“I’m obsessed with catching barbel.” We meet Phil Smith.
Phil Smith’s quest to catch giant barbel from 30 different rivers
HE’S one of the UK’s most successful specialist anglers, and last year he reached his target of catching double-figure barbel from 27 UK rivers.
Now Phil Smith is bidding to make it 30! The Coventry man has an impressive list of personal bests which includes barbel to 17lb 1oz, perch to 5lb 4oz, bream to 17lb 15oz and roach to 3lb 13.5oz, over an angling career spanning more than 50 years.
Angling Times quizzed Phil about his obsession with the barbel... and his next goal.
Q: When did your quest for doubles start, and why? A: It started in the 2004-2005 river season, really as something to keep me interested, a target to go for rather than to just go out and catch fish. That first season I managed doubles from seven different rivers, then six in the next. However, in the 2006-2007 season we had some serious floods and the barbel responded well. I added 16 more rivers to the tally, by far my best-ever season for barbel. I did at least 20,000 miles in my car going fishing that season, but I’m 72 now and I’m less inclined to travel like I used to.
Q: Which river has been the toughest nut to crack for a double? A: The River Severn, daft as it might sound! I think I did 22 or 23 days on there, though not all at once. I can remember one weekend having 19 barbel but none were in double figures, while my mate had only two – but both were over 10lb!
Sometimes I’ve had a double straight away on a new river. On the River Wey last year, for example, I caught one within 30 minutes of getting there and the bailiff said it was probably the only double on the stretch. I was very fortunate.
Q: How do you go about tracking down big barbel? A: I decide which river is next and then I try to pinpoint where to fish. I watch the angling media and sometimes I get a bit of help, sometimes a lot! I don’t need to
The early days of barbel (and keepnets). This was Phil back in 1973.
River number 27: Phil with a 10lb 12oz fish from the Wey taken last year.