BarbelAs the warm and blue skies of the summer give way to the somewhat colder, windier and often gloomy weather of autumn, the rustling of trees and the golden natural beauty of leaves that fall from them must only mean one thing… Barbel time!

Yes big numbers of barbel are caught each year in autumn, why?

I can only speak from my own experiences and the general consensus amongst many in the barbel fraternity of anglers that believe barbel will stock up for winter, packing on weight with any tiny morsel that they can find, often turning over rocks with their snouts to find these small invertebrates as they do so.

Yes autumn is truly a time to get out there and enjoy the delights of barbel fishing and if you have yet to sample what autumn barbel fishing is about, I urge you to do so.

My own experiences in autumn show that not only do barbel feed with gusto if you catch it right but for longer periods opposed to that in the summer months – It’s all about timing!

What we must acknowledge is that feeding habits change like the seasons of the year I guess, a way to present a method to catch barbel for all seasons is only one element for success.

The varied ways in which we present our baits and methods are depicted in our catches, autumn is no different as we now find out…

Tactics

We have now approached the start of autumn and as we do so we look back on how it all started, using hemp, tares and lots of particles to keep these barbel mooching about on the bottom picking up these tiny items, enticing a mistake by the feeding barbel to pick up a pellet hookbait. Fishing a feeder with a groundbait plug, feeding lots of particles through the catapult etc.

Now as the cooler temperatures start to take hold, what should we be aware of?

Barbel during the earliest part of autumn, once temperatures start to fall will (in my opinion) feed hard, I cannot categorically say why this is with a certain degree of confidence (fishing can be like that, opinions) but can only assume it’s part of their habit and behaviour. There is usually a big feeding spell before (or after) the turn of a season, i.e. summer, autumn and winter. These ‘spells’ can last a few days and up to a week at any one time. Certainly when reading upon old logbooks, my catch rate was generally better at the start of a new season, coincidence? Read into that what you will, but as it is this could be a separate article altogether. Fishing is infinite in its information that you can never stop learning from. I guess this is what inspires and intrigues me about our great sport.  Anyway I digress…

As we approach the start of September and the notion that these fish are ready to eat big, my approach changes. Using small particles certainly keeps the fish mooching during the height of summer when they’re swimming long distances to find your free offerings and ultimately your hookbait. What then can we expect in autumn?

My opinion on this is simply that although barbel (in my experience) want to eat big they’ll often turn their attentions to foods that will fatten them up before the long winter ahead where feeding is periodic and often notoriously inconsistent.

With this in mind I decided to approach the autumn on the offensive, using boilies and quite a few of them which are high in protein and have high nutritional value.

My rig comprises of a lead clip system that incorporates the feeder that is only stopped by the swivel, for this I am using the Korum lead clips that enable me to do this without the clip being pressed into the swivel and staying there which creates the bolt-rig effect. Here I am not using the peg to create this effect, instead allowing the feeder and lead clip to run away from the swivel once the fish is hooked. This is both safe as if it was to tangle or snag the feeder would part from the line and it would just leave the line which the fish will then discard of in a short period of time. Secondly it creates no anchor point in which a fish can use as leverage to throw the hook.

The Bob Roberts Rig I am currently using.

The Bob Roberts Rig I am currently using.

The rig is also used by specimen angler Bob Roberts for his barbel fishing.

The rig also includes a anti-tangle tube over the swivel to keep everything tidy, and not to expose the knot.

At the business end, instead of the braid that Bob prefers I am currently using the Korum Xpert Mono in 12lbs with a 15lb Hydro-Tuff clear mono for my reel line. The feeder is 5oz FFF (Fisky’s Fantastic Feeders) which I use a lot of and are my feeders of choice at the moment. Hook wise I prefer the Korum Xpert in size 10 or 8’s as I’ve found these to be both reliable and cheap.

Conditions

The weather has changed in so much that it has now turned quite wet, but still quite mild, hanging on to late summer temperatures which in my view is very encouraging.

