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

We had a fantastic end to the last part of our journey, doing battle with these fantastic barbel, you just know you’ve been in a scrap with a barbel don’t you? Arm-wrenching and heart pulsating action as the barbel do not ever give in.

I was hoping week 3 would continue in much the same way as week 2 finished so confidence and enthusiasm was high, however things rarely go the way you’d expect do they?

In this part, although I fished considerably less than in the previous two parts I hope that I will be able to show you how important ‘Location’ is when targeting barbel, indeed, fundamentally it is the three most important rules to remember – quite simply you’re not going to catch if the barbel are not there are you?

On a stretch where barbel are less populated than others you need to use your nous, watercraft and  experience to find these creatures. This is what can make barbel fishing difficult at times, certainly not their uncanny ability to avoid the hook, simply where they are, where they wish to feed and how hard they want to find their food.

So please remember that in areas such as the stretch I am fishing and do not hold large quantities of barbel (in fact bream, roach, dace and perch are more commonly found and in large numbers) location is pivotal to success.

Tactics

What has changed this week?

Nothing!

I have no reason to change my approach as I have to admit I have been very fortunate to land on fish, it pays to remember this and certainly not take it for granted (wait for Part 4) as fishing for barbel does this thing of kicking you in the you know what when you think you have them sussed (again wait for part 4). For now at least the general consensus is why change something that isn’t broken?

For those who may have missed the other parts, I am fishing with a 2 – 5oz feeder (depending on flow), 12lbs main line on a running rig with a Drennan Quick Change bead which houses a long 3- 4ft hooklink of ESP Ghost Fluoro or Fulling Mill in fluoro in 10lbs.

Remember that confidence is everything with most fishing, barbel are no different. To put things into perspective; Barbel fishing is quite like carp angling but much less boring with the action expected generally at quicker pace.

Conditions

Well conditions have changed considerably after a weekend of torrential rain, which has inevitably brought with it the extra rise in water conditions, the river resembling ‘Willy Wonka’s Chocolate River’, of course something I had hoped for but with limited time on the bank I was hoping I could find them… And quick!

Many people have you believe there is a point where barbel cease to feed in conditions such as this, when I say barbel will feed in water in all spates of flood I do not use the term loosely, in fact I’d go so far as to say if you can access the river safely then you should fish for barbel (it is without doubt the best time).

Of course this doesn’t mean they’ll be jumping on the hook, watercraft and reading the water is important as at any other time but particularly during flood water.

Faced with 10ft of extra water this week and the river racing through like an express train it could (at first) seem daunting for the inexperienced angler wishing to pursue their goal of catching a barbel, but as I have spoke about before under these conditions, take advantage when the river is low, mark the areas of interest such as gravel banks, snags and other obtrusion’s.  This will give you a broader knowledge of areas that are safe and areas that are not – bear in mind these areas are covered with 10+ extra water and are usually very coloured, making it impossible to see anything!

The importance of knowing what is in front of you and the areas you’re casting into depicts the results you’re likely to have. Mark down areas of interest with a pen and notepad during low water and you’re much more likely to catch barbel in flood water.

Outside bends in the river are notably good for barbel as the flow is generally concentrated to the far bank, leaving the nearside very uninterrupted by flow, these can form what is known as back – eddies (an area or column of water that comes back against the flow). Once an area such as this has been established the next part is finding a suitable swim that you can easily get down to your swim and net fish and return them safely if need be.

I was able to find a swim like this and felt confident a few good fish would grace my net this week albeit with shorter sessions.

The Bait

Again nothing much has changed from the previous weeks, the hemp & tare combination with a 3 F T Pellet has served me well recently and I see no reason to change this combination. The 3 F T Pellet is due for release for the start of the 2014/2015 season – I tend not to talk to much about my company on my blog as I like to use it for my experiences, novice angler’s to learn from or maybe somebody who just likes reading about barbel fishing (warts and all).

However, on this occasion I make an exception as I have had numerous inquiries about this new pellet. All the pellets will come with a range of 3 – 4 different flavours and will have their own individual brand name from 3 F T and will be available in 12 and 16mm.

I have stuck by the groundbait and open ended feeder with the plug either end approach which sandwiches the hemp and tares in the middle. Judging by the previous couple of weeks it seems to be working…. So far at least.

The scattering of small food items in this way can be of benefit, as the barbel that are feeding are not stuck in one place eating all the offerings, they’re moving and having to work for it. This could be why the aggressive nature of the barbel (which most of us are accustomed to) is being exposed, comparing this of course to the first week where you could swear a roach was the culprit to many of the ‘bites’.

If you haven’t tried the hemp & tare approach I urge you to consider it, many of my captures of the past have come by using hemp in conjunction with something else, be it pellets, sweetcorn or indeed tares. It’s important however that barbel do not become so pre-occupied with the hemp so I find less is more in many instances.

Week 3 – Rain At Last!

The week began with very high water and on arrival of the stretch I was greeted with 8ft of flood water and a raging torrent, not for the faint-hearted most certainly. A long straight of river is nigh high impossible to fish with adequate gear, no I’m not the sort to carry 8oz feeder/leads in my bag, why? Because are they really needed? Yes you can catch out into a raging flow… Sometimes but I am not a believer in aggressive tactics, preferring instead to bring much more finesse into my angling in these conditions. The results normally speak for themselves where I have spent a lot of time flood water fishing in the past so hopes were high for a few good sessions this week (limited time so have to make do).

