A Trent Double

As many of you will know I have just moved back to Nottingham with the emphasis now on marketing and promoting my bait business where I’ll have a more hands-on approach.

In light of this I have decided that I would target a very big Trent barbel this season. Of course I hope to catch many other big fish before I indeed catch one of these monsters (it wont happen overnight). During this series I hope to show you the various ways I go about catching my quarry, and indeed how these ways differ throughout the season and time of year.

I have decided to talk about my sessions as a week, and not segmented into the dates.

THE VENUE

The venue itself will be undisclosed to the public as this particular stretch has been the result of a lot of research. Finding a stretch that holds the fish I am aiming to catch is of course of the utmost importance, disclosing it could, potentially ruin what my aims and ambitions are this season.

The venue is situated on the middle Trent, I could theoretically turn my attention to one of the many tidal stretches along the Trent where the barbel are caught regularly at manic proportions doing 48 hour stints at a time. However I wanted somewhere I could go that would be a little more local to me that gives me a secluded, safe and intimate place to catch these wonderful fish and this part of the Trent gives me that. One thing that is important however this stretch holds the 16’s I am after, speaking with the locals and doing various research I know that it does. Of course these fish are few are far between which is why I expect a lot of bank time and many other decent captures along the way.

THE TACTICS

My tactics will I am sure change as we progress into autumn and indeed winter, one thing we can never rely on is the weather, with that tactics can and often will change depending on the nature of the river and what I am faced with on my arrival and time of year. My tactics will mainly depend on the feeder approach throughout the summer and late evenings that will progress through to the early hours of the morning. Speaking with anglers and getting a general perspective is vital, often barbel will feed within a time frame at  a certain part of a 24 hour period, this could be for as little as a few minutes in winter and for as long as several hours in summer, particularly after a flood.

As this is only week 1 learning about the river is primary to the tactics that will be adopted throughout the summer, autumn and winter. There’s no substitute for knowledge of where and what you’re fishing over. To the point that barbel will feed in different ways throughout  the seasons, meaning tactics are often changed to counter how the barbel are feeding. For example during the height of summer barbel can often mouth the bait and pull away, resulting in a sharp jab on the tip without a hook-up which is something I have experienced this week. This can happen particularly from barbel that are shy or pressured, but as I know these barbel are not pressured to any degree the reason or theory of ‘why’ will be explained later…

I don’t expect this to be easy, in fact it may not happen this season but I am sure with adapting my tactics to suit the characteristics of the barbel’s very nature during certain times of the season that I’d hope to come very close to achieving my goal, if not to actually achieve it which would be immense.

For week 1 I chose to adopt a feeder approach, running which is only stopped by a Korum Quick Change Bead which is tied to the end of the mainline with a palomar knot, the business end of the Quick Change Bead incorporates a groove into which a overhand loop knotted hooklength is slid over and held into position by the bead that slides over (much like a pole connector).

The hooklength (10lbs ESP Ghost Fluorocarbon) in lengths of 3 to 5ft depending on the fishes behavior and a size 10 Korum Xpert Specimen Micro-Barbed Hook incorporating a shortish hair which will hold my 14mm boilies.

This is the rig I starting my sessions on

This is the rig I started my sessions on

The importance and focus on week 1 was to get a perspective, learn the barbel’s behavior and how they feed, what tactics are best employed at any given time and the areas I am fishing over. I reiterate that barbel fishing largely depends on location so understanding the stretch and in particular swims will give you a broader knowledge of where to place your baits, as opposed to chuck it anywhere and see approach.

When acquiring fish of a decent size, I will never go into it half-heartedly, I will not take it for granted that by luck, by chance I will catch my quarry, it does sometimes happen of course but I will do the homework on the bank and work to find the most productive areas that produce the barbel more often than not at a certain time of the season. I find that by targeting the bigger fish, tactics and methods can and do play a part, remember you’re actively seeking an individual fish not lots of competing smaller fish which are generally easier to catch. Location is key of course but when you’re fishing for the shy and cautious fish that are not ravenous in their approach to feeding, tactics can play a part as you will see from my first week.

