I could write for chapters about the River Prince also known by some as the Barbel. A powerful, golden and elusive fish and most certainly one of my favourite fish. It wasn’t until very recently that I began capturing Barbel consistently, by constantly I mean fifteen to twenty Barbel in a season. Before this I was lucky to capture one!
It wasn’t that I wasn’t fishing the right places, to be fair it is certainly tougher to catch a barbel now than it was five years ago. It was simply poor judgement, wrong bait choice and ignorantly, poor presentation.
I have been fortunate enough to have fished alongside some very good anglers, in particular a good friend Martin Hooper. He has opened a whole new door for me and my fishing. He has taught me that it’s not about putting your bait in the water but working out where the fish are at that specific time. The Bristol Avon is synonymously, weedy water but at the same time fairly shallow and clear. This enables the angler to spot the fish and get them “on the feed” by throwing in a few offerings.
Although I caught my biggest Barbel on Luncheon meat I find my staple bait to be Dynamite Marine Halibut Pellets. I find using a 10-14mm on a hair-rig and throwing a mix of 4mm, 6mm and couple of 14mm pellets is my most successful approach. I very rarely throw in more than a handful and it frustrates me to watch other anglers throw in kilos of the stuff. It seems obvious science, especially on small water such as the Bristol Avon that throwing in tons of bait might catch you one fish but after that they will be stuffed to the gill plates. This can be the case not for just those few hours but lead to the fish not feeding for several days!!!
Enough of the facts and figures and onto a Barbel fishing story.
My season till now had been great, my first full season and I was on 18 Barbel by January. I had never expected this many beyond my wildest expectations. I had up to this session had 4-5 night sessions on the BA and had located the perfect spot for me and my brother to plonk ourselves down and into the night.
We arrived at the desired spot for around 6:30PM
Pin pointed our spots and placed our baits carefully in position. As I mentioned earlier I tend to use Pellets, in this case though I was using Luncheon meat laced with Garlic. The reason for this was for once reason; flood water conditions. The river was up a good 6-7 foot and belting through. It is important to use a fairly significant lead weight of at least 2-3oz.
Barbel in these conditions just love smelly baits so garlic meat made complete sense. Hardly 10 minutes had gone before my Allcocks registered a screaming run which ended in me pulling out of the fish. Barbel!
It was very chilly so I was well wrapped and was very thankful for the luscious khaki green thick woollen scarf that my beautiful girlfriend had knitted me. Brrr.
After a re cast and a couple more chunk sof meat thrown out I sat back and was sure I was finally going to catch a Barbel. Weirdly my brother predicted that in the next minute he would catch a double figure Barbel and suddenly SLAM, my rod went round.
My rod was doubled over, but there was no big run which I normally would expect from a Barbel. I had been told that a big one just sits and holds hard, using the flow of the river to its advantage. Could it be one of those mythical double figured fish? I gained a bit every now and again but the rod stayed doubled while the hook held firm. The fish suddenly moved towards the surface and I caught a glimpse of what looked like a big fish. It dived back down again and this time screamed off. I tried not to give it an inch but I was struggling. It was a cat and mouse fight for another minute and then the fish seemed to lose the fight. My brother readied the net and he scooped my prize from the water. He lifted the net and said DOUBLE. Could I finally have caught my first ever double figured barbel. A weigh in was required. After zeroing the scales, my brother lifted the net containing potentially my PB. It went 10lb 8oz. I was ecstatic!!!
The rest of the night was a blur. I picked up a celebratory cheese burger from McDonalds on the way back through and slept well that night.