On this page you will find all you need to know about where to look for barbel. As any barbel angler should know there are 3 rules that are more important than anything else when targeting these fantastic fighting fish, and these are location, location and location. These are, fundamentally the 3 rules you must learn if you are to catch barbel in most conditions. On this page we will look at what we should be looking for in terms of river flow, conditions and features. Barbel fishing is not all about rigs, baits and methods these of course are important but not as important as watercraft. Knowing what your fishing over and what lies beneath.  You can have the best rigs, methods and tactics you like but if there is no barbel present you’re not going to catch anything. What you should know if you’re new to barbel fishing will be explained here, location and watercraft specifically is your first port of call when starting barbel fishing.

Glides

Glides are smooth and somewhat glassy to look at. They are fairly obvious to the naked eye, you can often get deep glides that hold barbel and also very shallow ones depending of the uniform of the river. These are good areas to look for barbel and often indicate a clear gravel bottom in which barbel love to feed over. This is obvious as obstructions that break the pattern of flow are indicated on the surface by boils, often signifying a boulder or such underwater. Glides are a walking to quick walking pace and can be a requisite to certain styles within fishing for barbel like float fishing for example. I myself love these areas when fishing the Cralusso surf but you may find that stick float fishing is just as good or prolific on certain days, holding back hard with a loafer and using maggots and hemp loose feed can be devastating on it’s day. I will generally prefer a float method on glides due to obstructions being kept to a premium and flat gravel that barbel love to root around on. I find shallow glides to be very productive in Summer and early Autumn (especially when there’s a drop-off) with deep glides being good in Winter (especially after a flood). What you must remember when targeting the shallower glides in the Summer and Autumn is to be quiet on the bank as bankside noise can play a part in barbel spooking, especially if they’re still not confident when feeding. I find the best glides to be walking pace and a long drop-off after shallow water, on these drop-offs barbel can most often be found at the foot taking morsels as they drop off the shelve of sorts. These can be especially good in Winter when barbel will most often group up into tighter areas or pockets on a river.

Creases

Creases are one of the most if not thee most talked about river elements that occur through a series of scenarios within a river, the inside of a bend, a straight with an eddy (an area of slower water) followed by faster water above are areas in which to find a crease. A crease simply means an area of faster water between an area of slow and these can be devastating areas to look for barbel. The barbel will often hang just inside of a crease (the slower side) to pick off morsels that are left by the fast water on the outside of the crease (faster side), they’re very astute at doing this and can often be seen in areas of shallow water creases doing this exact same thing. These areas are particularly fruitful when the rivers have burst their banks or are in flood. Barbel will not waste energy if they do not have to but they do see that the only way of eating and feeding is often to be in these areas of slow/fast water where they converge, holding stationary in the flow often takes up a vast amount of energy from the barbel, thus the importance to feed. In flooded rivers that are fining down when barbel are arguably at their most ravenous they will sit in little pockets of areas or swims, these are very important for the angler to know not only only because it will often pinpoint the areas in which they feed but because in the main column of water or the area where the river is at the most fierce in terms of current there can be little or no pockets that barbel are lying, thus meaning you could potentially have no barbel for 100’s of yards. To be a good barbel angler, watercraft and knowing barbel haunts on any particular level of river is very important. A crease will in most cases be the answer to finding barbel, these pockets can hold 15 – 20 barbel per pocket as the group does become tighter on a state of river that has become flooded. Creases are also excellent when normal river levels predominate, an area in which a barbel can feed and rest within a small space of each other that enable them to do that are usually bankers. The picture (above left) shows an area of fast water close to the anglers bank and a crease in the middle to far bank, this kind of area should not be ignored and is an obvious barbel swim.  

