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Returning To A Midlands River - Stewart Downing

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Returning To A Midlands River - Stewart Downing

After a break of exactly 25 years I decided it was time to head back to an old haunt of mine, where it is fair to say, I only really enjoyed mixed blessings in the dim and now distant past. I used to fish there with a good friend of mine Jon ‘Bod’ Cranswick, and we used to used it as a sort of stop over on our way to fish Sywell reservoir in Northants for its brilliant tench fishing at the time. We had loads of fish between 6 and 9lbs but that first double proved elusive, though its fair to say it was probably the best tench water in the land then.

However, this particular river was, and to an extent, still remains a bit of an enigma, having reached a real high point for both barbel and chub a few years ago now, with the corresponding desertion of anglers from its banks ever since. With the prospect of some serious angling neglect, relative to say 6 years ago, the chance of big barbel, chub and perch could be very possible again. So I felt it was time to give it another look at long last, as I wasn't really able to fish it much in its glory years, choosing to concentrate more on local waters for carp, tench, catfish and roach.

So here we go again - June 15th and I'm on the river once more, staring hard at the features and trying to spot any fish or movement in the massive beds of streamer weed, and decide on any likely looking areas to open the season later at midnight. I met up with a new barbel and chub fan, who I met at a show a couple of years ago, and he showed me a couple of spots that he had caught from the previous year, so I dragged the gear up and settled in to preparing my swim for the big off.

It had been many years since I made a midnight start and I have to say, I really enjoyed the anticipation again, especially as there were just the two of us, and apart from the river being very low and clear, it felt like we were both in with a chance. My mate had a swim full of chub under his feet, and I had spotted one or two lunkers in my length of river. Happy days.

I primed the swim with a few droppers of hemp and corn, and as the sun went down, was full of anticipation, despite no signs of barbel as yet.

I carefully lowered the bait onto the spot at midnight, and sat bolt upright as I had an immediate liner within seconds. Maybe I spooked a fish but either way, I had no action in the night, other than a tiny chublet at first light, and neither had my friend so far amazingly. The chub were still in his swim, but from their behaviour seemed to be very nervy.

I decided a move was in order, onto another spot that I had primed earlier in the evening. Shortly after lugging all the gear upstream, I found myself attached to an nice chub of 5.03lb, following a savage bite that would put any barbel to shame.


I let the swim settle for 20 minutes and then peered down to see if I could spot any fish. Nothing showing, so I swung the bait in slightly further downstream towards some overhanging bushes, and within an hour had what I was certain was a full on barbel bite, only to find myself connected to another big chub. After a great scrap I bowled this one into the net and let it rest for a few minutes while I readied the sling and mat. This one went 5.13lb so I was well chuffed, as both these fish would be easy sixes come the winter. Complex T did the trick this time.


I fished most of the day to no avail, and then as the sun went down, saw a fish gently boil on the surface slightly downstream of my swim. Probably another chub taking a large fly, but either way a welcome sight. Not so welcome as when my tip wrapped round again at just after midnight and this was a real clonker of a chub at 6.03lbs.

Shame I didn't want to wake my mate for another pic, so I settled for some net shots, which never do the fish any justice compared to holding them properly. The fish was certainly a new PB for me for this river, and a definite 7 in the winter.

No other action during the night but 3 quality chub opened my new account here in style, so I returned home happy with my efforts, and content in my choice to return to this venue.

I wonder how Sywell is fishing these days...

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