THE CONDITIONS

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So what are we faced with this week?

Of course if you’re English you would know that our summer’s are often very unpredictable, certainly notorious for lots of rain, cold and sometimes gale force winds and that’s just the summer.

However, this summer has defied belief so far it would seem, (certainly the weather gods have not read the script) and as I type this we’re witnessing temperatures of 31c in England which is a far cry from a year ago when every river was exposed to flooding and torrential downpours that made fishing somewhat difficult to say the least.

With high pressure firmly in control we have not seen any rain for at least a month with July being very hot and humid up to now…

So how will this effect the fishing?

In my experience weather plays a huge part in a barbel’s behavior, of course not just barbel but many other species are affected by bright sunlight and very hot weather. With a river low and clear and very bright conditions the best opportunity to catch barbel will often be during the hours of darkness, where the fish can feel confident to rise from their slumber and perhaps start feeding. It can often be the case that whilst this may give you the best chance to get a bite or two it doesn’t necessarily guarantee fish.

Even during darkness fish can be largely unmoved, I think a bit like us they do not feel much like eating during these hot, sunny conditions and will only have a light meal before retreating to bed…

THE WEEK ON THE TRENT

So as we spoke about, we didn’t really have ideal conditions so I set about targeting my quarry late evening and into the early hours of the morning, fishing from around 8 – 2am gave me the best opportunity for a fish or two. After speaking to someone I learned the fish would not generally feed until it was dark so I felt pretty confident that adapting this approach would pay dividends.

The week started slowly which only resulted in a early chub of 5lbs 4oz, nice that it was I felt that these barbel would rarely give me much opportunity. I did not have any sign of a barbel but saw the odd one roll on the surface heightening my expectations, alas nothing occurred apart from this chub.

Chub of 5lbs 4oz - First fish of the season - Sizzle Boilie

Chub of 5lbs 4oz – First fish of the season – Sizzle Boilie

Of course questioning yourself does come into your thoughts, maybe recognizing a fault and putting it right next time without the need to change the rig mechanics where I felt that there was no reason to make drastic changes. I felt it was important to continue with another session before making any decision based on what I was doing wrong, if anything!

I chose a different swim to that of the previous session and fished much the same way, with a Flamin’ Sizzle boilie and a couple of boilies in the feeder as freebies, again the black groundbait was used to pluck the feeder either end. It seemed this particular area was a little slower in flow than that of the previous swim as the river wound round into a bend where this new swim was situated. It made perfect sense then that the bream were obliging to my Sizzle hookbait and nice free offerings in the feeder, having 1 bream at 7lbs 4oz and losing another of similar size.

Bream of 7lbs 4oz on the Sizzle

Bream of 7lbs 4oz on the Sizzle

Again the Trent barbel seemed elusive, after a lot of thought contemplating my next move I suspected my feeding approach gave very little opportunity for passing fish to stick around for long enough to feed, chances are any barbel would find one or two boilies eat them and then move on, ignoring my hookbait in the process. The bream would be attracted to the groundbait and being opportunists will eat what they can and then leave the area.  

I don’t necessarily believe the Trent barbel will stay in one spot for days at a time, I believe that they will move up and down the stretch, the challenge I believe was to stop them and keep them there for sufficient enough time to catch them, at least this was my rational thought.

After a visit to my local tackle shop I obtained some casters, hemp and tares and my intention was to use this in conjunction with the groundbait plug to hopefully give the fish many tiny particles to find as opposed to one or two boilies, thus keeping them in the swim for longer. 

I also chose to change my hookbait as I had ran out of boilies so turned to a pellet I am currently testing which is due for launch next year, at 12mm it was a perfect size for barbel actively feeding on small particles but being 12mm would be ample enough to stand out, but not too much. I am a great believer in not using hookbaits ridiculously larger than the feed you’re using, I think it gives the barbel too much opportunity to suspect something isn’t right, maybe this is a confidence thing but I like sticking to the principle of having everything working together, as a combination not obtrusive to fish.

