My second barbel - another double at 12lbs 8oz

So…

By all accounts I have to be happy with the progress made so far, during the first week of fishing this new stretch I have managed 2 barbel, both of which doubles at 12lbs 14oz and 12lbs 8oz, not bad considering the heat of the day , low and clear water conditions.

In this part I aim to explain the changes in my approach from the first week. Sometimes you can go to a venue where one approach scores well most of the time, no such luck this time however. I found that with the method I adopted during my first week had a few issues with ‘barbel’ biting cautiously, often mouthing the bait and not hooking up?

TACTICS

So during the first week on this new stretch of river for me I adopted an open ended feeder approach casting halfway across the river (40 yards) , however as we found out the bites would tend to be very tentative, almost like the barbel are feeling resistance? I have come across problems like this before, barbel can and do become wary especially after fish are being caught in the area. It seems impossible to believe that fish would communicate in a conventional way as us humans would do, but I do believe certain actions in their behavior trigger a response from others in the pack. 

Barbel, when hungry will eat what’s available, becoming more confident as they do, the very notion that they could therefore become wary of your hookbait and feed can be impossible to fathom to many of us. Of course barbel can, and will let greed get the better of them at the best of times but once they have a reason to become shy around that area they will pick, mouth and test baits before they then digest them. I am inclined to believe such is the barbel’s ‘blind spot’ that is directly below their mouth preventing them to know exactly what they’re eating (which is why barbel have barbules to feel) mistakes in taking hookbaits and such are based upon these very factors, the ability to feel something isn’t right. No competition and lack of food will give barbel much more time to evaluate a bait which brings me back to the point I touched upon during the first part about targeting one particular fish, not many!

With fish being caught, triggers (in my opinion) a change in their behavior, other fish in the swim are indeed witnesses to fish being caught out of the swim which will then cause a change in behavior from these fish. During situations such as this a different hookbait could be the answer, a different texture or feel could be all it takes to turn a fish mouthing a bait to a fish actually taking the bait without a problem. Other times it can be based upon the feeding and how much free offerings are available. We all know that barbel can be ‘pigs’ and eat a lot of small items such as hemp and small particles, but if there isn’t enough to create competition among 2 – 3 big fish the ability to check, mouth and test bait becomes far more prevalent in my opinion. 

So with all this in mind I chose to adopt a different tactic, certainly not rocket-science but a subtle change that I felt would help to hook barbel during a feeding response, by placing a simple split shot (AA) an inch from the hook I felt that when a barbel would come along and mouth the bait it would only have that inch of security before the weight of the shot is lifted and pulls the hook down into the bottom lip.

I also chose to change my feeding approach, using a catapult over the feeder, in these situations it’s important to know the depth you’re fishing over and take into account the current of the river, of course a bait dropper if fishing close enough is the best way to feed out particles and such but over distance there’s little you can do. Some people have adopted lead piping to make a ‘spod’ type baiting mechanism that sinks and deposits your bait in the swim. I have not done this however but find, providing you know roughly where your feed is landing a catapult it does suffice, but is by no means very accurate. I am hoping to come up with a more accurate baiting tool in the weeks to come so watch this space…

Everything else tactics wise is the same, although I will speak through any changes as we go on.

CONDITIONS

So what do we face this week weather wise, well with the promise of a breakdown from the hot and humid conditions midweek with a thunderstorms a possibility so it goes without saying my confidence was high. I felt some good fish was on the cards this week – and who knows maybe a Trent 16? Well… I can dream!!!

Of course the weather was hot, the water was very warm and lacked a serious amount of oxygen, water again was low and clear to begin the week. I also spent a days carp fishing where I enjoyed catching several to 11lbs.

The plan (again) was to spend most evenings/nights on the bank until the small hours of the morning. Although these barbel seem primarily night feeders staying until it gets light seems to be a better plan as barbel can sometimes feed within the last hour or darkness as we will see in this part.

I envisage a much better week with the extra rain that was due this week and a breakdown of this hot, humid weather we’ve been experiencing for at least 2 – 3 weeks, at last a reprieve is in sight. 

THE BAIT

The new test pellet by 3 F T

The new test pellet by 3 F T

Bait wise nothing much has changed, still using my test pellet and hemp/tare combination – I don’t really feel it necessary to change a successful bait and feed combination if it works. A change bait is always good however but as I am waiting on getting my workshop and bait business going again since moving back to Notts I am quite content to stick with this tried and tested bait and feed combo. I am also still using a groundbait plug which serves very little purpose other than to plug the contents of hemp and tares into the open ended feeder (why don’t they make big blockends?).   

WEEK 2 – IN SEARCH OF THE MONSTER!

Week 2 pretty much started in much the same vain as week 1 ended, hot and humid conditions followed by muggy nights. 

Unperturbed I began my first session of my week in Ernest, keeping with the theme of the previous week I chose to fish the middle of the river, not using the catapult to start off with. Regular casting gave me the best chance to keep feed into a tighter area of the swim, besides the catapult could not deposit hemp/tare at that distance, well mine couldn’t!

