Part 1 - Barbel Behaviour!

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Ricky24

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I have posted this on another forum but thought I would share here. It's an article I have written to help the novices out there and maybe the more experienced Barbel boys will find something in this too.

The first article being Barbel Behaviour.

Firstly I will like to take this opportunity to tell you a little about myself. My name is Richard Easom and I was born in Nottingham on September the 4th 1979. From the age of five I have been a keen angler and recently become a very serious Barbel angler. I love football also, Nottingham Forest are my club and even though I am Forest till I die, it comes secondary to my passion and enthusiasm for fishing. This is how I began to get interested in fish behaviour and more notably in relation to this forum and why you are reading, the Barbel.


At the age of sixteen I took a great interest in fish that were in my tank at home, goldfish to be precise watching and observing their behaviour in regards to food and feeding time (They know when it is by the second), hours were spent doing this and for no other reason than I was just interested or engrossed at what was happening at the bottom of my tank, call me a geek if you like.


A lot of what I will write in this article started from that tank and moved on to the wonderful wild rivers our country is famous for and the general coarse fish in contained.


At the age of Twenty I started out my Barbel fishing career if you like. I started on the middle Trent and to this day nothing much has changed apart from the way I approach the fish. I caught a Barbel on my first session and was totally chuffed, nothing big just a five pounder but to me it was a double, bigger even. I loved the awesome fight, nothing like any Carp I had caught before, the sheer strength of the fish made me respect the Barbel as the king of the river and one I wanted to learn more about. I started off using Carp rigs, combi-links etc and of course they worked but I later learned this wasnt due to my advanced Carp rigs that fooled the Barbel.


Years past fishing for Barbel and the more I learned from other Barbel anglers the more I realised the rigs I was using had no place in Barbel fishing nor did the way I approached them, sitting there hoping, praying sometimes crying for something to happen on my rod tip. I became a serial blanker , time after time I sat there in the same spot for me to blank.again!


At the age of 26 I became obsessed with Barbel, so much more than any other fish I have studied and I decided to start understanding and observing so that I could gain knowledge I needed to first, catch more fish generally but ultimately put the doubles on the bank. Since then I have had numerous doubles to 14 Lb which is currently my PB but I will smash that this season.


So became the first process of many stages, Barbel Behaviour.
I began a journey to Norwich and the River Wensum to do some fishing and to start the first process in the shallows where Barbel were present and then onto the Trent for later analysis. Now to go through every stage and every day I tested or examined Barbel it would take a book of mammoth proportions and thats not what I want to do here, as it would be boring to read. I just want to go through my findings and conclusions and then I am open to criticism.


I began by feeding pellets well upstream from the fish and watching them as they fell and hit the bottom, the pellets began to wonder off downstream bouncing on rocks etc, the current was strong so I guess this was to be expected, whilst following these 4mm pellets they began to break down and leave a dust as pieces broke off from the main pellet. The dust/pellet pieces began whizzing downstream which I followed for around 80 or so yards to where a group of small Barbel and Chub were laying.


The Chub greedy fish that they are started to stir and their mouths began to go ten to a dozen, a sure sign they have been alerted by something and are on the feed and actively looking for it. I was not aware of any Chub actually taking any of the pieces and the Barbel never even stirred. I went back to where I fed and began the process again, this time however the Chub were ready and aware and began feeding with fury, initially two, then two more from behind a bush turned up and joined the other two.


So the process was started again and to my amazement I followed it down only 60 yards and the four Chub were there, I was taken aback initially so I walked to where the Chub were at the start of the process and nope nowhere to be seen except for the three Barbel, dorment. I found this incredibly exciting they were following the source, all four of them. What now I thought? Great the Chub are ravenous but what about the Barbel? I considered doing something different but I eventually decided to keep doing what I was doing, trying to re-create a stick float situation where youll feed little and often and bring the fish in!


So the process continued and with each handful of pellets the Chub got closer and closer until they were literally right there where I was throwing the Pellets. By this time Im thinking this is fantastic, they were so confident I could have put my hand in and they would have fed out of it I am sure. Of course I didnt do this, I kept feeding the little pellets and after an hour of this I forgot about the Barbel so I went to where I first saw them, guess what? No sign. Where the hell are they?! Did they get spooked? Did they move on? Many thoughts went through my head, why did they not do what the Chub did? So I went back to feeding the Chub but I changed the amount I threw in because they were havin it so to speak. So two handfuls of pellets and hemp after hemp (Full catty) in the catapult every 3 to 4 minutes. Well now things are changing the Chub are beginning to slow down (Pellets and hemp are getting them full if there is such a thing with Chub), and pellets are again getting through downstream.


