Barbel Bombing

Fri 07 November 14


I was recently invited by Ray Best to join him for a session on the Tidal Trent for a spot of Barbel fishing. I kindly accepted the offer which apparently included guaranteed fish in my very dry net! Something I was not going to say no to, and was holding Ray to his promise!

Having never been to the Tidal Trent I did a bit of research before the trip and read some interesting stuff. I soon realised that I was not going to be fishing a river like that of the Kennet or Loddon and tactics were going to have to be tweaked to deal with it.

Apparently methods being used on the Tidal Trent have caused a certain amount of friction within the Barbel fishing community, as it can be classed as “unsporting” mainly down to tackle being massively beefed up for the target fish.
I have caught some huge Barbel on my 1.75lb tc rods on other rivers, so why does the Trent require heavier gear over the other more sporting methods that are popular within the differing fraternities of our sport? The answer is simple, it is the river itself that forces the angler to use such methods. The Tidal Trent is a powerful ever changing body of water that would simply overwhelm light tackle!
Times change as do methods but most of all the fish that reside in the Trent and especially the Tidal Trent have got bigger a lot bigger!

So all of this in mind, out came the 3lb tc Carp rods and the mini pits loaded with braid! I wasn’t going to be losing fish in the strong currents or up against the rock walls protecting the banks from erosion. We had been extremely lucky with the weather, in amongst the scorching period we’d been experiencing it managed to rain for two days prior to going to the Trent. This meant the river would be carrying a bit of colour as well as the temperatures having dropped a little. In my mind it meant the Barbel would be active and I was very happy about this.

Even when you think everything is looking perfect Mother Nature always has a way of playing with things! On arrival at 3pm midweek, conditions did not seem to be in our favour, bright sun, clear blue skies and 27 degree heat!!! We decided later in the evening once the temperatures had dropped would be the best time to secure a few bites. We began to set up slowly, and as ever I chucked my rods with the thought of ‘you never know!’
Find out what happened shortly……..

I came armed for the session with a range of Hinders and Bait Tech baits to try out.

Hinders Elips Pellets Medium
Hinders Barbel Blitz Elips Pellets
Hinders Barbel Blitz Frozen Dumbbells
Hinders Barbel Blitz Concentrate
Hinders Elips Oil
Hinders Barbel Bomb Feeder Mix
Hinders Barbel Bomb Paste and Bomb Chunks

I also had a couple of tubs of Bait Tech’s Hybrid Barbel Hookbaits.

If I was going to catch a decent fish I wanted to be prepared. My tactics for the session had been somewhat influenced by Rays expert knowledge of the river, having had some very successful session in the particular area we were targeting.
He has even allowed me to show you his top tip!
So the set up:

2 × 3lb tc Greys Prodigy Carp Rods
2 X Shimano Ultegra 5500 XSA Reels loaded with 20lb Ultima Power Braid
2 X Fox Storm Poles
2 X Rear Rests
2 X Bank Sticks + 1 X Bungee Cord!
2 X Fox MMXR Bite Alarms
Solar Running Lead Clips and Tail Rubbers
Solar Size 8 Swivels
Anti Tangle Sleeve
Gardner 20lb Trickster in Weed Green and Brown Camo
Gardner Size 8 Wide Gape Covert Hooks
5oz Gripper Leads
Wide PVA Mesh
Re-useable Zip Ties

The rods were positioned high in the air, very much like sea fishing or similar to fishing for catfish etc. on the continent. I used the Fox Storm Poles at the front and smaller rests at the rear. I then, in a very Heath Robinson manner devised a way of ensuring the aggressive takes from the Barbel would not end in tears!!! Not quite as professional as Ray’s tripod and rod butt tubes but it definitely worked.

The braid mainline went straight through to the Solar Lead Clips and then to a 4 foot length of the hooklink material. A long hooklink is vital for increasing bites on strong flowing rivers. I find it creates a more natural movement of the bait but also allows the fish to mouth the bait properly without too much resistance that a shorter hooklink would cause.
The hooks used I know are very strong and equally sharp and the size nicely matched the size of the baits being used.
Below you can see how the large sausage shaped PVA bag of the Elips Pellets were attached to the gripper lead! By using a re-useable zip tie you can very quickly re-attach a new bag of pellets. All you need to make sure of is that you dry the tie and lead thoroughly before tying the PVA on!

I was initially very dubious to Ray’s tip, as I thought the zip tie would cause tangles. I was soon to find out that this would not be the case and it is a very effective way of getting a trail of freebies down around you bait without hindering casting.

On the hook I was going to be playing around with the varying Hinders and Bait Tech hookbaits I had to hand. I was also going to be adding some of the pastes to the centre of the gripper lead to increase the amount of attraction within the water.

I like to be prepared during my fishing sessions and made sure I had pre-glugged the pellet with some of the Elips Oil and made up a number of PVA sausages. The more organised and prepared you are the more time you will have baits in the water. It is very much like match fishing. If you hit a decent feeding spell you do not want to be messing around with tying bags or changing damaged hooklinks etc. Always make sure you have plenty of everything ready to go. It will make your session less stressful and will certainly increase your catch rate!

