THE barbel record on one of the country’s most famous specimen fishing rivers was obliterated in the last week of the season with the capture of a staggering 19lb 4oz fish.
Taken from King’s Weir Fishery on Hertfordshire’s River Lea, it fell to 73-year-old fishery bailiff and lifelong barbel angler Ray Kent.
With the river fining down after floods, Ray introduced a few bait droppers of maggots before leaving his swim to settle.
“Most people use boilies, pellets and meat around here, but I like maggots as they’re something a little different nowadays,” Ray said.
“In the swim I fished, I know the barbel are caught just a rodlength out, so this is where I fed – much to the bemusement of some carp anglers who were watching from an adjacent pit, as the peg has loads of inviting snags on the far side!”
After baiting a size 12 hook with a big bunch of maggots, Ray lowered his rig into place, and it wasn’t long before his trusty centrepin reel screeched into life.
“The rod hammered round – I’d say it was bent triple, not double!” said Ray.
“As you can imagine, the fight was brutal from a fish of that size, and to be honest a lot of it is a blur.
“A mate of mine netted the fish, and when he struggled to lift it out, he shouted that it was a monster!"
The barbel was weighed on two sets of scales and was witnessed by five other anglers.
“I was in a state of shock,” Ray added, “but that’s what fishing is all about – the unexpected.”