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Reflections and observations on the first six weeks of my 2019 river season!

Posted by Pat Gillett on 29 October 2019 |

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We are now just over 3 months into the 2019 river season and I have only just started my barbel fishing. For one reason or another, I had hardly wet a line for over 3 months (apart from the very odd float fishing trip), so was looking forward to getting out and having a go. Although reading the various forums (such has Barbel Adventures and BFW) concerning the Upper Trent (they were hardly inspiring), as it would appear in recent seasons most anglers are blanking more often than not. Looking at the size of the barbel on the Upper Trent (average 9lb+), I personally believe (that with virtually no small fish coming through, plus the increase in predation), we may have as little has 3 years before the Upper river becomes very much like the Dove and there are next to no barbel there (it will be a great chub river though).

           It always makes me smile looking at the various social media forums and Angling press concerning the Trent, the catches from the Middle and Tidal Trent can be 'ridiculous' (such things as 8 doubles or more in a night etc), leading people to think the whole of the river is one big barbel swim!

             This really is not the case, the Upper Trent may as well be a different river as it is nothing like the middle, with large area's that only hold the odd fish. I know of many an experienced angler that have had plenty of blanks on the Upper Trent and Dove, that have then had a go on the Middle or Tidal Trent and ended up 'bagging up' with 10 plus fish in a session. Personally if the fishing was such that you are almost always guaranteed to catch, I would soon get bored, after 45 years as an angler, it's more about the surroundings, the solitude and the sense of mystery that low stocked venues like the Upper Trent still have to offer. I do feel though that the current situation with some of the huge catches of barbel, from places like Collingham really do give a false impression as to the barbel fishing across the rest of the country.

         Anyway enough of my ramblings!

12th September 2019 – Upper Trent

I started fishing at about 4.30 pm on what was a very muggy afternoon. The downstream rod was fishing on the Rahja Spice and the Up-stream rod on the Questrami (a combination that has proved very successful for me in recent seasons). After about an hour the feeder on upstream rod was followed in on the retrieve by a large pike, which looked to me to be 20lb+, it came right in the side , so that its 'nose was almost touching the bank', it was a big fish that was really broad across the back.

Everything was very quiet and there were no indications at all on the rod tips, until around 7.45pm when the downstream rod produced a little 'tap-tap', sort of a bite, which saw a decent chub hooked. I had got the chub to within about a rod length of the bank, when all of a sudden it felt a whole lot bigger. Then all hell broke loose on the surface and it was obvious that a pike had grabbed it. After much argy bargy with the pike refusing to let go and me having a right struggle trying to get both fish into my barbel net (in the half light), I finally had both fish on the bank. The pike was empty, but still went just over 19lbs and its intended dinner (the chub), weighed 5 lb 5 oz, quite a mouthful! This was a real surprise as I had not seen a pike in this area before and the Upper Trent is not really known for them. Looking at the pike, I am not 100% sure it was the one that followed the feeder in as it looked quite thin in comparison, so definitely food for thought for later in the year.


The pike and what it thought was its dinner!

There were no more indications until around 10.20 pm when a barbel of 10 lb 9 oz put in an appearance after a really spirited fight. Both the barbel and the chub came to the ever faithful Quest Baits Rahja Spice.


10 lb 9 oz

Three fish of different species for 36 lb that is what I love about the Upper Trent, you really never know what you are going to catch!

15th September 2019 – Upper Trent

Buoyed on by the success of the first trip, I returned a few days later and this time I was joined by my brother David for his first attempt at catching an Upper Trent Barbel. The river was still slightly below normal level and running very clear.

            He spent the first couple of hours feeder fishing worms for perch and caught a few lovely looking fish with really bright vivid colours, but nothing bigger than about 12 oz. This was packed away at around 7.30 pm, from which time we took it in turns with my 2 barbel rods. Packed up at 11.30 pm but once again the 4 hours were quite productive. I had a chub of around 4lbs and a barbel of 9 lb 4 oz, with David producing the highlight of the evening with a lovely conditioned barbel of 12 lb 13 oz at around 10.15 pm, which gave him a superb battle. He was well pleased with that and so was I. First barbel off the Upper Trent, on his first evening, first double and beating his old P.B. by over 3 lb! For a lad that doesn't do much fishing, he has caught some big fish. He must have a good guide! LOL.


David's new PB

It started raining at around 8 pm and absolutely chucked it down for the rest of the time we were there and somebody had forgotten their brolly, meaning that two 6ft plus blokes were contorted under my little 45” brolly, no wonder we were soaked when we packed up!

The chub and barbel once again coming to the Quest Baits Rahja Spice.

17th September 2019 – Upper Trent

After the first 2 evening trips, I was keen to get back on the river, hoping that the heavy rain on Sunday, may have put some colour in the water. This was not the case, as although the level had come up by a couple of inches, it was still crystal clear. Add to that the bright sunshine, and then big bright full moon and crystal clear skies and conditions really were not great for barbel fishing!

I packed up at 11 pm by which time the temperature had dipped by a good 10 deg. C. Two bites produced a barbel of around 6 lb and a lost fish to a hook pull. This one felt a similar sort of size to 6 lb’er. This is the smallest barbel I have caught from the Upper Trent for a few years, we really could do with a few more of this size coming through. So not the most memorable of sessions, but I was glad just to get a couple of bites in those conditions, Rahja Spice being the successful bait yet again.

20th September 2019 – Upper Trent

          Conditions were really poor with bright sunshine, a low clear river and what would obviously be a clear and cool evening, but I decided to have a bash anyway. Arriving at the same stretch at around 3.45 pm, I was surprised to see 2 anglers bivvied up just below the area I had been catching from (I fished this stretch 14 times last season and apart from a mate, I only saw one other angler!). I left the 2 guys to it and headed off for a good walk downstream. The area I ended up in is much better when there is another foot or so of water on, but it usually contains a lot of chub which can provide some sport if the barbel aren't having it (especially in these conditions).

The evening proved much as I thought it would, with just the one chub of around 3 lb finding itself on the bank, before I packed up at 11pm. There were a lot of chub rolling and I had lots of knocks, but even they weren't feeding properly in the present conditions.


Well this blog was mean't to cover my first 2 months of the season on the Upper Trent, but i have been unable to wet a line on there since my last diary entry, a nasty bout of 'man flu' (always the worst lol) laid me low and added to that, the fact that the Upper River has been way too high to fish, it has been a frustrating time, especially as I had found some fish so quickly!
I have years of experience of flood water fishing, but have found that on the Upper Trent anything above a level of around 1.8 m and it is just not worth it. It has been up to 3.5 m during this period. Here's hoping for better conditions soon.

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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