11lbs 13oz

Well as I explained in the last part I will be finishing off this quest in this part. In truth the fishing has been fragmented, with no real consistent results, by no means have I done badly but I would have liked a few more doubles by now.

Winter is definitely upon us now and cold nights and crisp mornings are often the case at this time of the year.

I am not a fan of cold winter days for barbel, so I had visions of fishing for the big perch on one or two local ponds and lakes, even maybe from the river. However this never came to fruition and a lot of my days were consumed with making bait and being ill with flu or some other virus.

For this reason bank time was pretty limited, apart from the last week of the season as you will find out.

I would be lying to you if I said that I only ventured out when I caught, because that was certainly not the case, many times I had blanked, but you do want to forget these times and I am for that reason unable to recollect my thoughts of these particular days.

Tactics

My tactics change, in so much that my feed is determined by the state of the current conditions. It always pays to be on-the-ball when it comes down to weather and conditions of the river, the trend is important, rising or falling temperatures.

As we enter the new year, the times on the bank have been limited as I have explained, due to being ill and not having favourable conditions (not in that order).

However, in this part I firstly take you back to January where I had used a method that had been long forgotten. The method consists of using soluble paste, in this instance I was using my very good Rubby Dubby paste that is also a fantastic paste to use when wrapping around boilies etc.

The fantastic paste method

The fantastic paste method

The method comprises of a feeder, paste and 2 boilies and works by not feeding the barbel, but attracting them due to the soluble oils that leak from the paste, leaving nothing to actually eat. This is important in winter as the barbel’s metabolism slow down, but it leaves attraction downstream for the barbel to pick up on and follow the source, once there it finds 3 boilies, 2 freebies and my hook bait close-by.

Paste is filled into the feeder 3/4 of the way down, leaving the boilie only a quarter from the bottom.

Paste is filled into the feeder 3/4 of the way down, leaving the boilie only a quarter from the bottom.

The paste is filled in a deliberate way to enable the 2 free offering of boilies to disengage out from the feeder within the first 15 minutes of casting out, you don’t want something active, you don’t want the feeder to disperse, you want exactly what this method gives you, attraction in soluble oils and only a small meal.

A lot of people make the mistake thinking that a feeder can only be used for one purpose, to feed hungry fish via groundbait etc, this is nonsense there is many way to skin a cat, as they say and the feeder is no different. This is just one way to use a feeder in winter, not overfeeding barbel and certainly relying on attraction with little or no feed content.

 

The boilies are placed 3/4 of the way down the feeder.

The boilies are placed 3/4 of the way down the feeder.

The paste for this method is by no means hard to make, regardless of whether you use my product or not, soluble paste is there for everyone to try, what you must do however is find liquids that are solubles in water, the winterized oils are the way to go and will leak in temperatures 2 Celsius and above.

I have smeared some paste bottom end only to cover the boilies.

I have smeared some paste bottom end only to cover the boilies.

You can choose any powder that you choose, I make my own from soluble milk powders such as Vitamealo and other amino content to create a very smelly paste that leaks attraction. If used correctly the method is deadly. You don’t necessarily have to use stringers or just a straight lead in winter, the feeder and paste method goes hand-in-hand, creating a scent trail and ultimately putting fish on the bank in even the most difficult conditions.

The finished article - easy!

The finished article – easy!

Conditions

It’s not your typical conditions for winter, frosty by night, clear by day, it’s cold and it just won’t stop raining!

I think if we’re going to catch fish this winter it’s going to be in flood, you may think this would make conditions easy, wrong! As I explained in the last article flood water is great if it’s not having a detrimental effect of the river temperature, unfortunately though these prevailing winds are coming via a north or easterly direction and if anything having a knock-on effect on the fishing.

Hopefully the winds will swing around and come via a southerly but the cold wind looks set to be honest so it might not be that easy. Times like this requires you to be decisive in your time spent on the bank, yes you will blank, it’s the nature of the beast unfortunately, there’s never any guarantee but you want to be out when you have the best chance possible.

I will have to pick my times in this situation, there will be times where everything seems right and you’ll still be left unrewarded.

Beyond reason I will go out and try if there’s even half a chance and at times like this when you have cold, but not freezing water in the river it can just be luck, or dam good angling that catches you a fish or two. Either way I try to give myself, always the best chance to catch a fish.

Give the fish opportunity, barbel are not fish who will be ravenous at this time of the year, nor will they swimming from one end of the stretch to the other in order to find food, they will quite happily sit in a crease and wait for the food to come to them, at most moving 10 yards to find it (hence my feeder approach).

