August Diary – A double figure barbel at last!August 28, 2013
Well my August diary kicks off with the first session on a new river, the Oise on the last day of July. I’d previously met a French barbel angler (a very rare beast) and he’d spoken about the non navigable part of the River Oise, a tributary of the Seine. The sector we were interested in was to the East of Compiègne.
We arrived at the first peg around 1pm… the river had about 40 to 50 cm of extra water which is not a bad thing. The peg was just under a bridge and was, to be honest too tight for two anglers. I fished the upstream part and cast out a couple of feeders. After about 15 minutes I had a small chub of around 2lb 8oz. All remained quiet for an hour or so as we chatted.. my newly found fishing buddy then had a small bream and just as he was landing it I had a bite and landed my first Oise barbel of 4lb 09oz. Not a monster but a target fish from a new river.
After a couple more hours and with no further action we moved on to another swim about 10 miles downstream.
This peg was wider and on a bend. A peg I much preferred to the tight bridge swim. I had the downstream side this time and cast out one rod while I tied a new hooklink for the second. As I was doing so the cast rod tore off at great speed, I really would have expected a big fish. But the result was a second barbel of just under 3lb.
I managed to get my two rods sorted and just as I cast the second rod in, I had a take on the drop, which resulted in a second barbel from the swim of 4lb 1oz…
I then got a serious of fast chub plucks on the rods, the odd one even spinning the baitrunner… finally one took it for real and turned out to be the best barbel of the day at 4lb 8oz. I had a final small chub before calling it a day.
The sector really looks like the Aisne that runs behind the lakes. Today I only had small fish but there are apparently some better ones present. The barbel were pretty skinny, so may well have not long spawned. All bites came to the Quest Absolute Seafood either on its own or as a cocktail with a 16mm halibut pellet.
I decided on a second trip to the non navigable Oise. I set out with the aim of scouting a few new swims. I knew I had the swim from the last trip if all else failed. I soon realized that the Oise in it wild stretches, is just as inaccessible as the Aisne, a really frustrating set of circumstances.
After trying a couple of areas with no luck I made my way back to the peg from the last trip. In the interim my mate had fished it again and banked 11 barbel to nearly double figures; so I was hopeful.
I set up around 4pm, as a young girl from the village threw sticks in the water for her dog. As it was quite a big Staff, I didn’t say anything but “Bonjour”. She had no objection to me fishing so I cast out two rods, avoiding the large dog. To my surprise she sat and chatted for about 30 minutes before continuing her dog walk.
While we were chatting the first barbel picked up a double seafood, again only a small fish of 4lb 6oz. The bream then moved in and I had several in the 2lb to 3lb bracket.
All remained quiet for a while until my mate Christian turned up to say “hello” accompanied by another angler, Joel.
As we chatted I had a 3lb plus chub and another small barbel of just under 5lb. I decided to try a big bait, an 18mm pellet, to see if that made any difference, and soon after casting I had a fast take. The fish fought well but was once again a small fish of around 3lb. I fished on till dark but only a solitary chub and a couple of bream graced my net.
I was a little disappointed as Christian had assured me there were a few bigger fish there in this stretch, but I was unable to connect with them.
The next few short sessions were on the river behind my lakes but only saw me get a couple of small chub, despite a bit of prebaiting.
The next planned trip was to the Meuse, a sector that had previously produced a couple of doubles. I arrived at the river around 8.30am, the swims looked inviting.. a barrage stood to my right and a lock about 200m ahead on the far bank. A navigable stretch then, so the feature were a lot less obvious. But the boats passed far off to the far bank, so were of no problem at all.
Feeders were cast out and I set about the task of making a brew. After about 30 minutes I had a good tap on the rod tip that warranted a strike and resulted in a 3lb 8oz chub.
After a further two hours I’d only had a couple of bream of 3lb & 4lb but no sign of a big fish… So around midday I decided to try the stretch in the town where I’d had the 9lb fish on a previous trip to the Meuse with Yannick.
An hour later and I was set up in the swim, with a group of local kids bombarding me with questions and fishing right under my lines. Then the sky started to darken and the sun disappeared and a few drops of rain started to fall.
I put up the brolly, thinking it would just be a shower. For the best part of an hour the heavens opened and one almighty storm broke over head. Torrents gushed down the river banks and it was all I could do to hold the brolly and stay almost dry.
