Saturday, 2 July 2011
Wandering the Wye/ Barbel on the fly
Britain may be a small island in the grand scheme of things, but sometimes you forget just how fantastically diverse our waters are. The River Wye couldn't be a more grand contrast to my favourite little streams of the Westcountry. It's also home to some phenomenal shoals of chub and barbel. I had been itching to return, in particular to try with a fly rod for the barbel. If anyone could put me on the right trail- or indeed explain the timeless fascination of this great Welsh river- it was Bob James.
Bob has fished here as long as I've been alive- and while modern specimen type tactics work, he's an even bigger fan of more intimate methods. Clear water and a pair of waders make anything possible- trotting, touch legering, free lining or you've guessed it, a fly rod. In fact the early season is ideal for a moving bait or fly, as the barbel are still highly active. What really surprised me was Bob's talk of just how aggressive these fish are- not only will they literally barge chub off a bed of feed, they will actively predate on minnows. Needless to say, with a good dose of loose feed it didn't take long to connect with some solid fish.
With the river looking beautifully sunny and wild, I knew this was going to be as good an opportunity as I'd get to tempt a barbel on a fly rod. The sheer size and pace of such a big river can be a challenge- and I found even heavy patterns needed an extra pinch of tungsten putty to trundle the depths.
But at last, here was a river not hopelessly high or muddy, but dropping and looking bang on! I could see fish moving in knee deep water and doing that classic rolling movement near the bottom. Could this actually be game on for a change? After all my maddening attempts previously, I was praying my luck might finally change.
It was to prove a nerve-wracking afternoon to put it mildly. I had a couple of fish refuse- or simply not see the fly- point blank, and was wondering exactly what it might take. YOu also have trouble with currents, fishing trout style and trying to get the fly well upstream- far better to get close and aim across or even slightly downstream.
Eventually, I managed to guide a heavy Walker's Mayfly nymph into the path of the next fish, literally stumbling over the bottom. This time, the fish slid across to look. The nymph was gone, I struck and everything went solid. Fish on!
When you finally manage to hook one, you might be forgiven for wondering what's going on with such fish. These barbel are downright stubborn fighters- hugging the bottom one moment like an immovable object, powering off the next!
The fight must have lasted a few minutes but felt like longer. Bob came with the net, but each time the fish got closer, it seemed to rage off again.
A barbel on the fly of almost dead on seven pounds is an absolute dream come true! What can I say, other than that I am still in shock!