1 August, 2017 |7 Comments
Barbel are being stocked into more and more stillwaters these days. Not only are they doing well, on many waters they are well over double-figures.
They might not go quite that big in Cambridgeshire’s Decoy Lakes yet, but they’re not far behind. The other great thing is that there are plenty of them to target. You just need to know how.
Mark Perkins uses what he calls his ‘Bombay Mix’ to target stillwater barbel.
A simple but highly-effective loosefeed concoction of small pellets, hemp and a few grains of sweetcorn, before fishing a larger hookbait over the top.
“It’s an approach that I have used successfully for quite a few years now and something I’ve tried to keep under my hat, as it’s been a real match winner over the years,” Mark said.
“To find out more regards the Nottinghamshire-based rods’ stillwater barbel approach, Dynamite Baits’ Media and Marketing Assistant, Mark Parker joined him on the banks of Elm, one of Decoy’s prolific strip lakes, for a ‘Bombay day’!
They’re closer than you think…
River barbel all show the same typical traits, regardless of the stretch they live in. Areas of snags, gravel runs or overhanging trees are all great ambush points.
On stillwaters, these rules still apply. They still live in shoals and they still look for features where they can rub up against or pile on top of each other, just as their river-bound cousins do.
At Decoy, Mark tends to target a very distinct area…the margins.
Fishing just inches from the bank at times, barbel adore to hug and scout around this area.
They love it even more, if like Mark’s peg today, that bank is well undercut.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re not stood on top of a few of them now,” Mark said, as I danced around him, firing off camera shots.
“This swim is around three to four feet undercut. It’s an area that the barbel love to lie up in. Just like a cave, it’s a great hidey-hole for them!”
The other area Mark likes to fish is at the bottom of the marginal shelf.
Having underslung mouths, he attests to the theory that unlike carp that will feed up the shelf so they don’t have to tip up, barbel feed at the bottom for the same reason. It is also an area where a lot of natural food as well as discarded bait ends up.
“Barbel are terrifically greedy and they can easily be drawn by food,” Mark explained.
“All pleasure and match anglers tend to either purposely feed the margins or throw their leftover bait into the water at the end of the session.
“Just as the big carp have learnt, the barbel also know that this area is great for a free feast, particularly as dusk draws in.”
Mark reckons that once you have drawn a shoal of barbel and they have gotten their heads down on a bed of free bait, they will almost go into a feeding frenzy.
The Bombay way
Mark’s Bombay mix is made up of several different items, to make up a carpet feed of small particles.
The first part of the mix is the barbel anglers’ best friend, hemp.
You can use standard hemp, but Mark prefers to use Dynamite Hemp and Snails. To prepare this, he riddles off the hemp, before transferring the snails to a bait tub to use as an alternative hook bait during the session.
A little hemp juice is poured over them to stop them drying out.
The second part of the mix is another barbel favorite…pellets.
“To mix things up, I use three pints of moistened 2mm Dynamite Meaty Marine pellets and two-pints of moistened 3mm Swim Stim Amino Original,” Mark explained.
“To moisten them, I add a little Meaty Marine Liquid Attractant to some lake water and then just to say cover the pellets with the flavoured solution, allowing all the water to soak in.
“I want them to be soft and sticky on the outside but still hard on the inside. So you can easily squeeze them into a ball, but under light pressure they breakdown, but don’t turn to mush.”
This is the base of the mix, but when he cups it in, he will also add a few grains of sweetcorn, regulating the amount as the session continues.
Keep your options open
Fishing on Elm, there are not too many silverfish in this particular pool, so Mark prefers and is able to use soft hook bait’s as they won’t get ragged off.
Even though they are rather greedy, barbel can exhibit catholic tastes.
You often find that you’ll catch a few on double corn, then bites dry up. A quick swap to an alternative bait and the bites come thick and fast again.
“I like to keep my options open,” Mark said
“Snails, corn, 6mm expander pellets – both Swim Stim Amino Original and Red Krill – and red maggots all work well. I think the fish like the combination of textures between the small, hard loosefeed items and the big soft hook baits, that standout well over the top.”
It sounds like Mark carries a lot of bait, but as the latter are only for hooking, you only really need a handful of each.
As with any standard margin session, Mark intended to fish both the left and right sides of his swim.
This again allows options on the day.
The right-hand swim, he kicked off with two full 250ml pole cups of hemp and the duo pellet mix – combined 50:50, before adding a sprinkling of sweetcorn on top.
The left (undercut bank) swim, he fed more sparingly, using only one full pole cup.
Throughout the day, he will then regulate what he is catching and how quickly the bites are coming.
“If I’m getting a lot more carp, I’ll feed less pellet and more hemp,” he explained.
“I still like to feed some pellet though, as this is a commercial fishery and the pellet will help attract ‘all’ fish into the area. The more other fish feed, the more confident the barbel will get, the more you will catch.
Regards the tackle, as barbel are hard fighters, Mark opts for a Shimano Beast Master margin pole, combined with a heavy Daiwa purple Hydrolastic (14 to 18).
The mainline is 0.20mm (9lb 3oz) straight through to the size 14 hook. The rig is fished around two to three inches overdepth too to give better presentation.
“I find it is better to drag the hookbait along the floor, rather than lifting and dropping, when barbel fishing because of the way they like to feed,” Mark added.
“I think the movement triggers them into attacking the bait.”
As the session continues, he constantly tops up with ‘Bombay Mix’, whenever bites slow, before swapping over to the other line.
“I may take three or four fish, but I will never fish that line to exhaustion,” Mark added.
“I like to just keep it ticking over, allowing the barbel enough time to get their heads down and become confident eating the Bombay Mix, so when I drop in the (larger) hookbait, they leap on it in seconds.”
With around 70lb of barbel and three decent carp landed over the four-hour session, it certainly seemed as if Mark’s Bombay theory was working.
Fit, lean and incredibly hard-fighting, it is simple enough to see why so many stillwaters are stocking barbel these days.
Maybe it is time you tried targeting these majestic creatures.
Mark guarantees you won’t be disappointed.