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So, the time has finally arrived, the start of what many of us anglers have been waiting for, the start of the river coarse fishing season, June 16th.

I have to be honest by the end of last season, I was already anticipating the start of this, with that I took the time to think about my approach and the way I went about my barbel fishing throughout the season. I took the time to think about what difference I could make to my fishing to ensure more barbel were caught this season.

It’s always good to reflect at the end of the season, and take time in doing so. Did I do all I could to catch the fish in front of me? Did I make the most out of the swims and utilize the conditions on any given session?

So what of last season? 13 double-figure barbel up to 15lbs 15oz and maybe 30 to 40 barbel, good enough? On reflection probably not, I missed out on my primary objective, to catch a Trent 16, only by an ounce but I still missed out. Was 13 a good tally? I have to say that it probably wasn’t, I should really have caught far more if I’m honest.

Did I do all I could to catch the fish in front of me?

The answer is categorically yes in terms of effort, I take my angling very seriously and I put in 110% every time. However, the methods and my approach I employed probably didn’t make the most out of a situation where the fish were in front of me, I don’t think I took advantage.

Did I make the most out of the swims and utilize the conditions?

I think the answer to this is no, to truly make the most out of a swim you only have to look at the best anglers in the country, they will often make the most of where they’re fishing and will generally utilize the conditions well.

I, for not one minute would suggest I even come close to these fantastic anglers, but the truth is we can learn a lot from them, regardless of whether they’re barbel anglers or not. There’s always ways to improve and learn off others, take snippets and put into your own fishing. My approach, I felt needed tweaking, using different methods in different situations and using a different feeding approach.

Last season I almost used a feeder exclusively, granted I used less food items in the colder months, relying on the paste method at times but did using the feeder utlize my swim properly?

I believe not, the feeder is a fantastic method, we all know that but does it really enable you to make the most out of a swim when big barbel are your objective? Do barbel spook from feeders if it’s all they see and feed from?

It’s certainly something that was going around in my head, so I felt a need to change my approach this season. I go back to my time in September where I bagged 3 x 13’s in one short session, using a spread of boilie approach plus feeder. If this alone didn’t change my views on using feeder and feeder alone I went back to many sessions last season to use as leverage to give value and weight to my opinion. On many sessions I was left with a single barbel, maybe a double, maybe not but regardless, many times just the one. I began to question why this was…

I go back over my sessions and try to analyze the situation…

I felt that my feeding approach needed to be refined, often I would leave the feeder out for around 20 to 30 before re-casting, this enabled the fish to find the bait, but also allowed the shoalies to come into the swim and as such I would probably catch the smallest barbel before they all retreated and spooked away from the feed.

My perception is that the feeder whilst working for maybe one fish was spooking the rest that are maybe feeding in ONE area, notice how I emphasize the word ONE because relaistically a feeder is meant to do exactly this if done accurately and properly. I felt that feeding just one area was good for one bite or one fish, this was no doubt one fish of a pod of 2-3 big fish or maybe 7 or 8 shoalies. Was this really fishing efficiently? Was catching one fish in a pod good enough? I know from experience and research that barbel rarely feed alone, so with this in mind I was hardly fishing effectively.

I often found that barbel can be more spooky in areas that are seldom fished, or fished too much. I don’t believe barbel will spook from being caught in one area and not come back to feed, sometimes very soon after on some stretches. However, because the competition on this stretch is rarely fierce and is not fished a great deal I felt it was having a detrimental effect on multiple catches on a consistent basis.

I want to try and maximize my chances of catching all 3 in a pod of big fish. The feeder is designed to feed (with accurate casting) one area and whatever you choose to use within the feeder, attraction in a groundbait mix with some food items which is considered the ‘norm’ its mainly designed to do 2 things. One to attract fish through a scent and particle trail towards your feeder/hookbait, and two to feed the fish through additional food items that could be the same as your hook bait.

You may ask what is wrong with this approach?

I am not saying there’s anything wrong with it, many people up and down the country use the method to catch large barbel, on many rivers. However, as I’ve already explained it’s simply not conducive to multiple catches on this stretch on a consistent basis without doing something different with the method.

Barbel can be notoriously hard feeders, it doesn’t take long for 2-3 barbel to eat a kilo of boilies in one area. But what you need to ask yourself is how long does it take for those same 2-3 barbel to eat that same amount when they’re spread all over the swim – far longer.

Barbel, when feeder fishing are not made to work in my opinion, the bait is there in one place and can be eaten in that one place by any of those 2 or 3 barbel. Of course the bait from the feeder will spread slightly in a current but not enough on this stretch in my opinion. The problem occurs when one of those barbel are caught, the others are spooked and will not return to the area to feed. Of course you can get lucky with another pod moving through but you haven’t maximized your chances of potentially catching all 3 in that first pod.