Undercuts/Banks

An undercut bank simply means an area positioned underneath a bank, this can be stone, mud or grassy. The erosion of banks underneath your feet is usually made up of mud etc and over time erodes away from high river levels smashing into it constantly over the years. This causes an undercut that can sometimes stretch for 6ft under your own bank so effectively you’re standing on top of the water on these areas. With this comes an element of danger, standing on top of these banks where undercuts are formed underneath that could potentially give way at any time requires you the angler to make sure it is safe before stepping on to these banks. I will normally press down on my foot and make sure the whole bank doesn’t give way first. Undercuts are not easily identifiable but places to look or be aware of is on the inside of a bend, this would be an area where large columns of water are smashing into the bank during flooded conditions. However providing you act responsibly, undercuts are a fantastic holding station for barbel particularly in flooded conditions. It’s merely a case of dropping your rig down below you, the combination of cover and food act irresistible to a barbel, it’s all about easy food without expelling too much energy within the bulk of the flow, the undercut provides this cover or pocket and the water outside of this pocket holds food as a result barbel love to take what they can and resort back to their cover, thus maintaining their energy but also feeding to top up what they’ve already lost. The reason they feed so well in these conditions are because they expel a lot of energy in flooded rivers, not because they’re fighting the main flow but because they are a bottom feeder and they will always need to keep their body upright in the flow due to their torpedo shape and will against any flow to do this, their fins etc are constantly working so the need for food is paramount to their survival. Undercuts provide shelter from the elements, we humans prefer to stay indoors when it’s raining or snowing etc and just eat because we’re bored, but if we had no food in the house, we still have to go shopping. Barbel are no different (apart from the shopping bit of course) they will sit in shelter and only venture out of undercuts for something to eat. I myself know 3 to 4 areas/pockets of undercuts on my local river Trent, more often however these are more associated to smaller rivers due to the width of the river and the amount of flood water that pushes through it. I can honestly say though that during the Autumn and Winter months when flooded rivers are more commonplace I head for one of these undercuts or a crease in the river. The principle is always the same with barbel, they like shelter but also like water over their heads so find something that offers both and fish in-between it, like a crease or a undercut for example and you’re quids in!! The sole purpose for a barbel to come out of shelter is to feed, sometimes finding their shelter and casting there can often result in a long wait and no bite if they have no intention of feeding (a clear hot & sunny day for example) or instant success if they feel safe to eat there. I believe this is common along the banks of the Ouse, where the barbel feel so cautious and twitchy, sometimes even freaked out about being caught they will hug the tree line and very seldom venture out into the open water for fear of being captured. Barbel once caught again and again from one particular spot become pressured this causes them to use that area as a red flag and not enter it again or wait until dark where their inhibitions have gone, they will however not venture far from this area most of the time. So the tree line on opposite sides of the bank are often the places to look. Undercut banks have a fantastic balance between food and shelter from the elements whether that be flood or clear, hot and sunny days. The food element is there once barbel exit the undercut, or indeed food could naturally enter the undercut bank via the flow in which case barbel are quite happy to sit and wait for it to come to them. This is why it is so important to drop the bait below you and not cast. The picture (top left) shows an undercut bank on the river’s opposite bank. Whilst it doesn’t look that undercut from the picture, under the water the bank could potentially be undercut by 6ft or more. These are perfect areas to try for barbel on any particular river level but in flooded rivers they really come into their own. 

Weirpool Sills

A weirpool sill exists in every weir that you will come across, it provides cover and sanctuary from the fast current, and offers plenty of oxygen. This can also be a great place for barbel to feed as food that comes over the weir causes a washing machine effect and gets trapped under the weir sills, thus making it an easy meal for the barbel. Whilst the current on the surface looks very strong, the current underneath this will be travelling the opposite way. 

These areas of a weirpool are often completely overlooked by barbel anglers. Ignore at you peril as these areas are fantastic areas to target barbel, a sill exists at the foot of the weir and a cast directly at the foot will bring your rig directly under the sill hence a washing machine effect. All food can be washed in here and the barbel, like I have detailed before in this section love to have a combination of food and cover this part of the weir holds both, thus a great spot to cast to. 

Very large barbel have come my way using this method, weight can be anything up to 3 ounce just so it’s not being used in the washing machine scenario and big baits like meat have all accounted for many big barbel for me in the past. While a weir sill exists within every weir, one notable place I can think of that has done very well for me in the past is East Bridgford on the Trent. I find weirpools very snaggy, not all but most and East Bridgford is no exception, zebra mussels (pictured right) which will snap your line like a knife through butter exist throughout the length except for the sill of the weir. It can be like this on a lot of rivers and whilst most anglers do leave this part of the river alone due to the snags little do they know the place they should be looking at for barbel exists right underneath that weir where you thought no fish could possibly survive never mind think about eating any morsel of food. 

The picture above shows how a sill is made up and what I mean about a washing machine effect existing within a weir, these can normally be bankers and is one area I look to fish when on a weir peg first of all. The snags exist through the boils of water (obviously detailing an underwater obstruction) that are normally ten or so yards from the weir sill itself. The white water or foamy water would be my second point of call if the sill didn’t produce but it usually does.

Rafts/Fallen Trees And Streamer Weed

Rafts

I thought that I would include these obstructions or features as we like to call them in the angling world of watercraft in one. Rafts are made up of debris that can be caught on a fallen tree or suchlike. These areas are fantastic areas for barbel particularly when a swift current hits these rafts of rubbish and in-turn creates a back eddy behind it, these areas as I have reiterated time and time again hold secure cover and food, barbel enjoy pockets such as these in floods especially but they should not be ignored during normal water levels either. No matter how small of a change of direction or break from the normal flow barbel will not be far behind. Chub are also fond of these areas and as any barbel angler should know chub and barbel have a very peculiar relationship, often if you catch chub, barbel are usually next. I often look for rafts during flooded rivers or in normal river levels when they break up an high volume of water, creating a slower column of water behind. The picture (Top – Left) shows a raft of rubbish to the right of this anglers swim with an overhanging tree to the centre, on a river this is what you should be looking for in a feature with good flow. 