So back along to the start where I had saw the Barbel, I go to see if the Barbel have returned, nope!
Now comes the time where I am wondering what I did or did not do to make that group of Barbel not feed, even a little bit, the day itself was not conducive to Barbel, bright, sunny, hot and no breeze to speak of. So I found it odd that the Chub were really having it and the Barbel, dorment. These conditions are usually bad for any fish but the Chub were ravenous. I kept feeding until the Chub were just not taking any more, they vanished! 3 hours into the process I felt I learnt lots but not on the fish I wanted to learn about, I never had chance.


I kept the feed going in and decided to walk along the margins where the bait was going through and low and behold theres four to five Barbel under a tree, the smaller one intercepting the pellets and hemp getting washed down in the flow. I then started to wonder how long they were there. Id been feeding at least an hour stepped up every 3 4 minutes. Last time I went to see if any Barbel were present I went to where they were at the start of the process, I honestly didnt think they would move up towards the bait, I honestly believed they were backing off as they had vanished.


It was definitely the same Barbel but one or two more had joined the group and 20 to 30 yards further upstream towards the source. Okay now were in business I kept on feeding following them down and observing what they did, wellI thought it was bizarre, the smallest Barbel in the group would take a couple of pellets turn and spook off downstream, whats this all about I thought? Has he seen me? The rest of the Barbel? Well they just sat there in the flow. I kept the process up and they were not touching it, after 15 minutes the one that had spooked came back and began feeding, this time a little more than before. Weird, this time not spooking just taking some pellets and hemp and waiting for the next batch to come through the swim, each time taking a little more while the others just watched on, lol.


After thirty or so more minutes the bigger Barbel began to become interested and for what was literally Five minutes they were going mad on the bait, then as quick as the frenzy started it stopped, the fish hardly moving from the margin or from under the tree the whole time (just the small Barbel once or twice). They wasnt prepared to move to it but were quite prepared in a Five minute madness spell of feeding to take free offerings that past their line of vision, almost mid water. Why? I took a look at the sky and ask myself is this the weather thats conducive to Barbel? Well No it isnt so the Barbel are wary of the bait and are not happy to feed unless its under cover and then before they become competitive the smallest Barbel will feed first to either make sure it's all clear or because they are just being very cautious although my personal belief is that they just feed in this way.


This spookiness and reaction of Barbel in my opinion is not because they remember being caught on this bait or they think a line and hook are attached, its due to weather conditions and how they feed generally on this type of weather. It wouldnt matter if they had never been caught before, for all I know they probably havent. Its just something within the elements of the weather that made them cautious. So people dont ever think its your rigs or line Barbel are not bothered by mono line or whatever they just dont like not seeing it and are being spooked when touching it with their fins. Fluorocarbon is renowned for this action which all my rigs are tied with Braid to eliminate this risk, of course you will still catch on Fluoro but in my testing they can spook on it and when they're not feeding in a competitive nature is when they're likely to do this. Barbel that are feeding well couldn't give a rats ass, they become so pre-occupied with the food that you could wave a stick at them and they wouldn't move. I heard Bob Roberts mention this recently, but I knew this already from my tests.


What that test does tell me is that during these type of days look for overhanging trees or some place in the shade, the feature could be underwater also like streamer weed. You may want to think about the way your line lays and from what side. Barbel passing through your line i.e. approaching your lead first gives the Barbel more chance to catch their fins on it thus removing the pack/shoal in lightening quick fashion. However one exception to this rule is when Barbel are ravenous they couldn't care less what hits their fins they just want the food, and every time you go fishing that is the environment you need to try and create for Barbel, to have the best results. To do this and to stand the best chance you need to feed.. In small shallow rivers this is common, one quick thud of the rod tip and then nothing for hours, Barbel are not clever but when they are frightened by something they cannot see they will not return for a while, one out all out. And once returned will be more cautious than before initially, until confidence is risen again.