The river is still low and clear however, obviously the rain is having very little effect on a river this size as it tends to run off quite easily when the ground is practically bone dry underneath and soaks any rainfall up like a sponge.

Most of my fishing is done in the early evening to late night anyway so I felt the fish would be confident to feed in conditions such as this as they’ve done all summer.

The Bait

Switching from my summer bait of pellets to boilies hasn’t really done the trick so far, however I know they will come good, this is where barbel will really get their heads down in my opinion and start feeding on items that will fatten them up quick.

A barbel’s needs change as we move through the year, chasing bait down (which is not unheard of in the summer as all fish are predatory in their own way) where they’re quite happy to stay mobile to find any food, to winter where one obligatory boilie with no free offerings is enough to catch one. Yet I still see anglers, in winter throwing 5kg of boilies into the river, what do they hope to gain? The fact is that amount of bait is enough to feed the barbel all winter theoretically.

I will be incorporating the use of my own companies Rubby Dubby boilies in 16mm with a halibut red groundbait plug either side that will include 3 – 4 boilies in-between, creating a sandwich effect within the next few sessions. This should keep any feeding barbel interested, creating attraction with powder/groundbait and as barbel like to be rewarded 3 -4 boilies for them to eat.

As well as this I will be using a catapult to fire out 500gr of Dubby boilies upstream that will meander into my swim.

So hopefully if the barbel are feeding they’ll be sticking around to eat what’s there (well that’s the plan). The fish are likely to be slightly downstream of my swim as they love to intercept food as it’s going past them generally.

Part 5 – No Horror Show For Me!

The week started with restricted time due to me starting a new job but I made use of the time I did have spare to get on the bank.

I decided that I had enough of watching these mild warm nights slip away and headed for the Trent after work.

The sputtering intermittent drizzle did not waiver my enthusiasm however as I pulled up in the car park around 8PM just as the darkness descended upon me (it does seem to get dark very quickly from late august onwards). I was greeted with a low, clear river where this peg has always come into its own during similar conditions in summer. 

I began to bait up via my catapult firing out 16mm Dubby boilies upstream, the emphasis on creating a bed of bait that would trickle through the swim. I sure as hell didn’t expect the boilies to stick around in one place but it would take a while for them to be washed away, although I hoped/prayed the barbel would find them first. 

Please be aware that whatever loose-feed you choose to catapult out,  you must take into account the flow, loose-feed weight and depth of the river – this is very important!

You’re trying to create a food source that will pass by the fishes vision creating a situation where the barbel choose to feed on it, or not. 

Very little action ensued, having only a bream of about 6lbs up until 11.30pm and then all of a sudden and without any warning I get the inevitable 3 ft twitch that can only be that of a barbel shaking its head trying to throw the hook, this was met with some resistance as I  grabbed my rod and took hold on what felt like a good fish. I think once you start catching double-figure barbel you know exactly what they feel like, much different to their younger and generally much smaller counterparts. The plod, plod nature of the bigger fish is reminiscent of a cross between a bream (initially) and being attached to a torpedo. There’s generally two halves to the fight, the first being a ‘plodding’ about in the flow and keeping really deep, the second being when you get it close to your bank and then they will generally fight like stink. This is when the true velocity of what you’re attached to becomes very apparent. 

This fish was no different, keeping low and not allowing me to gain to much line before pulling back close into the bank where I knew the underwater hazards lurked, using as much pressure as I dared, I began to coherse the fish on to the surface layers where it was visible for a second or two before plunging back down into the depths, urging me to react by back-winding like a mad man (I prefer to back-wind when playing a fish) to not lose it to its powerful run. I managed to overcome this slight but unnerving obstacle to gain the upper hand and eventually bring it to the surface where my net greeted a good size barbel which was most certainly another double.

