Barbel Fishing Starting Out

Northantslad

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10. Expectations the visiting angler 'should' have.

By now I am hoping that you realise the use of inverted commas is important to me, there is difference between me suggesting what you 'should' ever think or do and what you could do, I have just drawn on what I have found to be reality.

Throughout the piece I have tried to make it relevant for all Barbel anglers, regardless of their locations, favoured rivers or favoured ways of fishing and I hope that any Barbel angler may take something from it.

To a degree though I must draw on my experiences and my experience of being a visiting angler and one who has and continues to go through a long learning curve. There isn't a lot if anything at all I could 'teach' a local and knowledgeable Trent or Severn angler, nor have I attempted to.

The overall aim has been to cut down the learning time for an angler new to Barbel fishing and one who is around an hour or two away from their favoured rivers or ones they have aspirations of targeting.

I have often discussed with one of my Barbel angling mates, in terms of stretches, pegs and swims, about how great it would be to always know 'where to go when and how to fish it'. Knowledge that has had to be built through largely trial and error and reliant on tips from other anglers, tackle shops, forums etc. In terms of the when, I of course mean; when the river or conditions are doing this or that where do we go? It can be one of the biggest factors there is-finding the fish. There is however a bigger 'when' for the visiting angler and this is rarely dictated by conditions, river levels or river conditions, more when we can get up there, as dictated by other commitments. I have happily done trips on my own and beneficial they are too, but I do enjoy the socials with a handful of us, especially the annual weekender.

With the Barbel being so sensitive to conditions and preferring to have access to a wide range of water depths, water flows, feeding and resting areas within its habitat in a length of river, then there will be times where, having based your decision to go on when you can instead of when things are ideal, then the biggest piece of advice is to treat every trip, productive or not as an opportunity to learn. If you catch one or more Barbel then that should be treated as a successful day, if you blank, try and analyse why; don't beat yourself up, you may simply have been 'having' to fish when conditions weren't in your favour.

In terms of where you fish, then you have choices, I would suggest that day ticket issued on the bank sections are your priority, as the last thing you want to be doing is needing to have your fishing times dictated by tackle shop opening times for stretches where tickets are to be purchased in advance from a tackle shop. If you do go for the tackle shop issued ticket section option, then get in and get out, having done your homework in advance, if you hang about chatting, you will fail to notice the anglers who have come in, got their ticket and headed out whilst you are discussing things.

Your other option is season ticket memberships, such as BAA or Newark. I have come to the conclusion on these, that I can moan, whinge and get annoyed as much as I want, but needing to get over it, I cannot change a thing. During the writing of part of this guide some of our favoured Trent stretches are going to season ticket from April and we will be getting the required season ticket to enable our access to the Barbel and where we believe them to be at varying points of the year. We have held off getting a BAA ticket at present, as although our favoured day ticket sections are getting busier by the year, we have been doing ok on them, ensuring we get there at dawn. Don't have any magazine have you believe that you can wander down, survey swims, bait a few swims and fish them throughout the day. It is a well documented tactic and one that can pay dividends, but unfortunately not one at your disposal on such stretches of river.

When we started going to the Severn in our early Barbel expeditions, anticipation went with us, but apart from the odd Barbel being caught, for many, including myself, disappointment went home with us. You need to be the type to persevere and on my fourth trip/fourth year of going, after the usual fruitless Friday and Saturday, I could easily have stayed in bed on the Sunday morning, but a lack of confidence and a headache wasn't going to stop me.

Remember it like yesterday, a short walk from the digs, Bridgnorth free stretch (I think I heard that may be changing too), a peg just upstream from my mate. Drennan feeder with hemp in and a 12mm halibut boilie on a foot long hooklength. With the river up and by all accounts perfect, I underarmed the rig about two rod lengths out just on the edge of the slack water meeting the flow, that description by the way is how I realise it now, back then it was just a cast that mirrored my mates. Sitting down and already thinking about Monday's work, I started to tidy up a few bits and bobs......whack, the rod butt slams against my leg, looking up at the tip right over, I grabbed the rod and held on, thinking my heart was going to jump out of my chest. You can read, prepare and think you are ready for this moment, but the Barbel dictated when it was ready or not to give me my much awaited prize, when it finally obliged and slipped over the net, my grin was from ear to ear and lasted and lasted about a week!

The size of that fish (2 1/2lb) was as un-important as the size of any Barbel I catch or have caught since, for me a Barbel is Barbel. Each to their own of course, but starting out you shouldn't measure your progress on size of fish. If you are planning to visit some of the venues I have mentioned, then size will take care of itself and you may well catch a double at some point on the Trent, if you catch a double on the Severn then you should (no inverted comma's this time)be very happy.

As the visiting angler who has penned this piece, I have mulled over what my expectations are for the future, possible targets really I suppose I would say;although targets mean pressure and pressure means making hasty decisions, so for me, over say around 12 sessions a year, my aim is to catch more than I blank. It is a middle of the road aim, that with knowledge of the realities of Barbel fishing, is an aim that reflects the time I can get on the bank.

