Beginners Guide to Barbel Fishing (PART TWO)

Astounded Coach

Regular member
Dec 12, 2003
Apologies for the late arrival but three 20+ commons got in the way!!

So here its is PART TWO


In part one we looked at the very basic tackle requirements to effectively and responsibly fish for this fantastic species. I digress slightly from my original plan of part two as only when I have sat here to write this have I realised that there is so much to barbel fishing and much that I suppose Id o almost automatically.

In this part we will look at several very important aspects of barbel fishing. Correct swim preparation is vital If you are to be consistently successful and not just catch the `odd fish. We will also have a closer look at the rigs which will give you the best chance of securing a good hook hold in the fish, and finally in this part we will look at how to play a barbel correctly.


The importance of correct swim preparation cannot be stressed enough, it is this that sets a good barbel angler from an average one. The majority of anglers are far too eager to cast a line over fish that are interested but not avidly feeding. The result will often be a `one fish hit where a fish is hooked quickly but then the shoal melts away and become frustratingly difficult to tempt again.
So, we have arrived on our selected stretch , lets take it that we are on a small to medium river like the River Teme, I will suggest some alternative tactics for large rivers like the Lower Severn later. As we have been here before we have some idea in our minds of where the fish may is where a lot of anglers go many of us have decided where we are going to fish BEFORE we even get out of the car?...................
Walk the whole stretch first..even if it takes an hour. Don your polarised glasses and spend some time actually looking for fish. Once you have a practiced eye barbel are not difficult to see and a sparse scattering of halibut pellets will often see fish materialise as if out of nowhere.
Watch their reaction to the small sprinkly of pellets. You will notice that in certain places they really get their heads down and start digging the bottom up to get at the pellets. In others they will hardly make any effort to move for them. This should get you thinking. There are places and times where the barbel feed and there are holding areas where they rest up. Finding the feeding swims is the key to being successful.
So having spent a little time just looking you will now have an even better idea as to where to best `have a go.
Now comes for the magic, and that magic comes in the shape of a small black seed..HEMP.
In each of your chosen swims either catapult or baitdropper (preferred) a pint or so of hemp followed by a couple of droppers of small (4-6mm) pellets.
Now for the IMPORTANT bitWAITOBSERVEand REPEATwhat you are looking for is the barbel to be actively competing for the loosefeed. Believe me when these fish are actively on the feed it is VERY obvious!
When the fish have reached this stage, sometimes it may take an hour or so, sometimes literally minutes then it is time to think about how best to present our bait.


The rig you choose will depend on your bait to a certain extent . Lets look at some basic rigs which will see you through 90% of your fishing.

The best way to fish a pellet (14mm or bigger) is on a simple knotless knot hair configuration using either a reputable braid (I like ESP sinklink) or a straight forward mono.
To fish pellets like this they either need drilling or there are several versions available predrilled although I sometimes find the holes on these a little too large making presentation difficult and allowing too much water into the inside of the pellet.
Alternatively you can use a pellet band or `O ring tied to the hair but I am never confident that the hookbait is actually there so I much prefer drilling.
I tend to use one of those pots that boilie popups come in and sit and drill a few pot fulls in the comfort of the kitchen table rather than fiddling about and wasting fishing time on the bank. I also then soak these hookers in a combination of Salmon Oil and Monster Crab flavour. This extends their effective life and slows down the breakdown in water.
To fish smaller pellets the best way is to superglue 2 back to back to the hair again using the knotless knot configuration.

Dare I say but carp fishing has come to barbel fishing!!! (thats all the purists upset!!) Again the knotless knot reigns supreme. Just follow the rule..KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Luncheon Meat.
There are two main ways to fish meat, on the hook or on the hair. Both have there problems due to the soft nature of this magnificent barbel catcher.
To fish on the hook, push your hook all the way through the meat , turn through 90 degrees and pop a small blade of grass under the bend to secure. The humble blade of grass is far more effective than a boilie stop as it spreads the load of the bait and stops the hook pulling through.
To fish meat on the hair there is a little trick! Tie your hair as normal and then thread on a piece of rigid tubing. Mount the meat as usual with a piece of spaghetti as a stop (again better than any boilie stop) the tubing will stop the cheese wire effect of the hair cutting through the meat.

Hemp Hookbaits
A massive edge..BUTIm not saying anything nowyoull have to keep your eyes on Improve Your Coarse Fishing magazine over the next couple of months as Im doing a feature showing a couple of little tricks!!

Not a lot needs to be said but a big punch of maggots can be a killer.

Not rocket science this one just take your knotless knot hair rig and replace your pellet/boilie hookbait with 3 or 4 grains.

I use the semi fixed setup for 80% of my barbeling. Ill take you through how to setup my preferred end tackle. I make no excuses for naming specific manufacturers products as they are the ones I have confidence in.
First take a variable release leadclip and thread up your line. Then tie on a size 8 swivel. To this then tie on your hair rig as above. Attach a lead which will hold bottom and aid the `bolt effect.
Variable release leadclips are part of the Anchor Tackle Barbel Expert Range, this range also has camo swivels, hooks and pebble backleads. If you have difficulty in getting hold of any of the range try (Shameless plug!!![:D][;)])

So there you have it, your swim is prepared and your trap is set.

With the rigs described you will see that there really is no need for a quivertip. I am not interested in knowing when a fish is NEAR my bait.I NEED to know when a fish is hooked. You will find that 95% of bites will be a quick tap on the rod top followed by the rod top slamming over and the baitrunner screaming like a carp run.

SO FISH ON!!!!!!!!!
You must play barbel HARD. It is no good ***** footing around. As I have previously said the barbels oxygen requirement throughout the summer is very high and the quicker you get them in the folds of your landing net the better. A long protracted fight is very bad news for the fish and often ends in a fatality.
If you are using the tackle I have suggested you will cope with any barbel that swimsjust one thing thoughI am amazed at the amount of anglers I see playing fish with a rod that is hardly bent!!! The rod is a springits there to be bend the thing!!!

Be careful as the fish nears the net. Barbel are the one fish that are extremely adept at catching you unawares. Just as you think they are beaten they wil make one last dive and strip a load of line from your reel or if youre not ready break you.
Once the fish is in your netWAIT..leave the fish to recover for a few minutes in the water. This can often give you time to prepare your weighing and photography equipment before even unhooking the fish.

So there it is then, youve selected and prepared your swim, cast out the right rig and your prize is in the netso on to PART THREE.

In Part Three we will look at how to properly care for barbel which is the MOST important thing in this whole saga!!!

Hope again I have helped and hope nobody takes this as me blowing my own trumpet!!


Regular member
May 25, 2007
Thank you for spending time writing a wonderful guide and as others say, I can't wait for part 3


aka Tigerbay
Site Supporter
Jun 9, 2004
The big thing that stands out for me is locating the fish.

That bit about deciding where you're going to fish before you get out of the car ( Or even days before !).

So many anglers are too keen to get comfortable themselves, rather than fish where the fish might be ! ( and then give them time to get feeding ).

Thanks for all that Neil.


Regular member
Sep 3, 2003
[;)] Whats the best time of year to fish for Barbel?
Im travelling over 150 miles to do a 2 night stay, but cant decide which month to go[:)]
Going to Yorkshire.

Preferably in the school hols.


Astounded Coach

Regular member
Dec 12, 2003
Early season can be a bit hit and miss, whilst Sept / Oct are usually the best months for a biggie.
If you fish the right river that had a good head of fish (ie Teme etc) you can catch them all year in good numbers.