5 August, 2019 |6 Comments
THE BIG FISH HUNT – How To Catch Barbel During The Daytime
This month, specimen ace, James Champkin reveals his top tips and tactics to help you bank big barbel during the warmer months…
The Prince of the River
There have to be few more majestic fish swimming in England’s rivers than the barbel. Muscular, torpedo-shaped bars of gold – for me, big barbel are the ultimate quarry for late summer and autumn.
Many anglers rely on fishing during the hours of darkness to outwit the largest specimens, but big barbel can be readily caught throughout the day if you ensure you follow a few simple rules. Nothing beats playing a huge ‘prince of the river’ with the sun beating down on your back, and this is how I always prefer to catch them.
Small baits for daytime barbel
Large fish don’t mean that you need to fish with big baits, and when daytime fishing for barbel you can generally follow one simple mantra: the smaller, the better.
Maggots and casters can be excellent. However, unless you know exactly where the barbel are located and can afford to buy large quantities of these baits to feed off abundant silver fish, they are generally not practical during the warmer months. Therefore, I generally put my faith in small fishmeal boilies and pellets.
12mm Source boilies are a simply devastating barbel bait, and when combined with a mixture of small pellets form a deadly barbel attractor.
I combine 3mm and 4mm Marine Halibut Pellets alongside 4mm and 6mm Source Pellets. This creates an incredibly effective mixture that lodges between the gravel and keeps fish rooting around for hours. I believe that many of the small pellets trickle downstream too, enabling you to draw fish up from down river.
I feed these within small PVA bags or a baitdropper, but in slower swims larger pellets (6mm +) can also be fed by hand. Shelf life boilies are always glugged for several weeks in a complimentary liquid to boost their pulling power, and the Source Liquid is absolutely incredible for this.
Keep your line out of the way
Before you start fishing a swim, think about your line angle. Large barbel are likely to spook off a tight mainline running through the water, and to avoid this you can take two contrasting approaches:
- Fish with a long hooklength, creating separation between the mainline and the hookbait.
- Fish with a short hooklength but incorporate a backlead.
I almost always opt for the latter. Mainly because I find long hooklengths highly cumbersome to cast and difficult to use with a PVA bag. As a consequence, I very rarely fish without utilising some sort of backlead in my set up.
The thing I do differently to many barbel anglers is that I will often use a clip-on backlead if possible, rather than a smaller backlead that is permanently fixed onto the mainline.
This is because I find that I can cast much more accurately without a backlead attached and that I can pin down more of my mainline. Having said all this, many very successful barbel anglers only fish with long hooklengths, so do experiment and find what works best for you.
One of the most fundamental errors that I see many barbel anglers making is that they seem to naturally fish with their rod tips high up in the air, instantly creating a drastic line angle down to their rig. Unless fishing a large, powerful river, there really is no reason for this and by doing so you’re already reducing your chances.
I always keep my tip as close to the water as possible (even when using a backlead), and routinely fish with two adjustable bank sticks to achieve this. Just make sure they’re pushed well into the ground – barbel bites can be absolutely savage!
Nothing complicated is required in the rig department when fishing for barbel: they need only be kept strong and tangle-free. I prefer to use heavy, 7” braided hooklengths incorporating a very strong hook in conjunction with a running, gripper-style lead, a large buffer bead and an anti-tangle sleeve.
The lead is generally at least 2oz + to ensure that flotsam doesn’t easily move the rig out of position.
This rig is fished with a small PVA bag to minimise tangles, but make sure you feather the cast in flight and feel the lead down on a tight line to help further reduce the risk.
Fish to cover
During the hours of daylight on smaller rivers, you can almost guarantee that barbel will be tucked away under areas of cover such as overhanging trees and large rafts of debris.
These are the most reliable areas to target on low, clear summer rivers and I go to great lengths to get my baits positioned close to and even beneath these areas of cover with minimal disturbance.
This can often involve wading (when safe to do so) to place baits super-accurately, or even using a pole with a pole cup to drop a rig in position.
This might seem like an extreme amount of effort but when fishing for big, pressured barbel in daylight it can often make the difference between blanking and getting the massive buzz of that famous “three-foot twitch”!