The first of the two Kennet fish-ins organised on the Lower Benyons by John Found was a quite successful affair, with a good few barbel caught and a good time was had by all. Some members had not fished it before, and it was actually only my second visit to the stretch.
It is full of classic barbel swims, but not every swim contains fish all the time, I was told. Some fish it by roving, but the river is big enough to set out to feed up a likely-looking swim and attract them out of the woodwork. Plenty of deep holes and weedy shallows, and lots of overhanging trees and woody debris in the water, and a good spawning site at the top end below the weir, where fast gravelly shallows and plenty of ranunculus can be found.
I had two tiny barbel, one of about six ounces, and another of about a pound, a sign that the barbel are breeding well in recent years. There are some huge fish there as well, with fourteen and fifteen pounders present. They are not immortal, despite what some anglers think, and will eventually die, but good to see small fish ready to replace them.
The eleven pounder I had was a stocky, healthy young fish though, and has a few years in it yet.