Winter Barbel

I don’t know how I would cope without television weather forecasts, especially the Sunday farming bulletin. I tend to tape that one because it gives me a pretty accurate idea of what the week ahead will bring.

If, like me, you are in full-time employment and have no choice but to fish at weekends, evenings or during holidays, you have to make the most of the time available. You certainly can’t afford to look at the forecast, see it’s going to rain, snow, or blow a hooligan and decide to give it a miss; oh no! That could mean going weeks without wetting a line.

Okay, bad weather can make things pretty uncomfortable but providing you are versatile you can use the long-term weather forecast to target a species that you have a good chance of catching.
For winter barbel I keep an eye open for the big low pressure systems that sweep in off the Atlantic. The deeper the depressions, the more rain they bring and, thanks to the effects of the Gulf Stream, this rain tends to be warmer than the prevailing ground temperature so we can safely predict flooded rivers and rising water temperatures.

Ideally I want to see the rain lashing down on a Tuesday because there’s enough time for the rivers to rise, reach a peak and possibly begin to fall by the weekend. Any debris that is picked up by the extra flow tends to have gone through in the first 48 hours and I can then look forward to a river that is high, coloured, comparatively warm and free from drifting rubbish.
These conditions are perfect for barbel.

It was just this scenario that saw me dashing down to the River Dove to meet my good friend Andy Harper for a short session after work. By my calculations the river should have peaked the previous day so we stood a great chance of catching. What I couldn’t have predicted was the downpour that hit Derbyshire that morning. Up in Yorkshire the sun shone brightly but the same couldn’t be said in the Peak District.

Arriving just on dusk I found the river was rising steadily. That’s the luck of the draw so I picked out a swim just below a bend where the flow was deflected by a small bush.

In these conditions I present a big smelly bait with no loose feed. This is placed in the steadiest water I can find over clean gravel. Tonight I was using two cubes of Chopped Ham with Pork, each over an inch across, dosed with Archie Braddocks’ Winter Barbel flavour. They are mounted on a size four hook that is pulled through the meat with a baiting needle and then turned through ninety degrees so the point stands slightly proud. No need for a hair, when a barbel chomps the bait your hook falls free and it is well inside the mouth.

Some anglers touch leger but I’m quite happy to use a bolt rig and a bite alarm. For close range work I like the low profile of the Essential Products Terrapin leads. When casting out into the main flow the new Korda flat gripper leads are ideal

Lowering the bait just over the margin rushes, I slackened off the clutch, primed the alarm and sat well back from the rod so as to create as little disturbance as possible.

I didn’t have to wait long. Suddenly my rod tip buckled over and the Delkim was screaming like a banshee. Grabbing the rod, I placed a finger on the fizzing spool and was about to tighten down the clutch when everything went slack.

On reeling in I discovered a one-millimetre curl in the line where the hook had been. By rushing to tackle up in the fading light I had not checked the palomar knot and my guess is that a loop had been pulled into the return of the hook eye. Bad angling had just cost me a big fish and a rapidly deteriorating river brought the session to an end.

Still, my bait, rig, presentation and swim choice had been spot-on so I drove home and licked my wounds for a few days until the river began to fall.

Returning to a slightly lower river gave me numerous swim options. To maximise my time I dropped into a swim closer to the car park and fished exactly as before. The result was this cracking fish weighing 11lb and it was a very happy angler who headed back up the M1 for a well-earned supper.

Bob’s Tackle
Rods – Daiwa Infinity Barbel Rod 1.75lb test
Reels – Daiwa SSII3000C
Reel Line – Daiwa Infinity Duo – 10lb Test
Hook Link – Daiwa Infinity Duo – 10lb Test
Hooks – Size 4 Kamasan B983

Five Tips For Flooded Rivers
1. Stick to big smelly baits
2. Read the river and find an area of steady flow
3. Fish as close in as you can get away with
4. Don’t underestimate the power of a big barbel in flood water. Use appropriate tackle.
5. Check every knot carefully

Five Small Rivers To Tackle In Flood Conditions
1. River Dove
2. Derbyshire Derwent
3. River Teme
4. Great Ouse
5. Bristol Avon

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