Whilst in rivers such as the Trent the Barbel will approach bait from all angles and whilst its deeper in parts theres less chance of this happening. Pinning the rig down can help when its clear but in shallower swims when you can actually see them then its always best to position your feeder upstream of the feeding fish.


I have done testing and experiments on hot sunny days for years and I thought I would use this particular day in my article purely so you can understand yourself in the hardest possible form. If the water is clear and the sky is too then Barbel will 90% of the time feed in the way I have described. What Barbel lack in eyesight they make up for in smell and scent glands, its like humans really, you can have a blind man who can hear ten times better than you or I and vice-versa.


On overcast and mild days with colour in the water say a good 2ft and running off will see the best Barbel conditions (especially if that extra water is warm) they will follow the Chub to the source but it works in a sequence, in an order if you like. The Chub renowned for being the pigs of the river will nine times out of ten feed first, followed by the Barbels foot soldiers aka the smallest Barbel of the group, they use this Barbel as the guinea pig, not because they are wary but because their make-up design them that way no matter how conducive the conditions. While the smallest Barbel takes bait regular the bigger Barbel wait behind until they have seen enough and almost fight, bully the smaller ones out the way.


Many top Barbel anglers believe feeding for 3 hours consistently in perfect Barbel conditions gives you the best chance of landing the biggest in the shoal and I personally go along with this theory. You must always keep the feed going in and dont stop, pellets and hemp dont stick around for long enough in your swim (unless its full of boulders) for you to be able to do that. People think even in a steady flow that bait will sit near your lovely presented Pellet all day, WRONG!


The pellets or hemp are only useful for as long as they are in your swim and then you need to top up again. You need to keep those fish downstream interested so they can/will follow it, this is usually 5 to 10 minutes depending on flow. No point sticking a PVA stick out full of pellets and leaving it, it is simply not going to stay there and any Barbel that could be interested downstream will not find the source easily from one lot of bait. You have to pull them to you. Its like tempting Pike with a lure they will follow it because its bait and sometimes take it very close to the bank after following it for 40 or so yards the same applies when Barbel fishing, but its a steady process not a quick one.

My conclusion after many tests on Barbel behaviour is exactly this:

1) Barbel will sense something isn't right if they brush your line with their fins unexpectedly and take the rest with them.

2) Dont get bogged down with rigs even in very hot and sunny days, sometimes its more about the bait your using as oppose to your line or rigs.

3) Use long hook lengths up to 6ft to target the Barbel in clear and hot conditions.

4) Look for shade, if not shade the deepest part of the river, light devalues the deeper you get.

5) Keep rigs simple, running feeder and no shiny swivels when its sunny and very clear water.

6) KEEP THE BAIT GOING IN!!! Just because youve sat there bite less for an hour it doesnt mean they are not eating what youre putting in, keep it working by casting out very regular to get those fish homing in on your bait.

7) If you can catch fish on the hottest days, on the coldest days and when not conducive conditions youll catch Barbel at any other time as well. You learn more from the bad days fishing then you do from a good one.

8) Barbel will openly feed right on top of the feeder landing and not care less about it, if you have them going on the feed you could wave a stick at them and they wouldnt care less. Thats why in good Barbel conditions they will be onto bait within half an hour so if your not catching move.

9) The roving approach works best for Barbel but I have found fishing static when good conditions prevail the Barbel will come to you, and quickly. In very hot days they wont move much (20 yards at most and then it will be a station) but still feed in small proportions and at certain times of the day.

10) This is very important and have found it invaluable and will bring me onto my next article My tactics and methods. Get your bait acting as natural as possible, meaning like a freebie, fish are used to intercepting like this in strong to medium flows and to get your bait acting in this way will give you a massive edge as I will explain in my next article.

11) And lastly If you find Chub you generally find Barbel just behind!

I hope I have helped at least one of you out there and given you food for thought, many anglers may already know all this about their favourite fish or maybe they have different opinions or even done tests themselves to come to a different perspective, this is my view. I wouldn't or haven't had the confidence to write such an article that is as vast as the Barbel unless I knew with a 90% accuracy that what I was writing was true. This article is the end result of my findings.

I hope there may just be some novices that need that little bit of help that are new to Barbel fishing that would gain something out of this.I hope also that it would appeal to the more experienced lads and maybe something small maybe taken out of this. I can live with that.

