Waters: Rivers, weirpools, fast runs, clear channels between weedbeds, holes in undercut banks.
Baits: Bread, cheese, worms,casters, wheat, sweetcorn, hempseed, sausagemeat. Luncheonmeat, crayfish, and small fish such as gudgeon and loach.
Techniques: Leger. Float, float-leger.
Swimfeeder leger, rolling leger, tight corking.
The barbel takes its name from the two pairs of barbels on its upper lip, one pair at the corners of the jaws, the other towards the front. It is a powerful fish with a flattened belly. And well adapted to lying on the gravelly bed of a strong and fast-flowing river. The coloration is normally greenish-brown or bronze on the back, shading to a golden yellow on the sides, down to a yellowish-white belly.
The bottom-feeding habits of the barbel are indicated by its underslung mouth, the top jaw projecting well forward of the lower. The single dorsal (in is characterised by the leading spine having a heavy, strongly serrated edge; the tailfin is unevenly lobed. The lower fins are tinged with orange, with the rays of the anal fin noticeably long. There are small, well embedded scales and the eve is golden.
Barbel are large and powerful fish of the cyprinid family, able to reach weights of at least 15 lb (6.8kg), but the average is about 5 lb (2.3kg). Their tenacity and fighting ability are remarkable, and when the angler has hooked his first big barbel he may well think he has lodged his hook in a submerged tree, so doggedly do they resist capture.
Sport with barbel is rarely fast and furious, because more time is spent seeking them out than, for example. Roach or dace. However, that time is well spent, and when a large barbel is finally hooked it will provide ample compensation by lighting its way right to the landing net.
Any hour from dawn to dusk is barbel time, but keen anglers prepared to fish after dark may have more success, for the fish lend to take a bait more boldly at night.
The barbel feeds by moving about the riverbed in search of snails, mussels, caddis and other insects.
Tadpoles, crustaceans and any small fish that can be caught on the bottom. For this reason they are usually caught with bottom-fished baits.
The leger is the best method of getting the bait down to where the fish are. A light weight that will just hold bottom should be used, the best kind being an Aitesey bomb or a pear-shaped weight attached to a swivel.
The barbel is well adapted to bottom feeding- the underslung mouth and barbels suit its habit of searching the bottom for food.
Particularly when you are working your hookbait through a swim. In fast water a flat leger weight will hold the bottom belter.
Most of the quick-water runs that barbel prefer are too fast and generally too deep for float-fishing methods to be successful. Occasionally a swim can be found that suits the float tackle. And trotting tactics are usually the best to use. A buoyant enough float to carry a fair weight should be used to fish such a swim, to present a moving bait just off the bottom.
Whatever the technique used, a 10- 11 ft (3-3.3m) rod with an all-through action is vital, and it must be strong and pliable enough to absorb the shock of a plunging, lighting fish, it must also have power in order to apply pressure on a barbel straining to reach the security of a dense weedbed. Tree roots or some underwater hideout.
The reel can be a centrepin or a fixed-spool, depending on personal preference, but the choice may be influenced by the nature of the swim and the fishing style. For instance, long-range legering is best done with a fixed-spool reel loaded with about 100 yards(91m)of4-5 lb (1.8-2.3kg) b.s. Line for clear swims or 6-8 lb (2.7-3.6kg) in snaggy water,
A round-bend hook with medium-length shank, eyed rather than spade end. Is ideal, but it must be strong enough to hold a hard-lighting fish.
A well-proven barbel technique is to leger with a swiml’eeder. Packed with maggots which are washed from the feeder to trickle out and move through the swim on the current. Barbel move steadily into the swim. Attracted by the loose offerings, and eventually find the baited hook. They have been occasionally known to mouth the feeder itself.
Bite indicators are not usually necessary, for the angler is given plenty of warning when a barbel bites – the rod lop bends suddenly and very violently!
An old style known as tight corking, or tight-lining, is ideal for barbel fishing in certain waters which have eddies and holes under the bank.
It can also be used in swims with a fair current and shallows some distance downstream from the angler.
A large Avon, or cork-bodied long-trotting float is very suitable since a leger weight and a few large split-shot are needed to keep the bait down when the float is held back. To fish this rig the depth must be plumbed.
A few balls of groundbait laced with hookbait samples should be thrown in before starting to fish: a baitdropper could be used to do this. A couple of large redworms on the hook will usually bring results.
Cast out and work the tackle down to the swim, keeping the rod top up and the line tight, with the float in check. Use the current to keep the bait moving ahead of the float and rolling along the bottom.
As the tackle reaches the swim, hold it for a while, then allow it to run down yard by yard, pausing for a minute after each short run.
Once a barbel swim has been found, make a careful note of it. Certain swims in barbel rivers always hold a number of fish during the summer. In winter, barbel go into semi-hibernation, seeking deep, quiet water when it is very cold. After a spell of mild weather, and sometimes alter a Hood, they may well emerge and Iced. And fish of 101 b (4.5kg) and over have been caught as late as December.