Barbel Fishing Continuing the Journey

Northantslad

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So, the season is over almost as quickly as it started and whilst much enjoyment has been had, which has probably lead to the season flying by, I can still remember the warm June and July of 2018 sessions like it was yesterday. My journey is far from over, but after a special season for me and with March here, now seems as good a time as any to summarise some points, emphasise others and review my season.

I didn't wish to, and not sure you should ever, put too demanding targets on yourself and mine for the season was to catch on more trips than I blanked, I managed it at a 3 in 4 catch rate, ensuring that I worked at each and every session from the first cast to the last.

This is a key point; I don't think you can under estimate the importance of thinking and working at a session. A fair point in one of my books I return to regularly (see the book list the part 1 guide) and when feeder/lead fishing, is that you would think that an angler sitting behind their rods has all the time in the world to be thinking through the session, but this isn't always the case and it is actually very easy to start the session with good intentions, but then take in the scenery for too long, wind the rods in and go for a stroll (not to be confused with resting the swim which is actually a good thing sometimes), get the sarnies out etc. Don't get me wrong a Barbel session isn't about pushing yourself and not unwinding from life's stresses and much will depend on what you want to achieve of course, however I have been aiming the guide at those wishing to catch their first Barbel and then enjoy getting a few more and having undertaken a long journey myself, I do know that it would be all too easy to let your opening sessions defeat you, I have tried throughout to point out the realities of modern and largely day ticket Barbel fishing.

There are always examples that go against a point and there will be those that have got the info in advance, been put on a good stretch and caught well in session number one in their Barbel quest and fair play to them, being on a good stretch is one thing, catching the fish and getting them in safely is another of course, so no knocking or jealousy on my part there. This however wasn't my experience and knowledge was and continues to be gleaned slowly through, yes research, yes sharing info with other helpful Barbel anglers, but largely from realising that spending my early years and sessions tucking into those sarnies at 11 oclock after a fruitless four hours, wasn't going to help me! Learning through experiences.

In summary on confidence and working hard at a session and what makes Barbel fishing perfect for my mindset, is that output is generally proportional to input, I don't feel that I can say this applies to some other forms of angling, having done them for a good few years, in essence and if you are looking to get some Barbel success and with a good many Barbel anglers being converts from other forms of angling too, be prepared to have to work and think that bit harder than you may have needed to when tackling some of the other forms of angling that you may have had available to you. I have worded that as best as I can and it in no way is meant to gloss over the fantastic levels of skill of some anglers fishing in alternative venues nor is meant to of course, play into the hands of those who may feel Barbel anglers and to a degree river anglers too are somewhat elitist in their self-appraisal of 'their' fishing and environment. There will be thousands may be a hundred thousand anglers who are better than myself and across a wide range of disciplines, but my aim has been and will continue to be, that after 25 years or so of doing many forms of angling, I think I can say, and it is helpful for the newcomer to Barbel angling to know that it can be for the most part a longer learning curve than some other forms of angling can be and it may be fair to not expect the results to come as quickly, for me, though, that does make them all the more special when they do.

So, what has made this season such a special one, in essence every one and in keeping with the above, every session has contributed something to learning, even those 1 in 4s, but the highlights of course have be the days where I caught. The 1 in fours taught me something though as I suggest and for me, I am highly unlikely to be bothering with, without demeaning the humble and on occasion overall effectiveness of the baits, maggot or caster. I left out the hemp there as I feel on the Middle Severn it continues to be good addition to pellet feed. I can't help feeling that my opening sessions on the Trent last year were wasted by using these baits in warm and yes although, low and clear water. I'm not alone on that thought in terms of a chap I fish with who has had a great season on pellet all year and throughout a range of conditions. July conditions were equally un-inspiring, however, that month gave me my best day in 20 years of Barbelling, and on pellet. I started the session at 11am on a weekday, vital it was a weekday too on a day ticket stretch and starting that late! After arriving back from a float session on the Severn around 11pm, I woke and thought I'm not laying in bed and so headed up to the Trent. From 11am to 3pm, not a touch, at 3.15pm fish topped, from 3.30pm to 7pm I caught 10 Barbel. Would that have happened if had broke out the sarnies for an early tea in favour of staying alert, thus seeing the visual indication and keeping the feeder going in?

