After a blank first session at the beginning of the season I was keen to make amends and start seeing a bend in the rod, so mindful of successful sessions in Ravensbury Park last Autumn, my destination for the weekend was an easy decision to make. Silver fish first, then as night fell, my attention would move to barbel.

Heading to my favourite swim at the deeper end of the Park, I tackled up with trotting gear and kicked off with running red maggot through the middle channel, complemented with regular handfuls of free offerings. First trot through resulted in a missed bite, the next was a connection into a beautiful, pristine roach of a few ounces. More followed of a similar stamp and suddenly I was into a rhythm – finally I was catching!

One of the reasons I go fishing is to lose myself and take my mind into a calmer, most restful place and most times, even a blank session at the Wandle can help do this, but this was a really enjoyable afternoon. Some swims lend themselves more to this state of mind and I’d definitely include Ravensbury as a favourite place. I particularly like the way that the light plays on the water on this stretch, with the silhouettes of the far bank overhanging trees marking out dark shapes on the water’s surface.

Ten roach in total came to the net, with a final switch to white maggot bringing in a handsome ‘netter’ of a quarter of a pound. With my roach target completed, it was time to move to another swim!

Gathering my kit I wandered further upstream to the pacier swims that I knew held barbel and settling down between some nettles and rushes I set up the leger rod with a decent lump of chopped ham and pork, plopping the bait in a deeper near bank channel just a little downstream.

Amazingly, I had company. The high pitched screeches of bats suddenly arrived as the light levels dipped – proving my hearing is still sharp, I guess.  And as dusk finally fell the tip of the rod became impossible to view, so I dug out my glow stick indicator.

With the sound of road traffic mingling with bats calling, and a cat prowling on the footpath behind me, I was poised like a hawk when the fluorescent indicator curved an arc, the rod tip rattling. Once, twice – I struck, then nothing. Had I wrenched a bait from a barbel’s mouth? Recasting, I didn’t have to wait too long until another positive bite registered. Was this the first barbel? The resistance was stiff, but this was a handsome chub a two and half pound so. A nice start!

The meat was flung out once again and I waited for more action. I mulled over in my mind  a conversation I’d had with another Wandle angler a few swims along. “I’m fishing with bread, you catch everything with bread – chub, roach and barbel.”

I’d thought of trotting with bread for roach while preparing my kit, so I had a bag of fresh sliced white with me, the stuff that ‘bungs you up’ for a week, sticky, tacky and moist.

Why not give it a go? I thought, as the clock’s hand moved closer to midnight. A big pinch pf bread was pinched on. A couple of casts – but nothing. Maybe I should try just a little further downstream?

Seconds after the bait hit the water, the rod hooped over. This felt like a good fish! Keeping low and close to the bottom, I knew this could only be a barbel. Really – on bread? Really? Tussling hard against the current, the fish fought hard, but I levered in the right direction and the fish finally surfaced, my headlight picking out the distinctive whiskers of a barbel!

Weighing it carefully by the fellow angler ‘in the know’ about bread, we read the fish as 8lb 2oz. My second best Wandle barbel.  What a way to end the session! (And also I should add, not a bad session for my fellow Wandeller, who also caught a five pounder on the magic white stuff).

Taking the fish to a fast shallow section, I gently returned it to its Wandle home, holding the fish for a while while it recovered its strength, all the time marvelling at the large pectoral fins and the broad shoulders, before watching it shoot off back into the deeper water, a truly satisfying end to the session.

Time to start putting in that order at the bakery before my next Wandle session, I think…

(Text and pictures courtesy of Jason Hill)

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