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Reflections and observations on the first couple of months of my 2016 river season.

Posted by Pat Gillett on 7 September 2016 |

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We are now just over 2 months into the 2016 river season, so I thought I would do a brief review of my own season so far. I have had 18 trips so far (which is around 110 hours fishing in total), and have fished 8 different stretches on 4 different rivers. Probably 'spreading myself too thin', really, but has I have said before, early season for me is very much about visiting a number of places to try and locate some barbel in the first place. Obviously when you can find a number of fish in a particular area, then it bodes well for later in the season if you want to concentrate on a particular stretch. Even better if you can find them on more than one river, because it gives you so many more options depending on levels etc, for later on.


So far this season I have fished the Dove, Upper Trent, Derwent and the Lower Middle Severn with varying results.  

Not really the 'glorious 16th' for me, I kicked off my season on the 21st with a few hours on a different area, to a stretch I rarely fish on the Derwent. I never had a tap on the rod tips, but I did at least see a barbel roll, so the area may have some promise. After seeing that barbel, I fished the same area a couple of evenings later, again the rods were motionless, but this time I never saw a sign of any fish whatsoever. The water was carrying no colour and it was very noticeable that there was a distinct lack of weed in the river compared to previous years. This would have probably been caused by the very cool spring  and early summer, and is something that because of the lack of cover caused by the lack of weed, can make the fishing very difficult unless you are going to fish all night, or at least into the early hours of the morning. Unless of course the river is carrying some colour.

Final trip of the month was to an area of the Dove, I hadn't fished for a good while, again 6 hours with totally motionless rod tips. So not a very productive start!


The first day of the month, saw me back on the Dove, but again on a different stretch. This particular area has never been what you would call 'prolific', but is a lovely stretch and sees very few anglers. Another evening with no barbel, but it did produce a nice chub catch, with fish of 4 lb 15 oz, 5 lb 2 oz, 5 lb 5 oz and 5 lb 7 oz. All of these falling to the Rahja Spice, chub really do love this bait.

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Part of a good catch of chub.

This trip was followed by an evening on the Upper Trent, again no barbel, but a very surprise capture of a Rainbow trout of around 3 lbs, which took a liking to the Rahja Spice. You just never know what surprises the river is going to throw up! So up to yet, five evenings on three different rivers and not a barbel to be had! Still I have seen this before and with the barbel still spawning (late again), because of the un-spring and summer like weather, I wasn't really surprised.

With the late spawning in mind and with the river carrying some extra water (0.8m), my next evening (July 11th) was spent in an area which had produced a load of barbel for me in similar circumstances a few seasons before. Because of the walk involved I have hardly seen another angler fish here, but it can be very productive. The river was carrying a lovely colour, but after having a 'lead' around, it soon became apparent that an area that usually had an abundance of 'streamer' weed, was now practically devoid of the stuff! So instead of placing the baits where I had caught from before (mid river), I fished to the far bank cover, unsure if the barbel would still be in the area, with the distinct lack of weed. I needn't of worried though, as I started to get knocks and taps more or less straight away. The next six hours went on to produce a chub of around 4 1/2 lb again to the Rahja, along with barbel of 10 lb 7 oz, 10 lb 5 oz and 8 lb. All the barbel coming to the Questrami. You could tell by the 'vents' and general overall condition, that two out of the three barbel had only very recently spawned, they were totally empty and hardly fought at all. These fish also took a very long time to get back safely.


Finally my first barbel of the season and only recently spawned out.

 was back again, 2 days later to the same area, to try and make the most of a river still carrying a nice tinge of colour to it. This evening proved to be even more productive. 5 bites in 6 hours fishing. 4 bites on the Questrami producing barbel of 6 1/2 lbs, 7 1/2 lbs, 10 lb 3 oz and a lovely fish of 12 lb 10 oz

One bite on the Rahja Spice producing a really chunky chub of 5 lb 9 oz. I packed up at 11 pm, well pleased and not another angler in sight! Strangely though as with 2 days before, I never had a bite after it went dark!


Lovely fish of 12lb 10oz

I went back again two days later, but the level had dropped and the colour had run out, so it wasn't to be 'third time', lucky has just the one chub graced the bank, again on the Rahja Spice.

A couple of trips to two more different stretches on the Upper Trent produced a couple of chub, but that was to be it for the month.


First trip of the month was on the 3rd to a stretch of the Derwent which has been really good to me in the past. The river was very low and clear, and again on this stretch, the lack of weed was very pronounced. Wasn't really very confident but just before packing up at 10.45 pm, a nicely conditioned barbel of 9 lb 15 oz put in an appearance. Again on the Questrami.

I then had an encouraging first go at a stretch had never seen before on the Lower Middle Severn. Once again the river was very low, but a brace of barbel of around 6 lb and 8 1/2 lb fell in quick succession at around 9.45 pm. Both these fish again falling to the Questrami.

The following couple of sessions were to be my first successes on the Upper Trent for the season (15th and 17th), when although conditions were far from ideal, with a ridiculously bright full moon, I managed to capture a chub and 2 nice barbel of 12 lb 4 oz and 13 lb 1 oz. The Questrami again being the bait they wanted and the bites coming at 10.55 pm and 10 pm.

It was more like day light!

It was more like day light!


12 lb 4 oz


13 lb 1 oz

I was back to the same stretch the following week and again it proved productive with a chub of 4 lb 15 oz and a barbel of 10 lb 4 oz. Questrami again and the barbel also once again coming at 10 pm. After having three doubles in three trips, I am hoping there may be a good number of barbel here!

