Barbel Fishing Continuing the Journey

Northantslad

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The guide is now taking a path that mirrors my journey to become competent; I can now think about a second stage for anyone who has progressed through the first part of their journey too. In recent times I have likened my journey to one of the big sweeping bends on the Trent and in terms of this learning curve, I would say, and a bit like one of the boats when you first see it appear, I am currently negotiating the bend. To quote Sir Winston, my journey isn't at the beginning of the end, far from it, but after my best calendar year pursuing this beautiful fish and some real highlights so far in this river season, it is the end of the beginning stage of the journey.

The learning journey of course wouldn't be half as long if the journey to my favoured Rivers was less, but rather than allow this to hinder progress, I have this year made some big decisions in sacrificing my other angling and committing to June through to March trips, fishing each of the months, whilst also still appreciating that I cannot open the door and decide whether or not to bother based on the all important conditions, and thus to not put to much pressure on myself; one thing Barbel fishing will instil in you, is that Barbel will test you, right from trying to catch them, through to the fight itself.

A cold day, that proved too cold for the Barbel and coupled with a rising River.
DSCF2503[1].JPG
Water temperatures and weather changes, particularly in the cooler months are well worth researching and monitoring and although I got my excuse in for the session above failing to produce a Barbel, the rising water level can also bring problems in terms of washing down debris, something I heard a while back made a lot of sense....'would you eat your dinner off a dirty plate'?

If like me, you are going regardless within reason, then taking water temperatures may tell you something you wouldn't want to know: 'yep I am wasting my time today', but then and individuals opinion on what constitutes wasting a day may vary, in terms of where I am trying to get to, then a day by the river is rarely a waste of my time. I have, however combined various reliable information into an approximate guide below.
temps.jpg

My season so far on the Trent has been productive when putting some faith in a groundbait and pellet mix, with less pellets being added (wetted down) the colder it gets. Whilst I bulk out groundbait with a shop bought bag occasionally, the majority of it is purely and simply blitzed pellets (from my pellet mix), this way I can ensure that firstly I know exactly what is in the mix, secondly and quite importantly I have learnt, the mix matches any of the pellet hookbaits I may use during the session and thirdly I can regulate how much feed is in the mix. The 'upstream' rod continues to be fished with this bait and the downstream rod becomes my trial rod, usually for a boilie approach, the trial aspect meaning I can vary where I cast it and without it interfering with the feeding line of the upstream rod and also to a degree how much feed goes in with it.
Reading on the subject of boilies has proved very interesting this year and it appears to be the case that Barbel like these to be as soft as possible, one source advocates not boiling them at all and using the bait in a paste form whenever possible, not always practical on some rivers of course, but this was definitely food for thought when deciding to try making my own, this decision was also swayed by adding to it, the theory that creating unique bait flavours and on rivers where Barbel see many boilies might be an edge. If using shop bought, of which there are plenty that will catch Barbel then keeping them as fresh as possible will of course maintain their softness.

These boilies were boiled for 2 minutes only and feel, smell and at least look the part and in the case of the session in the picture did appeal to a decent Chub, so there is hope for them to catch a Barbel yet.
DSCF2506[1].JPG
In keeping with reading on the subject and regarding winter fishing, the above were a hot and spicy concoction and rolled by hand to achieve random sizes.

In terms of using them and presenting them, a standard hair rig to mount the hookbait is used, with the bait tight to the bend of the hook and just creeping up the start of the shank. Using the paste (the mixture in its paste form prior to shaping and boiling) to wrap the hookbait can increase attraction and can be a good flood or coloured water bait addition.
PVA can be your ally when wanting to introduce free offerings with your boilie hookbait and generally I have found two main ways to do this. A year or two back I caught onto the idea of others to not mount the PVA on the hook, but up at the lead, achieving what a feeder achieves but feeding In a way that a feeder doesn't. I had always had reservations and concerns about hook mounting PVA when it comes to Barbel and the rivers I target them in, I often had little confidence in it staying on and couldn't help thinking that the hook would rip through the PVA on being dragged down by a heavy lead. Whilst you can buy bespoke swivels with and/or PVA bag clips, I like the neatness of the below:

Fill the mesh, tuck the lead into the bag and cut down each side of the bag a little...
DSCF2507[1].JPG
Then taking the two tags you created, wrap each tag in opposite directions around the base of the lead swivel and tie off, then bring them back around, again in opposite directions and do a final tie off:
DSCF2509[1].JPG
It makes a tidy parcel that casts well and the same can be done with pellets too (the above was some whole and some crushed boilies). It can be useful to use the gripper type leads for this as some bait will sit in the gap of the lead as opposed to sitting around it, which makes the parcel even neater if you are relying on a little more aero dynamics for a long cast. A further note on leads is to avoid the rough coated ones for this, as they do catch the mesh when trying to tuck them in. Any lead is fine for the next method of getting some offerings in with your hook bait though......

Take a few inches of PVA string and tie a loop in each end and mount some Boilies on a bait needle or a dedicated stringer needle.
DSCF2510[1].JPG
Ensure one of the loops can fit over the lead swivel, slip it over and then slide up a boilie to 'lock' it in place.
DSCF2511[1].JPG
Clip your lead onto your rig and away you go......(y)
 

tipitinmick

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What a post. Brilliant that Northants. Thank you for taking the time to put together a great post. Ive thoroughly enjoyed reading that. 👍👍👍👍👍
 

ukzero1

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@Northantslad

Looking at that temperature guide, I think you're pretty much on the money. Nice write up and pics, it's just a shame there's nothing to show for your efforts, but that's fishing for you. (y) Which part of the Trent by the way?
 

Northantslad

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Thanks all glad you enjoyed it(y)
Yes uk, tried to bring together all the varying ranges of temperature i have read regarding Barbel into one place.
Will keep running from here now in this second stage to the guide. Will have to see what thoughts enter my head in the coming months.
 

ukzero1

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@Northantslad

It's a good theory, but wouldn't the temperatures differ from, let's say for example, Bobs Island (scrapyard stretch) to another stretch such as Gunthorpe? or don't you think it will matter that much?
 

Northantslad

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Yes potentially lots of variables. Faster/slower flows affect temperatures, cold rain, warmer floodwater.
 

ukzero1

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@Northantslad

Power stations too, they'll have warmer water going in...unless that's all stopped now. My dad told me years ago that if it's too cold for a bloke to fish, then the fish will be too cold to feed.
 

Phoenixicus

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Great info as always Chris although on the Severn you also have the pockets of cold water released from the dams that can give you a distorted temperature reading.
That's for another day mate

:):)
 

Northantslad

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Cheers Phoe.
Yes quite, an un-natural change to water temperature, but a change none the less. Middle Severn seems to be more moody than the Trent for water temperatures. Also rain putting pay to things on the Severn, can only assume this is cold rain.
 

Phoenixicus

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Been dry most of today but forecast all day tomorrow and the river is 2.8m up and rising
Looks like I won't be on it until maybe next week.

Good to see you caught mate (y)(y)
 

Northantslad

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Cheers, tight lines, when I say rain on the Severn, heard a lot in last couple of years where people mention the rain seemed to kill a session.
 

Northantslad

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In part one I eluded to my set up and can now go into a little more detail.
As you tend to when you see other anglers and you may also fish with friends, your ideas for set ups and many aspects tend to be influenced by them, you see things, you discuss things and ideas are sometimes shared and explained.

In terms of set up of the rods, I read some years ago in a piece penned by the late great Mr Wilson, that rods should be supported on two rests, the piece didn't go on to explain why but the why factor gap was filled by an observation of and something mentioned to me by one of my Barbel fishing friends. Like we do, the rods are pointed at an high angle to keep as much line out of the water as possible in the rivers with strong flows, my friend did this, but would always negate the butt rest and would have the butt on the ground. On several occasions he would mention and after getting a take that the baitrunner hadn't 'ran' and the butt of his rod flew up, on a couple of occasions needing to make a grab for the rod. My observations also showed me that his main and only rest was very near to the final butt end rod ring. What was happening to him became clear and was a combination of several things that would (and have now) been fixed by anchoring the butt end.