The biggest contributing factor though to my season numbers wise and a big aid to confidence keeping you working, is knowing you are in the right place. Severn wise and again through trial and error, I have found swims that I know contain Barbel, when not all swims do (on any river), the Trent has been a tougher nut to crack in that respect, and whilst we didn't just happen on a reliable stretch, this knowledge has been 50 or may be even 60% of the contributing factor to my results this season. I haven't gone from average to good all of a sudden, I have gone from no-where to average, with some good days thrown in. With that constituting half or just over of the factors needed and THE factor in ensuring you keep working, it for me is the biggest thing to get right. Again, if 60 or 70% of pegs on an alternative form of venue are good ones, it would seem that 30% of pegs on rivers are good ones Barbel wise, find them and find them quicker than I have taken and you will boost your results and subsequently confidence much quicker.

My annual weekend with the lads to the Severn last September, was a good one for me Friday wise, but strangely and rather than being pleased with my first day results I keep reflecting on what I felt was wasting of near on perfect floodwater conditions we experienced on the Saturday, in terms of how and where I fished. It may be a sign to me that indicates where I have got to, in that A Barbel would have been a success for me in many a good year on that weekend, so I shouldn't perhaps lose sight of things.

So, beyond altering the size of feeder/amount of feed throughout the varying temperatures of the season and to a degree the regularity of casting, what do I feel is 'working' at things? It is trying different colours of pellet and different sizes. When I started out, hair rigging limited me to 8mm and up hookbaits, since then and for the last few years I have banded my pellets, which opened up 6mm options. Yes, I used to worry and see such rivers as the Trent as mighty, daunting and have thoughts such as 'there is no chance they will find that bait in this expanse of water' or amongst my feed, well, they do and to date my pb at 12lb 14oz was caught on a 6mm coarse pellet, important to add however, that your feed, in my opinion should never be bigger than your hookbait, may be a tiny amount mixed in at most. My red letter day in July saw me keep varying the hooklength length (3ft/6ft) and bait size and colours to keep the fish coming, to prove this aspect conclusively though and following a season where overall 3ft alone has sufficed on the Trent and in clear water, I need (please) another day like that where I don't change things after a fish to see just how important this tactic is and whether or not I could work less at that aspect and perhaps grab a sarnie or two!

More and more I have observed too that the fish tend to come in spells and sometimes at a not to loosely set time, should I get a fish now, its usually a quick photo on the unhooking mat and back it goes, after resting it until its ready, if a fish takes a while to recover, then a good tally for the day of course gets put down the priority list in favour of fish welfare. So again, the need to find somewhere productive and to keep you going back, enables you to build up any patterns in feeding times. There wouldn't be enough years left in you if you jump from hot tipped venue to venue in the pursuit of Barbel, not because there are that many venues, but the time you would need in each peg in order to observe patterns, at least there is only just over 2 months to June.
 

bezzer

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A good write up as ever NL. Your 'red letter' day came despite the seemingly poor conditions. A lot of anglers, me included, didn't venture out much (to the rivers) in June/July/August due to the rivers being so low and clear. Reading about your exploits will make me think differently this coming season.

I wasn't able to get out on the rivers as much as I'd hoped last year, but with circumstances at home changing, it's looking more promising.
 

Northantslad

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Well, where has that time gone?
Not complaining of course and although frustrating, yet without opening up the close season debate, these few months have been used wisely. Back to the books, re-watching the DVDs and prepping the odd bit of kit and bait. New bits of kit, although nothing new in design, more in updating and improving, have been purchased and that enjoyable good sort out I couldn't do between June and March has whetted the appetite, for a 4am journey start planned for the weekend.

