Some milder, wet weather saw me heading to the River Trent again in search of some barbel. I hoped for a 12lb+ fish, my target for the autumn. Friends seem to catch barbel of this size when I’m at work, but when I’m on the banks the smaller fish decide to feed.
My latest after work sessions followed this pattern. I first tried a new peg 200 yards or so away from where I normally fish. As darkness fell, the 3ft twitches commenced. Only 3 barbel were landed that evening, up to around 8lbs, but a frost formed while I fished so I suppose it was a decent result. I’d switched to barbless hooks for this session and it coincided with me losing my first barbel to a hook pull. It’s something I’ll keep my eye on. I switched to barbless simply because they are a doddle to remove at night with cold wet fingers.
A few days later I was back in the swim where I’ve had my best results for both numbers and size of fish. I had some early ‘knocks’ from bream and some ‘twangs’ from chub. You soon get to know which fish are trying to escape with your bait. Soon I landed a couple of small bream plus a few small barbel around 6lbs.
When darkness fell I landed a few more better barbel up to 9lbs, but not the larger fish that I hoped for. I also pulled out of a fish which felt quite good. I’ll give the barbless hooks one more chance then it’s back over to barbed. You can’t afford to lose fish to hook pulls. You never know when it could cost you a really special fish.
For my 8th evening of ‘barbel bashing’ I fished a few pegs down from Collingham weir. There was a touch of extra water on the river and I was only in this area because my favourite spot was occupied by a couple of tents. A few anglers were fishing right in the weir itself, but they blanked along with most other anglers who’ve been fishing there lately. Why do anglers fish there at this time of year? I know it’s a cracking area in summer when there’s not very much oxygen in the water, but not now. There’s so much oxygen in the river, after all the rain this year, that the barbel are well spread out and fight like demons. When you do finally land them, they ‘beat you up’ on the bank, then power away when you put them back.
Anyway, back to the fishing. I lobbed a couple of 6oz feeders a third of the way out. These were packed solid with 8 and 12mm dampened pellets and some fishmeal groundbait to bind the lot together. This mix takes over 20 minutes to come out of the feeders and is used so that fish aren’t chasing all over my swim for pellets. The fluorocarbon hooklink is about 5ft in length and on a hair at the end of this sits a 12mm drilled pellet.
I landed a couple of 6-7lb barbel quite quickly, but at the time when you’re expecting bites no further action happened. I reeled both rods in and was cheesed off to find that the hooklinks had both tangled on the cast. After sorting the mess out I re cast both rods and poured a coffee. The wind increased in strength and then it started raining. I was getting cold and thought about going home.
By now there was one other angler on the whole stretch and he was almost opposite me. I noted through his dancing head torch that he’d just caught a couple of fish so I thought I’d give it another hour. Soon afterwards, I received a violent bite that was more like a 6ft twitch! A very fat barbel gave a good account of itself, but my tackle did it’s job and it was soon being weighed at 10lbs 4oz. I was pleased with another double, but wondered when I’ll ever get that 12lb+ fish.
After the double there was a quick flurry of 3 more better sized barbel between 8 and 9lb+ A lull in the rain and a fishless 45 minutes saw me pack up and quickly head to my car for the 45 minute drive home.
I know that decent barbel conditions will be few and far between now and the end of the season so I reflected on my efforts so far. In 8 short afternoon / evening sessions over the last 6 weeks I’ve landed almost 50 barbel. 6 of these have been doubles with 2 of them 11 pound fish. I’m a little frustrated at not landing any of the better fish, but I’m happy with how I’ve fished, and I’m satisfied it’s just a matter of time. The old adage that every barbel that I catch is one fish closer to my monster is the positive way to think about things! I suppose the best way to measure how well you’re doing is how much you’re enjoying your fishing. I can honestly say I’m having a ball with these barbel, on what must be the best barbel river in the UK.