BY: ANDREW POOLE
WITH: Darren McCann, Iain Nairn, Terry Theobald, Paul Martin, Justin McCann, Rich Frampton, John Monaghan, Mark Dutton, Barry Fisher, Jose Baxter
On 19th July 2013 at around 8.30am in the Pengraig café (along the A40 towards Monmouth) in Herefordshire was the meeting point and the start of a long weekend fishing on the Banks of the fabulous River Wye. This meeting was the initial meet and greet for Darren McCann‘s team of bait testers and consultants for The Hook Bait Company, with many more trips planned for the rest of the season.
After a superb full Breakfast and several large coffees, which were very much in need by all to recover from the long drive to Wye Lea, we were greeted by fellow team mate and specimen consultant Terry Theobald who had kindly arranged the trip on Darren’s behalf. No sooner had the last sip of coffee been swallowed we were following Terry in convoy along the A40 a couple of miles up the road to the venue and the famous stretch at Wye Lea.
With one half of the team set to arrive slightly later that day myself and colleague Jose Baxter, Rich Frampton, John Monaghan, and Paul Martin followed Terry along the Banks. Terry kindly showed us swim by swim the fish holding areas on the private stretch of which was to be ours for the next few days.
A quarter of the way down the stretch I rudely interrupted Terry who was detailing another swim by having a near death experience, missing my footing into a bank cut out! In my eagerness to get along the river bank and get fishing (well that was my story and I was sticking to it!) I very nearly plummeted six feet onto bedrock in the water below. Still clutching onto my fishing gear for dear life, wedged firmly by one leg in the logs that were covering the cut out bank with my full weight crushing down on my nether regions, I was swiftly rescued with a hands up by everyone who was staring down at me crying with laughter Terry chuckling amusingly threatening to sign a Disclaimer before we continued walking the stretch!.With a slightly bruised leg and ego and glowing red with embarrassment, soon after and in quick succession we all made our swim choices.
Jose and I selected to fish on Terry’s advice in the Middle of the section, in a large double peg upstream from Paul’s peg along a 40 foot tree line on the far bank. Paul selecting a long tree lined swim also with a couple of large open holes to target on his far bank.
Rich decided to fish in a more comfortable swim downstream on the next section to aid him fishing with his centre pins. Both Terry and John up stream of us all, back near the start of the fishery fishing from the boulder groins fishing into the channels mid river in-between the bed rock!.
With Terry’s assurance that we were all in great swims which had seen him do some big bags of Barbel and Chub in the past we needed not another word and with that we were all happy and settled to start our weekends fishing.
The weather was very hot indeed as we settled by midday along the Wye temperatures were hitting the 90s with not a cloud in the sky. Water levels along the river were very low and crystal clear also and coupled with the weed growth that still had not grown back through properly since the major floods of last summer and winter. Conditions were not on our side to say the least and we were going to have to work hard at it to have a few fish that’s for sure.
My peg still however looked mouth watering so I quickly set about carefully pre baiting to a hole on the far bank along the tree line Jose opting to do the same fishing in the hole that was opposite him slightly down stream towards the end of the large tree line opposite us both. Opting to go with a heavy mix of Natural Crave ground bait mixing 2 kilo with a kilo of mixed size feed pellets together with a pint of hemp and Maggots. We began to lace each of our areas in the trees with very hard dense balls of ground bait, baiting slightly up stream to allow for the flow of water. Some hook baits had been prepared a week prior to the trip 16mm elliptical shaped boilie chop baits in Natural Crave flavour had been soaking in The Hook Bait Company’s own unique Salmon oil and these alongside the ground bait were scattered into the swim about thirty or so to start with together with a few 14mm Standard Halibut pellets.
