From - T&DFC Newsletter - Sept 2002
A pleasure angler's views on barbel fishing
I've been fishing St Pat's for nineteen years, ever since my company decided to relocate me from my native Lancashire to - as my mates would have put it - down south with the Southern softies. The profile of the river has changed over the years, as has the type of angler fishing the water. It used to be fished predominantly with a stick float for dace, roach and chub, but now – except for matches – the lead or feeder approach for barbel prevails.
I still classify myself very much a pleasure angler and enjoy nothing more than running a stick float through a streamy swim. Over the past five years I have noticed a change in emphasis as I am spending more and more time after the barbel. In previous years most of my fishing was on the Upper Pats, which I consider offers the better trotting pegs, but for the past few years I've spent more time on the bottom section.
When compared with the 'dedicated' barbel lads, my personal tally over the last few years is probably insignificant, but I have averaged 50 or so barbel per season with the best pulling the scales at 13lbs 2oz. The attitude of some of the 'serious' barbel brigade needs to lighten up, as fishing is supposed to be fun and it's not rocket science. One of the things that really annoys me is the attitude of some (and it is only a few) of the 'tell you nothing' individuals! I have always been willing to tell anyone what I've caught, where and when I've caught it, what bait, etc, because I enjoy my fishing and want others to succeed. Maybe it's me who's weird?
If I have any advice to give to the pleasure anglers who would like to catch a few more barbel it is this: be more flexible in your approach but on the other hand do not over-complicate things. One angler, a friend of mine, who spends a lot of time on the Pats (know who I mean P….?) goes armed with more varieties of bait than the average tackle shop carries. Consequently he has no confidence in any specific bait and so has very limited success with the barbel. Personally, I restrict my baits to two or three in which I have total confidence, so I'm expecting a bite, not hoping for a bite. I aim to combine positive thinking with the flexibility to try the occasional variation. One example of this concept in action was a very good fish that I took recently on the float, with a prawn as bait.
Bait presentation is the other area where many anglers new to barbel fishing are inflexible in their approach. When I'm bailiffing, how many times do I see a large bait with a large weight cast in, the rod put in the rest and there it stays for the next couple of hours. I know this catches fish, but how many more could be caught if the terminal tackle was better balanced and the bait moved occasionally?
How many anglers on the Pats do you see fishing for barbel and chub with a float rod, except for the match guys? I'm not talking specifically about targeting specimen-sized barbel, but to me a barbel is a barbel is a barbel. The largest number of barbel that I have ever caught in one session on the Pats was thirteen in one morning, not particularly big fish but averaging 4 – 6 lbs and all caught on a stick float set up.
I'm not talking about match tactics – I use a 10 lbs low diameter main line down to an 8lb hook length, usually with a strong Kamasan Animal hook, all this in conjunction with a beefed-up stick float rod. Try it sometime for the scrap of a lifetime.
I was lucky last year when I received a bit of sponsorship from Dynamite Baits and had a lot of success with their products. I know there are many equally good offerings on the market but most of my personal success was with Dynamite's products.
Their 8mm soft pellets were especially effective; I use two on a hair rig when legering or one on the hook when float fishing. The freebies I received from them were a 'one off', so I've no ties to the company, but believe me they work.
Some of these comments may ruffle a few feathers, but I speak my mind in the hope of opening up other club members to new ideas. If these increase enjoyment and put a few more fish on the bank, I for one will be delighted.