The Bait

I have gone back to my Dubby approach and paste method to start, I will later in the article go back to the pellet approach as we enter March and fish really do want to bulk up but for now using the fantastic dubby boilie, which has been superb in winter for the testing team is something I want to see for myself, the combination of course with the paste in the feeder.

I will of course change my methods if conditions suit, we in angling do not have one day ever the same which is why what works today may not work tomorrow.  By this I means ways to manipulate the feeder approach to suit. I have wrote articles in the past, advocating the use of gripper leads and stringers, of course they will still work and catch barbel, but what I am saying is there is ways to manipulate the feeder approach to work as you wish.

I am conscious of the fact barbel will often pick up items of food and deter from picking up any more, sometimes a boilie scent trail alone is not enough, this is why I have come up with this way of attracting fish into your swim, whilst not actually feeding them. The contents of the paste is almost dispersed after an hour or so and  doesn’t offer any other offering to eat other than the 2 boilies I have deliberately put into the feeder. Sometimes it’s about fooling the barbel into thinking ‘food’ with the realisation they’re not capable of handling huge amounts of food content.

Part 7 – So Close Yet So Far

After the festivities of the Christmas period and new year I spent with my family in Scotland I wasn’t able to get back on the bank until January.

However, what greeted me on my way back was a very high, cold river Trent where my confidence was not so high. The real possibility of a complete washout through January was very much a possibility as the winds and cold rain swept in from the east.

Prospects were not exactly good, but I decided that I would do most of my fishing during the warmer spells, particularly during the day as I felt this would give me the best chance once the river was high and secondly coloured with the warmer part of the day being in the afternoon. If not for the fish, for me as the cold nights were not exactly nice to be sitting out in, even if they were just above freezing, the wind made it feel worse.

The first trip of the new year I decided on a deep bend where I spoke of in the last article, as the river did this it left a very large crease on the inside of the river, where most of the flow was confined to the far side.

Luckily the stretch held something like this as I was faced with a very flooded river Trent that was in danger of blowing its banks with 9/12ft of flood water.

Out came the carp rod, I tend to deal with flood water by using carp rods instead of floodwater barbel rods, one because I don’t own one and two because a carp rod at 3lb t/c can do it for me, I see no reason to change what serves me well. Some people may argue it’s over-gunned for such work, I disagree, barbel rarely mess around in these currents, they either want it or not, never have I found barbel in conditions such as these to waste their energy find the food to just not bother or spook on the tip after inspection.

Barbel rely (like all fish) on their ability to sustain weight and once their feeding senses have been stimulated they have already made up their minds to eat. Look at it this way, you don’t sit down for tea and not eat it do you? Fish are much the same, their decision to eat is based on how stimulated or hungry they are, simple really.

The carp rod allows me to firstly use a feeder holding 7oz or more and secondly, the ability to have the rod up without too much tension on the tip, which in itself spoils presentation as the line is taught to the rod tip which then in-turn pulls the rod round leaving a blank spot. Any fish worth its salt will know there’s something not right and spook from it.

This way we eliminate risk, we try to create a feeding trigger, a stimulant that will coheres a barbel or two to feed and ultimately end up catching it, at least this is the plan.

The plan was to start with a one rod approach as I felt a second rod would only get in the way of any fish I am likely to catch (I couldn’t be doing with any problems potentially from having another rod). 

I started with a 16mm Dubby boilie on the business end with a long tail of around 5ft, I am much more confident with a longer as oppose to a shorter tail, whether this really make a difference in this chocolate coloured water is a matter for debate of course.

I started fishing around 2pm which I thought would give me the best chance, a little more bearable for me in the cold easterly that was blowing and a warmer time of the day.

The first hour or so came and went with nothing to show so far, until a little after 4pm the rod tip came to life with a few pulls followed by a nod, picking up the rod I struck and connected what was obviously a double-figure barbel, you become accustomed to how a bigger barbel feels after a while, the runs and the way they move is much more deliberate, often staying deeper than their smaller counterparts.

I tried to exert as much pressure as I dared, knowing there was a sunken tree stump and reeds to my left, exactly where the fish had decided to run to, I managed to steer the fish out and under my bank where I knew that the extra water had covered a gravel area and I was out of the woods, luckily I managed to get the net under my prize which was obviously a nice double once again.

After a few pictures and the weigh-in I was very happy with a lovely, fat barbel of 13lbs 8oz, a fantastic fish considering the conditions and time of the year.

13lbs 8oz

13lbs 8oz – A lovely winter fish from the Trent – Dubby again proving the successful bait.

What a great start! 