Fallen Trees

Fallen trees offer plenty of shade and cover and offer fantastic barbel fishing if for example there is lots of flow going under it, sometimes also a deep hole is formed under trees and these are not areas you should ignore, in fact no deep hole or fluctuations in depth should be either. During days where it’s clear, sunny and hot these are sometimes the only areas you can get barbel from due to the amount of cover they give the barbel, sometimes feeding confidentally underneath them. I have spent many years watching barbel as you most likely know if your a regular reader of my blog and this is a particular area I play close attention to when fishing for barbel during the height of Summer. Of course a tree of such nature should not be discounted in many other variables including floods for example but in particular days I have been witness to when it’s clear and sunny have barbel retiring right in the most inaccessible places, sometimes hugging the tree roots to stay out the way. Only when enticing these barbel out with a bit of food can you actually see them. However they will not move far from where they’re confident and of course where they’re residing. The only method I tend to use in situations such as these are a rolling bomb method or my cralusso surf float both account for many barbel in these situations and both offer the best in accuracy. In flooded rivers a tree can offer cover from the elements, especially when fishing behind it like the raft scenario. I will always look for a change of depth, visible or not under trees so it’s always worth plumbing around with a float during summer days if you have time, it’s all crucial information during the height of Winter. You must always be aware of any obvious change in flow, these can make small pockets or creases out a small obstruction such as a large boulder sticking out of the water for example, the water behind it offers protection out of the main bulk of flow and creates a small eddy, these areas again offer excellent holding spots for barbel. Barbel will always try and find a spot that an easy meal is present but they are also able to nip back under cover again, trees and the aforementioned boulders offer this type of cover that barbel love. Trees can also offer plenty of food, especially when berries are continually falling from it, I have been witness to barbel leaping from the water to get to the berries before the others, an amazing sight to see, so please bear this in mind also, berry trees particularly elderberry trees are not a place you should ignore. 

Streamer Weed

Although I am not witness to this during my fishing on the Trent (Too deep and dark) due to not fishing the shallower marks in my barbel quest. I have, however had the liberty of witnessing this on my regular trips to the River Wensum in Norwich which is narrow and is particularly shallow and lots of streamer weed is present along it’s length. Barbel love streamer weed that runs along gravel bottoms particularly in Summer or when fish are caught regularly in open water. The barbel feel safe amongst it and can often be found camouflaging themselves under it, of course not easy to spot but they live quite happily amongst it, they will not feel the need to enter the area with a red flag or an err of spookiness around it, why? Because they’re not usually fished for amongst it due to the amount of snags the angler faces. I have often seen due to angling pressure barbel move from open water to cover like streamer weed over the years. Barbel fishing has become increasingly popular over the years, arguably become more popular than carp ever were. There is little or nowhere fished now (apart from syndicated rivers) that offer the peace of the countryside and ease of catching barbel regularly, it just doesn’t exist! Barbel have become more spooky of anglers baits than they ever were years ago. It’s only really when the season slams shut do you see barbel come out from their regular haunts and feed openly in a shallow river next to the bank where you can visibly see them. Once fish are caught, this initiates a mass exit from that particular and only ever approach it again with extreme caution. Although that same fish further up stream would take a 22mm boilie, it’s unbelievable but yet very believable that it happens time and time again. Streamer weed is particularly good because of this reason, if a barbel does not feel safe and secure they’ll move and quite happily munch on anything that whizzes past them. Feeding pellets and hemp to lure them away from the weed is often very productive particularly if you create competition amongst them, a lot of which I have covered in my articles. Sometimes however the only way to catch them is by placing the bait exactly where the feeding barbel are, to do this I use a rolling bomb/bullet lead that rolls with the flow and gets the bait exactly where you would want it to be. Streamer weed is excellent in bright sunlight as it creates a dark place of cover above the feeding barbel’s head which in Summer and during very hot and clear water conditions are often thee place to look for barbel. All areas that offer this cover are all worth a go particularly in the conditions I have pointed out. Again as previously stated barbel love cover and they also love to eat and if you find an area such as streamer weed for instance where cover is in abundance from any angler’s eyes the chances are they will feed on what you put next to them in regards of bait at some point. 

Of course these are not all the areas to find barbel, these are just a few of my best that I look for when barbel fishing. I hope many of you will put this “Watercraft” section to good use to find and catch the barbel I have caught in these different river variables. Many of you will have gained nothing from this, but equally many of you might see this as valuable information, which is why I have chosen to add this page. Good luck!!!

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