So, new kit. Landing net, triangular type, old one was way too big, even for what should be large in keeping with guidance. The big one has gone into the carp kit and replaced with one that is the perfect size and still retaining its depth for resting Barbel. Tried the open design rod quiver approach for a couple of seasons now and its been awkward in ensuring that it is always on top of mine and my mates kit in the car and thus I don't feel it offered the protection to the rods or the reels for longer journeys in a packed car, despite being quick at allowing me access for that last hour of dark/first bit of daylight bite (sounds a cosy prediction but rarely that often it happens). So that has become the carp one, replaced for a zip up sealed two rod holdall. Now then, the unhooking mat, had a big, and again too big despite the need for a largish one previously and without fail the Velcro would undo, unroll itself and come off the bag on every trip back to the car, much to my mates enjoyment, with the smile getting bigger and his anticipation of it happening just as we get moving along the bank growing each time. That too has made its way into the carp gear and replaced with a nice fold flat one that sits nicely in the folded up lightweight chair, one bit of kit I will keep repairing until it needs a weld or two, which in fairness to it, has just been a couple of bolts that started to bend and weaken as they got older, or as I got older, or as I got larger is perhaps the crux of that one.

The Barbel days and ways DVD has kept me entertained and I did find the section about lines and fish spooking really interesting. With one theory being that they won't spook off something they can see but touches them, more something that they can't see that they then brush, makes sense and is one way of looking at things, something brushes you and you turn to see nothing there is what it could be likened too, then put down it being 'just' a ghost..............shortly before going cold and legging it. Balance that with fish seeing braid clearly and does that put them off at all?

Gone back through the books too and a chapter on baits particularly, coupled with some recent discussion with other Barbel anglers (Thanks Bez & Keith) I have got myself to a point where I am ready to write these thoughts. In keeping with the above paragraph to emphasise a point, a couple of my Barbel books in particular regularly use human experience to try and predict and diagnose, and I think successfully, Barbel behaviour. A phrase from one such book has stuck in my mind for a year or two now:

Barbel can only get addicted to particle baits.

My understanding is that this can occur after a period of weaning the Barbel onto it. Going back to the times before pellets, particles would have been wheat, hemp, caster, maggot, corn, small worms and lots of them, to name a few, with the vast majority of those too, still finding favour and do stand the test of time. However, the advent of pellets and how readily Barbel and all species switched onto them, for me has made those previous take a back seat, possibly the nutrient value made the weaning phase quicker too, I can only speculate on that point though, after starting the Barbel journey at the time when pellets had been successfully introduced already. So, anyway, that phrase now makes perfect sense and if you take 'addicted to' as will actively seek out, feed with wild abandon on and lower the guard significantly during, then it just re-enforces that sense and can be applied to human situations. I will happily, key point being happily, watch telly and scoff mixed nuts for example, varying sizes but with none being overly large or too different, varying colours, varying textures, but all easily edible together. Someone then during ,my feast shoves a coconut under my nose and I don't fancy it, but I might waste time looking at it and even entertaining a loose idea of how I would go about it, before deciding no, now where have those nuts gone. Or a bag of crisps, one flavour, various sizes within an easily eaten and digested range, similar textures, then stick a whole potato in the bag and you get the same effect. The point being that pellet for example is a particle bait and your hook bait may be shouldn't be too far off similar when introduced with pellets that you are hoping the Barbel will get their heads down on. More the size that makes pellet a particle it could be said in 1-6 mm sizes and you wouldn't toss load after load of 20mm pellets into a swim and expect a frenzy, you may trip up the odd fish by playing the same hookbait to feed game, which one has the hook in it is hard tell then granted. Exponents of boilie fishing for Barbel might feed say 8/10 mm and have a 12/15mm on the hook, this again fits the same thinking, it is appealing to the Barbels addictive nature.

So, here it comes, a meatball and as requested a long time back. Particle? No, Target bait to appeal to the other instinct of competitiveness needed for survival, yes. Looks nice, I better eat that before something else does Not loosefed in any great amounts, maybe a few tempters nearby, and with no heavy baiting of free offerings, a bait that will be cast I suspect into the right places, rather than trying to encourage fish up to your bait from downstream. A smaller meatball and fed with lots of smaller bits of meat/mince and you will have the pellet or boilie strategy, just in a different bait and one suiting conditions at times, better than a pellet might. All of this came to me today and on the back of some helpful advice from a couple of meat/meatball fans, but my need to understand fully got me needing to apply it something I have used.

Now, did I pack the camera? That's done it..........
 