These are perfect...........
DSCF2505[1].JPG
.......in that the rod can't slip back (a problem I found even with well fitting rubberized grip type rests) and also, if you have achieved a balance or near to it, rather than the imbalance you need with the positioning of your main front rest, the butt cannot lift. So what gives on the take? The baitrunner. Word of caution on this though and to not become relaxed and just wait for the audible (or visual) signal on the baitrunner, as opposed to watching the rod tips which should be the case. Firstly and on some days the wind whistles around and hearing anything is unlikely, secondly there is nothing to stop a hooked Barbel swimming towards you (the baitrunner won't run), thirdly and actually firstly in terms of fish welfare, where is the first place a hooked Barbel will seek? Usually snags given the chance, not watching the tips can give them that chance. In a good session in the summer just gone, I was fishing just beyond the 'trough' (the deepest or a deep channel through the swim) and 90% of the Barbel I hooked swam straight towards me for the deep water and snags.

So the completed set up looks like this.

DSCF2498[1].JPG
You will note that the main rod rest is as described above and very close to the final ring, with this set up however, it won't pivot on the fulcrum created (as it would with that rest alone) because the butt is 'anchored', the beauty of the anchor is that it will stop lateral sliding back and upward movement, but being quite a shallow sleeve, you can slide it out with no trouble when picking up the rod.

You cannot see my base camp as it were, it was just out of picture next to the left slab, so near enough to be alert and effective, given the points about hooked fish above. When possible I will be based down in the peg, but some days the wind that doesn't present itself or give any clues as to where it will be heading until an hour after first light, can make where you sit awkward as do the nature of some pegs in terms of positioning any shelter or brolley. This is compounded also by the changes of wind direction that can occur during a session and to fish effectively and not be wasting time shifting regularly, I sometimes make the decision to sit up on the bank, although it can expose you to the worst of the elements, getting the shelter up gives welcome respite.

Your positioning should be considered though and even if it may seem that you are overthinking things. Skylining (standing/moving/being around the highest part of the bank in your peg) may need consideration. On days like the present, where the water may be coloured and skies overcast or perhaps if fishing deeper water, then where you sit (or where others may come and choose to stand) shouldn't be too much of a problem. However in more intimate swims, bright conditions and clear water I will always think twice about being up on the top of the bank. In the first part of the guide I mentioned sometimes that Barbel fishing isn't about getting everything right, but not getting some things wrong, albeit mentioned in a section on feed and feeding. In popular stretches, one of the conundrums may be that the fish are used to bankside activity, does this bankside activity alert them in a negative way perhaps too......

Talking with one of my Barbelling friends during a recent session, we discussed how it has been nice in recent years to have access to the outside of the bend from our bank and that Barbel hot spots usually seem to be around bends and where you can easily present bait in the channel scored out by the faster flow; whilst other features will attract them and need also to be present. I added that and in relation to above thoughts, that stretches where the sun spends much of the day behind you may be a factor considering warmer month conditions and clear water. Barbel don't like bright light and if this is behind you then they won't have their eyes focussed on you/your bank, does this apply to more intimate and shallow venues than it does the Trent and parts of the Middle Severn? I cannot be sure, but I do bear this in mind on pegs where the sun is pointing at me, rather than behind me. May be over thinking and over applying my reading, but it may just be a factor on occasions. Roll on the warmer weather anyway.......or perhaps I shouldn't wish it upon us, perhaps just some warmer water.
 
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Captain Pugwash

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As usual Chris very well written and very informative, I'm on hold at the moment 're barbel, not just due to the cold snap but more so the varying changes in temperature one day cold the next quite warm.
 

Northantslad

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Cheers Captain, yes saw you been pursuing old esox, probably a wise move until the temperatures stabilise.(y)
 

Barbel seeker

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Don't know how I missed this write up Northants must say what a fantastic read and thanks for taking the time and patience to do it for us, must say that I like the tip about the split mesh bag I will certainly try it next week on the trent.
 

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