When the time comes that I physically can't get along, up and down or to these places, then that's me done and if the big man reads this and reincarnation is real, then Shropshire please, with all the other happiness I have been fortunate to have 'down here'.
 

Dave

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Excellent thread [:T]
 

Honest John

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Very informative and inspirational thread .... makes me want to just get out there on the bank ... thanks for sharing
 

Northantslad

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Thanks for the kind words John.
Am glad it has that effect, that is a big part of what I was looking to achieve.
[:T]
 

Northantslad

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Books you may find a good read.

(In no particular order)

Understanding Barbel, Fred Crouch, Pelham Books, 1986
ISBN 0-7207-1716-7

A fascinating read and goes into some depth about the Barbel's biology, physiology and behaviours. Intertwined with anecdotal observations and catch details. The author uses lots of everyday analogies to emphasise points about Barbel behaviour.


Barbel Rivers and Captures, the Barbel Catchers, Crowood Press, 2004
ISBN 978-1-86126-660-6

With detailed descriptions of 29 Barbel rivers, memorable catch details from each river and illustrated details of tactics/rigs used.


Practical Barbel Fishing, Graham Marsden and Mark Wintle, Crowood Press, 2010
ISBN 978-1-84797-203-3

Written in a very informative way, as this duos angling books tend to be. It covers modern approaches and timeless tactics alike, covering the many different ways that Barbel fishing can be undertaken.

The Complete Barbel Angler, Roger Miller, Crowood Press, 1996
ISBN 1-85223-980-8

A gripping read, that goes into depth about the Barbel and its behaviour, rig mechanics and season round Barbelling. This is my most recent addition to my collection and is quickly becoming one of my favourite reads.

There are other books out there that I will be adding to my collection. However, having read the above ones to date, I can highly recommend them. They keep me going when I'm not going as it were.
 

Northantslad

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Was reading the Rivers and Captures one last night (remembering it was published in 2006) and in the end chapter on the future of Barbel angling it mentions a 19lb Barbel and finishes that section by saying- who knows, the first 20lb capture may well be on the cards (not a direct quote) and predicted the Ouse as the venue-being able to spot fish is wonderful thing. The book must have been finished just before the 21-1 record was caught. Fascinating reading and that bit, plus the rest of the chapter is accurate in its predictions. The writer concurs with the widely held opinion also that the Trent is capable of toppling records.

Great reading, anyone know if the Barbel catchers have done another similar book since this one, they did one in 1988, this one, so wondering there is a third one?
 

Northantslad

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Was just sat in the garden getting some fresh air and I looked at the bread I had put out for the birds and thought hmmm it hasn't been touched yet and those young I can hear in the nests need feeding, c'mon it will only take one to attract the rest, but then whilst one will come along it will probably be scared with me so close nearby and probably fly off..........this then triggered one of my daily thoughts about barbel.....................

..................days where I have caught multiple barbel have been fewer than when getting the odd one. Unfortunately I feel the need on the busy rivers to get in a peg asap and get fishing. Am now wondering, whilst getting a peg (the peg) is a must, fishing it immediately perhaps isn't, perhaps I need to feed and then let them gather in comfort..........

With their beaks down and focussed on nothing but feeding, I could easily sit there and not spook them.

Read enough to know that this is hardly revolutionary thinking, but I love it when reminders like that pop into your head.

Not too long now.......
 

Sportsman

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Thanks for that, really enjoyed it and it has given me some pointers and ideas for my first "proper" barbel expedition next weekend.
 

bezzer

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Fantastic information and advice Northants.

Like you, catching a Barbel, no matter what the size is such a thrill.

May see you down at HL (Kinver) one day.......
 

Phoenixicus

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Time by the water without a bait in is wasted time :D
Only time I ever feed then try to build confidence is on the Teme when it is running clear and I can see the fish.
I would then bait multiple swims and try to build confidence.
On the Severn less likely to move once set-up
 

Northantslad

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Yes mate, on most of the day ticket stretches I would be reluctant to move for fear of not getting another peg. On the bait then wait thing, I would possibly suggest, that especially on places like HL that aren't night fished but heavily day fished, that the Barbel shy away from a 'bait up' until dark. Yet you do need to get something in, to encourage them, and there lies the Barbel conundrum for me in knowing what and when is the right amount. Sometimes you just can't help feeling that your are chucking bait at fish that either aren't there or more likely ones that watch the banquet being prepared and dig in for supper.

I would be happier at times knowing that I am putting a single bait bang on/in the right place, than trying to draw fish into an occasional feeding zone. Yes, in my case you build up your knowledge of stretches and pegs over annual visits, but to live on a river like the Severn must give a real edge in learning the 'wheres, whens and whats' quicker. My aim is to become a good barbel angler before I am too old to have to stop trying to become a good barbel angler.
 

