Fishing for Barbel – The Basics
Barbel fishing explained – the basics. This article provides a head start, including bait, tackle, tactics, location and venues
Barbel – 10lb 3ozBarbel fishing is receiving more and more interest. They have it all, barbel – not too big, not too small, exciting bites and superb fighting abilities, and they’re not exactly ugly either! It’s easy to see the attraction of barbel fishing and when you add all that to the fact that they inhabit some of the most beautiful rivers, it becomes difficult to envisage an end of the Barbel Revolution.
Barbel Fishing – Where to Start?
For anglers not lucky enough to have caught many barbel before, catching them can be difficult. The tactics used to catch them require a slightly different method of thinking, however, once mastered, barbel fishing is not the most complex form of angling.
Particularly for anglers began fishing on lakes and pools, the river environment can be daunting. Where to fish? What tackle/tactics/rigs? What bait do barbel like? All questions that may put the angler off.
Barbel have a few desires in life:
Cover – from predators and/or indeed the flow. This makes locating barbel somewhat less daunting. If the angler can find a swim that provides all three, it is no doubt a barbel hotspot. But what constitutes as food, oxygen or cover in barbel’s terms?
Oxygen – Dissolved oxygen levels in the water are increased by three main sources:
Ripples – permanent ripples caused by water flowing over rocks or gravel in shallow areas, causing the surface to become broken
Oxygen is only real concern in hot weather when the oxygen levels are low. In such conditions fishing below riffles or in weir pools can provide good sport as the barbel seek out such areas. This is particularly true of low-water summer conditions.
Food: Barbel are never too far away from their next meal. Gravel and weed is the preferred habitat of the bugs and creatures that barbel, like to eat, and so seeking out such areas, will aid the location of our quarry.
Other places that food gathers are depth changes, where the current deposits food items that barbel eat, or invertebrates that barbel feed upon eat. The outside of bends see the most flow, and so this can also mean more food is deposited, like-wise swims with a crease.
Stretches of a river that get a lot of barbel fishing attention with anglers also offer a good supply of food, although fish in these areas may be somewhat more difficult to tempt, their size may be worth the effort.
Cover: Finally, barbel never likes to be too far away from cover, where they feel safe. With a little imagination, cover can be found in all manner of forms. The most common examples include:
Submerged snags – very popular with barbel, not so much with anglers rigs. Try introducing a bit of bait upstream of the snag to tempt the barbel away from danger.
Weed such as cabbages or streamer weed. Increased depth and depth changes
Once well equipped, and some barbel located, it is important to get the tactics for fishing for barbel right. This is where thinking a little bit differently comes into play. A lot of fishing tactics appeal to the vision of fish. Barbel, however, are a little bit different. They rely heavily on being able to find food when visibility is bad or even zero. It is hard to deny that smelly baits are highly effective for barbel fishing. Therefore, customizing fishing tactics to take advantage of this fact is highly recommended. Barbel head
Create a Scent Trail
Rivers do us a great favor here folks, they carry food signal downstream, allowing barbel to home in on our bait. To maximize this effect, using baits that leak off a good deal of food signal really draws the fish into the area and to our hook-baits.
The scent trail effect can be achieved in several ways:
The use of oily baits such as hemp seed loose feed or luncheon meat
Groundbait or pellets which break down leaching off food signal
Highly flavored paste or boilies
When fishing a new stretch of river, or new river, speak to any anglers you come across as to successful methods. Some will be helpful, even divulging good swims, others not so – its thier prerogative.
On certain rivers, it is possible to see the bottom in low water conditions. This is the ideal time to suss out the depths of the river, and makeup of the river bed. At times observing the barbel might even be possible – particularly by introducing some pellets or hemp into likely looking areas.
When viewing the river bed is not possible, casting a lead around and counting off the feet can help determine depth changes. 1oz of lead sinks at approximately 1foot per second. Once the lead has hit the river-bed, drag it across the substrate to determine the makeup of the bottom.
If the river is deep, there is the added advantage of the fact that the depth becomes a feature! To find where the fish are, and to build up knowledge of the stretch, introducing bait into a selection of likely looking swims and fishing them on rotation is a great way to catch a few fish, but is a fantastic way to learn where the fish are hiding, in what conditions and at which time of the day/year.
Barbel Rigs and Presentation
It is the author’s preference to keep rigs simple. Free-running leads, mono hook lengths, and strong hooks provide a reliable rig. Leads can be substituted for block-end or open-end feeders delivering particles or groundbait, or indeed method/grippa leads can be used to offer a method ball of loose feed.
Hooklengths vary in length according to anglers preference and the situation at hand. Generally speaking, barbel hook lengths are longer than the average carp hook lengths. Two foot long being about average.
Baits are usually presented on a hair-rig arrangement, some baits such as maggots or meat can also be directly hooked.
Barbel – 11lb 9oz
A whole article and more could be devoted to baits for catching barbel. However, the following list are all proven barbel catchers when used in suitable situations:
Pellets – fishmeal based
Boilies – fish flavors proving popular
Corn and other particles
Barbel are evolved for flowing water and are such very strong creatures, they are also fond of snags which means strong fishing tackle is an absolute must. Strong line, hooks, rods and of course knots are essential to land the fish in good time without the risk of breakages. Another consideration is the subject of safe rigs.
A good starting point for barbel tackle follows:
1.5lb Test curve rod or heavy feeder rod
A reel with reliable drag, good cranking power and bait runner system is desirable
A minimum of 8lb line in open water conditions, however, 10lb is the more commonly accepted minimum
Strong hooks are the order of the day. Models intended for carp suffice, also available are specific barbel hooks, although expensive. Mustad Power Specialists or Drennan Super Specialists are cheap alternatives
Knots depend on the line in use. Good, strong knots are the grinner or uni knot, and Palomar knot. Experiment with your chosen line to determine the strongest arrangement
No barbel fishing article would be complete without mentioning fish-care. All species should be treated with respect, and barbel are no different. At times of low oxygen levels (low water and hot weather for example) barbel should be nursed back to health in well oxygenated (flowing) water, until they are fully recovered. This is done by holding the fish under the surface, head facing upstream. In difficult swims, the use of the landing net is essential to ensure the fish is in water with sufficient flow.
Once hooked, the fish should be landed as quickly as possible to minimize exhaustion, while not using excessive force. Barbel bites are often dramatic affairs, the use of butt gripping rod rests, free-spool baitrunner systems are recommended to prevent tackle being dragged into the river. Bite-alarms can be used to provide extra detection, but be aware of other anglers – turn them down!
Pipe-reeds are particularly fond of gravel – the plant is said to grow from no other substrate! Where you find pipe-reeds, you find gravel and often, where you find gravel you find barbel!