I started on a very big inside bend in the river, these are fantastic areas to pick up barbel, the areas in which flow is concentrated to the far side leave a ‘crease’ usually within a few rod lengths (depending on how big and how sharp the bend is). These are areas are particularly favourable to barbel such is the sheer amount of food the is readily available to them drifting downstream at a pace they do not have to work hard for generally.

I didn’t have a particularly good start to the week but 2 small barbel was better than nothing, again the bait in question was the pellet (now named the ‘Twitch Pellet’) the fish weighed around 5 and 6lbs but these are always welcome and great to see for the future – even if not great to see for the purpose of what I intended, to catch this monster barbel.

The only one I took a picture of and biggest of the two around 6lbs.

The only one I took a picture of and biggest of the two around 5lbs.

Unfortunately,  as so often happens life seems to get in the way of time on the bank (don’t you just hate it when that happens?) but I did manage to get out again later on in the week with Chris Mutton (A consultant for 3 F T). Chris has had an amazing season so far on the baits having 17 double figure barbel from his local W/Avon and one from the Nene as I write this.

Chris took a early barbel which was around 5 – 6lbs  but then nothing for hours so we felt a move was in order, so we packed up and moved to where I had those two smaller fish days before and settled in for what was left of the night (past 1am at this point).

Once in this new swim I made a few good casts every 20 mins or so to get some feed down with the feeder no more than 3 rod lengths out, just as I did before. Laying back on my chair and my eyes beginning to feel weary I switched the bite alarm on and laid back as it seemed these fish were unwilling to play ball during what can only be described as their ‘best time’, or maybe they just wasn’t there I began to think. After 30 mins or so I awoke to hear a bleep from the alarm, unperturbed and assuming it was probably a bit of weed I lay back again and after another 30 mins or so and dreaming of what this gorgeous sixteen would look like nestling in my net, the alarm went into overdrive with a single toner. Just as I awoke the tripod was up in mid air and the rod bent double with a fish intent on getting away, no such luck!

A very good fight ensued with a the fish trying to use as much current as possible out into the middle, but it was soon under control and what clearly looked like a another double figure barbel was in the net. By this time it was light, so my first in daylight hours from this stretch. I asked Chris to take a photo and upon reeling in his rods to do so found another barbel on the end, lol. It wasn’t very big again at around 7lbs but what was funny is that he must have slept through the whole thing.

Back to my capture, upon weighing and the photos where I’d never noticed the sign behind me once taking (whoops) I was happy with a fish weighing 11lbs exactly and 5th double this season.

11lbs - A nice way to finish - In daylight too!

11lbs – A nice way to finish – In daylight too!

Shortly after this magnificent fish (again on the Twitch Pellet) the heavens opened and on that note we decided to finish early and head for home. Sometimes barbel fishing is like that, they have windows that they prefer to feed, this can be at any time during the day or night, most often at night on this stretch. Once this happens catching 2 – 3 fish in the space of an hour or so can be commonplace. So often barbel will feed in packs, not necessarily shoals unless you’re catching smaller fish, these can be in 2’s or 3’s as I’ve touched upon before but during the spells of feeding barbel will be more likely to travel hundreds of yards to find a source of bait which makes your chances of catching one, two or more better than at any other time.

The next session came at the end of the week, with water levels dropping off and the colour dropping out I decided I would fish where I had a lot of my earlier success. Nothing much happened just the obligatory bream wraps that will quite often come into the swim first before any barbel will.

At around 12am (normal for this stretch) the rod lurched over and I was into my first barbel, after a spirited and short lived fight the fish was mine. It was not very big again so I decided not to set up all my camera stuff to take a picture as it would be wasting precious barbel feeding time, but I estimated at 7lbs. Back out again I didn’t have to wait long with the rod heading south again and another small fish, smaller this time at around 5lbs was soon nestling in my net. Again I cast to the same place wondering where are all the biggies have gone?! I seemed to have shoalies in front of me which can often be a problem when fishing the feeder approach, it’s not a bad thing mind you, we all love catching them and any barbel is a good barbel, but I was on a mission to catch a sixteen and a shoal fish just wasn’t going to do it.

5 mins elapsed since the last cast when all of a sudden whilst my back is turned my alarm is letting off the kind of tone you hear when you just know it’s a bigger fish, slower but constant, much different to that of a shoal fish which is fast and constant, generally.

On connecting with a lift of the rod (you don’t need to strike barbel often) I felt what was obviously a bigger fish, staying deep and was obviously quite angry, I had obviously spoilt his late supper as it gave a series of slower runs, I quickly employed the back-wind facility on my reel (I prefer to use this method when playing barbel, or any big fish) and began to try and establish some sort of control over the fish. Eventually a big head surfaced and I knew it was then another nice double but not the one we wanted, but who really cares when you’re catching double-figure barbel like this?

A fantastic double which takes my tally up to 7 for the season - No I'm not on drugs by the way - it was raining!

A fantastic double which takes my tally up to Six for the season – No I’m not on drugs by the way – it was raining!

Obviously the tail is something that, if caught again I’d be able to tell. I had very rarely caught more than one on my sessions so to have three, (that should have been four as I went on to lose another one which was around 8lbs close to the bank in some reeds) was quite an achievement for this stretch.

This ended my weeks fishing and onto part 4 where you’ll not see many fish so I’ll take the opportunity to speak about the nomadic nature of the barbel on low stock populated stretches of the Trent which will obviously apply to similar rivers also. I will speak about watercraft and things we must all take into consideration when targeting less populated stretches of big rivers, after-all it’s not called catching, it’s called fishing and you can’t catch all the time!

During the next series you’ll see my approach changing as days get shorter and nights get longer, so until then tight lines.

Richard

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