I had much to mull over on the drive home from South Wales today after my second visit to the awe-inspiring Wye Valley. The kit required, both in terms of larger items like rods and banksticks, as well as the business end of rigs, is the sort of stuff I just wouldn't need to possess for my local fishing in Somerset and Devon. But after spending most of the day on the banks of the Wye and picking the brains of Ben Hennessy - a man with something like a hundred Wye barbel to his name - I have a good idea of what to expect and how I'll prepare for a return visit (hopefully) in the summer.
Barbel are not the most reliable feeders during the winter months, but the recent mild conditions were sufficient to lift Ben's optimism enough for him to persuade me to join him for a full day session. Well, I didn't need too much persuading, really. We shared a swim, employing heavy feeders packed with groundbait and maggots on one rod, and a secondary rod offering a large hookbait such as a lobworm or piece of luncheon meat.
Ben was first to catch after building the downstream area of our shared swim for an hour or so; a 4lb+ barbel offering encouragement to us both. The perfect host, he then insisted that I take the downstream swim in case more were in the area. A little while later I missed a thumping bite, having been too sidetracked nattering. The rods were very quiet then for the remainder of the day and we pondered moving several times. In the end, it was a tough session for most on the river, with catches of 1 or 2 barbel as good as it got for the eight or nine anglers seeking one final rush before the curtain closes on another season. I got something approaching that on two occasions as the secondary rod tore off - once on meat, the other time to a whole lobworm - however, the result was an unintentional, albeit still welcome, chub of around three pounds, on each occasion.
What a stunning setting though.