So how did the session pan out? Well… know you get those red letter days were nothing seems to go wrong! This was to be one of those days!

My right hand rod was cast about a third of the way across the river allowing it to settle round onto a gravel run at the bottom of the rocky bank defence hidden under the high flows of the Trent. The left hand rod was position also a third of the way out but was more in the main flow just before the bend in the river.

The 5oz Grippers were just holding bottom nicely but I’m sure a 6oz or 7oz would have been even better.
Any fishing I do involving lead clips I like to cut the clip as far back as possible. I want to make sure that the lead can break away easily avoiding any chance of snagging and also if for whatever reason I have a break then the fish can rid the lead without too much trouble.

Within 5 minutes of the first rod going out to the right of the swim I had the most incredible take that I was not expecting. After all it was still 27 degrees and not a cloud in the sky!!! Proving it pays to get the rods out first before setting up the shelter or anything else! The 3lb tc rod looked more like a light feeder rod as the fish powered off down the river!!! I was quick to pick the rod up and adjust the clutch accordingly. I was really not ready for the fight that followed and I knew straight away I was into my first Tidal Trent Barbel, but how big would it be!!! With the flow of the river and the sheer power of the fish I was suitably exhausted as I guided the Barbel over the net kindly assisted by my ghillie (Ray). The fish hit a very nice 10.8lb on the scales! A very tidy way to start the session. The combo doing the damage was a medium Bait Tech Hybrid Hookbait Covered in the Hinders Barbel Bomb Paste, with a PVA sausage of Elips pellet. There was still plenty of paste still fused to the Hybrid Hookbait. I had not introduced any other bait just what went out with the first cast.

I quickly got the line back out on the spot eager to see what might be next. I went with the same bait combo. If something is working I never see the point in changing it until bites slow down or dry up completely.

On the left hand rod I had the Barbel Blitz Frozen Dumbell and the matching Blitz Paste. This was to be the next rod to jump in to action with the rod bent almost double and yet another Barbel made a bid for freedom! I had only just got the right hand rod back out as I go this bite. Two fish within the first 10 minutes of starting. Not bad for the chucking the rods out ‘just in case’!

This fish went 9.8lb on the scales and was stunning. Over the next twenty minutes I had another two fish including the largest fish of the session, going 11.5lb (below) and a fish of around 8lb. Both of these fish fell to the Hybrid Hookbaits and Hinders Barbel Bomb Paste combo.
So, four fish including two doubles in 30 minutes of fishing on a water I had never seen before and using bait I had never used before! A massive thank you to Ray for putting me on the fish and what a way to put confidence in the bait I had to test.

Things slowed up after these four fish but I still managed one more fish at around 6pm which was 8.5lb.
The Barbel were going against all the theories of when we think Barbel like to feed. Was it due to the colour in the water that was encouraging then to feed in the bright conditions or just down to the irresistible baits being used!
Bites dried up between 6pm and 10pm before kicking off again. I went on to get a fish almost every hour during the night bringing my final total to twelve Barbel and one Bream. The rest of the fish ranged from 6.5lb to 9.8lb with the average stamp being around 8lb. I didn’t lose one fish either which was incredible considering the snags that were hidden below the surface of the water. I really had to keep the rod high and not allow the fish much line.

Come the morning I was shattered and very keen to get home and get some sleep. The job was done, Ray had kept to his word (and also managed to get a few Barbel and Chub on to the bank himself), the bait did its magic and worked first time and I cleaned up having one of the best Barbel sessions I have ever had!

I ran out of the Barbel Bomb Paste and was close to running out of the Blitz Paste as well. I got through a great deal of the Elips Oil and polished of almost all of the Elips Pellet I had. I didn’t get round to using the Blitz Feeder mix due to the nature of the river on the day, however I will be giving it a go on a much smaller river in the not too distant future so shall let you know how it performs.
I was incredibly impressed with the Elips Pellet. As the image shows the Barbel were depositing it in liquid form on to the unhooking mat. I would like to put the instant bites not only down to the activeness of the Barbel but also the incredible attractiveness of the bait. The Barbel Bomb Paste is loaded with high attract oils which instantly release into the water and the Elips Pellet released plenty of oil and flavour in to the water too and proved to be very digestible to the fish. I have already ordered more Barbel Bomb Paste and shall be trying out the Barbel Blitz range again on a slightly different river.

I would like to remind you that in hot conditions it is paramount that you keep fish out of the water for as short a period of time as possible. Make sure you have a bucket of water next to your unhooking mat and that the mat and weighing slings are always wet. You must also make sure you allow the fish time to recover thoroughly before letting them swim off confidently in the flow.
Just think that fish you have caught at 7lb could one day be well over 14lb, so it pays to look after the fish you catch and show them the upmost respect.

I wish you all the very best for the season.

Andy Loble


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