Leaving the swim to rest for an hour we had a short break and had a quick banter with the others along the bank and downed a cold drink or two in the blazing heat to kill some time. Speaking with Paul Martin who had fished the venue previously and who was already busy working and fishing his peg, we watched Paul pushing his haired hook bait into the end on his feeder to aid the swinging of the long three to four feet hook lengths to avoid tangles on the Cast also to stop the hook snagging the far margin trees. This I couldn’t ignore and with his advice used this over the weekends fishing which helped with the long casts I was to make across river into the tree holes.
Back in our swim Jose and I now both had set up our rods selecting to fish a long three and a half feet 10LB fluoro carbon hook link to a size 11 Drennan Barbel specialist hook with a whipped braided knotless knot. Big Drennan swim feeder were the order of the day and mounted on a run ring on 12lb main line with a 4 inch sliding back stop above the feeder, coupled with a homemade back lead to aid line lay.
No sooner had we both cast out to our swims, we could see Paul was bent into a fish and soon had landed a pristine Barbel of around 7lb and was nicely off the mark. Jose and I sat there for the next seven hours bite less in the harsh heat, Mean while downstream Paul could do no wrong and was landing a fish every 40 minutes or so casting with precision every time getting his swim feeder a foot inside a hole on the far bank, making sure if his cast fell short to make another until his feeder was where it needed to be.
It was now around 6pm and Paul had landed around eight or nine Barbel to just over the 7LB mark. At this point I decided to reel in and rest the swim with lines out the water and trickled a little more bait into our areas whilst we broke for dinner. We felt certain we were in the right area; the bank side margin tree cover was too large for the Barbel not to be lying inside. We had seen the odd one spinning inside the cover after all, and felt sure that the evening session could be the best time to encourage the Whiskers to have a feed. It was decided previously by the rest of the bait team to have a few hours away for a bite to eat and a few pints in the nearest local pub, but not wanting to leave the fishing Jose and I stuck it out and after everyone had left around 7.30pm we made another cast back out onto our marks.
About half an hour had past in the swim then all of a sudden my tip arched over in true Barbel form. I struck hard against a solid resistance that was hell bent on getting back inside the tree line from which it came. Several minutes later, after an arm aching battle Jose slipped the net underneath my first river Wye Barbel. As I gazed down at her in the net from up the steep bank I could tell instantly it was a big fish for the River. We rattled off photos and then weighed the Barbel which, revealed that not only was it my first Wye Barbel but uniquely it was a River Wye Double and at 10lb.3oz I was ecstatic and over the moon to say the least.
After returning the fish safely which took a while because the flow was minimal and the Wye Beast had given its all in the fight. Soon I was back out on my spot, swim feeder just inside the hole in the trees and my rod was set for another bite. However I was soon to wind back in as Jose’s tip slammed over seeing him doing battle with his first Wye Barbel. Several minutes later a pristine golden Barbel of around five pound was lying in the net.
Throughout that evening right until around 1.30am the following morning Jose and I managed to land around twelve fish between us and loosing around six fish in the bedrock from cut offs. The best fish that night being the double I had with Jose landing a couple of seven pounders to 7LB.15oz which was a great achievement for our first time fishing on the Wye and best of all we still had a day and a night left to go.
After a broken night’s sleep from the humidity we woke the following morning and set about having a bite for breakfast with a nice cup of coffee. We wandered slowly back up the bank to our swim. It was after 10am now and along the tree line things still looked good. Now we could see a few more Barbel had arrived and we observed them rolling under the trees with the odd chub rolling on the surface. I decided to introduce a bit more bait so around a kilo of our ground bait mix onto our spots with another handful of hook baits were duly deposited. With that the swim was left for a couple of hours to gain the confidence of the fish even more. It was another baking hot day perfect to have a wander along the stretch taking a few prize pictures of this glorious venue and its surroundings and also a chance to catch up with some of the other lads, who had now arrived to see how good their fishing had been. The fishing had indeed been hard and only half the team had managed to bag a few fish but I felt sure through the course of the day a few more Wye beauties would grace our nets.