Be aware that barbel will often use their uncanny ability to shake that hook at the last possible moment where you’re often lured into a false sense of security that it is ready for the net. Barbel do not give up, they give their all in a fight and the lesson here is never assume a barbel is ready until the last possible moment, set your clutch loose when you’re about to net the fish so you can give line if needed.

After a few pictures I was ready to weigh this beautiful, lean, fit and lovely conditioned barbel.  The scales read 12lbs 6oz – I then wasted no time in leaving the barbel in the net to recover until it was fighting fit and ready to be released.

12lbs 6oz - Another barbel falls to the dubby

12lbs 6oz – Another barbel falls to the dubby

 I stayed on for a further couple of hours but no more fish were forthcoming so I decided to call it a night, happy enough with a nice double.

The following days were spent working and not much fishing time until the Friday night.

There’s been many stories, books and even films about Friday the 13th, all of which depicted horror stories and haunted beings. Many superstitious people still believe the suggestion – The number 13 is unlucky, however there’s no actual evidence from folklorists that can provide or support this claim. The date and day of the year being unlucky originated from a Italian man in the 18th century who claimed that the number 13 was an unlucky number and the Friday as an unlucky day, ironic then that this man would then die in November, Friday the 13th (thanks to wikipedia).

Anyway I digress – I was adamant that this would not end in a nightmare story of my own (It does play on your mind)…

The outlook looked good, after a largely settled period throughout the week it began to rain (typical) on the Friday and just didn’t relent all day. After finishing work at 5pm I quickly got home, gathered my gear and packed it all into the boot of my car.

I then realised that I must make a quick phone call which ended up taking a couple of hours so I didn’t get on the road until 9.15pm.

Obviously upon arrival it was dark, not that seeing anything would change my mind on where I would fish, but walking along a dark path and wooded area, alone in the dark can make you feel a little uneasy particularly after seeing all the scary movies about this particular date (I wasn’t that scared, honest!).

Once I arrived at my peg I began to go through the motions once again, 500 – 600gr of Dubby boilies out via a catapult, and then proceeded to set up my gear quite quickly in eagerness to start fishing. The level was pretty much the same as my last session so I didn’t envisage much or any colour. The first rod was cast out at 10pm – I was slightly annoyed that I had got started a bit late, but nonetheless it looked good for a bite – the rain had turned drizzly but still coming down relentlessly but I was confident of a fish or two. What was about to unfold before my eyes, I did not anticipate in my wildest dreams.

After getting my brolly set up I was all ready to sit underneath and wait…

Nothing!

In fact it is quite evident that on this particular stretch feeding times are very much noticeable, usually a couple of hours after dark between 11pm and 1am.

So with that in mind I probably wasn’t expecting anything early doors (more hoping). A few more casts followed to get some more attraction into the swim using the red halibut groundbait again with 3 – 4 Dubby boilies sandwiched in-between.

Reaching into my pocket for my phone, it read 11.30 and no sooner had I done that, I looked up to see the tip spring into life. I jumped out the brolly banging my head on the roof as I got up and gave me a good soaking from the water on top of it for my troubles as I reached for the rod and struck!

But nothing…

I then began to curse my luck, maybe I just missed my only chance of a barbel, however thinking about it now with a clearer mind it could well have been a bream. Whenever you miss bites you do beat yourself up, especially when you do not get (or expect) many opportunities, it can also cloud your judgement.

After continually cursing myself and stomping about like a bear with a sore head, I began baiting up again and dropped my feeder in the same spot as the last one, some 4 rod lengths out, slightly to my left (downstream) which was quite deep at around 12ft. The flow here is confined to the nearside bank which then slackens a little halfway so I felt 4 rod lengths was ample for intercepting the barbel as they move in and out of the crease looking for something to eat. 

