Have bar­bel wised up to pel­lets or are there just fewer of them?

Angling Times (UK) - - FRONT PAGE - DAVE HAR­RELL

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.

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