So as we discussed during the latter end of part 3 much of part 4 will be to discuss the nomadic nature of barbel on rivers such as the Trent. Of course we’ll talk about my sessions which were few and far between as well but don’t expect any catch shots as there wasn’t any.

Luckily I make up for this in the next part of the series, in the meantime however it gives me a reason to try and give my opinion on certain aspects of barbel fishing big rivers…

As we now start approaching what looks like being a cold winter, the tactics for barbel will change, my time targeting them will become opportunistic in what most of us consider ‘ideal’ conditions, what is ideal though? Is there such a thing, well in terms of water levels, colour and water temps there is an ‘ideal’ time to target them specifically but maybe not to necessarily catch them, I’ll explain why later…

I have spoken at length regarding why ‘feeders’ seem to work so well during the warmer months, I think it’s almost a gimme that a lot of food/scent in your swim during these times when barbel are active will and often does score well.


Coming to what is considered the end of summer, big rivers such as the Trent will hold their temperatures pretty well, it pays to take into account that bigger rivers whilst take longer to warm up also take longer to cool down especially on big rivers as water temperature drops five times slower than that of air temperature. Equally on smaller rivers the water temperatures increase quicker than that of bigger rivers but also cool down quicker. It will then be reasonable to believe that the long periods of warm, exotic air from the Azores have kept those temperatures pretty high.

In this instance, why change?

The barbel should still be rooting around and looking for food to eat, at least this was my rational thought…

This, however is not a place where fish exist in one area or indeed one swim, big barbel I have found to be nomadic, meaning they can be just about anywhere. If their life is spent swimming up and down the river and not really holding anywhere throughout the day it becomes a very much pick a good swim and hope they’re there and on the munch!

Totally different from the wild, intimate rivers such as the Avon, Wensum and Ouse the Trent is wide, expansive and generally very deep in comparison. On rivers such as the Trent I will adopt tactics to suit the conditions but you cannot legislate for barbel not being there.

My feeder rigs have stayed the same but sometimes the best laid plans rarely turn out the way you would like or expect them to do they?


The weather has kept considerably mild, with the levels getting back to the low, clear conditions I have been experiencing all summer. It certainly has not stopped the barbel feeding of course but if I am honest the sport has slowed somewhat after the floods.

I do believe that whilst these barbel on this part of the stretch are nomadic there is areas they prefer to hunt where they can become very complacent in their environment after time. This can be particularly evident during low water conditions where you’ll most often find barbel in an area of 100yds of the stretch. The trick is finding where these barbel like to be during any spate of conditions which will take time.

What often happens is that once the water levels rise, the barbel will almost find an area that is most comfortable for them, food becomes important to sustain their growth but equally so does the ability to waste little or no energy finding it. In my opinion barbel find it more appealing to let that food come to them as oppose to chasing it, which can make things tricky.

Floods definitely change the environment they have been accustomed to during low water and with that barbel become spread out into pockets or areas where it is most comfortable. However like us humans, not everybody is the same, we don’t all do and want the same things do we? With this in mind you have to remember that barbel will feed if they’re there at some point, but quite often the compact nature of summer barbel during what you would consider ‘ideal’ water levels becomes fragmented, disrupted and with that so does their feeding pattern. Floods do move fish!

The Bait

Again a mixture of groundbait plug which then incorporates a couple of pellets I am currently using in 12mm and a springling of hemp/tares have been my bait of choice.

Seeing no reason to move on from the pellet I will continue to use them until it starts getting cold, or something changes such as the barbel’s behaviour where bigger or more nutritional baits are needed such as boilies. 

I will often adopt a bait I feel confident in with a combination that has worked for me, of course conditions and the time of year reflect this, often during winter less feed is considered the better approach, but as we’re still in summer the way I will approach barbel, until they tell me what they want will remain the same. With experience you get a feel for what they want, how they’re feeding and how they want it to be presented.

Week 4 – Where Have They Gone?!

I think talking about the nomadic nature of barbel on certain stretches of the Trent is far more appropriate than talking about the actual fishing, but I will in brief.

The river looked superb, undoubtedly holding barbel somewhere but could I catch them? Alas I could not!

The bream decided it was play time, hooking numerous bream throughout the week on the feeder approach, in many pegs along the stretch, however the barbel were just not playing ball for some reason, despite my best efforts.

I did not fish every day but still… It was a bitter pill to swallow!

As they say “You learn more from the bad days fishing, then you do from the good”, so I guess this puts things in some sort of perspective with the emphasis now on change.

So with this in mind I felt I needed to change my bait selection, choosing to opt for a more selective bait in boilies at the latter end of the week, although it didn’t change my fortunes with no barbel forthcoming, but more if somewhat less bream than before. I will of course talk more in-depth on the next part about the boilies I was using and how a change of approach resulted  in me having my best session ever, but this week was a week to forget in terms of barbel catching, where had they gone?

