A Season on the Thames.......


Jon Callan



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This year I have decided to make a few changes to my fishing, gone is the endless pursuit of numbers and bigger and bigger fish.

Where I was fishing was to become the important factor. Not only for aesthetics, but also to get back to a few virgin fish and peace and quiet away from the pressures of busy fisheries.

I wouldn’t be abandoning the kennet just giving it extended breaks!


I fished the Thames a few years ago seriously and turned up some nice results, but was never what I would call overly successful or consistent, but caught enough to keep the interest levels up. The end results were pretty pitiful, 16 Barbel, culminating in 11 doubles to 11lb 10oz, from what must having been getting on for 70 sessions in 2 years.

I caught some bream though!!!


Instead of giving a flowery account of trips, which I’m no good at.

I’ll keep a diary of sorts updated every couple of months, I’m afraid I won’t be naming and shaming the venues, preferring to re-christen them…


First trip out of the season for Barbel was to be on the Thames…

23/06/04 - 6pm - 3am

Venue – The Prairie

Swim - Railings

Conditions - River running clear, but up a couple of inches with rubbish coming down. Gale force winds.

Caught - 2 Barbel 9lb 1oz and 8lbs, both on Pellets.

5 Chub, 2 Bream and a Tench

Notes: Very pleased to get off the mark, joined for the evening by Neil HD who was very good company and made the long drive for a few hours chatting.

Made a few errors, poor swim choice on reflection. Plenty of room for improvement!


27/06/04 - 6pm - 2am

Venue - The Prairie

Swim – Cabbage patch

Conditions - Slight tinge of colour and couple of inches up.

Showery and windy

Caught - 2 Barbel 9lb 3oz and 9lb 7oz, on pellet

7 Bream and 3 Chub.

Notes: Bream were a nightmare, need to re-think baiting strategy and have a few more options.


30/06/04 - 2pm - 3am

Venue – The Prairie

Swim – Cabbage Patch

Conditions - Blustery showers, running clear, but rising 2” after dark.

Caught - 8lb 4oz Barbel on pellet, 4 Chub to 5lb14oz and 6 Bream.

Notes: Just wasn’t happening, pulled out of a good fish around 10, seemed to kill it after that?

Encouraged by the average size!


01/07/04 - 5pm - 3am

Venue – The Prairie

Swim - One Below and The Pit.

Conditions - Rain arrived after dark, very mild. River risen 4” in total.

Caught - 5 Barbel to 9lb 10oz, all 5 on various pellets.

3 from The Pit and 2 from ‘The One Below’.

9 Chub - 5.07, 5.05, 5.02, 5.00, 4.14, 4 x 2 - 4lbs and 3 Bream.

Notes: Maybe I should take up Chub fishing!

Moved from the one below when a huge shoal of Bream started rolling and picked up 2 at once. Very happy and felling like I’m starting to get to grips with it.


03/05/04 - 5pm - 3am

Venue – New Forest.

Swim – Oak’s

Conditions - Good flow on river, nice colour. Lots of silkweed covering the bottom.

Caught - 7lb Barbel on 21mm Halibut. 5 Bream to blooming big and a 4lb chub.

Notes: Very quiet on the whole, pulled out of a carp. Lovely evening though!


08/07/03 - 5pm - 1am

Venue – The Prairie

Swim - Pit & Cabbage Patch.

Conditions - Heavy Rain, strong winds and thunder and lightening. River up 6”+ and carry good colour and strong pace.

Caught - 5 Barbel to 10lb 10oz all on Pellet.

The 10 came from the Cabbage patch.

Also, caught 4 Chub and a Bream.

Notes: 4 fish early on in daylight, then all went dead. Fancied a rove for half an hour. 25 minutes later…

Oh yes!!! First double from a new venue is always a great feeling. Big old lump of a fish that was well out of condition.

Was a very wild night with the weather!


10/07/04 - 5pm - 12am

Venue – New Forest

Swim – The Oak’s

Conditions - Variable, bright sunshine and Rain. Good flow all across the river.

Caught - 13lb 1oz on 2 pellets over a bed of boilies.

10lb 6oz & 9lb 7oz on 21mm Halibut Pellet (anti Bream bait!).

Also, 4 Bream and Chub.

Notes: The culmination of a dream, very very happy and shared it with a friend (Dick). A very heavy fight and weeded me close in, bit of brute force solved it! Night was capped off when it’s friends put in an appearance. The fish has moved the goal posts and has me daring to think of something a little bigger for Chrsitmas!


13/07/04 - 10pm - 2am

Venue – The Prairie

Swim – Cabbage Patch and Pit

Conditions - Mild

Caught - 9lb 12oz, 8lb 11oz & 7lber from the end on Pellet. 7lber from the pit.

Also, 2 Bream and a Chub.

Notes: Short after work session, must make the effort and do a few more!


15/07/04 - 11pm - 1.45am

Venue – The Prairie

Swim - Pit & Railings

Conditions - River back down to normal level, very muggy evening.

Caught - 2 Barbel to 7ish and a Chub. Barbel both on Pellets.

Notes: Bit slow tonight, being held up leaving work didn’t help, as the 10 – 11pm window seems the most productive.


17/07/04 - 5pm - 1.30am

Venue – Troll Ville

Swim - Lawns

Conditions - River running pretty clear and moderate flow.

Caught - 1 Barbel 9lb 6oz on Pellet from a mid river crease.

Also, 8 Bream to 8ish and a 5lb Chub.

Notes: God I hate bream, the tips didn’t stop still for 2 minutes. Pleased to winkle one out on an otherwise poor evening.


A little break from the Thames and a return to Kennet for a few trips, resulted in some very good fish.

But old father is a calling again…


08/08/04 - 7pm - 3am

Venue – Neverland.

Swim - Dug Out

Conditions - Light flow, very hot and bright.

Caught - 1 Barbel of 9lb 6oz on Pellet.

Notes: Very very quiet, hardly a thing moving. Did have a couple of serious pulls that couldn’t understand how it didn’t hook itself. Checked the hook and the point was turned over, rollocks!

Barbel came shortly before 1am was a speculative cast brought about a speedy response. I will return, the place has an aura about it…


Well the first dozen trips have provided a lot more than I expected and have provided some very valuable information for the coming months.

I’m happy with my fishing again, for the first time in a long time.


I have made some massive errors, but have also made a few very good calls. The 13 surpassed my expectation at such an early point in the season; I’ve caught consistently and haven’t had a Thames blank yet.

But there is plenty of time for that!


Method wise has been pretty simple, either bait dropping a load of pellets down and fishing over the top of it. Or PVA bagging and fishing a huge feeder as means of Bait delivery. Have found that a steady trickle is working better than a large bed of bait.

To try and combat the Bream have tried various tactics, ranging from no feed and single hookers. To large beds of 8 & 14mm pellets and fishing 22mm halibuts over the top. Have found nothing really deters them and don’t have enough bait to feed them off. The Chub I can live with!

The areas of the Thames I have been fishing have a good growth of weed and ‘The Prairie’ has a very healthy growth of cabbages and rannunculus; Making fishing tricky at times and concentrating the Barbel (and Bream) into channels.

Spend most of my time watching the water and on thinking about location.



Here’s hoping the next dozen trips are as fruitful…



Jon Callan August 2004

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© Barbel Fishing World 2004