BAR­BEL OFF THE BEATEN TRACK

Korum’s Rob Hall ex­plains why you don’t have to fol­low the crowds to catch spec­i­men bar­bel and de­tails his re­cent suc­cess on the less fash­ion­able Lower Sev­ern

Improve Your Coarse Fishing (UK) - - Front Page - Words & Pho­tog­ra­phy Rob Hall

Korum’s Rob Hall re­veals the tac­tics be­hind his suc­cess­ful bar­bel cam­paign

LET’S face it, the River Trent is prob­a­bly the most pop­u­lar bar­bel wa­ter in the coun­try. With bar­bel reach­ing mon­strous pro­por­tions of 18lb and fish av­er­ag­ing 11lb-13lb it’s easy to see why. I’ve bought my­self a ticket for the Trent this year but haven’t yet had time to ven­ture up there. Time has been tight and I haven’t been fish­ing as much as I would like to. I have stayed lo­cal and much my fish­ing has been short ses­sions for a few hours af­ter work. The mid­dle reaches of the River Sev­ern isn’t some­where you as­so­ciate with big bar­bel. It is bet­ter known for big hits of av­er­age fish to 6lb8lb and any­thing over 10lb is a damn good fish. The lower reaches, how­ever, are a dif­fer­ent story. Although the bar­bel aren’t as pro­lific, if you do catch one it’s likely to be a spec­i­men. It’s not easy, but if you put in the time and ef­fort the re­wards are there to be had.

Deep wa­ter chal­lenges

The most im­por­tant thing about bar­bel fish­ing is lo­ca­tion. As the old say­ing goes you can only catch what’s in front of you. If the fish aren’t there you aren’t go­ing to catch them. It’s that sim­ple. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, if you can find the bar­bel you will al­most cer­tainly catch a few. They aren’t the clever­est of species and tend to be very greedy. The lower reaches of the Sev­ern are of­ten fea­ture­less and very deep. This can be daunt­ing for some­one who is new to bar­bel fish­ing. In most cases when search­ing for bar­bel spots you would look for creases, fallen trees and weed beds. Gen­er­ally any­where a bar­bel will feel safe feed­ing. All of those com­mon fea­tures are al­most nonex­is­tent on the Lower Sev­ern. So where do you start and what do you look for? The lower Sev­ern has a lot of boat traf­fic in the sum­mer months, from fish­ing boats to barges and even huge party boats. This is one of the rea­sons I tend to fish only a rodlength from the bank.

If I cast to the mid­dle of the river and feel the lead down on a tight line the lead touches down about a rodlength from the bank. This is ex­actly where I want to be. Imag­ine the riverbed as one big gul­ley; you have a me­tre or so on ei­ther side where it is fairly shal­low, then it drops off to as much as 20ft in places. The drop- offs are the big­gest fea­ture on this sec­tion river but that doesn’t mean you can rock up in any swim, fill it with bait and ex­pect to catch quickly. You can some­times fish all day with­out so much as a tap. In fair­ness, it’s a sec­tion of river that fishes bet­ter in the last hour of light, but it’s not im­pos­si­ble to catch them in the day time if the con­di­tions are right. The bar­bel on the lower show them­selves fairly of­ten, so if you see fish leap­ing clear from the wa­ter do not hes­i­tate to move onto them. If you’ve put bait in the spot you are fish­ing you can al­ways come back to it later. For this rea­son, I travel light. I don’t even take a chair, just my three-rod quiver, two rods, a ruck­sack and an un­hook­ing mat. The bar­bel tend to move around in small groups. You can go all day with­out catch­ing a sin­gle fish then catch two or three in quick suc­ces­sion be­fore the bites dry up again. I usu­ally don’t ar­rive un­til af­ter 6pm. By this time most of the boat traf­fic has died down and the fish tend to start show­ing more. With that

be­ing said there can be times where you don’t see a bar­bel show at all. In those in­stances it pays to fish ar­eas you have caught from be­fore, then if you do see fish show later in the evening move onto them.

Big baits and scream­ing bites

My set-up and bait­ing ap­proach are sim­ple but ef­fec­tive. I al­ways use the Korum Run­ning Rig Kits for bar­bel with long hook­links of around 3ft to keep the fish away from the main­line. If they come into con­tact with the main­line they may spook off the baited area. I favour big hooks and big baits, usu­ally size 6 hooks and 18mm Code Red boilies wrapped in paste which breaks down slowly and has bags of pulling power. This set-up will usu­ally de­ter bream and chub, although if you do catch one they are likely to be a de­cent fish. I don’t fish half-tins of meat on the hook! I find this method point­less. As much as it will prob­a­bly catch you fish even­tu­ally, I don’t want to keep get­ting false in­di­ca­tions on my rod tip caused by fish try­ing to break down a colos­sal piece of meat. I can get much quicker bites fish­ing with a bait that a bar­bel can en­gulf eas­ily in one at­tempt. Ev­ery sin­gle bite I get is a screamer. No taps, just one-ton­ers. My loose­feed con­sists of hemp, hemp and more hemp. Plus a dash of corn. Pel­lets are an in­cred­i­ble bait for bar­bel but I steer well clear of us­ing them on the lower Sev­ern be­cause the bream adore them even more than bar­bel. Hemp, on the other hand, draws in the fish and holds them there for longer. Feed­ing small par­ti­cles def­i­nitely gets me more bites and I think it’s one of those baits you can’t feed too much. The more the bet­ter in my opin­ion. I use the Sonubaits Hemp and Corn Spod Mix – you get 3kg of bait pre­mixed in a bucket. I start by in­tro­duc­ing half a bucket via a bait­drop­per be­fore cast­ing a rig. My ses­sions are usu­ally 3-4 hours, so if I was fish­ing for a full day I would prob­a­bly get through a bucket and a half or even two buck­ets. Fish­ing ac­cu­rately will dras­ti­cally in­crease your chances of catch­ing fish. Use yard sticks to get your rods set the same as your bait­drop­per rod or walk them out on the bank if you don’t have any sticks.

Sev­ern suc­cess

So far this sea­son I have fished the Lower Sev­ern six times and caught four dou­ble-fig­ure bar­bel and lost one that felt big. Very big. Three fish came on my first ses­sion, and I beat my pb with a bar­bel of 13lb 11oz. That was fol­lowed up with fish of 13lb 7oz and 11lb 7oz. I’m yet to catch any­thing un­der 11lb this sea­son. Yes, I have had a cou­ple of ses­sions where I haven’t caught any bar­bel, although given more time I could have. I be­lieve later in the year those 13lb fish will be over 15lb. I have heard of whis­pers of 15lb-plus fish from the lower reaches of the Sev­ern and I be­lieve there are even big­ger fish in there. You don’t have to flock to the Trent to catch a mon­ster. Put in some time and ef­fort into venues like the lower Sev­ern and you could be pleas­antly sur­prised.

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