Ade Kiddell-September 2018

The last few weeks have flown by, we have been busy here in France and somehow we managed to fit in a week back in England, with a few days fishing thrown in. I can honestly say the fishing out here in France has been record breaking; let me explain.

The barbel fishing on the Meuse is a bit like fishing the River Severn or Wye in the UK 10 years ago when there were loads of barbel, mostly with an average fish in the 4 to 8lb bracket, an odd bigger fish with a double the icing on the cake. I have heard of a few double figure barbel from the Meuse, but we had never had one of our guests land one. That was until a few weeks ago when one of the guests landed a cracking fish at 10.12. We have since had two more doubles, and, looking at images, I am happy to say its looks like three different fish, which is fantastic. With the weather still good, hopefully the barbel fishing will carry on feeding for a few more weeks; as the fish prepare for winter they tend to pack on weight for what could be a long cold spell. The river is still very low and clear at the minute so it's important to adapt to the conditions. I find small baits on longish hook-links work for me, so it's 8-12mm pellets or boilies with a 3 or 4 foot length. By keeping attraction to a maximum and feed to a minimum it's easier to fool wary fish into picking up a bait, so small amounts of free offerings with plenty of added attraction in the form of liquid attractors. My two favourites are Sonubaits Monster Crab and F1 flavours. Monster Crab is an out and out strong fish flavour, which I like for most of my general barbel fishing, but when the water is cold or clear I like the sweetness of the F1. Its creamy caramel flavour is not something you would immediately associate with barbel, but give it a try, you will be surprised just how good it is. The other flavour I highly rate is garlic, next time you are targeting barbel try adding some finely chopped garlic or some garlic salt to your feed mix, barbel absolutely love it, I remember fishing in France a few years ago and catching barbel on hair rig cloves of garlic. The carp fishing has been slow with one or two exceptions, the small carp in the 2 to 8lb bracket have continued to feed and a few guests have managed fish up to high 20s whilst fishing for barbel and a few more have been lost to barbel anglers when big carp have just been too powerful for the tackle being used. I have written in the past about having big carp straighten hooks and snap heavy braid hook-links like cotton. These river carp really are something else, I find myself more and more attracted to trying to outwit them, I plan a little winter campaign to see if I can find a few this winter. A local French lad who has become a good friend has pointed out a few likely carp spots for a winter carp and I intend to bait them and have a few sessions if we get some milder weather this winter.

Good friend and regular visitor Bob Willcockson has had some terrific carp and barbel here this year, Bob is what I call a thinking angler, doesn't settle for what's happening, and, along with his sidekick Dougie, they try to make things happen, but even they couldn't have forseen what would happen to them a few weeks ago.

As always they came well prepared to target both barbel and carp. We had seen a big carp on one of our spots so they decided to target that spot for a couple of nights. It's a spot most people wouldn't even give a second look, away from our house, but on a route we walk often. I regularly drop a bit of bait in on the spot, mashed bread, food waste from the house and a few boilies and pellets if I have any unused left after a session.

After two unsuccessful nights in that swim Bob and Doug had seen enough and were looking for a change of scenery, Tjitske however was out for a walk and saw a huge fish roll over the baited area, this set a quandary for Bob and Doug and almost reluctantly they decided on one more night. I was not amused when at a little after 3 in the morning my phone woke me with a series of messages, “Got a beast in the net” read the first, “61.11” the second, yes that's correct 61.11 not a typo” the third. Half asleep I was dressed and on my way to see them before I got out of bed! Safely in the recovery sling, it looked massive, a check of the weight confirmed within an oz, 61.12 on the second set of scales. Bob had been the lucky one, both him and Doug work as a team and although Bob caught the fish it could have just as easily been Doug shaking with excitement. A 60lb plus carp from a lake is amazing, but from the wilds of a huge river it is the fish of a lifetime, and what a fish; nothing like an overfed lake fish but a long brute of a fish, measuring about 12inches across its back.

After a good rest for both captor and fish we took some pictures and returned the fish to the river, hopefully to continue to grow and maybe give a few more lucky anglers the thrill of the fish of a lifetime. Bob's luck didn't end then, he finished the week with a double figure barbel another absolutely brilliant fish, which just goes to prove that effort equals reward.

A lesson we can all learn is that fishing doesn't have to be complicated, all too often I see reports in the media of very complicated rigs with fancy names, designed by anglers and tackle companies with nothing better to do. I am confident this turns anglers away from our sport. Don't even get me started on rigs that are designed to drop the lead every time you fish. My fishing has always revolved around simple rigs and simple tactics; fishing doesn't have to be complicated to catch fish.

I mentioned earlier we have just come back from a few days in England; along with family duties we did manage a bit of fishing. Targeting barbel on 3 different rivers we had a great few days, first fish was an 11lb and the second well over 14lb not bad for a start, I have always loved the Avon, we also managed a Trent session which was very productive, with some nice barbel, all in all a great trip with some nice fish. With the rivers very low and clear, small baits and minimal feed with maximum attraction along with simple rigs accounted for almost 50 barbel along with some chub and bream. As I write this it's 20 degrees outside with autumn yet to fully arrive, hopefully a good winter for fishing and my quest for a winter river carp will be rewarding. If not I am sure the chub will be hungry. Good luck with your fishing over the next few weeks and as I always say, keep it simple.

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