The Sunday open at Bake Lakes was on Dunes, I was looking forward to the day as the lake has [&hellip
Barbel Fishing on the Trent
Twin rods point skywards, silhouetted against a setting sun. I’m relaxing on a bed chair, inches from the rod butts, but I’m not expecting to get much sleep. Earlier I spent ages setting my trap. A gallon of hemp and mixed pellets was introduced along with a kilo of boilies into an area perhaps four or five yards square.
It was a chub that found the bait first, as always, a succession of savage raps on the rod tips with no hook-ups materialising, even against 4oz feeders. How do they get away with it so easily? Okay you hook the odd one but the dismal ratio of pick-ups to hooked fish is perplexing.
And then a shoal of bream moved in. That’s more like it! If you can find bream, or should I say, when they find you, the barbel won’t be far behind. Yes, it’s a pain to catch bream that average anywhere between 4 and 8lb but I can remember a time when I’d give my eye teeth to catch fish like this.
Perhaps bream stir up the riverbed producing a bit of colour in the water, perhaps they give off a particular kind of vibration, or maybe barbel can hear them chewing. Laugh if you like but Mistral Baits introduced a boilie a while back containing ingredients that give them a crunch. Think about it, carp graze on mussels and snails and these are crushed in their pharyngeal teeth. Sound travels much better through water than through air, so is it too wild a theory to suggest one fish might be able to hear when another fish is eating? It might explain why one feeding fish triggers the next to join in.
Watch one fish feeding in clear water and it won’t be long before another appears. Feeding triggers more feeding so I don’t complain too much about those bream.
The only problem with having them in your swim is that you are never quite sure how much food they have eaten, that’s why I’m using a big feeder to keep topping up the swim.
Suddenly the downstream rod springs to life, the tip is yanked forwards and the reel’s drag screams in protest. I don’t use carp reels with a free spool facility for my barbel fishing, preferring instead to use a ‘proper’ fixed spool reel with the drag set fairly tight so it will only give line grudgingly when a fish takes.
Hand on the rod, finger gently pressed against the spool and lift, no need to strike as such. Something close to an electric shock courses through my arm as the barbel, because no other fish behaves like this, continues to take line. The mental fight is indicative of the size of this fish; it’s a seven-pounder. Had it been a proper lump the fight would have been slower, more dogged and powerful. Dare I say it, I’m disappointed?
Never mind, I’m sure a bigger fish will follow. Chances are I’ll catch quite a few barbel during this session and it is a numbers game.
Interestingly this fish fell to the downstream rod. A few years ago I carried out a meticulous comparison between the effectiveness of boilies and pellets. The only genuine conclusion I came up with was that I caught more fish on the downstream rod irrespective of the bait used.
I put this down to fish arriving in the baited area after following the scent trail, whereas Matt is convinced that the line above the feeder is a fish deterrent, hence his obsession with pinning down the line using leadcore leaders and back leads. Me? I use both approaches, leaning more towards camouflaging in daylight.
Midnight approaches. Bites have tailed off now as they so often do in the middle of the night. It’s been a good night so far with 8 scalps on the belt already, half a dozen schoolies between 5 and 8lb, one double and a near miss. There’s hardly been time for a brew never mind ‘sleeping by rods’.
I’m going to snatch a kip now things are quiet. With luck I’ll not get a take for a couple of hours or so and I’ll be ready for the dawn rush.
This kind of fishing is not everyone’s cup of tea.
It’s been labelled carbelling by some, derided for being a hybrid style, somewhere between carp fishing and barbel fishing. It isn’t. Anglers have been fishing for river carp using identical tactics for several decades now, especially on the River Trent. It is carp fishing. Unfortunately we don’t catch many carp and have to make do with catching barbel!
But hey, it’s not compulsory. You can touch leger if you prefer. You can freeline, trundle a lump of meat or even run a float through.
But if you want to maximise your catches on the big rivers, dig out the bite alarms, point those rods to the sky and break open the piggy bank because you’re going to need a fair bit of bait.
Heavy feeder rig
Big/ flat lead/ In-line rigs
Rod – depends more on the flow and the weight required to hold bottom rather the size of fish you are targeting but a general guide would be that you use a minimum 1.75lb test curve rod with a minimum 8 to 10lb line. Many anglers opt for light carp rods around 2.25lb test and lines around 12lb.