The deluge finally abated but the torrents continued to pour into the river. I them realised that the closest torrent was in fact the sewers that had over flowed. A vile smell and bundles of pink loo paper started to pop up in front of me.
I reeled in a beat a hasty retreat from the swim that had quickly turned into an open sewer. But I guess that is why it’s a good peg. Fish must find the regular influx of organic matter attractive. Well I certainly didn’t!! …
I skirted round the town to a sector I’d seen on Google Earth, and found a really lovely looking stretch of river. Set in the steep hills of the Ardennes and away from the bustle of the town pegs it really is a fabulous looking part of the river. I gave it a go till around 8.30pm but only managed a trio of chub all like peas in a pod at 3lb 8oz each.
Info had filtered through the grape vine that my mate had had a good double from the original Meuse swim I had fished on my previous trip.. So this time I was determined that even if I blanked I was going to sit it out and hope for a big one.
As usual, due to the distance of around 100kms I planned on a long day at the river. Again I arrived at around 8.30am. There was a fair amount of activity as I cast out my feeders baited with 2 Absolute Seafood boilies on one rod and the other with a Crab/pellet cocktail that had been working well for me.
As usual the first fish was a bream of just over 3lb. I continued to recast my feeders full of pellets every 30 minutes or so in order to build up a decent baited area and scent trail which hopefully would draw in the barbel.
My second bite saw me land and absolutely clonking Ide; the second of the species I’d ever caught, but this one pulled the scales down to 5lb 14oz. Unfortunately it had at some point fallen foul of a carp angler as its mouth was quite mutilated by hook damage, and bleeding badly. I got it back in the water right away, not too optimistic of its chances of survival, but after lying still for a few minutes it did swim slowly off. I hope not to die. Pity I couldn’t get a photo as it was a real monster for the species.
Things remained quiet for a while, only a roach/bream hybrid of 3lb interrupting my book.
Around 3.15pm, just as I was loading the feeder on my right hand rod the baitrunner screamed on the left, that was still fishing. I struck and felt a heavy resistance that plodded around in the deep water. At first I thought it might be a carp, but as it came towards me it started to feel decidedly barbely. A few lunges, which had the clutch protesting and a long deep barbel rolled into the net.
I lifted it on the unhooking mat and it looked huge… I knew then that I’d finally cracked it, my first French double figure barbel. The scales confirmed it at 10lb 11oz. A new PB.. I was delighted.
I carried on till almost dark, in the hope of another fish, but only the now obligatory 3lb 8oz chub came to my lines before I loaded the car for the long drive home.
I once again decided to have a go on the non navigable part of the Oise, looking at a few areas that I’d been told about by Christian. He’d had a few small barbel and chub and lost a good fish the previous week.
The first swim looked great on the water… a bend with some far bank snags and shallows to the right. However the bank was very steep, and despite the flat areas the size of a level chair that had been dug out, it was very awkward. Still I gave it a go, but saw very little in the way of fishy activity. Only one timid bite resulted in a tiny chub of around 1lb 8oz, so after three hours fishing I decided to move to a different swim.
I set off to check out a few other areas I’d spotted using Google Earth again. The first village was in the middle of setting up its annual Fun Fair, so all access was blocked…
The next village and the main track to the river was blocked by a padlocked barrier. Rights of way in France still remain theoretical.
Fed up and frustrated to once again that I’d failed to find a decent swim or access to the river, I drove the 20 miles into Compiègne to fish the well known “Pompiers” stretch.
It had had a good reputation for decent barbel for a while, so I was hopeful of a good fish. The stretch then is in the middle of a large town, but banks are fairly angler friendly, grassy and wide. It’s just the large boulders piled along the banks to avoid erosion from boat traffic, that makes landing fish a bit hairy at times.
I cast out to the centre of the river, as I’d been advised that the barbel mostly hold up in the navigation channel. I guess as it is regularly stirred up by the numerous river barges that ply up and down each day. A couple of locals confirmed that…. “this is a good spot, and that the average is in the 6lb to 9lb bracket, with some doubles…. although that no one is catching anything at present….” Hence the lack of anglers on the stretch I guess. Anyway I decided that I might as well persevere.
I’d also been warned about the numerous bream on the sector, but after two hours without the slightest sign of a slab, I was reassured. I’d started out with double hook baits, but as the bites weren’t coming I dropped back to single Seafood boilie on one rod and single 16mm pellet on the other.
