Colin's Fishing Scrapbook

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Great Ouse, Hemingford Grey, Cambs

Chuck Nunn and I fished here all through the 1970s together. We caught pike, chub, roach, bream, tench, eels, barbel, a sea-trout and a flounder!

Chuck had fished here since his teens with Richard Walker, Fred Taylor and Ian Howcroft, hoping to catch Barbel

In 1974, or maybe 1976 (a drought year), I hooked a fish in the Hemingford Grey sluice gate and played it on light tackle for two and a half hours. It broke away when it decided to leave the sluice gate. I went back with heavier tackle and 6lb line, and over the next four weeks caught Barbel weighing 5 lbs, 5 1/2 lbs, 8 1/2 lbs, 9 1/2 lbs.

At that time, no Barbel had been caught in living memory from this stretch of the Great Ouse, although occasional fish were reported downstream at St. Ives every few years (* see retrospective footnote below)

After catching the first Barbel, Mr Dynes told me of Sturgeon caught at the same place around the turn of the century. He showed us the smaller fish (stuffed) which was 6 1/2 ft long, and a picture of the larger fish on sale in St. Ives market. It measured 8 1/2 feet. The Sturgeon were caught with a punt and sledge-hammer after being seen in the mill pool.

Retrospective Footnote written 3 Jan 2013:
I believe I wrote this page some time in the late 1990s as a way of remembering and sharing the experience of fishing at Hemingford Grey - which was truly wonderful.  It reflected my memories at that time and the statement that no Barbel had been caught at Hemingford Grey in living memory was to the best of my belief true,  as told to me by Mr Dines, the landowner.

A couple of years ago I received what looked like a crank email purporting to be from Ian Howcroft requiring me to remove this claim and threatening further action. It was so outrageous that I dismissed it as nonsense.  I've recently received further rude and abusive emails that appear to be genuine from Mr Howcroft, making all kinds of inaccurate assertions, and threatening me with further action (as if I care).  He also stated that he had to restore his credibility (not sure if I care about that either) and that I was insulting the memory of the late Richard Walker (which I do care about).

It seems that Ian Howcroft is some kind of angling writer (which I don't recall knowing) and in his most recent email he attaches a couple of pages from a book he wrote in 1967 which documented that he and Chuck caught three Barbel at Hemingford Grey in 1963/1964. Therefore he, Ian Howcroft, was the first person to catch a Barbel there in living memory.  I have no reason to dispute this, although it's a shame he didn't include any photographs of the fish.  He claims it was witnessed by Mr & Mrs Dines - a couple I regarded as friends, and if they witnessed it I'm sure it must have been true.  I simply can't account for Mr Dines' recollection 12 years later that he had never known of a Barbel caught there and I doubt we'll ever know this reason for this.

I met Mr Howcroft a few times in the 1960s and 1970s and recall that he turned up at Hemingford Grey after I had started to catch Barbel there, and I didn't warm to him at the time.  I fail to see how anything in this page could be construed as an insult to the memory of the late Richard Walker - a man I remember with great pleasure and regard as something of a hero.

So Mr Howcroft, I happily award you the title of the first catcher of Barbel at Hemingford Grey in living memory. Now will you kindly b****r off and leave me in peace. Any further emails from you will appropriately go into my spam folder.

Below: one of the smaller Barbel - the first one caught? By reference to the rod handle, it was 21-22 inches long

The same fish.

All four fish put up a lengthy fight, and only one was caught on each day. It was noticeable that the other fish stopped feeding for some time before the Barbel struck.

Below: this Barbel is estimated to be 24 inches long, and is either the 5 lb or 5 1/2 lb fish

Below: probably the third Barbel at 8 1/2 lbs, or maybe the fourth at 9 1/2 lbs.

Left: The 9 1/2 lb Barbel.

By comparing it to the handle of my carp rod (which is 24 inches), the fish is estimated to be 30 inches long.

This was the largest of the eight Barbel that were caught that year.


Arlesey Lake, Beds

Below left: I don't remember catching this Common Carp at all.

