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Whose line is it anyway - by Lee Poultney

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Whose line is it anyway?

By Lee Poultney​

I have been an avid Barbel angler for the last seven years or so and enjoy reasonable success on my local rivers: the Severn, Teme and Warwickshire Avon. My approach has always been simple with my belief that one can become obsessed with rigs, hooks, line and the like. I think on many occasions that they tend to pacify the angler rather than the fish.

That said I am always looking to improve the way I fish and am not foolish enough to think that what I do will always continue to catch fish. It is that thought that leads me to a session on the Teme last summer and the effects line had on the fish. It is fair to say that I had not paid much attention to the effects of line until this day. I always fish with a low rod when possible with the belief it keeps the line low to the bed but I had rarely dabbled with back leading.

The summer of 2011 treated the Teme badly. With very little rain for months, it was low and clear and at a standstill in places. Locations that had resulted in Barbel in the past seemed devoid of fish and populations had become very localised. The day in question was bright and sunny, the high banks providing a perfect vantage point to gaze in to the crystal clear water. As usual, several Chub glided in and out of the current whilst a Pike held station behind some streamer weed. Walking upstream, I arrived at shallow run over gravel that deepened slightly before continuing its path downstream. Again Chub could be seen but this time the unmistakeable pectoral fins of a Barbel could be seen. Indeed on further inspection I could pick out at least four fish of average weight. They were active and moving across the gravel to inspect what the current brought their way. After a while I decided to roll some meat across the gravel in an attempt to pick up a take. In the clear water I wa s able to watch the bait bump its way across the swim and in to the deeper hole where the Barbel lay. It looked good, perfect in fact except every fish whether it be Chub or Barbel shied away just as it got close the bait. I decided that the fish were not feeding and after many frustrating attempts I conceded defeat and decided to walk further upstream.

Eventually, I came across another shallow run containing Chub and Barbel. I always love watching fish and it is easy to become transfixed and actually forget about the fishing. Having studied them, it became apparent that they would have a spell on the gravel before moving back into the nearside trees. This cycle continued consistently and once they had disappeared back into the undergrowth I lowered a bait dropper of hemp and pellet in to place. Almost immediately the fish were out and feeding in earnest. The fish again dispersed into the nearside trees and I again lowered some bait in as well as my rig. Watching a fish hover over your bait is one of the joys of angling. No matter how long you have been fishing, the sight of a fish inching closer to your rig sends tingles of anticipation throughout your body. I picked up a fish of a few pounds almost instantly and despite being only a few pounds had me hanging on for dear life as it tried to return to cover. With more bait d eposited it was not long before the fish returned to feed readily. The same rig was lowered but despite there being fish in the swim I could not get another bite. After studying the fish for some time it became apparent that the fish would approach the baited area but only eat offerings that were more than a foot away from my mainline. It was so interesting to watch the effects of my rig and experimenting with the angle of my line. Without my rig in the water they would mop up all the bait however once my bait was lowered into place the fish were definitely aware of its presence. Here I was with a swim full of hungry Chub and Barbel but I could not get a bite. It made me think of all those times when you have walked the bank and been told “It’s dead mate” by fellow anglers. Their swims could have been full of fish hoovering up the loose feed but giving the area around the line a wide berth and giving the impression they were not feeding.

By now I was more interested in observing than fishing. I did place a flying back lead on to my line and it resulted in another average sized Barbel proving to me that with the line less conspicuously placed, the fish were more than happy to take my hookbait. It probably goes some way to explaining why fish feed more confidently in coloured water and as the light fades, they simply are unaware of the line and therefore less cautious.

So although I only managed two Barbel and a Chub I walked back to the car park with food for thought. As a result I really do believe that a low rod makes a difference and will only raise my rod in fast water. I also believe that fishing a slacker line in conjunction with a back lead in clear water or daylight can make a huge difference.

I am sure we have all been in a situation where we have stumbled up on fish and an angler’s instinct makes us cast a bait immediately. However, next time I urge you to put your gear down, sit back and watch; it could just change the way you fish.

Lee Poultney
May 2012
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