Martin Bowler’s Adventures Our man heads to the River Wye to show us how to catch barbel on a Method feeder
Introducing a German carp fishing ace to some home-grown barbel
“Claudia is one of Europe’s biggest names in carping”
LIKE many small children before her, Claudia Darga inherited a love of fishing from her father and learned the craft in his company.
From the moment an eel stole her bait, to holidays on the coast catching flounders, seeds were sown that would germinate into a passion.
Fast-forward 20 years and Claudia, who hails from Germany, is one of Europe’s biggest names in carp fishing circles, with a huge social media following keen to see her smiling with her latest huge fish.
I first met Claudia last year in Thailand, and in between catching huge Siamese carp and arapaima we hatched a plan for her to visit Great Britain.
You might ask why, when I could have chosen anywhere else in the world, but in our familiarity with this green and pleasant land it’s easy to forget just how good, and diverse, the fishing here is. There’s a popular mindset that distant shores are better angling destinations, but I’m not at all sure that’s true.
Sure, there are bigger fish in Thailand, Alaska, even Italy, but nowhere else in the world is so diverse, with chalk streams, estuaries, canals and gravel pits all in proximity to one other. No wonder fishing addict Claudia wanted to visit my homeland.
But which destination should I pick for our short two-day adventure?
Weaving our way up the Wye Valley, I could tell its beauty was working its magic on my Teutonic friend. Heavy showers tried, but failed, to dampen Claudia’s enthusiasm, now she had got her first true glimpse of the English countryside.
At home in Germany, carp are her favoured quarry but I
hoped by the end of our trip that barbel would earn a special place in her heart. A tussle with a sleek bronze torpedo in the fast-flowing Wye should clinch the deal!
After a brief flirtation with the Welsh side of the border we crossed back over to England, and an old crib that bisected the river and caused a huge crease to form downstream. Here, among the boulders, lay a large shoal of barbel, and I eagerly described the underwater scene to my guest.
The Wye greeted Claudia in splendid fashion as a big salmon shook off its watery shackles before crashing back into the torrent. Very fitting, that, because in the early 1900s, when the river’s salmon had been netted almost to extinction, a saving broodstock was imported from the Rhine, ensuring a German heritage that lives on.
The UK’s barbel, too, have the Rhine to thank for their existence. They lived in the tributaries of this huge German river before the European land mass separated
from this island, leaving behind a fishy heritage. These barbel eventually found their way into the Wye, aided by the hand of man.
As we rigged up I told Claudia that perhaps I should be thanking her if we managed to catch!
Tackle was, as always on this venue, simple and robust – a 2lb test curve Drennan rod with 15lb Syncro XT mainline. It bore a large E-S-P Method feeder and a size 6 Big T ready-tied rig carrying a hair-rigged boilie or pellet.
Crucial to making the rig work was our groundbait, which had to be tackier than usual, breaking down very slowly and forcing the barbel to move upstream towards it. I went for Sticky Krill Active Mix and Dynamite Marine Halibut, laced with an assortment of pellets for added attraction.
Preparations complete, Claudia made her first cast into one of our finest rivers. On this adventure I was more than happy to act as a ghillie, introducing someone to the magical Wye rather than fishing myself. So we both watched the tip intently, waiting for a sign that came in the form of a drop-back.
With no prompting, my guest spun the reel handle to pick up the slack and began the first of many battles – no wonder we were both in buoyant mood. Such was Claudia’s enthusiasm, each tail slap and buck of the rod was greeted with a huge grin. I sensed she was enjoying British fishing!
In between catching barbel, a moment with another fish blew away any outdated stereotype of female squeamishness. A big eel, keen for a boilie, was greeted with even more excitement. Her dad would have been proud of her, and I swear she would happily have travelled from Germany just to savour the moment of playing and unhooking the interloper.
By the time we tucked into a fish and chip supper there was much to celebrate and even more to look forward to. After a night on the bedchairs we would explore the Wye further...
Claudia’s eel was a welcome change from the barbel!
Not all the fish in the ocality live n the Wye! Ready with the net as Claudia plays in a barbel.
HAIR-RIG YOUR BAIT Nothing special, except that shrink tube over the eye of the hook gives a more aggressive angle. E-S-P METHOD FEEDER Free-running, this is loaded with Sticky Krill Active Mix, Dynamite Marine Halibut and assorted freebies. MAINLINE No place for frail lines on the rock-strewn River Wye. Our choice was the reliable 15lb Synchro XT.