Still a little annoyed I tried to calm down and relax in the hope that I will get another opportunity. After about 20 minutes my prayers were answered and there was no mistaking this bite as the rod lurched over 2ft for a split second before pulling a further foot which sent my spool into melt down…

I quickly ran out of the brolly and onto the slippery wet mud and grabbed my rod and lifted into what felt like a good fish. There’s times when playing a fish that you get a fear or trepidation, my heart began to beat ten to a dozen. I knew I was attached to a good fish and I did not want to lose it, especially as I felt I should have connected with the first. I did not want this fish to come off…

The inevitable ‘plodding’ told me all I needed to know, it was a definite double, I just had to land it!

I eventually began to regain control, composure and deal with the subsequent dives from the barbel by back-winding like an expert (If only).

The rest was history as I clicked the anti-reverse off and loosened the clutch to allow the fish, if going to dive, the capacity in which to do so. However the fish surfaced and gave a few head shakes and was ready for the net.

Looking at my prize I could see it was a good double, so I got everything set up for a few snaps and eventually weighed what was a 13lbs 5oz stunner, that held a lot of weight on her belly. Trent fish are usually long and with that is the weight, this fish was not entirely typical but are becoming more common, shorter and fatter.

13lbs 5oz - Dubby strikes again!

13lbs 5oz – Dubby strikes again!

I quickly forgot about missing my first bite after this, passing it off as a bream as I rested the barbel in the net before returning it to its watery home. I wasn’t expecting anymore action to be honest, but upon casting out again the rod tip sprang to life immediately whilst I was having a wee (always the way) and I quickly struck which was met by some resistance that was obviously not a barbel… Hmm a bream of about 7lbs, a nice one though and would have been fun on light tackle. When I landed and lifted the net however it broke the brass fitting that screws into my landing net pole off the spreader block, not good!

I then pondered what I should do, leaving me no option that if I was to catch another I would have to use the pan of the net and get close to the waters edge as possible which relied upon me getting up to my ankles in mud and a little wet. The things you have to do to catch fish…

I took one bite at a time, not getting carried away as I know this place can be like that, one or two fish and then that’s it. However I felt the amount of boilies I have put out should hold them if they really wanted a munch. 

The next cast – It was quite evident the bream were having a bit of fun and the rod tip nodded again (after a series of plucks and shakes) and I was into another, this one not putting up much resistance and no match for my 15lb line, it quickly came to my awaiting net that I did take exception getting wet for. Anyhow it’s all fun and I do love big bream, this one going about 7 1/2 lbs but they were trying their best to gatecrash the session, as they do.

After a quick re-bait and a load up of the feeder, I put it on the money once again…

Again, tap, tap tapping on the tip, it was only a matter of time I thought before another bream nails itself so I kept a watchful eye on events from under my brolly to keep myself dry and away from the drizzly rain that seemed to not want to stop.

After around 15 minutes, the obligatory taps and knocks were interrupted by something that knew it was hooked and just didn’t care as it motored downstream intent on doing its best Tuna impression. The rod was took with such ferocity that the clutch on the spool had barely enough time to kick in so the rod butt was up in the air with line peeling from my spool as I scrambled out the brolly and lifted into a angry fish. 

The initial run was halted, if not straight away and I was battling what obviously felt like another double- figure fish as it ‘plodded’ about for a few minutes. I established control and began regaining the line I had lost on the initial take, all the time making something on what felt like an heavy fish as it drew closer to the bank and to my left where there was a snag. I was prepared for the imminent dive from the barbel as I began to give the fish some side strain, but although it did try and dive into the snag, it wasn’t anything like what I expected and I was able to steer it away quite easily. It seemed the fish was tiring and was beginning to run out of ideas as it began moving up and downsteam close to the bank. I started to apply a bit more pressure and was greeted by a big barbel on the surface, again going through the procedure loosened the clutch and got down to water level and scooped the fish with the pan of the net.

I honestly thought I had a new PB in the net as I gazed at a big barbel. 