The problem is that who really knows? We can only have opinions, ideas and rely heavily on many years of experience to tell us the answers to such questions. As I touched on earlier I believe flooding does make a difference to where the fish will be at certain spates of floodwater. I believe that it does spread the fish in areas and pockets where fish will not start moving back to their old patrols or haunts until the water subsides and they feel comfortable. I am a firm believer that you find a natural source of food that is moved along the bed of the river and is both obtainable and a haven for the barbel to feel secure then you have a obvious area where barbel will hold up during any spate of water levels.

Unfortunately on this stretch there is very little visual areas that scream barbel, so with this in mind it pays to know what features are under the water, finding areas where food is easily obtainable and a place that will hold the small crustaceans or whatever else that may get lodged in-between crevices or better still gravel.

Barbel love feeding over gravel and will  hold up on such areas to feed, spawn and to turn over gravel and stones to find water snails and small crustaceans with their snouts.


It’s quite often the case where big fish are the target, nomadic and sometimes covering miles of the stretch, more so than their younger and less sizable counterparts that catching them is not a foregone conclusion. The trick is to keep trying different areas/swims to find where these barbel will be at differing variables in conditions. As this is my first season on this stretch I am yet to find them during varying conditions and river spates, particularly after floods.

We also have to bear in mind that small barbel will also inhabit the same areas of big barbel, old habits die hard you could say. I am certain that bigger barbel are more nomadic than that of smaller barbel but it doesn’t mean you will not catch them together. I have found that it’s much harder to pin down a group of big fish than it is to pin down a shoal of smaller one’s as these fish will not move too far away from where they prefer to be and bigger fish tend to be patrolling through as oppose to being resident.

You can at times go to some stretches of the Trent or rivers similar where there’s resident mid-sized fish and catch a few or more during ‘ideal’ times, but try doing that where the fish you’re targeting are bigger, you simply have to know where they are a lot of the time.

This brings me neatly onto what are ‘ideal’ conditions? 

As we touched on earlier, allow me to elaborate. You often hear barbel anglers say “Now is the time to target barbel”, this is particularly apparent during floods and/or when water is coloured, is it reasonable then to believe there is an ‘ideal’ time to target barbel? Yes and no in my opinion, I believe what anglers consider ‘ideal’ conditions, whilst should be a good time to target barbel, sport is often fragmented. It matters more that the barbel you are targeting have not already had their fill before you start fishing, this can often lead to these ‘ideal’ conditions flattering to deceive. Sport can be great for a day or two during these ‘ideal’ conditions but can equally be poor so whilst I will fish during these times, I prefer to use the word favorable, which of course doesn’t mean I’ll catch but means there’s a better chance than normal if the barbel are there and fancy a bit of feed.

I certainly will not be disillusioned by going fishing thinking it’s nailed on barbel will feed, cardinal sin and as likely as it is to catch a barbel or two, it can be equally so that the opportunity to catch is missed by a day or two even an hour or so. I will always arrive at the river confidently and full of hope rather than expectation these days, this way you don’t leave thinking it was something you’re doing wrong. In reality if you combine nomadic big barbel who travel miles of river (between weirs) in a stretch with the possibility of already having full stomachs on invertebrates or other anglers baits, means you must be there at the right time, right place and barbel who want a munch, like at any other time. 

Floods do mean barbel will generally feed more regularly to sustain their weight but this could be at any time with a 24 hour spell, and again there’s no hard and fast rules as to when and where they will do this, meaning barbel fishing can be unpredictable at the best of times, despite what you may hear in my opinion.


It pays to take notice of these so called ‘ideal’ conditions but do not rely on them to bear fruit every time on rivers like the Trent, in my experience it just doesn’t work or happen like that, one day is very different to the next generally. 

Barbel (luckily for us) are not really that clever, the ability in catching them comes from not what fan-dangled rig you’re using, but the ability to use nous and watercraft to find them.

I have compiled a bullet-pointed selection of what I feel is important to remember targeting nomadic big barbel below.

  • Find them – This is most important, if you find the fish and know where they are in all conditions you will catch more big barbel than anyone else on the stretch (although takes many painstaking hours) – Fact!
  • Pre-bait – This can help to stop big barbel in their tracks if a group pass through, doing this some 6 or so hours prior to fishing can help if done in a few spots
  • Lead around – During the close season it pays to have a cast around with a lead and braid reel line to find areas of gravel where barbel love to feed!
  • Swim hop – Fish many areas (not just one) on a session to get a feel of where the fish could be
  • Travel light – Do not take all your gear, fish light so maneuverability between swims is easy  
  • Ideal Conditions – Do not get bogged down with it, fish them of course if you can but do not beat yourself up if you don’t catch
  • Depth changes – Big drop-offs on the river will always be good areas to find barbel if you find them, having a boat with an echo-sounder is particularly useful
  • Be careful – If you’re fishing in floods be very careful, make sure the bank is stable and never fish in an area that has unstable ground, if you can go with a friend

I have tried to detail what I believe is most important in targeting nomadic barbel and how watercraft is the most important element of barbel fishing.

During the next part I will re-live what was my best session for barbel ever, how I went about it and why I changed my bait of choice. There will be a few fish to show you so until the new year, tight lines, merry christmas and a happy new year!