The Coach Paul Elt’s bar­bel ad­vice

THIS WEEK: Four steps to bag a big bar­bel

Angling Times (UK) - - WELCOME -

TRACK­ING down and catch­ing a de­cent bar­bel has lost none of its dif­fi­culty, de­spite most UK rivers now hold­ing a healthy stock of these hard-fight­ing fish.

Even on mighty rivers like the Trent they can be moody fish, shy­ing away from heavy pres­sure or re­fus­ing to feed if con­di­tions are not right – but Dren­nan-backed spec­i­men hunter Paul Elt reck­ons you can suc­ceed if you’re pre­pared to think a bit out of the box.

That means putting in some leg­work away from heav­ily-fished swims and pi­o­neer­ing light­ly­pres­sured ar­eas where bar­bel may well sulk off to. Pick­ing the right type of swim will go a long way to de­cid­ing how well you catch, but your feed­ing has to be cor­rect too – so, as you can see, catch­ing a big river bar­bel is far from a case of chuck­ing out and wait­ing for the alarm to go off!

Fol­low Paul’s ba­sic ad­vice, how­ever, and you’ll be armed with all the ground­work you need to set you on your way to your first de­cent river bar­bel…


Lo­ca­tion is key on big rivers, and while it is easy to find where small bar­bel are at home (weir pools be­ing par­tic­u­larly good), head­ing off the beaten track and putting in the miles can track down a real spec­i­men or two.

You want to avoid bream at all costs, though, as once a shoal of these fish turn up, they don’t tend to go!

Check­ing out the match re­sults in An­gling Times or on the in­ter­net can give you a pointer as to where bream are be­ing caught and so tell you which swims to steer clear of.

My favourite swim would be on a sweep­ing bend that will of­fer deep wa­ter on a short cast. This makes fish­ing a whole lot eas­ier and also means that you don’t have to fish with too heavy a rod or end tackle.


My way of fish­ing works on some­thing I call the ‘re­verse tear drop’ prin­ci­ple. I use two rods and have one at the fat end of the drop armed with a feeder to re­lease bait, cre­at­ing a steady trail down the river which bar­bel should fol­low up to the source and then find my hook­bait.

On the way, though, I’m aim­ing for them to find my sec­ond rod which is sit­u­ated at the nar­row end of the drop amid that food trail. This is fished with a bomb and re­lies on the con­tent of the feeder to draw in the fish.

Fish­ing this way ef­fec­tively gives me two chances to catch.


A wide range of hook­baits will catch bar­bel, but on the Trent in sum­mer I’ve found lit­tle to beat pel­lets and boilies. It has to be hal­ibut pel­lets, but I give them a real dous­ing in hemp oil overnight to al­low the liq­uid to soak in.

Not only does this cre­ate an im­me­di­ate oily slick as soon as the bait set­tles, but it also tough­ens the pel­let and stops it from break­ing down too quickly. This is fished on the feeder rod, while on the bomb I’ll use a 10mm Dy­na­mite Baits Crave boilie.


To kick things off I like to get a good help­ing of bait into the swim, then rely on the feeder. Hemp is a su­per feed for bar­bel, but feed­ing it ac­cu­rately in 10ft of fast wa­ter is never go­ing to happen un­less you use a bait drop­per.

I’ll de­posit 10 loads spread them around over an area the size of a car bon­net to cre­ate some­where the bar­bel can feed. When it’s time to fish I’ll cram the feeder with 3mm, 4mm and 6mm hal­ibut pel­lets and a sprin­kling of 4mm krill pel­lets. To keep them in the feeder as they fall through the wa­ter I plug each end with a lit­tle cap of fish­meal ground­bait.

A fine Trent bar­bel taken by Paul Elt.

Hal­ibut pel­lets soaked in hemp oil.

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