The Barbel has become one of the countries most sought after river species in recent years especially among Specimen hunters who fish specifically for large fish of one or all species. Like Tench and Chub, Barbel have grown much larger on average over the last 20 years, which is most likely due to the more tepid climate we now live in. The Record stood at around 14lb for many years, held by a great fish from the Dorset Stour but then fish from other rivers made that record gradually climb and then came Adams Mill on the Great Ouse and the record tumbled, the current British Record of 21lb 1oz caught by Graham king in 2006 became a landmark fish, And the stretch became very exclusive. Sadly Adams Mill has seen a demise since these huge fish have passed on but other hot spots were soon found and large barbel of 15lb+ can be caught from rivers across the country and many Barbel fans believe that any of these rivers could soon produce a new Record.
A Beautiful barbel pictured in the Angling Times that may soon become a new British record
Small Barbel are like Tench in that they are rarely seen or caught, in the Barbels case this is probably because they keep to the faster shallow swims that provide the perfect nursery environment Larger Barbel can often be seen among the weeds as they search the gravel for food but beware they are easily spooked and will disappear in a flash!
Any river that holds Barbel, be it a small river, no wider than your rod, to a great River like The Severn or The Trent will all hold barbel in similar locations, Cover is important, Overgrown Bank side vegetation with a deeper run of water is perfect Barbel territory, as are swims with overhanging trees and bushes, Willows are a favourite haunt, They lie just out of sight until a piece of food comes by then they will briefly show themselves and be gone, under cover once more. Weed beds also offer fantastic cover and are great spots to fish too as are floating rafts of weed and debris. Areas of gravely shallows near deep slow bends are also very attractive spots and can hold some good sized shoals of medium sized Barbel, The best way to locate them is by a stealthy walk of the area wearing a pair of Polarized glasses, checking each likely spot for a glimpse of their big bronze bodies hovering over the river bed.
Barbel can be caught on both float and ledger methods but if you are new to Barbel fishing you can't go far wrong with a simple open ended feeder rig or a small Method feeder rig.
This diagram from Lumbland shows it perfectly.
You simply place the method feeder onto your main line, as Barbel are one of if not the hardest fighting of our coarse fish, you will want something in the 6-8lb breaking strain range at least, To the swivel at the bottom end of the feeder attach a short hook length of about 3-4" and attach your hook which would vary depending on your bait choice but make sure it is a strong hook or you may find that during the fight it will e bent straight! Many anglers choose to use a hair-rig (as is used in the above picture) onto which you thread your bait using a baiting needle and a hair stop. This leaves the hook free of any obstruction and seriously adds to your chances of the hook catching hold when the fish takes the bait, You can buy ready made Hair-rigs but they are easy enough to tie yourself.
When your Method rig is ready you then mold your ball of Groundbait around the feeder placing your bait inside the ball. This will mean your bait is sat attractively in a ball of tempting smelling Groundbait on the river bait just waiting to be hovered up by an obliging Barbel, perfect!
More Information On Barbel
As i have already said Barbel are fast becoming one of the nations favourite coarse species and there is a mountain of information available on how to Target, Catch and care for these magnificent fish. The organisation that has really helped bring these Fish to the fore is The Barbel Society and if you are interested in finding out more about tactic's, location, methods and fish care this is a great webite to check out. Simply click the link.