On my local stretch of river you can choose what kind of water you fish. There are broad shallow pools, there are riffles and reaches where the river twists and turns, where it speeds up or it slows down. And you can find fish in much of this water if you look closely. To the gypsy barbel the deeper pools with reasonable currents offer prime real estate and the shallow sills where the river empties into them can be relied on to produce a few fish which hold in the shallows but, if they are disturbed, that can reverse effortlessly into the relative safety of the deeper water.

The river is carrying some colour at the moment and so the fish are a little easier to approach but more difficult to see. It takes little enough water to hide them. Fourteen inches or so of water is quite enough to hide a fish of even three or four pounds.

I have been fishing a pool close to my home recently. I lost a very heavy fish there about a week ago and have been tempted back to see if I can come across another one.

Yesterday I had a little time and though to join the river at the downstream end of the pool and work my way up. There are often fish holding at the tail of this pool where the flow begins to accelerate and so I wanted to get well downstream before approaching it. This led me to a river crossing across a narrow stretch of steady flows. It is pretty overgrown here and difficult to move. You can´t see the bottom of the river here but it is not deep. I measure depth by the watermark on my shorts as I wade across. The river here is probably little more than knee deep.

Before crossing I spent a few minutes scanning the river and signs of fish began to appear. Downstream a few smudges drifted slowly from one side to side. I drifted the nymph past them but there were no takers. Just before wading across the river to my preferred bank I just pitched the nymph speculatively into the water in front of me. An olive tail emerged and then disappeared again. I drifted the nymph over it. Nothing. And then I tried something that I have been experimenting with – just pitching the nymph into likely water to see if an unseen fish might turn on it. I normally only cast to sighted fish but when the water is coloured a little and provides a little cover the small plop of the nymph landing on the surface can be enough to prompt a fish to investigate and suddenly, out of nowhere, a previously unseen fish appears.

That´s what happened in the narrow flows and after only a couple of casts a yellow flank turned just under the surface and I found myself holding on while a spirited barbel surged upstream. It was quite a tussle but I managed to get him back and beach him on a very narrow stony sill. Then it was a quick photograph and a moment to hold the fish in the current before he flicked his tail and eased his way down into the fourteen inches of river that would make him disappear.



The fish was hooked in the narrow stretch in the centre of the photo and ran upstream to the broken water.


I popped the handle of the rod in front of the fish so I could take a quick snap before he went back.


I´ve tried painting gypsy barbel a few times and I´ve never really got it right. For one thing I can´t quite nail the olive colour of their backs. You can it see it here and appreciate how beautifully these fish merge into the colour of the river bed.