Thanks for reading. "My Tactics and Methods" will be coming soon. Oh and wait until you see that, I have been testing a presentation for a while that has been remarkable on my catch rate. Many of you wouldn't have seen or heard of it before so I hope that will give you something also. I will be detailing why it works and what other things you need to be thinking about when making it look natural to fish.
 

bluemack

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that makes very interesting reading ricky,just a pity few people on here actually fish the rivers(not a criticism,each to there own).I personally look forward to your method and tactics post.Nice one.[:T]
 

Neil Flynn

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Thats excellent, thank you very much. I'm going fishing on the Avon next Sunday and trying to catch my very first Barbel, I would love to be able to read your next artical by then.
 

silverfox

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Brilliant read first thing in the morning ricky.[:T] I for one fish the tidal trent whenever i can and have had some good catches from it.Looking foreward to the next instalment.[:D]
 

matchstickman25

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Good read. One thing Ive notriced this year is that barbel are a hell of alot more visually obvious than chub (in fact all other fish for that matter) in clear, shallow water, being much lighter in colour. Maybe this is the reason for their cautious behaviour?
 

lee gary shaw

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Good read. Just had 3 days on the Severn at Bridgnorth and it was exactly how you have described it above. We got a few Barbel but it was very hard , but the weather was glorious for us (not the fishing). Two fish would come along then nothing for hours, couldn't catch unless you were under a bush or upto a bed of streamer weed. Good to read as it has cemented all i was thinking as i was fishing. Looking forward to the next chapters.
 

breambreambream

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Ricky agree whole-heartedly ... good post. My best catches of barbel have always started off with catching dace first, chub then barbel and I 99% of the time only fish the stick or waggler .. never fished the pellet in my life for them .. never fished a pellet period. Maggot/hemp .. Caster/hemp and always feed regularly - would not go out without 6 pints of caster and 4 of hemp or maybe a gallon of maggots and 4 of hemp and I start stepping the feed up 5 fold after my first barbel and then they seem to continue to feed. When my arms are tired as invariably they get when fishing the stick as it is much harder work than the feeder then I start to decrease the feed and the chub come back to give myself a respite.
I can honestly say that I have never caught barbel from the off .. first cast or even firts 20 minutes to an hour and when I have caught a barbel before anything else it has been session with a sole barbel or a session with no continuity and a fragmented session.
I have found that some rivers are different than others .. the Teme .. the Wye and the Swale and Nidd seem to be rivers where stepping up the feed works but the Kennett, Lodden, Lea and St Patricks it makes no difference and you tend to get sole barbel sessions but larger fish ... but suprising enough Perch on the latter ones ?? but on the consistent barbel catch rivers cannot remember taking any Perch and taking multiple barbel in the same session (trout yes) ??.
Never set my sights on the Trent for Barbel as I always fish the float and with the Trent I feel that even on the known barbel pegs they are better taken on the feeder .. with the exception of very small barbel around the 4oz to 8oz size which I have had on the float. I guess I have never caught barbel on the float on the Trent of a decent size so have never tried stepping up the feed, maybe too many roach and chub to take the bait ??.
As I say good post.
 

DEANO 70

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Originally posted by lee gary shaw

Good read. Just had 3 days on the Severn at Bridgnorth and it was exactly how you have described it above. We got a few Barbel but it was very hard , but the weather was glorious for us (not the fishing). Two fish would come along then nothing for hours, couldn't catch unless you were under a bush or upto a bed of streamer weed. Good to read as it has cemented all i was thinking as i was fishing. Looking forward to the next chapters.

The severn is always patchy start of the season . If you feed right you can get the barbel to come out of the bushes etc Never fish next to snags I bring the out out of the snags with lose feed good read Rick . Best advice for the severn anglers go fish it on the evening.
 

welshwingnut

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Ricky , cracking read , thank you , as you say 90% of what you say most of us do or are have done , i believe in the food theory 100% i am also a firm believer that if you have had no indications within 30 mins then the fish are not there by indications i mean chub bites or small fish smashing the feeder as it lays in the water , chub bites is where i get a bait picked up and dropped straight away , i fish a very long hair purposely to keep the chub away especially if i am solely barbel fishing , keep it as simple and straight forward as possible is my moto big feeders to get the bait in no shiny swivels as you already say and where i can i always use braid hook links i just prefer the braid , i also use very long hook links and small hooks the smallest i can get away with , very much looking forward to the rig report ,well done .
 

