Even the best laid barbel plans (Entry 10)

It was all change from my last session as I went off in search of some small river barbel and chub. Gone were the small floats and fine lines, replaced instead by avon rods, braid and strong hooks. You see, small rivers tend to have some quality fish in them but finding their location can be the hardest and most time consuming thing. Thats why you need to use strong tackle. You dont want to put in hours of work, to get that all important bite only to lose the fish because you cannot apply adequate pressure on it as its heading for cover. Its not fair on the fish and you certainly wont go home a happy bunny. After grabbing an evening meal, I loaded the car with only the essential items (important when roving), selected some bait and headed off for an evening session on a new river.

As you can see from the above picture with river is very much overgrown with the dreaded Himalayan Balsam. I like to start my session by finding some features along the river, an overhanging tree or a undercut bank, and then carefully trample down enough of the plant life so that I am be able to put in some bait, and cast my rig out when the time comes. Once I have done this for three or four swims I set up my rod and rig well away from the waters edge. I’ll then fish a ‘known’ swim for an hour until everything has had a chance to settle and hopefully some fish will have moved over the bait. Its then a case of heading to the furthest swim and fishing them for 30-45 minutes each on my way back to the car. On this session I pre-baited three swims with hemp and a few halibut pellets and went to a swim at the head of a weir.

For my rig I keep it very simple. As I like to touch ledger I use only as much weight as is needed to hold in the flow. Today the flow wasn’t very strong so only 3/8oz was required. This lead is fished free running, stopped at the hooklength by a Korum quick stop. I put a small float stop about four inches behind the lead to stop it running down the line toward the rod tip. Its a lose fit and will easily slide off should I snap the line above it. Hooklength is a supple braid and around 12-18 inches in length. Tie a hook of your choice to this, my favourite being a Drennan barbel specialist, and you’re ready.

I didn’t have to wait long for a bite as 10 minutes after casting into the above swim I had a confident ‘pluck’ on the line before the rod arched round. The fish hugged the bottom and headed upstream. A barbel? Surely not on the first cast in my throw away swim. Well, no, not a barbel. Instead as the fish suddenly took off at a ferocious speed, I realised I had in fact hooked a fairly hefty trout.

Weighing 4lb 9oz the above trout is probably the biggest I’ve caught. It fought very hard and took a long time to recover in the net. It did eventually swim strongly away but with all the commotion it caused I thought it was time to head to my first pre-baited swim.

And this is where the tale ends. Well in terms of action anyway. I fished each swim for 45 minutes, the first just daylight side of dusk. The second at dusk. And the third in the dark. I never had so much as a tap. This only emphasises the point that if you do not find the fish, or they dont find you, particularly on small rivers, you will not catch. But I never class anything as a failure. I found some interesting features and, considering this was my first trip to this particular river, I didn’t blank and came away with a PB. But more importantly I have some ideas on what I need to change or do differently for my next visit.

Until next time,



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