Next was on the Dove and on a river which was rising quickly. The first couple of swims I fished proved to be a nightmare, I couldn't hold bottom for 10 minutes (with 6 oz of lead!) because of the amount of weed and leaf debris coming down stream, I tried having the rods right back and 2 oz back leads right under the rod tips, but it made no difference. I moved again to a calmer 'crease' like swim, which although still had loads of debris coming through, I could hold  long enough to have a chance of catching. After a couple of hours in this swim the first barbel came along and after the fight it gave, I couldn't believe the size of it. A 7 lb'er that thought it was twice as big. Then followed quickly by fish of around 6 lb and one of 9 lb 6 oz. Three barbel in an hour, and that was it. Interestingly all these fish came at the 'peak of the rise', something which used to happen a lot on the Lower Severn years a go. The Questrami being successful once more.

Back to the Upper Trent 3 days after the fishing the Dove. This was much easier fishing, after the recent flush through and although the river was still at over 1.4 m, there was very little in the way of debris coming down stream. A really bright sunny afternoon, which saw a sharp temperature drop as soon as the light faded and the heavy dew descended. There was a lot of chub activity on the rods, but by using long hairs i managed to avoid hooking all but a couple of the many taps and wraps on the rod tips. Another nice barbel tripped up on the Questrami at around 8.55 pm, again an excellent scrap (I reckon the Upper Trent barbel are the hardest fighting barbel I have caught). This proved to be a relatively long and lean fish which tipped the scales at exactly 12 lb.


12 lb

Thought there may have been a chance of another before I packed up at 11 pm, but that proved to be the only barbel of the evening. Got a feeling the chub were polishing off, pretty much all the bait I was putting in.

One more evening on the Upper Trent to end the month, no barbel this time, but once again the chub were particularly active. The rods tips were constantly knocking and even using long hairs 4 of them managed to hook themselves, with the biggest being around the 5 lb mark and the two smallest only being around 8 oz. So several year groups in the same shoal. I can see a time in the next ten years or so where the chub will be become the predominant species on the rivers i am fishing.

Conclusions so far...

So the 19 evenings so far have produced 17 barbel (8 doubles) and quite a few chub. Not very productive by Middle Trent or Severn standards, but none of the area's I fish tend to hold many barbel (that's why the average size is high). Reading the various barbel forums and speaking to other anglers, it would appear it has been a real struggle so far on the places I have been, with guys having a dozen or more blanks on the trot. What's this down to? Well I would say, the late spawning, distinct lack of weed (cover) in the river and a dwindling number of barbel have all been major factors in this. So taking that into account, I am more than happy with my results so far and with the nights now drawing in more quickly, hopefully the fishing will improve.

River Derwent – 3 evenings for 1 barbel of 9lb 15oz

Upper Trent – 6 evenings for 4 barbel of 10lb 4oz, 12lb 0oz, 12lb 4oz and 13lb 1oz

River Dove – 7 evenings for 10 barbel with best of 10lb 3oz, 10lb 5oz, 10lb 7oz and 12lb 10oz

River Severn – 2 evenings for 2 barbel to 8 1/2lbs

I only put these stats up (around 110 hours total fishing) because I know people studying barbel numbers (or their decline), are glad of any information they can get. It is nice to see some smaller fish again being caught on the Dove, but although the average size of the barbel so far from the Upper Trent has again been high, the lack of smaller fish, doesn't bode well for the future!

I have had a few correspondence with fellow barbel anglers recently and a couple of questions that were asked, were why I don't concentrate on one stretch and why do I only fish short sessions for barbel? Well I know, I would catch more fish if I stuck to one single river/stretch all the time, just working on the 'law of averages' tells you this, you get to know exactly where they are, so sooner or later you are bound to have some good catches, but you are also going to have a lot of repeat captures, especially if you keep going to the same place season after season and especially on the smaller rivers. Each to their own, but that's not for me, when there are so many different places to explore. Also if I fished through the night (especially early season), or even 48 hour plus sessions as some people do. But river fishing is not about that for me, I like just taking the bare minimum of gear and searching out new and un-fished area's and fishing short sessions (around 6 hours each), where I can concentrate 100 % on what I am doing. I have mentioned it before, but I believe it was Jim Gibbinson, in his book Carp Sense (in the early 90's), that coined the phrase, "catching on my own terms". After being an angler for over 40 years now, I find this phrase coming more and more into my own fishing.

Bait Wise 
I started the season with the Rahja Spice and the Questrami, the Rahja as expected producing plenty of chub, but it became apparent that the Questrami was producing more barbel, so at the moment both rods are now fishing on the Questrami (and it has produced on the 4 rivers, I have fished so far). I believe the Rahja Spice to come into it's own with the barbel later in the year, so I will leave it until around October to change back.

Let's see what the next couple of months brings!


Pat Gillett





About the Author: Pat Gillett

pat gillett

I have been fishing since I was 5 years old & up to about 10 years ago I more or less fished for carp throughout the season. However, more recently I have changed my fishing to give me more variety and I believe more of a challenge. I generally fish for carp from March to October (with perhaps the odd large bream session thrown in) and from October onwards my thoughts will move on to the rivers for mainly barbel, but targeting chub or pike if I feel the conditions are too cold for the barbel. The waters I fish vary from a river which is in parts only a rod length wide to a 170 acre reservoir.

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