This is not a phenomenon on every stretch you may come across on the Trent, nor is it that my views are based on fact, I am merely sharing my thoughts and where I base my opinions.

I decided that I would largely stick to the boilie approach this season and predominately a scatter approach where I would use a catapult and fire boilies in two’s and three’s around the swim, upstream and straight out in front, but never downstream. I would mainly use this approach with a lead which would either incorporate a PVA mesh bag or a single bait on an hair.

On the odd occassion if expecting the fish to be feeding well I would use the feeder as having the spread of boilies would enable the method to work well in these circumstances as extra attractant/feed would be in the swim.

The plan was to get the barbel working, picking baits from areas around the swim, but not in one area, this will enable the fish to gain confidence as they do so. I am not trying to create competition, I just want them to gain confidence by working hard to pick the baits off. I want the fish to separate from the pack as when feeder fishing they’re generally packed together feeding, and not spread out. This would then allow me to catch the barbel one by one as they will not all be feeding in one area, allowing less chance for them to spook off a hooked fish.

I am all to aware that once competition is established barbel can become easy to catch and furthermore other barbel in the shoal or pod are quite happy to continue to feed amongst this commotion. However, competition is gained by barbel feeding hard and them jostling each other for the food which seldom happens here the majority of time.

I wanted to try and maximize my chances throughout a season and felt this was the best way to do it.

Bait wise, I have decided to use my companies Rubby Dubby and Flamin’ Furter boilies this Summer. These would also be spread out in my chosen swim upsteam with a quantity of 200 or so grams once I arrive and an handful after each fish thereafter. If things were slow I would add a couple or so more, little and often would be the key element to this method. This is something match anglers do, and do so well. It’s no different when fishing for barbel on the river, regardless of whether you’re fishing a bigger bait or not. It doesn’t make it any less important.

I see all too often barbel anglers using a feeder or PVA bag, chuck it out and wait, wait and wait some more. To put you in the picture I will use a lead with a PVA bag mesh with some chopped boilies, topped with a springling of pellet and feed upstream with 2 or 3 boilies every 45 minutes or so and wait. I normally wait for around an hour and a half  but I will always feed every 45mins with two or three boilies spread upstream until I catch.

The worst thing you can do with this method is go mad with the baiting and completely pile it in, the best way is a little amount on a reasonable timeframe and 45 minutes is ample. The boilies allow the leakage coming from them downstream which will hopefully bring the fish upstream towards the source. Many people do not realise this, but piling a bait in from the start of a session is not as effective as doing it throughout the session as once the leakage has gone from the boilie it relies on being picked up as oppose to being attracted to it as quite simply it has lost that appeal. If you’re quite prepared to throw in 500 boilies from the start of a session you must make sure they’re nearby or are used to that type of boilie going into the swim regularly. Either way, you will find 500 boilies going in on a little and often basis far more effective.

This way of feeding also decreases the chances of shoalies entering into the swim if done correctly, but not totally of course. Smaller barbel want to compete, it’s their very nature to compete with one another, but spreading the bait doesn’t allow this to happen in the way that they would like/want so you’re not creating that situation for them to become ravenous. This gives the bigger barbel a much better chance to get to the bait first. If small barbel are not competing with each other and the method doesn’t dictate this reaction from them they’re less inclined to feed in the same way that a feeder method cast out every 20 mins would dictate. Of course this doesn’t eliminate catching the smaller barbel totally, if they want to feed and there’s plenty there they will quite often turn up, but I find that less bait and more often does give you a good chance of singling out the bigger fish.

The Peg – Another element of my fishing I have changed this season is my approach on swim choice, deciding to sit on one peg for most of my summer barbel fishing in the hope that with continuity of the same bait going in the same place the barbel would know where to come for food. I believe this would be important as to prime one swim, instead of trying to chase the barbel all over the stretch would create a situation where the barbel would be aware of the bait being put in over a period of time and keep re-visiting the area. I have often said, barbel in where and when they feed is an education, they become accustomed and aware to continuity of the same thing happening again and again. I guess like a cat or a dog and its ability to always know where its food is kept, a fish is no different. Over a period of time this is established as like all living things they have to eat, their ability to find and search out food is a priority to survive or sustain their weight. If a barbel knows where there’s food the chance of getting hooked would make them pretty wary over time, but not straight away so this is why I have decided to more or less sit on this one swim to catch what I can before moving on to another peg on the stretch in the winter months.

