Coarse fishing for Barbel

Richard has kindly offered to present Fishtec with a weekly update of his barbel fishing outings, Richard says “The moment you hook into a barbel which often makes your heart skip a beat when you feel the weight and shudder of its first run are incomparable to anything you can catch so readily in British river systems.”

Saturday 10th March 2012

My plan initially was to begin fishing at 2 – 3pm and stay until late Monday afternoon. Such was my excitement however, and nothing really to stop me, I decided that at 11am I would make my way to do a spot of coarse fishing on my favourite stretch of the River Trent.

Upon arrival at the river, I decided that my ‘banker’ summer swim would be the peg of choice. The water here is around 6 – 12ft deep with a swift flow that comes from the slalom course upstream. These shallow rapids twenty or so yards upstream are where barbel will spawn during the summer. It’s an unbelievable sight; I have seen it here many times.

My research of barbel have lead me to believe that they will in most cases stay in the deeper areas of the swims until water temperature improves, usually until late March early April. They will then inevitably make their way upstream into the shallower water to spawn and stay there or thereabouts all Summer and into early Autumn.

There are much deeper areas further downstream, so would they be this close to the spawning grounds? Barbel do not, in my opinion move much during the Winter. So it’s conceivable that they could be 30 – 40yds away from my chosen pool. Their lack of movement during this time could be detrimental to the fishing; they will simply not follow a scent trail for long enough unless it equates to a big reward at the end of it.

One thing I religiously do before I begin to get any rods out my bag, is check the water temperature with a thermometer. From many sessions void of fish and others where barbel seem to be crawling up the rod tip, there’s a common occurrence which leads me to believe that a barbels preferred water temperature is of 7-9 degrees. They seem to feed more actively and respond better to baits, maybe the scent is enhanced due to the water temp or the head just kick starts their metabolism. The water temp is usually between six and seven at this time of the year.

I began to set-up my fishing rods and position my trusty tripod (these type of banks make it difficult to use bank sticks).

My rigs were very simple so I opted for a stonze weight and as I wasn’t convinced they would be feeding avidly, despite good water temperatures I went with a ‘stringer’ approach.

The water was carrying a tinge of colour, but I still remain cautious with the feeding approach to begin with. I wanted to offer the barbel a couple of options only to take my Pallatrax Crustacean boilie, presented on a Size 8 ‘The Hook’ hair-rig, thus resulting in more hooked fish. I was also using a 25lb steamlink hook link also on a 15lbs main line.

I chose to use both rods on this rig and position one upstream (as I normally do) and one downstream, I find that if I hook into a fish from either rod it will never tangle up with the other line doing it this way.

I started by making up a couple of stringers and attaching them to the size 8 strongly forged hook and then placing a  boilie on an hair-rig.

Casting out and creating ‘a bow in the line’ with the upstream rod. With this technique you are waiting for a huge drop back bite from a fish as the weight is dislodged.

Minutes passed, no bites, the wind was making up for the lack of action by blowing hard and making presentation difficult as the rod tips bounced from side to side and up and down.

I decided on re-casting both rods to which I left them out for another hour with no action at all.

The pressure eventually won over my better judgement. With direct sunlight which in hindsight the fish were probably under cover and waiting until dark to feed in the main water. Sadly at the time it wasn’t even something that entered my head (funny how your mind works under pressure). I felt that a move was in order, to a stretch about a mile away as it was deeper and where I thought the barbel would be.

On arrival of the new stretch I was both exhausted from lugging my fishing gear to the peg and disappointed that I was still not out the wind.

I decided to use one of my feeder rods fished upstream at 4oz with the idea that there was a steady stream of pellets going into the river (I poured cold water into a bucket of skrettings and left until they reached my preferred consistency).

At 7.30PM I made something to eat with the intention of getting an early night. I set up a bed chair and sleeping bag but without the bivvy as my intention was to leave early morning.

Last cast out with both fishing rods I was ready to get some sleep and write off this session and re-evaluate in the morning. I knew I made a big blunder by not staying where I was though.

I learnt when you put yourself under pressure to deliver you make catastrophic errors of judgement, ones you wouldn’t normally make. I guess you could say it’s like taking a penalty at Wembley in a cup final in football terms.

I got myself into the sleeping bag and fell asleep almost immediately.

I was just about to reel in and cast out again when one of the alarms sprung into life as the line peeled from my spool initially and then just stopped. I struck anyway to find a bit of resistance at the end, thinking it was a piece of weed or something I began to reel in, then a nod on the rod tip could only mean one thing, fish on!

It came in rather easily which suggested one thing to me, Bream!

Indeed it was at 5lbs 6oz nice but not what I came for unfortunately and that remained after trying various baits the only action of the night.


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