Lee Richards

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Excellent write up as always Chris.
Personally I use a lot of particals for my "other" sprices fishing and yet now with Barbel have moved away from that approach."back in the day" even on the Teme I would get through a gallon or more of hemp and a few pints of casters every session. Four 25kg sacks one season.
It became noticeable though over time and with the amount going in that the fish did become pre-occupied on the feed and harder to catch or avoided it completely.
I even used to glue a couple of hemp to a hair on a size 16 when it became a "needs must"
Perhaps the same might be happening with pellets on the Middle now. Bubble burst as they say.

So to get around this we have tailored our Severn approach to now using plenty of feed such as meaty groundbait with a sprinking of pellets or maggots/casters and larger pellets/meat or bunches of casters/maggots on the hook.
This change to the "to good to miss" hook bait size has seen an improvement in Barbel catches and also strangely for other fish species as well.

Downstream of me there are certain stretches where "the Source" has become the goto boilie and No 1 bait yet even after a few concerted attempts we have always struggled.

Strange things are these fish but they have never changed their liking for meat.
 

Northantslad

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Cheers mate.
Yes re the hemp, I have read about anglers using something they called bogey and they 'bogeyed' some hemp to the hook. Downside of particle feeding is for them, as you suggest, is they can get too pre-occupied of course, can work against you and for you, although I am still in favour of it working for you and with pellet on densely populated stretches, when a shoal feeds with that addiction and pre-occupation, a similar bait to the feed is soon picked up. Used to worry me that 'how will they find that pellet in amongst the hundreds with it' but they do and especially with consistently accurate casting. A single or target bait always worries me now to a degree and it has become clear that some of that worry can be alleviated by knowing you are in the right location.
Interesting also that your improvement has come on the lower by using particles on the hook, could be cyclic as you say, but re the pellet approach I don't see it blowing anytime soon here, may be linked to how other anglers may have many different approaches and in the terms of the Trent is a less intimate in terms of size.

You may have some of the books in my list in part one, if you haven't got it, Roger Millers book is a fantastic read. Strange fish yes, but biologically they have never changed. In his book particularly he goes through his thought process and how, upon encountering baits/tactics that had blown or in the case of the bait bans on the royalty, how he stayed one step ahead.
 

Northantslad

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I had packed the camera..........and that did it. Always next time.
 

Northantslad

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Inspiration for this part came from reading the Besthorpe thread of micks exploits (thanks mick) and a session I had the other day.

On the how far to cast matter, I can give a good example from the other day's session to add to @tipitinmick 's point. Pegs where you sit on the outside of a bend as mick said are ideal, in terms of the flow being closer to you. Scenario I faced the other day on a stretch where 'our' pegs are situated like that I will go through below. Not only that, but you will find that many Barbel hot spots for shoal fish on many rivers are situated around flows caused by bends, a look on google earth really brings home to you how much of a bend is in a section of river that you can't always appreciate from the ground.

At normal levels it is just a chuck a third of the way across maximum. We faced the pegs with about 1.5-2m of extra water on. Extra water does interesting things to any section of river and makes pegs that weren't necessarily productive in normal levels a hot spot and vice versa-productive pegs at normal levels either aren't fishable with water on or the fish seek other sanctuaries. Where we sat the other day-with fast water coming right out across us from the bend, drew criticism from some other anglers, along the lines of no way will you hold bottom up there- it isn't fishable? I think they were going to seek slacks and move on from they had started. Don't get me wrong, extra water brings new snags or may cause you to fish in a part of the river where the snags you avoid in normal conditions are situated, but unless fish are snagging, its a hazard that sometimes has to be tolerated.

Slack water in these conditions, in terms of slack water alone isn't what is needed in the peg. Fast/flow and slack in the peg-where the main flow meets the slack and this 'crease' being close in is ideal. The fish will be situated on the crease line. As mick suggested in such conditions you may be casting where you had sat in lower levels! I had always taken this and others saying they have caught a yard from the 'new' bank edge as a pinch of salt- coupled with my reading however and a Barbel topping in such a place the other day right in front of me, I fully agree now. Yes I lost some kit (feeders, leads and hooklengths), thankfully not on fish the other day, but I held bottom on a comfortable 3 ounce and had a decent day with 6 barbel. So much of it is confidence in what you are doing that makes you stick to it and trust your thinking. One of the books I read regularly for example, tells me that Barbel will feed in 18 inches of the right coloured water, I always believed that statement to apply only to more intimate rivers, but I suppose Barbel are Barbel regardless of the river.
 