The reason is very simple, barbel are semi-nomadic in the summer, meaning there is resident fish in a particular area and there’s others who like to roam (usually the bigger fish), miles sometimes. Staying in a particular area will enable me to decipher whether particular fish are resident or not, giving me a clearer understanding of barbel and the stretch I am fishing. The fact is what’s usually a fantastic summer barbel swim cold be desolate in the winter. It’s important to gain this understanding, barbel often move to their winter quarters as water and air temperatures drop, these can often be in deeper, less oxygenated water. However there’s some areas where there’s a good depth of water where different nomadic barbel are quite happy to come in and out of the swim quite regularly. Often the fish that have been resident over a period of time have moved off to their winter haunts and only the nomads are left.

However my fishing in the winter will come from an area deepers and less oxygenated, believing the barbel will be patrolling and sitting in that area, whilst giving me every chance of catching a big nomadic barbel.

Conclusion to changes this summer?

I have made changes this summer, as we already talked about my feeding and the continuity in which I fish a particular peg/swim have been revised and therefore changed. Besides this I have also made changes to my rig, using braid instead of mono hook link as I had a few fish early on this season that had snapped me on the rocks. So I have moved over to a coated G-Force Blackout Braid in 10lbs which is around 2ft, I must say the stuff is excellent. I also then have an inch stripped off above the hook where a BB shot is placed and a size 10 G-Force Wide Gape hook. 

The rig how it looks now

The rig how it looks now

 Any regular readers would know why I have a shot (BB) an inch from the hook, but if you’re new to the blog I will explain…

The shot helps with the hook hold, I have found quite often that hook pulls are not always down to hooks as we’ve been led to believe but the rig mechanics. Without any pivot point, namely the shot, the fish is free to take the bait and the hooks maenverability could land anywhere, this creates a situation that is left to chance in terms of where the hook eventually ends up. Any barbel/carp angler should know the place where an hook holds best, bottom-lip, anywhere else is allowing that barbel some chance to throw the hook at some point in the fight.

The shot helps, in that once a barbel picks up the bait the shot pulls the hook down into the bottom-lip creating a type of hinge effect, and allowing that one inch margin for error, typically a barbel will suck the bait in unawares and the shot comes into play instantly to nail the barbel bottom-lip. To date, using this shot I have not had one single hook pull.

The changes I have made have dramatically changed my rewards from the stretch this summer…

So how have I done so far?

The season started slow, I fished opening night until around 4am of the 16th and lost one barbel, then I just had plenty of bream. I started using a feeder with a scattering of boilies as we’ve discussed but unfortunately the barbel never really got going.

Luckily as the season has progressed it has got better and better for me, with a new approach of feeding I have managed to date 26 double-figure barbel (a few recaptures) and a fantastic haul of 15 barbel in one session 3 of which being doubles. These fish have all come on the Furter or Dubby boilie in various sizes. 

I have also caught 2 carp, where on the previous season I had none. It really has been a terrific season so far and to say I haven’t even fished in October at all I am delighted with the progress I am making in regards of maximizing my chances and making the most of them. I have often had 3, 4 or even 5 per session and I feel it’s all down to continuity of the bait going in at the same place and how I’m spreading the baits around.

Not too complicated is it?

So now here’s a few of the best pics as I need the space for future articles, but you can see them all on my facebook page if you wish at: https://www.facebook.com/richard.easom/media_set?set=a.10152217153962479.1073741835.533032478&type=3.

I haven’t completed the quest to catch a 16 but I do believe this season, it will happen.

11lbs

11lbs

11lbs 1oz

11lbs 1oz

12lbs 6oz

12lbs 6oz

12lbs 9oz

12lbs 9oz

12lbs 14oz

12lbs 14oz

14lbs 1oz

14lbs 1oz

14lbs 11oz (PB from March 2014)

14lbs 11oz (PB from March 2014)

13lbs 12oz

13lbs 12oz

14lbs 5oz

14lbs 5oz

14lbs

14lbs

11lbs 8oz

11lbs 8oz

And a couple of carp

10lbs 12oz

10lbs 12oz

13lbs 13oz

13lbs 13oz

This brings us to the end of our summer blog and I will be hoping to write more in-depth near the end of the season regarding my winter campaign and more on the actual fishing. The object and focus here was to show that the changes I have incorporated into my fishing and watching and learning off others has worked and made a real difference.

You can also catch me on YouTube as I am doing some amateur videos of my fishing, nothing serious more to keep a diary than anything else but would appreciate your support if you were to subscribe to the channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9ctb3ev_-l5MuWp6AKAPjw

I am sure that the next blog will make for some interesting reading, if my season continues to go much in the same vain as the summer.

Until then tight lines,

Richard

 

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