I began to set up the tripod and camera for some shots where I was a little bemused by the events taking place to be honest, I didn’t know how to feel. I felt my PB was about to go as it looked a bigger fish than what it was. After taking some shots the scales read 13lbs 13oz – A truly magnificent specimen but not a PB which stands at 14lbs but how could I be disappointed in what was an amazing fish and a fantastic fight?

This was turning into something of a dream session…

13lbs 13oz - The second thirteen in the same session.

13lbs 13oz – The second thirteen in the same session.

Now fishing doesn’t get much better than this does it?… Or does it…

I contemplated leaving for home and save some luck for the next trip, but when you’re catching fish it’s hard to pull yourself away isn’t it?

Next cast and the plucks and taps started again, broken by a series of nods on the tip which again resulted in yet another bream of around 8lbs – netted and quickly returned, my thoughts were thinking of home again as I had some plans for the day ahead.

One more cast…

With this cast however I chose to place the feeder a bit further to my left (downstream) as I felt maybe the barbel were backing off the main feed area as the bream were invading the swim, obviously being attracted to the groundbait and the boilies that I had put out. Barbel don’t particularly like hustling or jostling to feed they prefer to have their own area, one or two bream or chub is fine but I felt there was obviously some numbers in the swim, but where there’s bream there’s generally barbel behind in my experience.

The taps had slowed down considerably, only having one or two before a sharp pull alerted my attention.

I knew this was a barbel either rolling over my line or mouthing the bait so I got up out of my brolly and waited by the rod…

5 minutes elapsed, willing the rod to lurch over and it duly did and I was again attached to something heavy as it ‘plodded’ around in the flow, surely not…

I, by this time was quite used to hauling these big fish in and was anticipating its every move, almost before the fish decided what it was going to do itself, so I was maybe aware of what to expect which turned and took line at lightening speed, to which I responded by back-winding. I wasn’t about to let the fish get the upper hand or get complacent myself. I began to put pressure on the fish as it twist and turned, this was a fantastic fight at close quarters and I was obviously attached to something very fit.

After a few minutes of give and take I was eventually giving more than what it was taking as it surfaced, loosening my clutched I jumped into what was now a mud bath. At the waters edge and after what was its last dive that I was able to control and deal with reasonably well, the fish surfaced again and was soon in my the net (or rather what was left of it). Great fight, it gave everything all the way to the net.

On first impression it just didn’t look as big as the others, where both previously had obviously eaten all the pies, but much longer and lean, you could say a more typical Trent double.  

As I set up my camera again it was time to lift the fish out the water for the photos and weigh in. What didn’t look as big as the others, felt as heavy as the other two in comparison… I couldn’t believe it! 

After taking some snaps it came to weigh the fish and the scales read 13lbs 5oz (the same size as my first), what a dream session!

When people ask me why I go fishing, I tell them that nights like this are the reason I go and tell them this story… Moments like this, you want to re-live again, and again.

13lbs 5oz - The third and final barbel to fall in one session.

13lbs 5oz – The third and final barbel to fall in one session and a more typical Trent double.

After this I rested the fish for 5 minutes, gave it a kiss and said thank you (if you can’t kiss a fish after a session like this when could you?) and released it where I stood and pondered on what had unfolded before me, frantic, frenetic sport that resulted in 3 x 13’s in one session on Friday the 13th – Coincidence? Read into it what you will, but unlucky? I don’t think so…

I quickly packed away at 5am and headed for home, quitting whilst I was ahead. Truth be told I could have potentially caught another 1 or 2 before they disappeared and it got light, and knowing what I know now (appointment cancelled) I should have had just one last cast…

The reality is dream sessions like this are few and far between in a angler’s lifetime. So I will look back and reflect on this particular session in years to come, regardless of whether I achieve my ultimate goal and catch a Trent 16 or not with the most endearing memories fishing has gave me.

In the next part I will explain why barometric/atmospheric pressure is important to barbel fishing and I will hopefully have a few fish to show you.

Until then tight lines and I hope you’ve enjoyed this long read, but I think you would all agree the story needed to be told.

Richard 

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