Northantslad

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September on the Severn.

It can be a bitter pill, the September chill after long hot days on low clear rivers,
Old whiskers will be out, with that well trained snout, through our morning shivers.

Feeding heavily and for the days longevity until the evening temperature drops,
There will be the fish, relishing the dish, when the fields have yielded their crops.

Weed dying off and as the Barbel scoff, there is no better time than now,
The steam train hoots, the hunter shoots and the tractor trails its plough.

Where to head when you leave that bed, a decision still to get right,
Made easier still, as the Barbel will, vacate their safety of night.

Clear sky days, show in a number of ways, mostly the need for that jumper,
It doesn't deter the keenest, Barbel still at their leanest, cars bumper to bumper.

The dew damp grass, shines like glass as we tread the sacred turf,
The river glides, still within its sides as it washes the sandy earth.

If its low, the walk might make you blow, but find where the water runs deep,
Could be any time, may be hold the line, but do not fall asleep.

The time is now, no matter how, rolling, feeder or float,
Seize the time, cast the line and always fish with hope.

If morning brings a frost, then all may be lost, time for shirt and shoes,
With plenty of pubs and a couple of clubs, plenty of which to choose.

Always next time, to wet that line, on the beauty of the Severn,
Once arrived, I am never surprised, for me, it is heaven.

Riv sev.JPG
 
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Northantslad

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Details of some finer aspects.


Why not just the ‘finer details’?


Simply because it sounded too much like the ‘final details’ and anyone who has been reading throughout will know, that if I ever got to a point of suggesting that ‘right, that is everything you need to know’, I will stop writing the guide, not because it actually can ever be finished, Barbel fishing changes; but because I will have assessed my skills and knowledge as superior to anyone else’s, something I am ever keen, not to do……..I’m still negotiating that sweeping bend of the river in my journey, with my knowledge coming across the river to catch up with me at the near bank. After all, I cannot continue on without it.


Does a river actually end? Or just feed the sea, which then feeds other rivers…………….


I think about errors I have made in my early Barbelling, I don’t mind using them to highlight points or and in the process of reflection, use as a measure of personal progress when they become fewer, I will use a few of these in this section to highlight points.


In terms of feeder fishing, may be with a straight lead ‘thrown in’ for good measure, ok, poor pun…… or is it?…….accuracy and feeding/casting rate, cannot be under estimated, I think back to my early Barbel fishing on the feeder and on the back of largely fishing commercial venues…….this heavily influenced my perception of how a feeder works and fed my misconception of how it should therefore work on a river for Barbel. There is food in it, there is smell to it and there is colour to the feed-then surely the Barbel will come to it. Big mistake on my thinking back then and unless you are on fish from the off, or have got the fish arrived during your session, I am looking to see, actually, how I can get the feed to them, to then encourage them into the swim. It may result in a shoal coming for a look, or as is quite common, looking to eek out a fish or two as a typical reward for a day’s efforts. The need to get the fish in swim is paramount I feel and for the purpose of setting the scene, let’s say typical river conditions, normal levels and a fair amount of water clarity in keeping with what my target rivers tend to be, either over the normal bank or low and clear! Talking the latter of those two extremes here and for pressured day ticket Barbel, two things that remain consistent in my Barbel fishing.


The key for me is knowing if the fish are already in the swim and require triggering, or they need pulling into the swim, without knowing for sure 100% which is the case, easing into a session in terms of feeding rate hedges your bets somewhat, however the decision of the approach can be aided by knowing the swim well and also the ‘rules’ you may have observed about when or at what points of the day they feed. To draw on my previous failures and errors, I would always start a session with good intentions, casting the feeder in a regular routine for little or really no reward commonly, then tire of that approach and casting slowed up until I was hardly casting the ‘feeder’ at all, failing to grasp that the clue was in the name-‘feeder’. In my other fishing the feeder was just essentially a target and fish would come to it. When I started to appreciate in my Barbel fishing that the fish would sometimes do the exact opposite and back off the feeder-pressured fish in clear water, I turned a corner, the gentle corner just before the sweeping bend…. Combining this with appreciating that the fish do have their feeding times and routines, unlike my commercial fishing; the similarity being the pressure fish in both types of venue are under, the difference being that Barbel, due to their routines won’t always be feeding all day. Could it be taken into account if lots of feed has already gone in that day before or worse for the day time angler, the evening before? I think it can.


