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.


30lb Carp on someone else’s line…

An unusually story, but something that does get you thinking –  We recently had an email to our TFG customer services account with the attached story.

‘An unusual event on Friday 23 Sept regarding the landing of a lovely 30 pound carp at Lake John, Waltham Abbey’.

‘As the gates were due to shut at 7.00pm, I was beginning to start packing up at 6.00 so pulled in my carp rods then cast out my light float fishing rod towards the middle of the lake from Peg 38. This was set at a depth of about 2 1/2 foot fishing for skimmers. I then had a bite and connected with a heavy fish. Playing it very carefully for about 20 minutes and getting the fish within about 30 feet from the bank, I saw my float then to my astonishment I saw another float a couple of feet below mine. I immediately thought that I had crossed lines with an angler to my right. However, he had already left and there was no one else. I reeled in a bit more but then realised that I could not land it because the float would obviously be trapped at the end of my rod with still about 20 feet of line to the fish (which I had yet to see, but knew was a decent size judging by the swirl of water below the surface).

By this time the angler on the next peg to the left had come round to see what I was hooked into. We then agreed that the only thing to do was for me to slowly walk back 20 feet to enable him to net the fish. I proceeded to do this with my heart thumping, given that my main line was only 6 lb and a size 12 hook which was obviously going to take a great deal of strain at this final stage. Thank God he netted it safely and then commented that it was a very big fish. I had not seen the size of the carp as the reeds and bank had been obscuring my view.

Imagine my surprise on realising how big the fish was (my language was a little colourful at this stage out of relief and pride). I am very grateful to ‘John fromEnfield’ who kept his cool and enabled me to land my PB even though it was not on my bait. It was amazing that my hook had somehow tangled with the original line and had held fast without parting. What are the odds on this happening again?!!

A day to remember. Yet another good day at Lake Johnas I had already caught carp of 14 and 18 pounds using some of my favourite carp fishing tackle. I would like to let you know that I can recommend and congratulate you on your TF-Gear Allrounder fishing rod. It offers me the chance to fish any method with just one rod.

A footnote though, the fish was in good condition and showed no ill affects even though the original hook was very large indeed ( looked like a sea  fishing hook to me). The weight was 31.4 pounds. The fish was returned safely and happily without the excess hook and line to grow even bigger.’

My personal best -David Chaston

Bream Feast

An estate lake close to my home has long held a big head of bream but never, until recent years, did it produce fish to interest a single minded specimen hunter like me. The average fish was always around 4lb and 6lb was about the top limit. But, in recent years, that average has apparently started to climb quite significantly, so much so that I was hearing rumours of regular doubles being taken, with fish to over 12lb certainly genuine. Now, while 12lb is still nowhere near the top end of bream weights these days, it is still a very worthwhile target and definitely rates as a worthwhile specimen in my eyes.

Having taken delivery of three of the gorgeous new TFG Classic Nan Tec barbel fishing rods, I decided to put them to use as feeder rods, using the Avon top joint rather than the separate quiver top. A bream session was planned, and as the water is close to home I took advantage by driving there on the afternoon before my session to introduce bait into the selected area. In an hour, using a Spomb, I had fired out a large bucket of mixed Pigeon mix, corn, stewed wheat and TFG mixed halibut pellets. I also included a few 15mm fishmeal boilies.

The following morning, it took a fair while to set my camp and it was around midday before I was casting the first bait into position, after having introduced a further twenty Spomb loads of bait. That was baited with a boilie wrapped in paste, and accompanied by a method ball. As I set up my second rod, which was to be baited with lobworm/corn cocktail, the alarm on the first sounded and line started to disappear off the free spool reel. The bait had only been in place about two minutes! As soon as I struck, I knew I was attached to a fair fish but, typical of bream, it never gave me any anxious moments. Soon, I was weighing my first fish of the session, 8lb 6ozs, and a good start.

Before rebating, I cast the lobworm rod into position and then attached a new boilie to the first rod. With that one in place, I turned my attention to rod number three, which was to have a soft pellet hookbait. Just as I was moulding the method ball in place, the lob worm rod was off in a fast run. This was ridiculous! Soon, I was weighing a second 8lb plus fish. Fifteen minutes later, with all three rods out together at last, I was able to contemplate a cup of tea and fired up the kettle. However, before it had time to boil I had to turn it off again as bream number three came to call. 9lb 3ozs this one registered and did give me a decent scrap for a change. Just as that was being slipped back, a fourth bream had galloped off with a boilie. A few minutes later, and less than an hour after the first cast, I was weighing a fourth fish, this time 7lb 14ozs.

