mOdern barbel tactics
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Basics of modern barbel fishing

Barbel fishing has changed in the last few years more than any other branch of coarse fishing, gone are the days of chuck it and chance it with a maggot feeder or a lump of luncheon meat. To days barbel angler has a wide range of tackle and bait at his disposal, much of which has been adapted from carp angling although more and more tackle and bait companies now produce barbel specific items.

A few years ago a catch of half a dozen barbel around the five pound mark would see an angler return home happy and a ten pound fish would hit the headlines, nowadays it needs to be fifteen pound plus to make the press and a low double hardly warrants a mention, but take it from me any double figure barbel is a big fish and for many a ten pounder is the barbel of a lifetime. With this increase in the size of barbel has come a large increase in the number of anglers who fish for barbel by design

Once seen as a fair weather species the barbel now finds itself targeted by more and more specialists who fish all season and with a good understanding of the weather and its effect on the barbels feeding habits its possible to catch barbel even on the coldest days given the right water conditions.

Although maggots and luncheon meat can still play a part in barbel fishing its more about pellets and boilies these days, along with modern baits has come modern tackle and rigs, often overcomplicated and unnecessary there is no modern rig available to any angler that takes the place of good old fashioned watercraft and angling skill.

Other than when using a blockend feeder with a maggot or castor approach a quiver tip rod is not required for barbel fishing a specialist rod with a test curve of 1.75lbs is an ideal rod for most of our barbel fishing, a rod with a bit of tip action and some progressive power once the pressure is applied will fit the bill nicely. The only time something heavier might be used is either on the big rivers like the Trent when leads around the six ounce mark might be required to hold bottom or when normal rivers come into flood after heavy rain, then I would recommend looking at something with up to a 2.25lb test. The choice is buy 2 rods one for normal use and one for the heavier conditions or to look at some of the rods available with a twin top option, the Korum Neoteric Twin Tip being a good example a rod designed with barbel in mind and comes with 2 tip section a 1.75 and 2.2.

Whilst a 4000 series reel is fine on the smaller rivers it will be of little use on a bigger river where longer casts and heavier leads are required, I would recommend a reel in the 6000 size range with a spool that can hold around 250 yards of 12lb mono, this will fit the bill for all but the extremes of barbel fishing in the UK. For mainline these days when ledgering for barbel I never go under 12lb and in many cases use 15lb, this might seem a bit extreme but barbel by nature love snaggy swims and even a 15lb mono will quickly have its breaking strain reduced considerably once its been rubbed against a sunken branch or rock.

Once you have hooked you barbel then it essential to have a decent size landing net, small match style pan nets are no use as are large triangle carp nets, whats required is a large spoon net around 30 inch with a solid frame, it will land any barbel that swims in our rivers and also doubles as a recovery cradle to ensure the fish is fully fit before its return, couple that with a strong telescopic landing net pole with a three metre length being ideal.

Barbel can easily be spooked by bank side noise and movement so its vital once in your swim to get comfortable and keep movement to a minimum, thats where a good accessory chair comes in, legs that can be individually adjusted to get level regardless of the state of the bank and the ability to attach rod rests etc helps to keep everything to hand and create as little disturbance as possible whilst fishing.

Its often the case the best swims require the longest walk and to reach these areas and still be in a fit state to fish requires keeping gear to a minimum and carrying your gear in the most comfortable way. I like to use a ruckbag style holdall for all my tackle items, rods with reels attached along with bank sticks, net handles and umbrella go in a quiver sling, in my chair goes my net and another essential item an unhooking mat, to complete the kit all my bait goes in a canvas bait bucket, loaded correctly I can walk miles like this and by using shoulder straps I can have my hands free to open gates on route.