Back in the swim around one in the afternoon I made a cast back out to my spot in front of the trees and sat there for over an hour bite-less with Jose doing the same. We needed to wait no more and after we both had a chat we decided on trickling the bait into the swim little and often in hourly intervals until making a cast again come half seven in the evening. It seemed clear that we were not going to tempt a bite in the daylight hours until the light started to fade off the water and the air had cooled a little with the baking heat. Paul’s swim however in the downstream peg was still producing the bites during the day fishing a similar peg to us. Paul was able to cast further into the cover inside the tree line as there was a larger opening to which he could place his hook baits and feeder ,right to where the fish were as they did not want to move from the shaded cover. Also back at the start of the fishery John was managing to bag a few prime Barbel in the day light hours from the pillars swim in the deeper oxygenated water in the blistering heat.
Justin McCann had now joined Paul for a chat later that afternoon which was to be for me the highlight of the trip where Paul set up a rod for Justin and coached him into landing his first ever Barbel. It was a great moment indeed and for me summed up what these trips and meet ups are all about, forging bonds and happy memories to be had by all! Well done Justin and nice one Paul for the all the encouragement.
The evening had now arrived and it was about 7.40pm before we began to start fishing the peg again, after introducing a couple more feeders of our ground bait mix onto our areas. In quick succession Jose and I managed to bag four small chub to about 2lb.8oz and yet still not a rattle on the tip from us both by the cagey Barbel until around 9.15pm when the light had all but gone. It was then the first bite finally arrived and my rod violently slammed over with the reel jamming into my rod rest. I bent into the fish and knew from experience it was a nice Barbel as it tried with all its might to gain the tree line cover from which it came. A fifteen minute battle ensued with the fish snagging me in the bedrock for a while in a heart stopping moment before finally I had her in the margin ready for the net. From up the bank gazing down with my head torch I could see another very nice fish rolling in the shallows before Jose finally slipped the net under her. On the unhooking mat she looked very big indeed a lot shorter and wider than the last double and to me looked as though she could have been at least 11lb, but being spawned out she gave her weight to be 9lb.5oz.
I was overwhelmed. Another great fish had graced me from the River Wye and it was only the first Barbel of the night. Soon after two more Barbel came my way in quick succession weighing around 5 and 7 pound. Then Jose’s peg Jumped into life and saw him land his Wye PB of 8lb.9oz with two fish around 5 and 6 pounds and another 5 fish all over 7lb.
It was now around 11pm and still the action had not stopped it was my turn again and over the next two hours I managed to bag several more Barbel from 4 to 7 pounds.
Darren McCann had now finished his session and ended up with a few nice chub to just over four pounds which was very nice indeed. Paul and John had ended quite nicely also with Barbel coming steady throughout the day. Sadly for some team members that didn’t have the amount of cover in their pegs struggled with the Barbel. It was certainly clear that the fish were holding in pockets still along the venue with the heat making them hold up in areas that had the most cover to which they could shade and feel safe.
By now and as you can imagine with the heat of the day and the hours spent fishing coupled with the Barbel action through the night, Jose and I were now both exhausted. We decided on packing away and by 2am were back at the car half asleep. We were not at all ready for the drive back to London and several strong coffees were downed before we embarked on our journey. All in all it had been a fabulous time on the banks of the famous River Wye, with all its scenic beauty and stunning surroundings, what a unique part of the world we had visited for the weekend’s Barbel fishing. With over forty Barbel banked and several chub to over four pound the team had done very well indeed and another trip along its banks in the near future was set deep in our thoughts. Not forgetting most of the entire team fellow testers and consultants from The Hook Bait Company finally having a chance to meet up and have a laugh, and to test some of the great baits available by the company. With all that and together with new friendships forged, I’m sure there will be another Barbeling adventure just around the corner for us all on the team. A big thank you to Darren along with Terry for making it happen and tight lines to you all!
See you on the bank sometime, somewhere all the best Andrew Poole AKA Whiskers