It quickly became apparent (or maybe coincidence) that the split shot an inch from the hook was working as the rod tip hooped over thinking for all the world it was a barbel I lifted the rod to be met with very little resistance, a chub of around a pound the culprit which was quickly followed by another until light faded and gave way to darkness. By now things had slowed down considerably with just the obligatory rattle or shake on the tip signifying bream or chub in the area perhaps?

It’s a common theme that during that first hour of darkness the barbel can and often will come out of their lair and begin to feed on this stretch, so I guess it was no surprise (although it still gets you every time) that of nowhere the rod hoops over with such velocity it is almost pulled from the tripod and out of the ground on the initial take. Upon lifting into the fish I felt a solid resistance, not doubt in my mind that this was indeed a barbel as this fish was not happy it was attached to my size 10 Korum Xpert hook (the best £1.25 I’ve ever spent) as it stripped line. I engaged the back-wind facility as I began to take control of this powerful fish, again it seemed that these barbel are quite content to stay deep and come in rather easily after the initial run. At close quarters however it was very different story as the fish made a series of lunging dives, twist and turns…

Eventually I resumed control of the fight and had a nice double figure barbel in the net.

After a few photos and a weigh which read 11lbs 14oz I was pleased to get off the mark this week.

A lovely 11lbs 14oz - A great start to the week!

A lovely 11lbs 14oz – A great start to the week!

The rest of the night/morning went without further incident but I was happy with another double figure barbel, which took my tally up to Three in little less than Two weeks, fishing every other day or so.

My next session started very slowly, in fact other than a few taps and rattles it went by without very little incident for most of the night.

At around 3AM I moved my right-hand rod to around 3 – 4 rod lengths out and proceeded to catapult hemp/tares upstream around 5 – 10 yards away so it would come to rest and begin tripping the bottom, near my feeder and my hookbait essentially.

I packed everything away for 3.30AM the unhooking mat, boxes, bait everything bar the rods and then out of nowhere the right-hand rod springs into life, fish on!

After a spirited fight I quickly established control and was soon landing the smallest fish I have had to date on the stretch at 8lbs 9oz.

Saves a blank a fantastic barbel of 8lbs 9oz at last knockings

Saves a blank – A fantastic barbel of 8lbs 9oz

I had to unpack all my stuff again but it was worth it, I didn’t blank…

Only one rod left out cast well downstream in the middle as I began to strip down the rod I had the fish on, again packed everything away including landing net… then bang the other rod is away and line is stripping at a rate of knots, after falling over and rolling down the bank (least said about that the better) I struggled to gain control over this fish. 

Thoughts were quickly alerted to the fact I had packed my landing net away, what the hell am I going to do? I thought maybe I could screw it back on, but that would mean no control over the powerful runs that the fish was making, added to this that the fish would most certainly snag me.

I managed to pick-up the net but wondered how the hell was I going to land it? The only way down to river level was some mud below that was just above river level, I knew I had to go for it, (by this time it was beginning to get light and around 4am which helped slightly) so I took the plunge, literally as the fish began to tire and the runs were slower and much more deliberate at close quarters.

My thoughts then alerted to me to the fact that I would need to rest the fish in the net once I landed it so I needed the landing net pole. With my boots covered in mud I was actually sinking into it, I managed to crawl, and I do mean crawl up the bank with rod in hand and up to the top of the bank where I grabbed my pole and rushed back down and into the mud once again, by this time the fish was ready to be landed. I made a few comical attempts at trying to land it 2 inches away from me, but then I managed to get half the fish in, so I dropped the rod and tried with both hands to scoop the barbel into the net, which I did. I could see it was bigger from the last…

I by this time needed a rest, much like the fish. I screwed the net onto the pole and then looked down and realised I had sunk right into the mud which was up to my ankles, crap!

I tried to free myself and couldn’t so I rested back onto the mud and pulled where my boot and foot parted, one was free and now I raced frantically with just a sock on to pull the bloody thing out with my hands, I was a mess which wasn’t too dissimilar to a pig…

I managed to wedge it out… eventually and put my boot back on which was covered in very smelly and disgusting mud, which luckily didn’t get inside the boot. 

Once on top of the bank I had to get all my stuff out again. The camera, mat and everything else, but this is why we go fishing, for crazy moments like these, adrenaline firing through your body – nothing for hours and 2 in 30 minutes and in this way.

Let this be a lesson to me and everyone else, leave your net to last!

After the obligatory weigh and pics I put the fish back in the net to recover and began packing up the last rod so no more incidents could occur like this one, I was dead on my feet as you can see from the pic with the sweat pouring off me, this one going 9lbs 12oz what a mad 45 minutes!

The test pellet strikes again!

