My father is also a keen angler and after having an operation he was laid off work for 6 weeks, so instead of twiddling his thumbs he turned his attention to Barbel fishing on our local river, the Bristol Avon. He was greeted by two gentlemen, a father and son duo who had spent the entire opening week on the stretch without so much as a single Barbel; not a good sign. They had caught quantities of chub and apparently "lost" one Barbel.
Ever the optimist, my father told me he would catch one before he headed out to the river and I had full confidence that he would. His plan was a change of bait. Barbel are perhaps one of the more desirable fish on our rivers and as a result are often heavily fished for. The common baits are pellets and boilies and often by the bucket load unfortunately. It is my belief that Barbel are beginning to switch off these baits and are turning their attention back to the more natural baits. This is where my article heading comes in - The Forgotten Barbel baits.
His approach was simple, a straight forward ledger set-up, 6lb line, and 2 pieces of the yellow stuff on his hook; the deadly sweet corn. He kicked off his campaign with two snakes (eels) would you believe, both around the 1 1/2lb bracket which were both a first for him for a long time. It wasn't long before his rod sprung into action and he was attached to the fish he promised me he would catch. A Barbel.
Going back to my point earlier, two anglers had fished two rods for 7 consecutive 12 hour days without so much as a sniff from a barbel using pellets and boilies. My father then turned up and fished the same area for perhaps 4 hours and catches on his first session using sweetcorn really makes you wonder. Are Barbel turning off the "known" baits?
I like to put a theory to the test. The following weekend me and my father headed back to the same stretch with a "fresh" approach and full of anticipation. As we arrived we were greeted with the pick of the swims which is always nice. My father headed to the weir and I found a nice little slack just to the side of the turbulence. We were slowly becoming aware that this was going to be a rather hot day as it hit 20 degrees by 9am. This wouldn't stop us from trying though. I used worm as a hook bait, one of the most natural hook baits I conjure up and my father stuck with his beloved corn.
The wait begins....
It was soon 1nil to the "old man" as he pulled out another slippery eel from the depths. I became impatient and not happy with my positioning, it was only when walking away from my swim that I noticed an overhanging tree in the water that look inaccessible. However, after poking around with my landing net handle I found that the vertical drop into the river wasn't a vertical drop, there was a ledge which could fit one angler on, that angler being me.
My seat for the day - comfy...
I worked my way down into this un-fished swim and had a surge of confidence. It looked perfect. Although it was very near the weir, there appeared to be a slack under the tree which was only yards from where I would sit. I was surrounded by reeds which I left untouched to enable me to remain invisible to river. I dropped a few handfuls of hemp into the swim and baited my hook with a dendra. I then proceeded to carefully poke my rod tip through the reeds and drop my bait amongst the hemp.
My bait of choice - The Dendra
It was only a matter of half an hour before the rod tip twitched, it then fell back again and I tightened the reel. Moments later the rod went round and I pulled into one angry fish. As I had hooked this fish only a couple of feet away it almost exploded beneath the surface of the water. I was fairly certain this was our target species and in no time at all! I was using 6lb line and a light avon rod so I had to take my time and allow the fish to tire itself but at the same time prevent it from burying itself into the cabbages on the opposite bank. I shouted across to my father that I was in; "jammy git" was the response. The battle ended after around 5 minutes and it was in my landing net after a couple of attempts of netting. I was certain it was a double but after taking into consideration the net it weighed in a 8lb 7oz. I was both delighted and felt that I was proved correct that natural baits are the way forward. Keep an eye on my blog for new articles on my new approach for Barbel.
A beautiful sunset to end a great session.