Part Seven - Specimen barbel (Barbus barbus)

Wed 01 August 12


UKMA: What type of venue would you choose and at what time of year and what do you look for when choosing a swim when targeting specimen barbel, giving details of preferred habitat in all venues (rivers lakes etc)

Alan Stagg: All of my barbel fishing to date has been done of my local Rivers Loddon, Kennet and Blackwater. Most of my barbel fishing is carried out from September to the end of the season. By this time the fish have recovered from spawning and the rivers at this time of year are normally in good condition.

I often spend a lot of time walking the river, spotting fish if I can as well as searching any likely looking swims with a plumbing rod. I like to learn as much as possible about the stretches that I am fishing. This hard work will often pay dividends, especially when adopting a short session approach which I favour.

When looking for swims I always look for areas offering the best cover on the stretch. Fish will never be far away from overhanging tress or large sections of snags or weed. When looking for sub surface features time spent plumbing can be invaluable for finding deeper holes or troughs which can be great places to place a bait.

UKMA: What tackle and tactics would you use and why, giving details of rods, reels, rigs and any seasonal variations when targeting specimen barbel.

Alan Stagg:I tend to base my barbel fishing around a maggot or boilie approach and both require slightly different tackle. Maggots are a great bait for barbel in cooler water conditions or on stretches where small nuisance species are not a problem. Barbel can become easily preoccupied with small food items such as maggots, hemp and small pellets which I like to introduce. My favourite rig when using maggots is the mag-aligner, a rig borrowed from carp anglers. This rig involves sliding an Enterprise mag-aligner grub down the shank of the hook which creates a very efficient hooking rig. This is fished with a large micro mesh bag of maggots and the lead which is fished on a simple running rig is tucked into the top of the bag and tied up with PVA string. The hooklength is left outside the bag and nicked into the bottom. Once the rig hit the riverbed the pva melts leaving a pile of maggots over the rig and hookbait.

When using this rig my tackle consists of:
Rod: 1lb ¾ test curve Korum Precision
Reel: Shimano 5010 Baitrunner
Line: 10lb or 12lb Gardner Hydro Tuff
2oz – 3oz running lead
Hooklength – 12 inches of 15lb Trickster
Hook: size 12 Mugga

When the river is up and coloured or small fish are a problem when presenting maggots using a food bait such as a good quality boilie can be another successful which will often prove the downfall of the bigger fish I am trying to select. I always use this method fished over a bed of hemp and small pellets. I tend to favour barrel shaped boilies instead of round baits. These offer something a little different. I tend to favour a bait around 14mm in size.

UKMA: Give an in depth guide to preparation of your baits, the techniques and additives you would use and how you would feed the swim at different times of the year when targeting specimen barbel

Alan Stagg: When favouring a small bait approach I like to lay a carpet of small offering such as hemp, 4mm Sonubaits Elliptical pellets and maggots onto the riverbed. I have a large homemade bait dropper I use to do this which holds ¾ of a pint of bait. I like to introduce around half a dozen of these at the start of the session.

When adopting a boilie approach I tend to rely just of hemp and like to introduce it warm if possible. This creates a massive flavour leak off attracting fish from downstream. I tend to only introduce boilie via a small PVA bag which is nicked onto the hook carrying half a dozen hookbait samples.

UKMA: Do you have any personal tricks or tips that have been past on to you by other anglers or that you have discovered yourself, that would help improve an anglers chances of catching a specimen barbel

Alan Stagg: My tips are below;
Time spent learning your stretch is never time wasted
Maggots used during the cooler weather can be deadly
When possible use freshly cooked hemp and introduce it warm.
Braided hooklength such as Trickster offer a good alternative on stretches where most anglers are using fluorocarbon or skinned hooklengths.

If possible try and time your session around when you expect the fish to feed. Dusk and into dark are the obvious time to be on the bank.


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