Seeking the specimens
EVENTUALLY I decided to seriously barbel fish only from the end of October (when the clocks go back) to the season’s end, as they pack on weight in autumn and winter, with a summer fish of 12 lb easily weighing 13 lb 8 oz after Christmas, and bigger fish will put on more than that.
Also, as it gets dark at 5-6pm, there’s no wasted time waiting for sunset. Yes, I know they can be caught in daylight, but it is my firm belief that the very biggest fish feed best after dark in winter. I don’t fish allnighters, just a 4pm start and a 10pm finish.
Armed with all this knowledge and experience, my friend Roger and I returned to the River Dove for a few visits, as it was now producing some very big fish. With our new techniques, we were soon among the doubles, culminating in a very special November evening session.
At 7pm, Roger came along the bank to ask me to photograph a 14 lb 9 oz barbel for him. At 8pm, he photographed one for me weighing 14 lb 4 oz. What a session!
We also had a few trips to the Derbyshire Derwent, another river now throwing up good fish, and had a few doubles to 12 lb or so. Yet I felt in my bones that the Trent would give me a special fish, so I continued to put my main effort into that.
Those of you who read my tench and bream features earlier this year will know that I was well into pastes, and now I began to use them in my barbel fishing. I concocted a good mix of fishmeals and milk proteins, and added a liquid flavour composed of corn oil and Barbus Xtra. The flavour was added to the mix lavishly, overloading it until the paste was literally oozing fluid.
Once again, this gave me an edge, which was needed, as the Trent barbel population was changing: there were far fewer fish overall, but they were getting ever larger. Although three out of four were now
This barbel, at 16 lb 2 oz, ‘told me’ I’d got it right.