NEW WAYS TO CATCH BARBEL
Have barbel wised up to pellets or are there just fewer of them?
ILIVED in Bewdley on the banks of the River Severn when the halibut pellet ‘revolution’ started.
It was 2001, and my good friend Matt Maginnis was, as far as I know, the first angler to win with them in the Kidderminster and DAA matches on the river there.
I was quick to catch on to what Matt was doing, and soon we were catching some very good barbel on 14mm halibut pellets. Other match anglers soon followed suit.
Fifteen years later, I’ve been amazed to learn that many of the regulars at Bewdley and at Bridgnorth are now using 6mm or even 4mm hookbait pellets as they can’t get regular bites on bigger ones.
My friend Des Taylor reckons pellets have had their day, and that we should all now be using boilies instead. I don’t know if he’s right, but what I do know is that match weights on both stretches are nowhere near what they were in the days before high oil pellets first went into the river.
Take Bridgnorth. Before pellets, matches there were won with huge weights of barbel and 40lb often got you nowhere. Now, you’d win most matches with that sort of weight.
At Bewdley, it’s rare for match anglers to catch more than two or three barbel, and for the first time in years dace and roach are winning or framing there.
So, have high-oil pellets had a detrimental effect on the river or are we just seeing a general decline in barbel numbers?
The species was only introduced in 1958 in a project that saw 508 barbel transferred from the River Kennet, so in terms of a river’s evolution it’s only 58 years, which isn’t that long.
Maybe what we’re seeing is Mother Nature restoring things to a more even balance of barbel and other species – I’m not sure – but despite Des Taylor’s claims that
match anglers are now fishing the river wrongly for barbel, my view is that there are nowhere near the same numbers of them as there were back in the ‘pre-pellet’ days.
In the absence of big shoals of barbel, what we are now seeing are huge shoals of dace and roach from Shrewsbury all the way down the river. Match anglers have been catching 200 to 300 fish in five hours using long whips and maggots, and this autumn and winter, after another year’s growth, I’m expecting to see some much bigger dace and bigger catches in many of our rivers.
In the meantime, if you’re heading for the middle Severn in search of daytime barbel, be prepared to scale your hookbaits down to 6mm or even 4mm and fish the pellets on a hair-rigged band. It’s always worth a try if you’re not catching and, in addition to barbel and chub, it’s also possible to pick up specimen roach by fishing this way.
Severn barbel make up for in quality what they may now lack in quantity.
Match anglers are now using much smaller pellets to catch barbel.