The rod top bounced a few times without developing; when around 5pm, while I was absorbed by Frederick Forsyth, the reel on the pellet rod screamed. I hit a very hard fighting fish that went like the clappers. As I got it into the edge landing it was as difficult as I’d anticipated with the large boulders. Anyway, it was mine and I heaved it up onto the grass, as a group of dog walkers and passers-by gathered. (It reminded me of my day as a boy on Llandrindod Wells lake.)
On the scales it went round to 7lb 15oz… Not bad at all. One of the onlookers did me a couple of pictures that were ok and saved setting up a tripod.
I planned to stay till around 8.30pm.. and just when I was starting to pack up the same rod was away again. I fought a heavy fish that came in a similar way to the first, so logically it was in the same bracket. Unfortunately as I got it in front of me and had a first glimpse of it, the hook pulled. Now this I’ve found is a fairly rare occurrence with barbel… but happens. I’d changed to a nylon hook link which might explain the pull…
After getting close to an 8lb fish & losing another, on the last trip, I was keen to try the same swim again. I felt I didn’t get the best from it before.
Once again I was at the river by 8.30am… As I set up I noticed a couple of other anglers further down river who looked to be feeder fishing too.
As I was setting up one of them wandered down to chat.. It turned out he’d recognized me from the photos I’d posted on a French fishing forum Pêche Maniac.
Both he and the other angler, a forum member too, were from Paris, and fished the river Seine near where I used to live.. So after we’d said our “Hello’s” we got down to the fishing.
I’d decided to modify my technique a bit this time, as I felt that due to the slow current at the present time, my feeder was taking too long to empty and not sending enough smell down with the current. I’d bought a bag of tuna and salmon method mix which I planned to use with mixed pellets. I’d seen Jan Porter do something similar on a recent Youtube video.
Hook baits this time were the 16mm pellet that had produced the previous fish and The Source boilies. (I’d run out of Quest and not got my new order in yet.)
Around midday one of the locals I’d chatted with on the previous trip arrived and set up not 10m from me. Now the stretch is at least 500m long, and the two forum lads were around 150m metres from me. So there was ample room for him. But no, I guess I was in “His “ swim… anyway he then proceeded to cast over my lines. A quiet but not too angry word in his “shell like” and he recast further downstream.
I was beginning to think the day was doomed, as to add to this, there was extremely heavy boat traffic on this day. You can’t leave the rods out when the large river barges go through, as they do scrape the bottom. So I was busy reeling in every ten or 15 minutes… which meant I was getting through a lot of bait.
Anyway matey next to me gave up after a couple of fruitless hours and the two Paris lads further down packed up too. By 2pm I was alone on the sector… Just when the first reel screeched and I was into a fish. As I got it into the net, one of the forum lads who had popped by to say cheerio was stood beside me… He was able to do me a couple of shots of the 6lb 4oz fish.
So from then on it was just me the dog walkers, cyclists, interminable barges and the river…
Around 3pm Christian popped in to see me. We’d been supposed to fish together today but he’d had to taxi his mum to the hospital in Reims. As we were chatting my right hand rod was away again and he was able to net a nice 8lb 7oz fish.
After he left I went back to Forsyth and the world of Cold War espionage; only to be brought out of my book by a screaming reel.
As the dog walkers looked on I netted a third fish of the session at 7lb 1oz. I shot a couple of quick pix and slipped the fish back. At 20h30 I packed up and headed home.
I was well pleased with the day, I’d bagged three decent barbel and met a couple of guys from the fishing forum .. they even invited me down to fish their local stretch of the Seine.. In fact one of them had a double a few nights after we met, so I guess in the next few weeks I’ll travel into to fish in Paris.
So my month of August was pretty good all things considered. The rivers had thrown up fish to double figures with a good few 7’s, 8’s and a 9 too.
Following the Oise trip, I had a couple of afternoons on the local river Aisne, where Christian had told me he’d had a few very nice fish a couple of years back… but I drew a blank on both occasions only getting a slab of nearly 6lb. I think a bit of pre-baiting might be the order of the day.
Anyway as we move into autumn now I’m sure the rivers will start to fish a bit better. I had nearly all my barbel last year after the 15th September, so with 30 fish already under my belt and a far better idea of where to go for the better sized fish, I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll certainly do the odd overnight trip too. I think barbel fever has taken hold!