lee gary shaw

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Fishing the Severn in the evening is 100%. The amount of times i have fed all day then you end up getting regular barbel as you start to think about packing up, as we like a few beers too! I have still had belting days where I caught 20 to 30 through the day but usually a dull day, river in good condition etc, the conditions this week just were just against us. The best pegs on the river were only chucking up 2 3 and 4 fish. If i had fished till dusk no doubt we would have had more but we don't just go for the fishing so tend to pack up before we should. Saying all this though, as long as i get 1 in the trip I am happy, they are the best fish in natural waters and you get the adrenalin kick everytime you get one. Just wish i lived nearer the Severn. I am looking to go down fishing on the Wye, does anyone reading this article know where i should be heading etc. Any info much appreciated.
 
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CityFox

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A really good and interesting read, so thank you. I am hoping to have a go for some Barbel on a stretch of small river close to me in the near future so I will be sure to re-read this article and anything else you post before I go.
Once again thanks, really interesting stuff. [:T]
 

Ricky24

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Thanks guys, will post part 2 in next couple of days. Thanks again for your positive comments.
 

Ricky24

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Originally posted by matchstickman25

Good read. One thing Ive notriced this year is that barbel are a hell of alot more visually obvious than chub (in fact all other fish for that matter) in clear, shallow water, being much lighter in colour. Maybe this is the reason for their cautious behaviour?

Could you please elaborate?
 

matchstickman25

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They seem to stand out alot more than other fish due to their almost yellow colour. They also have such an awfully noticeable habit of 'flashing'. Any barbel not adopting a wary approach when feeding isn't going to stay in the gene pool very long. At least that's my interpretation of their behaviour.
 
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emmaemma

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Although I rarely fish for barbel, I found it a very interesting read [:T]
 

Ricky24

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Originally posted by matchstickman25

They seem to stand out alot more than other fish due to their almost yellow colour. They also have such an awfully noticeable habit of 'flashing'. Any barbel not adopting a wary approach when feeding isn't going to stay in the gene pool very long. At least that's my interpretation of their behaviour.

Are you sure they're not spawning? Flashing is a sure sign of Barbel spawning, almost flicking their body sideways. In this case barbel would be visually easy to spot, but impossible to catch.
 

matchstickman25

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I'm no expert on barbel, but you may be right. Ive not fished much this year as I'm working long hours, though my job regularly sees me at the river bank. I have started to see alot of barbel flashing since the beginning of July. But even when they are'nt flashing, they seem to stand out against the dark green weed covered gravels alot more than other fish due to their lighter colour.
 
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Ricky24

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Originally posted by matchstickman25

I'm no expert on barbel, but you may be right. Ive not fished much this year as I'm working long hours, though my job regularly sees me at the river bank. I have started to see alot of barbel flashing since the beginning of July. But even when they are'nt flashing, they seem to stand out against the dark green weed covered gravels alot more than other fish due to their lighter colour.

It would stand to reason then that you are seeing Barbel much more because they're spawning. The lighter colour and flashing suggests this. They are not difficult to see usually anyway but what your describing is definitely Barbel in spawning mode.
 

lee gary shaw

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There are a couple of really good pegs where we go on the Severn and late on in the season if its clear, you can see the Barbel flashing away and if you fish the swims you will catch them. With it being so late on in the season, back end of July, August you would have to say they wasn't spawning. When you watch them for long enough it's almost like they are taking it in turns to be infront of the shoal. The flashing is as they turn away to move round to the back. This is only what i have observed in the pegs and they do contain a lot of fish at times. Not uncommon for people to catch upto 50 in a day.
 

Ricky24

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Originally posted by lee gary shaw

There are a couple of really good pegs where we go on the Severn and late on in the season if its clear, you can see the Barbel flashing away and if you fish the swims you will catch them. With it being so late on in the season, back end of July, August you would have to say they wasn't spawning. When you watch them for long enough it's almost like they are taking it in turns to be infront of the shoal. The flashing is as they turn away to move round to the back. This is only what i have observed in the pegs and they do contain a lot of fish at times. Not uncommon for people to catch upto 50 in a day.

They're obviously competing one another, the easiest times to catch Barbel. I have seen flashing from fish that are spawning, but your scenario can be true as well.
 
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