The sweat and drug-like look says it all - 9lbs 12oz

The sweat and drug-like look says it all – 9lbs 12oz

The next session began with a different approach, however conditions have changed considerably and as I made my way to the stretch the clouds loomed and the inevitable storm ensued thunder and lightning with heavy rain, I sure as hell wasn’t fishing in that! I waited in the car until the storm passed, eventually it did, well the rain did but the lightning stuck around – it was an incredible sight!

I got my gear together and began to make the short walk to my peg, the lightning was still lighting up the sky and although worried I hoped for a quick few fish before heading for home (don’t like fishing in storms).

I took a new approach as the latter end of the previous session where I caught a fish in close, this in a way taught me the barbel here do come close, I decided that I would bait over the top with hemp/tares combination instead of casting so much. I felt the disturbance of the feeder whilst can work in a positive way a lot of the time for chub and indeed barbel was having the undesired effect. Sometimes you have to make decisions based on your experience and ‘gut’ feelings, I am not that unfortunate to see what’s going on through the water but certainly through research I have seen barbel ‘spook’ on feeders that are cast out regularly and some not so. By using a catapult some 5 – 10 yards upstream and allowing for flow and depth of the river I was able to pinpoint the landing (roughly) and fish the open ended feeder over the top feeding with the hemp/tares. Of course this method of feeding would be essentially spreading it out over a wider area, which can work against you, but I do find barbel are all to willing to cover a few yards to get to particles etc when they’re feeding properly. Feeding in this way can also create a mistake in a barbel they wouldn’t normally make such is their confidence in feeding over mass particle over a few yards.

I was very confident of taking an early fish such was the oxygen that the heavy rain would have created, with the hemp/tares fed and the rods out all that was left for me to do was wait!

It didn’t take long however for the downstream rod to scream into life, on the rod quickly I lifted into something and then… nothing, hook pull! Nothing you can do about that, sometimes barbel can mouth the bait and the hook isn’t fully engaged into the fishes mouth, barbel can be notorious for shedding the hook.

Unperturbed but slightly annoyed…

I re-cast the rod and more hemp/tares were catapulted into the swim, I knew I couldn’t stay long as the lightning was incessant which was quite worrying considering I was quite exposed to it… At least the rain had stopped.

Half an hour later the same rod hooped over and the clutch went into overdrive, upon lifting the rod I was greeted with some heavy resistance, “This feels big”, I said to myself. Again, the fish was quite easy to get close but then decided to wake up, I swear this one however didn’t really know it was hooked, it kept low and deep as my rod bent double, this fish was giving me a bit of trouble to keep under control as it peeled off to the left and downstream of me heading for some reeds. I managed to turn the fish and bring it under my control close to the bank bringing it slowly but surely upstream. Eventually, after a good Ten minutes the fish was on top and soon after in my landing net, a good fish!

I took some photos then went to weigh her when I noticed my digital scales were not working, moisture had got inside and there was no chance it would work, gutted!

I guessed it was an high 12lbs but I’ll never know…

Gutted!

Gutted!

After catching this superb fish I felt sick, chances are it wasn’t a new PB (14lbs) but the fact of not knowing was worse. I carried on and decided to give it until 1.30am as the lightning was all around me and it began to rain (albeit light and showery) again.

The rain had obviously improved the oxygen levels and spurred the fish into feeding but now I was worried of a bigger fish than the last and no scales to weigh it.

More hemp/tare went into the swim and rods were fishing again, Twenty minutes later the same rod screamed off again, these pellets are something else to be honest, my catch rate has increased ten fold since using them, this isn’t a promo for the bait but once they’re launched I think they’ll be right up there with the many top brands!

This fish did not feel has big but gave a spirited fight and was soon in my net, but without scales I could only predict that it was a good 9lbs.

Another good fish falling to the pellet!

Another good fish falling to the pellet!

After catching this fish the rain became heavier and the lightning was now in front of me. With no scales, the rain and lightning I felt I had better pack up and head for home a bit earlier and to be honest I was worried about what I’d catch next and not be able to weigh it!

It seems that the modified rig by simply placing the shot onto the hooklength have turned the fussy bites into ‘proper’ 3ft twitches, or maybe it’s just coincidence? I’ll let you decide!

This was the last action of the week as I had prior arrangements where my company (3 F T) held a social event on the Trent in aid of the BDAA (British Disabled Angling Association). A great weekend was had by all where we raised £350 from raffles, auctions and catering.

So time to reflect, a great weeks fishing to be honest, the split shot definitely made a difference I feel and catapulting hemp/tares into my swim seemed to pay off. By the end of this week I find myself with 4 doubles in total from the stretch and some other great fish besides!

What is the next plan of action?

I am certainly looking into a way of adapting a feeder or something similar to get a big carpet of feed down, I honestly believe these barbel like a bit of grub, the more feed you seem to put into the swim the longer the fish are staying in the area, it also seems that they find it quicker generating a bit of competition which makes the barbel more confident.

I hope you look forward to reading how I did in the next part, coming soon, but until then tight lines.

Richard