Mark Woodage 16lb 9oz Barbel

“Grabbing the rod it was obvious I’d hooked the big one and the shakes started to come on..”

Mark Woodage shows persistence can pay off and if you believe in something then stick with it!

He explains “It’s been a strange year for me for various reasons, a delayed house move meant a lot of my time was taken up by this but it was all worth it in the end as I am now only 10 minutes away from my beloved Hampshire Avon.

The grapevine indicated that a few fish had started to get caught. Not to miss the opportunity I got down there as much as I could. However, apart from chub, I suffered numerous blanks and I found it a real struggle. I wasn’t alone though as others were also struggling. I find that when I had long periods of not catching I used to start querying my approach, things like “is my bait ok? Are my rigs okay, can they see my line or hook?” and before you know it, all your confidence has gone and you are beat before you start! Thankfully I have 100% confidence in both rigs and bait which both come to fruition recently.

Things didn’t really click together until a few weeks later, after many weeks of walking and looking at a stretch on the middle reaches of the Avon I was extremely lucky to just get a glimpse of a barbel’s tail tucked up under a mass of weed. Over the course of the next two hours I introduced probably no more than a dozen boilies broken in half. Eventually I had 3 barbel feeding in the crystal clear water right under my feet. So by laying on my stomach for nearly an hour I could watch them feeding and observe the route they were taking.

I was caught out slightly as for no apparent reason 2 of the 3 barbel disappeared leaving just the one, but thankfully it was the big one. As soon as it left the swim I knew from my observation that I had around 3 minutes before it would be back. So as quickly and quietly as possible I dropped in my rig and the trap was set. Sitting well back I waited and waited for what seemed ages. Had they gone? Disappeared, Sussed the rig. No I knew all of that was ok, it just a matter of time I convinced myself. I will never forget what happened over the next 30 minutes. I have never ever had such an explosive bite as my centre pin literally went into melt down, it actually frighten me it was so violent.

Grabbing the rod it was obvious I’d hooked the big one and the shakes started to come on, then my knees started to knock, heart pounding and by this point I am basically a wreck. I kept saying to myself “Just take your time and don’t rush” Thankfully my friend Andy had either heard my knees banging together or seen my rod bent and came over to help just as a potential disaster, was about to happen.

The fish had managed to get into a mass of weed and was stuck solid although we could see the fish we had no way to get it. Just to add to the pressure at this point Andy decided to tell me he felt sure it was a good 14lb fish, possibly more (cheers mate!) By walking downstream and applying as much pressure as possible slowly I managed to move it inch by inch back into open water where it had several more attempts at bolting. However, for the first time I felt I was in control and shortly after I was able to guide it into the waiting net!! I was exhausted, knackered and an emotional wreck. Weighing her on two sets of scales we agreed on 16lb 9oz of solid, Hampshire Avon Gold”