CHRIS THOMSON knew that flood conditions would be perfect for catching a big barbel, and his hunch proved right, as he landed this 19 lb 4 oz giant.

The 65-year-old groundworker landed the giant Hampshire Avon barbel from a club stretch near Ringwood.

He believes it is the same fish that Pete Reading caught slightly heavier last year.

Fareham, Hampshire-based Chris explained: “I arrived at the river mid-afternoon, and the banks were empty, which surprised me, as conditions were perfect.

“It was mild, the water temperature had been rising and there was colour in the river.

“I waded through a flooded bank and found a swim with a small area of slackish water with good depth.

“I felt confident, as I knew that these conditions would encourage barbel to feed.

“I settled into a small island of grass, lowered in my rig a metre from the edge, then sat back, enjoying the luxury of having warm feet and dry tackle.

“At around 6pm, the rod tore off. As soon as I tightened into it, I knew I had hooked something large. It shot off across the river and proceeded to motor upstream.

“After a few surges, I managed to get the fish under the rod top, and then it plodded up and down for about five minutes.

“Each time I went to net it, it powered off, causing my legs to go into ‘wobble mode’. Eventually she tired and I managed to get her into the net.”

Avon barbel pulls scales past 19 lb

Chris continued: “I switched on my headtorch and was gobsmacked at what I was looking at.

“She was immense across the shoulders, and I knew she was something special when I lifted her out of the water.

“My previous PB was 17 lb 9 oz, but I knew she was bigger. Once the scales went past 19 lb, I was a shaking mess.

“I finally managed to hold her steady enough for the needle of the scales to settle on 19 lb 4 oz.

“Another angler was nearby, and he kindly waded down and took some photos.

“When we looked at her on the mat, we recognised her as being the same fish that Pete Reading caught last season.

“After taking some photos, I rested her in my net, waiting until she was strong enough to power off.

“I then reflected on my amazing session on a dark, flooded river.

“This catch made the gruelling winter worthwhile. It had been such a tough one, as the Avon had been over its banks for weeks.

“I had to spend many sessions in my waders in freezing water with nowhere to put any gear, apart from a fence ten metres away from the water.

“I even had to stand up for six hours at a time, as the level was too deep for my chair,” added Chris.

His winning Avon barbel tactics were a home-made HNV boilie on a size 6 hook to a 15 lb Amnesia nylon hook link and 12 lb main line.

The British barbel record now stands at 21 lb 2 oz after a giant fish was officially ratified late in 2019.

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