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
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.
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.