 I felt that by having a bed of particles in my swim would give the barbel more confidence to feed so I dropped in 10 feeder fulls of hemp, tares and casters initially, the idea was that this would enforce a bit of competition among the fish and encourage them to actively feed in my swim for longer.

I wasn’t targeting lots of fish, you have to bear this in mind, you’re essentially trying to catch one, perhaps two if you’re lucky, especially during low water conditions. I was hoping by my feeding of particles and my experience of Trent fish in scenarios where there’s larger fish present (bigger fish feeding in 2’s or 3’s) would create, eventually a response when they found it.

Again, it seemed likely I would find getting through to the barbel difficult as I took another bream early on in this session again around 7lbs. Nothing else was forthcoming until 1:45am when the tip of my rod started to bounce, with a firm strike I connected with something a bit more substantial as it began to strip line of the spool. I was quite surprised and in a bit of a time warp to be fair as I never expected my firm strike to be connected  to a barbel as the bite seemed very un-barbel like. Nevertheless I clicked my anti-reverse onto my reel and began playing the fish on a backwind facility, but no sooner had I done this the fish headed straight for a nearby snag and the line taught as I began pulling hard to get it out, no joy!

Thinking my chance had been lost I gave the fish a lot of slack line for a couple of minutes (this was a fish I didn’t want to lose) and success, eventually the fish had swim out of the snag (barbel aren’t the cleverest fish, luckily) and I was back in touch with the fish that kept low and deep!

My heart began to sound like thunder, almost as if it was about to emerge from my chest, I try and contain my excitement, adrenaline that was running through my veins and stay focused on my prize as it came closer and began to pull from one side to the other at close quarters. After several minutes of heat-stopping action the fish finally tired and I was finally able to land what was my first double figure barbel of the season at 12lbs 14oz what a great start to the campaign!

My first double of the season!

My first double of the season!

The session ended with no further incident and I was able to concentrate on the rest of the week…

I headed out the next day with anticipation high for another successful session, it was still very hot and humid so little chance of barbel feeding throughout the day. I decided on yet again another evening/night session until the early hours…

Using the same rig, with the same bait, however casters were dropped from the mix whilst hemp and tares made up the sandwich if you like in the middle of a Fisky’s open ended 5oz feeder.

It became quite clear these fish were not feeding during daylight which proved the case and point as around 11pm I got a bite which was again very un-barbel like as the tip bounced, not the most positive indication but maybe it was the hot weather and very lethargic barbel that made them feed and essentially bite this way? Or maybe the very small particle were placed in much the same area via the feeder, giving the fish only one area to feed over as oppose to vacuuming the feed up over a number of yards which would, in theory at least make them move quicker over bait to pick the tiny particles up giving better bite registration?

I struck into what was again a strong fish that again kept low, learning my lesson from the previous night I decided I must keep the fish moving and not give it any slack line to give the fish the opportunity to get me among the snags that were present.

At close quarters the fish was once again putting up a good account of itself but it wasn’t long for another double figure barbel graced my net at 12lbs 8oz.

This is what fishing is all about, this is why I go out and live the dream to catch fish such as this, dreams I had when I was younger and during my youth becoming reality before my eyes, 2 doubles in two days!

My second barbel - another double at 12lbs 8oz

My second barbel – another double at 12lbs 8oz

With this fish coming early in the session the chances, I thought were good for another. I again was getting sharp pulls on the tip with nothing to really show for it, until one bite again showed an un-characteristic ‘barbel bite’ and upon lifting the rod I felt something and then nothing, hook pull!

The rest of the night yielded small taps and nothing else in the way of fish so I packed up.

Obviously I was buoyed from the very notion of catching two big fish in two 6 hour sessions, I continued fishing throughout the week under what was a very hot and humid period, even during the night with little much happening other than a chub of 4lbs 13oz which I didn’t take a picture of but more in the way of these sharp pulls on the rod tip. This I believe forced me into making a change, and in the next series I’ll explain exactly what I did to turn these little taps and sharp jabs into more hook-ups – the results so far have been promising.

Until next week, tight lines 

Richard

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