So, taking these thoughts, how could be they translated into the what and how, the mechanics of things and how to exploit the knowledge? Easing into the session, may be the use of a small feeder early on or even a straight lead, the latter can be a good option for searching the swim, without putting bait all over the river. In my early days it had to be a feeder, because of my misunderstanding of what it was and I would be casting all over the place in the search for fish to come to it, the search and subsequently the casting getting more desperate and spread out with every passing hour. The use of the feeder was perhaps the right choice approach wise, but not focussing on one part or the right part of the river, was perhaps the biggest mistake. With much hindsight and again on the accuracy matter, this doesn’t mean that as long as you keep the feeder going into the same spot, the Barbel will come, it will help, but largely it must be the part of the swim where the Barbel wish to feed.


Something shared between myself and others, when discussing swims and also from bailiffs, that is sound advice, is that when someone says, you need to be two thirds across for example, that is exactly what they mean and exactly where they mean; it matters. As does any feature of the river current or patterns visible in the surface of the river that are advised as an area to target. Don’t get me wrong, there may be sometimes the ‘advice’ that is actually a curveball, that only experience, character judging skills to spot the sort of person that may wish to deter your chances and sharing your findings with other Barbel fishing mates will establish, but largely, I would say that 90% of advice is sound advice and certainly on the where to cast aspect.


In clear water, fish ‘backing off’ the feeder is a phrase widely used and due to its wide use, is commonly, but perhaps also, too readily accepted. Recently I have been thinking about this and on the back of a September visit to a low clear Severn, where after some thought on this I became convinced of not the sight of the feeder being a factor, but the constant commotion of its hitting the water. In perfect conditions and with colour in the water, yes the sight of it may be reduced, but with those conditions, Barbel will feed more readily and take the sound as a dinner bell, rather than a warning siren and confirmed by sight. Is Barbel fishing about learning the fish or us learning? Tough one, but I think the successful angler is the one prevents the Barbel learning by not adhering to what it knows and has already learnt.


Linking the aspects of where to cast, casting accuracy and using a feeder, let’s assume a not too dangerous assumption to make. Where to cast-established-tick. Casting accuracy, using a far bank feature to line up on-tick. Learnt that one the hard way too, I would sometimes use the ‘see where that shadow comes along the river’, great for there and then, not so, given that shadows move with the light. Nor when fishing the Tidal and using the distance from the near bank in the lower corner of your eye to where your feeder lands as a gauge, where the water distance near you might vary by 2 metres with the tide! Like I said, knowing my errors and sharing them, I have no issue with at all, it’s only as I negotiate the sweeping bend of my journey can I now look back up the long straight and smile at my mistakes.


Got the feeder on-tick. Typically a black top kamasan, containing 1-4mm pellet mix (see bait section in guide 1), careful on the varying sizes of pellet classed as 4mm, too large and you will be boring out the holes of the feeder to allow them to escape, or sitting there as none can escape and your pellets turn to mush in the ‘feeder’, instead of the varying sizes, colours and even consistency leaving the feeder and making the bait trail and with varying breakdown times. On that point, whilst emphasis was given to how far across, your marker chosen should see you also hit the same spot in terms of how far down (or up) the river, again vital, imagine you have drawn the fish up and they are considering feeding, until your next cast lands right on top them! In the right mood they may return fairly quickly, in the wrong mood then you could be waiting until their next feed time, this may be when you have left for yours.


Coming back to the above aspects and completing the set up as it were, typically, the hook length in such conditions may be in excess of 4, 5,6ft. So, where is this heading? Actually the one place that may be all too readily thought that the Barbel won’t head to; the feeder. Why the long hooklength? Because the fish back off the feeder and because it works, the latter I am fine with, but I have to know why it works. The former, you may have detected, I doubt.