I wasn’t expecting much to be honest but landing this fish was a great start to the new year and I was delighted to have a fish on the bank, especially another double. I fished on and 2 hours past until 6PM where I was actually expecting a bite, the rod tip again giving a few pulls before slowly pulling round. I notice that bites do become a bit more cautious in winter, certainly not with such ferocity as in summer. 

Again I struck and met with what felt like another double, unfortunately this fish was a little more enthusiastic and determined to get away, drawing it in close I knew I had a problem when it carted to the left, where the sunken tree stump was, knowing there was a problem I tried to bully the fish away from it, until it then decided it didn’t want to do that and took line where I had no choice but to give it. It then went solid inevitably, knowing I was snagged on the tree stump I tried to pull the fish through it which resulted in a snapped line, gutted! It felt a good fish and in hindsight I should have payed out line to see if it was going to swim out.

I stayed on for a further couple of hours with no further action so I decided to call it a night. 

Unfortunately, although I gave it one or two more sessions later in the week that were both fruitless I decided to give it a bit of a rest, there really was no point as the extra water that was seemingly sticking around was getting colder and colder making conditions very difficult.

I waited until the river had subsided a little and ventured out again, this time fishing a bit closer upstream from the previous session (conditions allowing me to do this), conditions had improved somewhat with no frost for a few days or so and a warmer wind.

I decided that I would, whilst conditions were a little better to start on the Twitch pellet again. As you know, during the earlier part of the season, particularly during the summer I had a great success on this bringing numerous doubles.

I started at around 6PM and was greeted with the levels looking so much better with only a couple of feet of extra water on. 

I decided on a feeder approach that felt would give the fish a little bit of attraction. In addition to this I would have one or two free offerings of my chosen bait (Twitch Pellet), deciding that I would chop down some Twitch Pellet in a blender and incorporate this within my plain groundbait mix, with a couple of pellets in the middle.

The session began slowly and very little action ensued, until at around 10.30PM the rod tip began to shake and began to bounce. I struck and again I felt what I knew was another double-figure barbel, heading for what I knew was a snaggy part of the river close to my own bank, staying deep I managed to coheres the fish around these obstacles and eventually after some spirited runs the fish was in my net.

Another winter cracker at 12lbs 8oz on the pellet this time.

If you look closely at this picture, something I hadn’t noticed at the time, the fish has spat out all the red groundbait and is all over it’s mouth, greedy girl!

A fantastic reward in February - 12lbs 8oz

A fantastic reward in February – 12lbs 8oz

I stayed on until 11.30Pm where it really did begin to get cold as the ice began to congregate on my mat deciding then it would be a good time to go home, another double but no closer to the magical 16 – will it ever come?

The following few days saw cold winds and rain come in from the North and as a result, the water temperatures were on the decline again, so decided that it was best to sit it out and wait for the wind to turn and the river to settle once again. I have explained in many articles, barbel winter fishing is about timing, something I was learning all the time this winter.

At last as we entered into March the temperatures had improved and had arranged my last throw of the dice so to speak for the last week of the season, deciding to meet up with a company and personal friend Darren Hurst who I met online who was coming from Lancashire to fish the Trent. It was not quite the last week of the season before I ventured out again however, but it was drawing ever closer.

I fished again the upstream end of the stretch, deciding again to put my faith in the same approach with the Flamin’ Furter boilies we do as the freebies, as oppose to the pellets in my only change. I felt the pellet crumb weas giving a lot of attraction which I packed tight to give a constant trail to my bait and not all in one go.

I decided on the two-rod approach again as although the river was carrying an extra foot or so I could quite easily incorporate the second rod in this swim. Using 6oz of feeder one was cast upstream just off centre, in front of me and the other downstream.

It was the upstream rod that gave the first action as the rod dropped back and began to bounce, upon striking I knew that I had hooked into a bream and the ‘plods’ that are so consistent with the bream gave the game away.

After netting and returning the bream of around 6lbs I had to wait a little longer until about 10.30PM (the bite times are very noticeable) the downstream rod came to life with a a thump and a pull round that took line from the spool, it wasn’t a violent take by any means but it was a sure sign something had picked up my Furter shaved down 12mm boilie. I struck and was again met with an heavy resistance, signifying what could only be a double.

The fish began to take line and I knew I was in this fight good and proper, could this be the one?!

The fish felt bigger than anything I had hooked previously, but was it the one? Even on a carp rod I was making hard work of this fish, or maybe the fish with the extra current felt bigger and fought harder.

I knew the snag to the left was going to play a part again, I think barbel know their surroundings and in particular how to escape, it was important I kept it from there as it came closer to my bank.

