Tops by David Redfearn

Ever since I started fishing for Barbel in 1985, Ray Walton’s name had cropped up on numerous occasion’s, and always stuck in my mind. Whether it was his passion for rolling bait or his record barbel I am not sure, but I would always watch out for his latest catches. Sometimes my circumstances or enthusiasm would change, and Ray would pop up again, even a simple visit to my local tackle shop would see his DVD Barbel jumping from the shelves on its way to my TV screen.

After joining Mickys excellent site Barbel Angler and reading posts on great days spent in the company of Mr Walton, I could resist no longer and booked two days on the Royalty in Christchurch.

This brief story could now simply turn into a list of the Barbel we caught and there weight, for me it was so much more than this. In my mind our two day adventure was the reason I loved fishing as a youngster. Of course we caught Barbel, I was watching a master at work, very rare nowadays. I would have paid just to watch Ray fish, but decided not to tell him that at the time. Whilst in Ray’s company his enthusiasm and passion for Barbel fishing just stood out a mile. He had time for everyone he met, be it a seasoned angler, or a new guy chasing his first fish. He would have photographed everyone’s catches given the chance.

We started the day in Ray’s favourite café near Davies tackle, and then made our way to the fishery. As Ray described his method and technique; I was amazed at the meticulous detail he goes into on every aspect of rolling a bait.

A dream start this is so easy or so it seems. Ray guides me “Top’s” he says as my second run through roll’s across a gravel bed, between some weed, I knew I had just been lucky! My first take and one I will never forget, 40 minutes later and three fish up we walk off to the dismay of three anglers from Yorkshire who go onto blank.

From now on we didn’t get another knock, but as I have said this is where in my mind Ray was in another league, we just walked, and walked, and walked, trust me we walked. Rays knowledge of the Royalty is second to none and ten hours later, just as the river was coming out of its banks I begged Ray to call it a day, I could walk no more.

After chatting in the Royalty pub with Nigel from Davies tackle, and feeling a slight sense of sadness for the anglers from up north who had travelled 300 miles and blanked under their brollies, it was off for a well earned Indian and a few beers.

Our second day was a totally different proposition, not only had it poured down all night, but now Ray was dealing with an angler who fancied his chances of a take on every run through and cast. Nigel the proprietor of Davies tackle had kindly loaned me a set of chest wader’s and boots, these would eventually come in very handy!

We walk the river, Ray constantly giving me priceless information for future visits to the Royalty, we meet a great guy called Wes waiting for his first ever Barbel, of course as if by magic after chatting to Ray for ten minutes he was into his first barbel rolling a bait. Ray did the usual a first class photograph, at this point I must admit a slight feeling of “please let me just catch one more”! Ray hooks a great fish in deep water and asks me to play it on his 1.3 test curve Young’s rod a scary experience. Just before we finish and my hundredth time of asking Ray is that ok, and him replying “top’s” I have an amazing take and catch a small but very important barbel in my rolling education.

Some things I need to brush over in our two day adventure, we spot some carp under a tree in a shallow swim , I insist on casting, Ray congratulates me, “top’s” he says, I take one step forward, and fall in to the river, testing Nigel’s waders and boots. It didn’t matter as this was one of my greatest fishing days, a day I will never forget, and the reason I wet a line.

A question remains unanswered for me, why has Ray Walton not written his own book, surely this would be on most barbel angler’s bookshelves, a book connected to his knowledge of the superb Royalty should be in the pipe line, thanks Ray good luck.

David Redfearn

July 2007