Consider if you will, the set-up: largish holes in the feeder, mix of pellets that can easily escape the feeder and long hooklength, whilst we can never tell the Barbel where to feed-true enough in any part of the river, I think within the right line of the right swim, this isn’t entirely true, and with the set up as it is, they are being encouraged to feed quite a way down the line, hence the long hook length works. Try it, next time you can spare one cast of a full feeder and somewhere in the river with a bit of flow and you don’t mind wasting a feeders worth of bait, cast it in and retrieve it immediately and before landing- see how many pellets are left in the feeder, may be a couple of the larger size at most is my guess and may be only then because they wedged in the feet of the clip on lead.


Some of the smallest, lightest and less dense pellets, may be still flowing down the river before coming to rest on the bottom even when you have the feeder back in your hand. It isn’t a bad thing when trying to form that trail, which suits perfectly how Barbel feed; working along it, before letting the current catch their flanks and glide them back to the start of the trail again, but it may be an issue once the fish have worked up to your main feed, after taking the tempters that flowed further down. It has moved onto at this point needing to hold the fish or at least not scare or force them away by the same feeding strategy. Smaller feeder or tape up some holes to slow the rate and distance of the trail and combined with a shorter hooklength may see another fish or two added, if it does great, if it did and then stops, back to plan A set up wise. If the strategy works and with the shorter hooklength, I wouldn’t therefore say that the fish are backing off the feeder, more a combination of how we are fishing-right for the conditions and how we are fishing is responding to how Barbel feed. There is some consideration too I feel, but not as much as the above, where Barbel anglers alter the length of the hooklength according to flow; how quickly the pellets exit the feeder being determined by the flow. Personally, I prefer to combat flow with enough weight to get the feeder down quickly and stay still, granted the hooklength length isn’t being used to combat flow, but the speed of the feeder getting down is dictated by its weight, therefore affected by that weight is how far the feed travels before then coming to rest. Due to this, I favour the explanation I have given above for why the combination of the feeder and long hook lengths work initially, but also then the need for changing it during a session, sometimes essential to keep fish coming. The flow rate may not alter all day, so therefore on the latter way of thinking, nor would you change your hooklength length if chosen due to flow alone. The need to think about how Barbel feed in any flow, largely convinces me. Depth of water however, then as previously mentioned restricting the feed rate by taping up some holes in deep water can work as can a shorter hooklength with no taping work in shallower water, may be a slight variation in flow created by different depths, but if anything, shallower usually means faster, which again cancels out the flow rate theory for the varying of hooklength length to a longer one.


The recent September trip as I mentioned, suggested to me it may be more sometimes the continued noise of the feeder hindering the encouraging of fish to feed. After a morning trying to make a method work that had worked previously for me in a swim with an excellent near bank run (loose feed, wait and fish with a straight lead over the feed), with no joy, noting that the level was down by 6 inches to last time when it did work, I then set about actively feeder fishing out in the main flow. By actively, I mean quickly and with the last session of the weekend passing as quickly as those last days do, I did the cast, retrieve, cast process, to get some bait into the main flow, casting every five minutes. Knowing that some fish had been caught and also recognising that one of the major dislikes of Barbel-the sun, was losing its battle to keep them in hiding with each passing minute, I started tidying and preparing for a blank. Then, lightbulb moment, after a busy weekend and my ability to function much longer let alone think, dwindling, I thought about the disturbance of the feeder. Out went a fresh pellet but on a straight lead over where I had been casting the feeder. Within 20 minutes I had my blank saving Barbel.


This was a situation where hooklengths of any length hadn’t worked on the feeder, but ceasing the regular casting of the feeder had and with no doubt in my mind, resulted in a fish. Importantly for learning and from what contributes a pattern or number of same observations worthy of basing a rule on, this wasn’t the first time a straight lead following countless casts of a feeder has paid off. The process of and need for casting the ‘feeder’ essential in that swim to get some bait trail in, the need to continue with it, very non-essential, perhaps the feeder was intrusive to the Barbel’s ‘ears’ which impacted on its appetite, until at least I had opened the dining room door, by closing the lid on my feeder box.
 

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