Northantslad

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June - Mid August 2018.

2 Trent trips and 1 Severn and two Barbel so far for the season. Both caught on the Severn on the Waggler, with two lost in the session also to hook pulls.

Observations from theses sessions to date are no matter what the conditions are like and water levels are like on the Severn, pellets are seeming to produce year round now, when the thought may have suggested towards a maggot/caster approach. I nearly said a traditional approach, but pellets have been and are going in that river so much now, that I feel that pellets are now firmly in a traditional bracket.

I really must look at alternative hook patterns for the float tactic, with thicker gauge being the way forward.

On both my Trent trips I have fished maggot and hemp, casting at precisely timed 5 minute intervals, with alternative species only to show for the effort and further emphasised by my mate drawing a Barbel blank on maggot this week, I think my days of approaching this river with maggots are reaching an end. Another mate picked up a couple on boilie this week on the Trent and it may be that, again, regardless of conditions, the Barbel in this river continue to respond to what is going into it on a regular basis, or the fact that his loosefeeding of boilies was a trigger. There must be plenty of maggot, hemp and caster going in there during matches, so this one is going to take up some thinking and reflection time before I make any hasty decisions bait wise.

One of my books that rarely leaves my side, says words to the effect of; an angler who describes themselves as either a boilie angler or a pellet angler does so at their peril. In essence meaning that applying a single bait approach to any river you may fish will cost you fish over the season. A balance is needed I think between what is used and the importance of how much and how it is introduced to induce the Barbel to feed.

Couple more Trent trips to come before the week is out and it will be a pellet and boilie approach this time, alternating tactics between two rods and using loose feeding too.

Now back to preparing my hooklengths for the busy Barbelling time of the year to come.......................the effort needs to go in regardless of catch rate in the hope that it will pay.
 

Northantslad

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Thinking, application and Analysis.
Aware that the guide, now containing thoughts I have, is a bit bloggish recently (nothing against blogs), I don't plan to continue it like a blog, I do feel a section drawing a few aspects from the guide and recent observations together is necessary. I am sure that the thinking I do, the thoughts I have and what I find during trips, may continue to help some and also for some the proof and emphasis is in the results, people do need to see that things work sometimes in order to be inspired to try them.

Thinking and analysis leads to improvement and although the amount I think and read on an almost daily basis could be deemed overthinking things, I really don't feel it is, because despite what some may say, Barbel aren't easy to catch, but you can get better at catching them. It may apply to many forms of angling, but when analysing, I always feel that if you can get to a point of ability where say on a fruitless Barbel session, you come away from it knowing you have done little wrong and given it your all, it serves as some reassurance. There will be Barbel anglers who are skilled enough to manage a Barbel or two in every session, that's not where I am at present.........although and linking this to the thinking about bait I've had in recent days and despite fairly clear water again, my decision to go with pellets and boilies seems to have been the right one yesterday.................
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.........so how do I analyse it. Getting my happiness and the fact I am chuffed to bits out of the way, I can now reflect on the session. Conditions wise, as said water clarity was still high, but with some recent rain the level had risen since the previous visit, not only visibly but also gauged by the extra half ounce of weight I needed in mid river. The session started at 11am with regular changes of overcast conditions to sunlight poking through up until 3.15pm, then the longest spell of overcast conditions came, with Barbel topping following this soon after. My reading tells me that Barbel dislike bright conditions and when Barbel top, it is always a prelude them feeding, linked to adjusting oxygen levels in the swim bladder, remembering this, I knew something was going to happen, not based on intuition or some kind of special foresight, just applying knowledge.

With conditions like they were initially, I had eased my way into the session with standard sized feeders in terms of bait carrying capacity (3 ounce weight wise), although once it clouded over more thoroughly, I felt I needed to do something, so a few fairly regular casts of a larger feeder (timing the same-but altering the feeder size to get more bait down is important, rather than casting more I have read), coupled with the conditions, I got my first fish at 3.45pm, followed by 9 more to around 8pm.

This was my day, but despite what I did during and to induce the feeding spell; switching hooklength length, switching between pellet sizes on the hook, going to the bigger feeder if bites slowed and having the bait out there, the barbel clearly wanted to feed, this latter factor was and is in my opinion the biggest reason the session was a successful one. Barbel stomachs are small in comparison with other cyprinid species and they don't have to feed as regularly as we may think, they wanted to feed and yes, to give myself some credit though I fished well enough to allow them to feed and to feed for four hours. I will cease my credit there though, because on top of the other favourable factors, had the recent rain woken them up? Was it the fact that I was alone on the stretch for the vast majority of the day? Questions I may never know the answer to, either way it was a session where things conspired to make it a memorable one for me, so for the time being, I won't be over thinking matters....for a day or two anyway.
 

drw

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Well done Northantslad a great result and a great read thank you
 

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