After that fish, I did have a couple of hours very welcome respite before another flurry of action commenced, and by dusk another four fish had been netted. These fish were significantly bigger, at 9-2, 9-9, 9-13 and the fish that turned out the biggest of the session at 10lb 7ozs. From then until about 11.00pm there were four more fish before the action stopped completely and I was able to get a little sleep. In a hectic afternoon and evening session I’d landed a surprising 12 bream with a very respectable average weight.

The action started again at first light, but during the daylight hours fish only came spasmodically. In fact, only two more bream came before dark, although I did land a solitary five pound tench and get bitten off by a big pike that had taken a liking to a boilie. After dark, though, the action turned absolutely manic. I won’t bore you with a blow by blow account but, during the night I was landing fish about every forty minutes. By daybreak, I’d had no sleep whatsoever and was absolutely knackered. In total, I’d landed 27 bream from 7lb to 10-7 plus the tench, approaching 200lbs in total.

Looking back on the session, it was great fun but obviously the chances of a really outsize bream appear to be limited by the sheer numbers of fish. But with bream you never really know. Anglers who have spent far more time than me after bream have told me that it’s very common for a huge fish to suddenly show up amongst much lesser individuals. I shall certainly go back and hopefully improve on my 10-7 result.

Bearded Roach and Tea

The lure of Kennet roach drew me back to the Wasing beats of this beautiful river this week.  The Kennet was once famed for its red finned inhabitants and it had a reputation for holding some very big specimens.  Well I’m pleased to say that in certain stretches, they are still there.  They crop up from time to time, mainly to barbel fishermen.  I have targeted these roach on just a few occasions recently, having taken them to 1lb 12oz in the past.   I’m certain that with some perseverance the larger specimens will eventually succumb.

So the set-up was fairly straight forward.  I balanced my superb light ‘river and stream’ quiver rod (a TF Gear rod that is sadly no longer available) with a Drennan reel loaded with 5lb line.  A running ledger link and a 3 foot mono hooklink coupled with a 16 Pallatrax ‘The Hook’ completed the set-up.  The bait was a small hair rigged Hinders Elips pellet, attached by incorporating a small bait band tied to the hair.  This is a nice simple rig, where little can go wrong.  I do like to use a 3 inch length of silicone tubing on the hooklink which pulls onto the swivel.  This just pushes the hooklink away from the feeder, which is then attached to the running ledger link.  It just helps to prevent tangles.

I targeted an area that I know has produced some decent roach in the past and still regularly throws up some decent specimens over a pound.  There is a lovely long glide here and a fallen tree at the end of the run.  On the opposite bank are more bushes and trees in the water, which create a lovely crease.  It screams roach, especially as it has an excellent average depth.

Ah, I can smell roach... Or is that my aftershave!

After setting up base camp (where’s Sherpa Tenzing when you need him?) I set up the feeder rods, baited my chosen swim with a little hemp to get the fish interested.  The water was a little higher than of late after recent heavy rains and the river was carrying a little more colour too.  Perfect roach conditions.  First cast out with the hemp and caster feeder, produced instant results.  The tip yanked round from a cracking bite and the strike met with that jagged resistence of what felt like a good roach.  Then, sadly it was off.  Things went a little quiet from there.  It was a lovely warm evening.  As dusk approached the tip pulled round again and this time the culprit found the folds of the landing net.  A fine Kennet roach of about a pound. It was fin perfect and in immaculate condition.  Hopefully this was to be the start of some decent action.

Hemp and Caster - Irresistible!

Hemp and Caster - Irresistible!

Well sadly by 10pm, not an awful lot had happened.  Kevin had taken a couple of nice barbel further upstream, the biggest going 8lb 10oz and Geoff had caught a small fish of about 4-5lbs. Then at last another bite came my way.  The dogged, zig-zag fight indicated a roach and so it was.  Another fish of about a pound.  Sadly tiredness was beginning to get the better of me (that’s old age for you) so I decided to have one more cast whilst packing away all of the usual paraphernalia that us anglers take but never seem to use (please tell me it’s not just me!).  Once all that was done, it was time to reel in.  Moments before doing so the rod top dragged round violently and a hard fighting fish ripped line from the reel.  The clutch screamed as the fish headed for the fallen tree.  Steady pressure won the day (a good balanced set-up, even using lightish lines, can subdue big fish) and the fish was drawn over the cord of the landing net.  Well it was obvious by now that this was a roach of the bearded variety. Yes, a barbel. Certainly not a monster, but about 6lbs.

A bearded roach

A bearded roach

I popped over to see Geoff and as I stood there his rod whacked round and a feisty barbel of around 4-5lbs was later unhooked and slipped back to fight another day.  I headed back to camp and got the kettle going.  Kevin surrendered to the Barbel Gods but Geoff was made of tougher stuff and after his cuppa, carried on fishing for a couple of hours.  Sadly nothing more came his way and even he eventually succumbed to tiredness.

Not a bad session all in all