Catching Big Barbel With Nick
As I am thinking about the coming season in June my thoughts go back to the end of last season where I had some fantastic fishing and adopted some new approaches to try and catch some big Barbel on my stretch on the River Trent.
The last 3-4 weeks of the season saw a lot of rain with the river being very swollen and some good temperatures as well for that time of the year. I opted to concentrate on the main river at Fiskerton, and Rolleston and also Eaststoke as I was determined to land a decent double before the close season and there seemed to be no better time to try my luck.
My first attempt saw me fishing a new stretch I had never tried before but which seemed popular with other fisherman. The river was well up and roaring through in the main flow so I opted to try and present a bait in the crease. I was using my usual approach of a running rig with a feeder and a 4ft hook length. I really struggled to hold bottom and went up to the biggest feeder I had and was using strips of lead that I had manufactured to fit onto my feeders to help in conditions like this. After losing what seemed no end of gear and tackle with debris coming down and getting snagged up on some of the large boulders that frequent the Trent I decided to call it a day until things had calmed down a bit.
This got me thinking about how I could control my bait and the presentation of my bait in such conditions. Three days later I went back to exactly the same spot for a few hours, the river was still up and had good colour but was nothing like as bad as my previous days fishing. So this time I decided to use again a running rig but with a safety clip / quick release and a gripper weight of about 5-6oz. I then changed my hook links so I could quickly take them off and thread a PVA stick down the hooklength and onto the hook so it was one nice presented package.
The key to this was having my bait matching what I was offering as freebies with taste and smell. Bait of choice for this venture was System X Dark stick mix, ground bait, a handful of chopped boilies and a bit of hemp in the mix was a perfect combination. This was then fished with a soaked 16mm boilie that was wrapped in the System-X paste. For added attraction I also injected the stick with the Bait Mist. I have often found that winter Barbel can be hard to catch as they are more sensitive to temperature and water fluctuations and seem to feed less and only seem to feed in spates of an hour or so.
With this in mind I found that over the few days fishing I offered very little in actual food particles but offered a lot of smell and attraction in the form of the stick and groundbait mix along with the paste that broke down and the Bait Mist. This really did seem to work and I will be using this method for the foreseeable future.
So with the new approach I baited up and hoped for the best with all sorts of scenarios in my mind. The first bite came an hour in which was savage and thank goodness for my Shimano bait runners as I was sat back away from the rods and out of the bitter wind that was blowing. The line was ripping off the downstream rod when I struck into the fish, and instantly I knew I was into a decent fish. After a good fight and plenty of side strain due the floodwater current I had the fish under control and in the net. I didn’t weigh the fish but new it was about 9-9.5lb which was a great start.
I opted to keep casting fresh bags and bait in every 15 – 20 minutes and about an hour later saw another good bite but not as savage as the first. This fish stayed deep and kited across the current which meant good fish! As it came in closer I could see that this was an incredibly broad fish across the back and had a good belly on it so it had obviously been feeding well. This fish definitely needed the scales and it came in at 11lb 2oz which I was really chuffed with. After this fish the wind picked up and there was a dramatic drop in the temperature which also affected the fish as I didn’t have another bite in an hour. I packed up pleased with my new approach which had resulted in two cracking fish.
I fished an evening session at another stretch at East Stoke which offered a gentle glide and steady flow with hope of picking up one of the big girls with one of the board members of the Notts Pisscatorial Society. The idea being that the bigger fish like to use less energy in the slower deeper water. We fished close together and I opted for my new approach where as my friend fished more conventionally with his feeder. He did fish a favourite spot of his which obviously he knew very well which put the pressure on me somewhat, but we both ended up with two fish a piece all of them being between the 8-9lb bracket which was great and this really cemented my confidence in my new approach.
Red Letter Day:
Once in a while we have a day’s fishing where everything goes to plan, every cast is perfect, the fish are feeding and weather is perfect. This was to be my last days fishing for the season due to work commitments on March 8th and I will remember it for a long time. I could only manage the afternoon so after grabbing some lunch I took a long drive down the river at Fiskerton, there had been a lot of rain the river was up and I was glad for my 4×4 as it was difficult going in places. Anyway I reached my spot and I was luckily enough to fish near my car and out of the wind which was quite strong. The river was running right to left and there was a good crease and a slack on the outside of the bend on the main river. It looked great so full of confidence I tackled up the first rod and put it on the crease and left it to start assembling my second rod. The alarm sounded and I looked round to see the rod was bouncing all over the place….. Fish on within five minutes….. It came in quite quickly and it weighed in 9lb 6oz exactly which was a great start.
Over the next five hours I averaged a fish every 40 minutes. But what fish they were. After the first fish I had four more all over 11lb and I had my biggest fish of the season at 12lb 1oz. Every fish stayed deep and used the current and I was really pleased to be fishing 10lb line with a 2.25 test curve rod as the fish really gave me a work out. Each fish took me a good 10-15 minutes to bring in and it has to be one of the most memorable day’s barbel fishing I have ever had.
Fishing an inline PVA stick has really given me another edge to my fishing as well and is something that again has come from the carp world into barbel fishing. To have your bait located in a small pile of highly scented and flavoured small particles along with a lovely cloud that comes from it and the Bait Mist has really transformed what was once a very tricky time of year for me to catch fish.
Article by Nick Walker
Team SSP Baits