Below right: I do remember catching this 21 lb Mirror Carp, which put up a glorious fight.

Henlow, Beds

By then, I'm fishing with Tim, who is about 5 years old in this picture.

This pit contained a lot of tench and this one was about 2-3 lbs.

The pit was silting up with washings from a nearby gravel plant, and became unfishable soon afterwards.


Blunham, Beds

Another picture with Tim. This is around 1979-1980. Blunham lake contained a lot of small carp (and a few big ones) and was a joy to fish - unless the wind came from the Leppards factory nearby.

Below left: This looks like a double-figure Mirror Carp.

Below right: a smaller Mirror Carp.

River Kennet, Theale, Berks.

In June 2000, I started fishing again, after a break of about 16 years. By then we lived near the Kennet and I set out to catch more Barbel.

The first two outings produced chub up to 4 1/2 lbs - not bad, but frustrating as the barbel were there.

On 4th July, I caught 5 Barbel, starting with the one shown below. It weighed in at 5 1/2 lbs. the others weighed 2 3/4 lbs, 3 lbs, 3 3/4 lbs and 4 3/4 lbs.

Over the next few days, I caught another 4 Barbel ( 3 at 4 lbs and one at 5 3/4 lbs), then on 13th July I caught 3 chub and four Barbel.

The biggest were 5 3/4 lbs and 8 3/4 lbs, and are shown below. Compare the picture on the right with the picture of the biggest fish from 1976. The rod handle below is my avon rod and the handle measures 24 inches, so the larger fish is 28-29 inches long. It seems more full-bodied than the Ouse Barbel.

By August 3rd I had caught 20 Barbel and 23 Chub. Some days the Barbel seemed elusive and only Chub appeared, whilst other days produced 4 or more fish - usually with a couple lost. In addition to the Barbel and Chub, I caught a Crayfish (the red variety) on 28th July.

The river fined down considerably over the first few weeks of the season, and snags seemed to appear from nowhere. The fish seemed to now where to find them! The resident birdlife (Kingfishers, Heron, Grey Wagtails, etc) kept it interesting, and a visit from the gypsies added some excitement.

This is a 5 1/2 lb Barbel and 3 1/4 lb Chub on 28th July.

The excellent fishing continued, and these Barbel (5lb 14oz and 5lb 0oz) were caught on 24th August. My notes say the 5lb fish measured 25 inches.

I caught four Barbel on this outing - the others weighed 5lb and 3lb.

These two fish were caught on 29th August and 1st September 2000. They weighed 4lb 14oz and 6lb. Many smaller fish were caught, including several chub and bream.

The biggest fish of the season - an 11lb fish (right) caught on 11th September.

This was caught on Spam, just as light faded in the evening. It was landed in pitch darkness after a long fight.

This is a 6lb 8oz Barbel caught on 28th September just above the wier.

The second biggest fish of the 2000 season. A 10lb 8oz fish (right) caught on 19th October.

It was caught in the same spot as the 11lb fish on the same bait (spam), and both were caught as light faded in the evening.

This long thin river pike was caught on spam in really fast current on 26th October 2000.

It is over 30 inches long - much longer than a lake pike might be of the same weight.

The 2001 season started off really well with this 10lb 10oz Barbel as the first fish on my first outing on 19th June 2001.

I also caught an 8lb 8oz and 8lb 2oz Barbel the same day!

5th August 2003

A 7lb 10 oz Barbel

5th August 2003

A 4lb 13 oz Chub

7th August 2003

A 6lb 4 oz Barbel

7th August 2003

An 8lb 8oz Barbel

14th August 2003

A 8lb 0oz Barbel

21st August 2003

A 9lb 2oz Barbel

23rd August 2003

A 6lb 8oz Barbel

23rd August 2003

A mink appeared and made several visits

The mink trap is just to the right of the picture

23rd August 2003

The river

25th September 2003

Nearly sunset

25th September 2003

Just at packing-up time. A 17lb Mirror Carp, landed in the dark.


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