Words and Pictures by Pat Gillett:
I’ve concentrated most of my efforts on a stretch of the Upper Trent that i’ve only fished a couple of times in the past. I know very little about this stretch and in the six trips there this season, I have only seen another couple of anglers fishing for the barbel, so this area is very much an unknown quantity for me. This to me is what river fishing is all about.
I have heard rumours of some big fish, but you seem to get this on every stretch of river and if nobody is fishing an area, then who has caught them ? The fishing has been pretty slow up to yet with the six trips producing just 5 barbel, all between 7lbs and 9lb 12oz.
The first couple of trips were noticeable by the temperature feeling more like March than June. This has now given way to a heatwave and it has been noticeable that the barbel have not started
to feed till about 11pm (when I usually pack up). Stopping to 11.30pm has produced 3 bites for me in the last 2 trips, including 2 at the same time (after nothing for 5 hours). One of these was a fish of about 9lbs, I was just unhooking this one when the other rod whizzed round, this barbel just sped off downstream with sheer power, leaving me just holding on with very little control. I finally stopped it and gained a couple of yards when the hook pulled out. I was gutted! If this barbel was not foul hooked (it’s very rare to pull out of a barbel), then it was most definitely a big fish. Maybe some of the rumours are true. There’s only one way to find out!
All the barbel have fell to either the Quest Special Crab or pellet hook baits fished in conjunction with the mini pellet mix/crumbed boilies/crushed pellet and crab micro feed (a mix that has served me well for many seasons), I have also added a bit of the Quest Naked hemp this season.
Talking to mates, this is probably the wrong time to be trying a new stretch, has they like many other angler’s countrywide have had their worst start to a season for years. Things like 9 or 10 trips without a fish seem quite common, good angler’s even blanking on the Wye, which is probably the most prolific barbel river in the country now.
I have also fished another stretch twice. I know this stretch well,(as with all the area’s I fish ,it is not very prolific but the average size is relatively high) but have seen no sign of a barbel and didn’t have a tap on either evening. I have every confidence in my baits and methods, so to me the fish were simply just not there.
So what has caused such a slow start to the season? Well to me it’s all down to spawning or the lack of it. We a had really warm spell in May (when a lot of the carp started to spawn all over the country ), I believe this triggered some of the barbel to go into early spawning mode, but then it went really cold and threw everything ‘out of kilter’,stopping the fish in their tracks, but keeping them in large numbers on or close to their spawning grounds. I have seen perfect evidence of this in a couple of photo’s, one was Shaun’s 11lb 14oz fish from the first week that had obviously totally spawned out, another was a photo of a 12lb 10oz fish from just last week that was obviously still carrying at least a couple of pounds of spawn(it looked more like a carp than a barbel!).
In fact barbel could still be seen spawning in large numbers in certain area’s of the Dove just last weekend. So I think this behaviour has left many hundreds of yards of river virtually devoid of fish, with them grouped up in small area’s. Find them and you will have a field day, if not it will be a struggle.
We really need some rain and a good flush through now to get the barbel on the move and to make them more widespread.
Finally, a quick question to anybody reading this, what do you find is the best mosquito repellent ? I would be glad of some ideas, has I got eaten alive on my last trip.