one for repeat capturing fish but I would dearly like to meet back up with this one in the winter when it is in the peak of its health and totally bulked out.

I followed this fish up with one around the 8lb mark and then drove home that evening with a smile that felt larger than a radiator!

Wednesday 19th June 2013

The following day Ron drove over from his home in Melton Mowbray and fished from late afternoon. I decided to pop down in the evening after dinner I guess I arrived around 7.30pm I was in no rush as I hadn’t really planned on this trip anyway but thought whilst I am popping out to see Ron I may as well take my gear along. Well, it would have been rude not to have done!

Now Ron has been a user of Quest Baits for years now and what I like about him is that he very much does his own thing. It would have been easy for him to turn up and fish the Rahja Spice as I was doing but it is not Ron’s style, just like me he would rather do his own thing, his own experimenting. He had used the Absolute Seafood to great effect with the Barbel during the winter so was really keen to carry on his experiments with this and fed broken bits in his own feeder mix. Ron concentrates more upon a lot of smell and attraction without quite so much feed as I like to give. The main food item for the fish is his hook bait.

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Ron Key's first of the season 10lb 6oz on a Absolute Seafood boilie

I hadn’t been there long when I saw him hit into his first fish of the season and what a first fish it was at 10lb 6oz on the Absolute Seafood. After I had wound in to photograph his fish, I returned to my swim and remembered a small tub of the Absolute Seafood boilies I had in my bag and making sure Ron wasn’t watching I thought I would try one myself. It hadn’t been in long when the first bite came. It looked like a chub bite and I missed it. I missed the second one as well but third time lucky (sounds a familiar story) I connected. Yes it was definitely a chub as it immediately buried itself in the marginal weed. I walked down to meet it and to pull directly from above rather than wrench it through the weed and soon I was netting what should have easily been a 5lb plus chub but this too was rather empty and spawned out. I did weigh it and it was an ounce short of the 5lb mark.

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Back to the gin clear river


Ron followed his first fish up with an 8lb fish and it looked like the one I had caught on the first day so possibly there aren’t a lot of fish in the stretch? It is a section I have not fished before but I’m enjoying getting to know.

Well, we are half way through the first week and already I have fitted plenty of trips in but haven’t actually fished a lot of hours. I’m enjoying this, getting a few jobs done and still managing to get the rods out.

Friday 21st June 2013

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My river rod rest heads I had made by Custom Angling Solutions

Here I am again Friday evening after work whilst most of the nation is getting ready for a night out on the town I have my tweed cap on and sat down the river! There had been a lot of rain last night and I really didn’t fancy a soaking just for a couple of hours angling so caught up with a few other things instead. The water has a nice coloured tinge to it when with a little extra flow. Ron is here again and struck first blood with another 8lb plus fish on the Absolute Seafood. I missed a chub type bite but other than that my rod tips simply swayed in the flow.

Diary entry…
“9.20pm and the sky is very dark and foreboding. It might be the longest day of the year but the cloud cover is shortening it considerably. The atmosphere is electric, the light is strange, very dark and I can’t buy a bite yet it feels like one should come at any moment.
I may end up wet here, the umbrella is in the car. I had better sign off and cover everything up”.

Ron wandered up, he had packed away before dark to beat the rain when suddenly my rod slammed around in the rests and held there. Seconds after hooking this fish I said to Ron, it feels a really good one.


Hi S BW in action

I knew it was a big fish straight away

He shot a few pictures off of me playing the fish and when it held its ground slightly upstream of me I knew it was going to definitely be a good fish. Eventually it was looking ready for the net and soon I had it in there. 

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12lb 1oz rounded the first five days off beautifully

During the last light of the longest day of the year I was looking at my scales telling me this latest barbel was 12lb 1oz.

So there you have it, the first five days of the river season saw me seemingly out a lot but in reality I had only fished a few hours but fished as effectively as I could. I’m liking this new style I am pursuing, short sharp sessions keeping my finger on the pulse and not wasting valuable time and indeed Land Rover fuel money travelling long distances. I can see me doing a lot more of this, re-exploring my local patch.

Until next time, best fishes to all.
Shaun Harrison


About the Author: Shaun Harrison

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Quest Baits boss Shaun Harrison has put over 40 years of experience into developing his range of carp baits ” This bait range is the culmination of the bait knowledge I’ve gained throughout my carp fishing career, a journey which started in the 1970’s. It has truly been a long and winding road – frustrating at times, fascinating and rewarding at others….. Our range you’ll only find proven baits, the ones I use myself 

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