This one never gave up but eventually it began to tire, but inevitably it decided it was going to try and get me in the snag which I controlled well, maybe because it was tired. Eventually it came to the surface after a good battle of around 12 or so minutes and soon after I was slipping the net under what looked like another good double-figure barbel.

I knew it was close to my PB and after weighing the scales read 13lbs 15oz, 2oz off a new PB – nevermind it was a stonking fish that had obviously been through the wars with scars on its body

13lbs 15oz - This one falling to the Flamin' Furter boilie.

13lbs 15oz – This one falling to the Flamin’ Furter boilie.

Unfortunately this capped off the night despite spending another couple of hours trying for another.

My next session came when I met Darren Hurst on the Sunday, a week before the season ended. We decided to fish together on the upstream end of the stretch, it was a cool night to be honest with little in the way of cloud cover.

After setting up there was little in the way of action to start with, Darren did have one but lost it pretty much straightaway and I just had a bream of around 5lbs. I decided on a two-rod approach again, one with pellet (upstream) and one downstream with the furter boilie again and after that early bream falling to the upstream rod there was little in the way of action.

This was until however 11PM that whilst talking to Darren some feet away I heard my alarm beep once, saying to Darren it was probably a ‘liner’ we carried on our conversation. Some ten minutes there was another beep, and another, and another and by this time I am running over to my rod which is only a yard or two away, you could say this is a double peg to be honest such as the closeness between them.

I picked the rod up and struck and was met by something very heavy on the end of my line. Now this felt altogether different from previous fish, even the 13 pounder from the other night, this one felt bigger and keeping very low and making strong but powerful runs. 

I was aware of a snag straight out in front of me also, but the fish decided to go around it, how lucky was that? is this fate? The fish did not allow me to gain control as the runs were gaining momentum, this fish was angry and seemed to be getting stronger by the minute, what on earth am I hooked into?

I was beginning to tire myself, my arms trembling, my back straining trying to keep its head up, this was a big fish…

Finally after 10 or so minutes it came close, but still it didn’t give an inch, it was like trying to pull the plug from the Trent, minutes passed and it decided that it would kite to my left, knowing there was a snag there I tried to hold it and not let it get into it but I just couldn’t. All of a sudden the movement stopped from the fish and I was snagged, oh please don’t let this happen I thought, I decided to give it some line to see whether it would free itself and after trying it the first time, still snagged… I tried the second time, paying out more line to see if it would come out. Luckily it did, and I was back on the fish again, again however it was trying to get back into it, but this time I wasn’t having any of it as I bullied it away from there and shortly after arose from the depths.

I knew this was big as it rose onto the surface, even in the dark, but was it THAT big? Was it the 16?

After everything had been set up and I had a bit of a rest after a 20 minute crueller where the fight had everything I set about sorting the unhooking mate and trusting Darren with the photography duties.

It was time to lift the night and when I did this I knew it was big, bigger than my PB anyway.

Once I laid it on the mat, Darren said “Well that’s your PB anyway”, I didn’t want to say, I just know what happens when you think about weights, you’re usually let down.

After some photos we got the scales ready to weigh and here was the moment of truth, a barbel weighing 15lbs 15oz, wow, I was delighted, regardless of whether I achieved my goal or not it was a new PB and only an ounce short of the goal I set myself, I sure as hell will not come any closer without achieving it.

15lbs 15oz - Twitch Pellet - A new PB

15lbs 15oz – Twitch Pellet – A new PB

I was buzzing, I couldn’t believe it! I was all ready to go home then, but wanted Darren to be next, unfortunately however after staying another hour or two we had no more action but I was happy, more than happy.

The remaining days were spent me losing fish, in particular one that I could’ve sworn was bigger than the 15.15 but I had it on for all of 3 minutes when it snagged me and it just wasn’t coming out this time, the line just snapped like cotton I had no time to react really which was a shame but you win some you lose some. 

The last couple of nights I managed 2 smaller barbel on the Twitch pellet once again at around 7lbs.

A small barbel around 7lbs - didn't weigh it

A small barbel around 7lbs – didn’t weigh it

And another a bit smaller - didn't weigh

And another a bit smaller – didn’t weigh

So with that the season finished, and we’re now about to embark and yet another. So I will continue this quest into next season and hopefully I will have it, it may not have happened this season but at least it gives me the opportunity to do it all again this coming season. I cannot be disappointed with my quest so far, bringing a 15.15 when I know that there is bigger, and hopefully it has my name on it this season.

Not long to go now so keep in touch with my adventures and speak soon,

Tight lines

Richard