At a feeder competition in Ybbs on the beautiful blue Danube, I took the opportunity to put the Black Viper Compact through its paces. We shall see what this feeder reel can do and whether it is up to the task.

All Thursday I am looking forward to the upcoming fishing event. A school of shimmering fish swims in front of me in my dreams. Is it already the legendary Danube bream and barbel? No matter, our feeder team is full of anticipation and impatiently waiting for the joint meeting.

Thorough preparation is essential, especially on a venue that is new to us, and so we first contacted our friends from the Browning team in Austria. They inform us about the conditions, because this section of river is completely unknown to us.

We promptly receive information that the river at Ybbs is sometimes several hundred meters wide and has a very strong flow. Small fish are to be expected up to a distance of 20 meters from the shore, with bream in the middle area, and barbel can be expected from around 80 meters.

Based on this information, it was important to be prepared for all distances. The short track of up to 20 meters can be fished with a light rod and feeders weighing up to 40 grams. The middle lane, on the other hand, is 60 to 70 meters in areas with very strong currents and is therefore anything but easy.

In order to be able to present swimfeeders, weights of around 120 grams are absolutely necessary. At an even greater distance, feeders carrying 140grams-plus of lead can be essential! 

We will be fishing for six hours. For much of this time I will probably have to fish with the heavier swimfeeders out in the main current. This is going to put a lot of stress on my gear, so it is essential to be using equipment that is well up to the job and that will not let me down. 

The choice of rod and reel has to be right for this type of fishing. I chose the Black Viper Compact 855 reel coupled with the Sphere 4.20m Feeder rod, 4.20 with a casting weight of 145 grams, so that I can cover the long distances effectively. The super light 430g weight of the Black Viper reel reduces fatigue as it balances perfectly with the Sphere feeder rods. The reel is loaded with 150m of 0.099mm Quantum Smoke Braid, combined with a 10m leader of 0.30mm Cenex Feeder mono as a leader.

The particularly large and flat spool of the Black Viper Compact 855 has two line-friendly clips with wide recesses. In order to be able to sound out the fishing spot precisely, I clip-up at six different distances to begin with. I divide the different distances between the two clips, minimising the risk of the line jumping coming out of the clip.

"Immediately, the tip of the rod is torn down "

The first day of competition begins, and I find myself on peg C63. Not ideal, as I am in the middle of the stretch and it is an area that generally contains less fish. After plumbing up at a range of distances I settle on fishing at 63 meters. The river bed consists of sand and gravel. Unfortunately, the conditions are pretty bad. Heavy rain in the previous few days has washed a lot of sediment into the Danube. The grey water leaves the fish with hardly any oxygen to breathe and – as we anglers say – nailed their mouths shut! My hopes of a bite fades by the minute.

My feed consists of one part each of Champion’s Feeder Big Bream and Champion’s Choice Big Fish. Hour after hour I stick to my task, recasting the feeder regularly, filling it with worms, casters, and dead maggots. Every time the feeder is brought in, it shows how cleanly the reel is working. The line-lay is millimetre perfect, and the retrieve of 88cm per turn of the handle makes winding in easy.

After two hours I haven’t had a sign of a fish so I decide to change lines. I decide to drop onto a shorter line at 21m in search of a few small fish, but even here, after another hour, nothing happens. All right, so there’s only one option left. I’ll play my distance card! I had found another clean area at 85 meters. This is a little better and in the remaining three hours I manage to catch two small bream. At least I have avoided the dreaded blank.

The second day begins, and I am a lot happier with my draw of A1. However, the water is still extremely cloudy, and there is a strong crosswind. After plumbing various distances intensively, I decide on a line at 54 meters. Significantly shorter than my neighbours, but the river bed here feels good and I have a gut-feeling that this is the area to fish. Hours go by and, apart from a few small roach, hardly any fish are caught anywhere. The barbel, which are often found here, just aren’t willing to feed with the extra rain water.

Finally! After what feels like an eternity, a big Danube bream over the five pound mark spots the hookbait. Immediately, the tip of the rod is torn down – I lift the rod … the fish is on! Slowly and extremely carefully, I bring the fish in across the strong current. The pressure on the line and reel increases. I love the way the Black Viper Compact 855 does its homework. Even under strong pressure from the fighting fish, it can be easily cranked. The finely adjustable front drag prevents the powerful big fish from making use of the extreme current.

At the end of the second day my catch of three small roach and one large bream is enough to win the section. Thanks to a solid team performance, our squad finished in a great sixth place out of around thirty teams.

It was a shame that the conditions spoilt the fishing, but I will hopefully be back in 2021 and won’t be changing a thing. The Black Viper and Sphere Feeder rods worked faultlessly – the perfect big river combination. 

Tight lines!

Pamela Franke, Browning Deutschland