Back to Barbel

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.


Small Stream Roach

After my barbel fishing I fancied a few days on the rivers after a big roach. I did plan to head down to the Hampshire Avon for a couple of days, but ‘things popped up’ and I was restricted to just one days fishing. Because of this I stayed local and tried for a redfin on a tiny Yorkshire river.

The heaviest frost of the year meant it probably wasn’t a good idea to target roach in shallow water, but nothing gained and all that. The plan was to bait a few swims with mashed bread then spend 20 minutes or so in each one. If something was at home I’d give it a bit longer, but it was more of a recce trip than anything else.

After a good walk, feeding the mashed bread into swims that have produced fish for me in the past, I baited a size 12 hook with a thumb nail sized piece of flake. I trotted it down stream, expecting it to vanish from sight any second. After more trots than I can remember,without any interest,  things seemed bleak.

All was not lost though. I remember some days in the past when it seemed like the roach just didn’t want to feed. The day could often be saved by laying on in a small eddy under the near bank. That’s what I did this time. I fed a small pinch of mashed bread into the slack water, then followed it with my float. Instantly the float bobbed, then again. On the third bob I struck into a fish, a small one considering I was using a decent sized piece of flake. A 4oz roach was swung to hand, a welcome prize on a bright clear day. The next cast saw the same thing happen, this time a plump 8oz fish being the culprit.

When the float sailed from view on the next cast, I thought I was in for a red letter day. Sadly, the resulting 12oz redfin was my last of the day. The slack never gave me another bite, nor did any of the other pre-baited swims. Did I spook the fish? Was it the cold weather? Or is it just the fact that the roach aren’t there in the same numbers any more? Only more days fishing this tiny stream will give me the answers. I suppose I can’t complain at 3 mint conditioned roach. This was the kind of venue where it all started for me as a 13 year old kid. Back in those days though, I only caught one roach all year, all 8oz of it. That fish, tricked from a shoal of far larger roach, gave me such a thrill, I’ve never forgotten that moment. It lead to many years trying to catch those crafty redfins and to this day small river roaching is my favourite type of angling.