Search is on for huge barbel and carp as the river season opens

BARBELLOUS! -- talented angler Dan Ellis with a stunning-looking barbel that weighed in at 10lb 4 oz.
BARBELLOUS! -- talented angler Dan Ellis with a stunning-looking barbel that weighed in at 10lb 4 oz.

The new river season is upon us once again, so many anglers are licking their lips at the prospect of finding sizeable barbel and carp.

Back in the day, the rivers were lined with matchmen fishing light feeder or stick-float methods. Commercial waters have all but taken taken over, with the promise of big weights of carp and the relative ease of fishing.

However, the specimen anglers have now taken to the rivers in search of huge barbel and carp, which have thrived as a result of our cleaner rivers.

We associate big carp with specimen lakes, gravel pits and ponds. But carp is actually a river species, so they do grow to huge proportions in our rivers too. Without doubt, though, fishing for specimen barbel now dominates our river banks where the matchmen once stood.

Barbel at double-figure weights are now commonplace in most of our rivers, with the Trent, Idle and Severn offering some of the best barbel fishing in the country. They are there in numbers, not just size.

The Trent, in particular, has built a well-deserved reputation for big barbel over the years. Whether you fish the tidal or non-tidal reaches, the rewards can be great once you’ve got to grips with the challenges of fishing a big and somewhat intimidating river.

Twenty years ago, you could only expect to catch small barbel. But Trent barbel of 10lb are now considered average-sized.

Barbel are designed to hug the bottom on even the fastest of rivers, making them one of the fittest and strongest fish in our waters. Few fish can match the fight of a barbel. They are the river’s equivalent to our stillwater tench and will fight right to the net.

The key to success in flowing water is having the right kit for the job by getting the balance correct between strength and water resistance.

Barbel are greedy bottom-feeders, preferring a large hookbait to be nailed to the bed. Not easy in a fast, powerful flowing river. Therefore a heavy approach is needed.

Large, heavy feeders are about the only real option suitable for presenting lots of feed and a large hookbait in mid-flow.

Barbel feeders are now readily available from 3oz right up to 8oz. Use a size that just holds bottom. A simple free-running rig will work well, but you need a heavy feeder or specialist barbel rod over 1.5lb test curve and a mainline to match.

It’s now common for Trent anglers to be casting out feeders from 6 to 8 oz on 2.75lb test curve carp rods, loaded with 15lb mono or 30lb braid.

In slack water, standard hook-links from eight to 12 inches are more than adequate, but when fishing in mid flow, this should be extended with leaders from three to four feet. Hair-rigs will get you more fish hooked but hooks need to be very strong. Kamasan Barbel Max from size four to eight are ideal.

Barbel respond well to smelly, fish-based baits, so the most popular bait is halibut pellet from 14 to 21mm. Boilies also work well with Dynamite Baits ‘The Source’ proving to be one of the best. Paste can also be very effective.

Tips and tricks

USE fine diameter monos and braids and have rod tips set high in the air to reduce drag in the water.

LEAVING a bow in your line will also reduce drag, but expect to get more drop-back bites.

TRY packing paste around your pellets and boilies. This will break down and disperse in the water,.

EVEN if using relatively small 3oz feeders, use the large types so you can keep a steady flow of bait.

BARBEL will actively feed in very coloured water and even flood water. Large specimens are often caught from slack water and back eddies, so don’t neglect the margins.

IF you have angling stories or pictures, please e-mail our angling expert at alan@pikemaster.co.uk or give him a call on 07815 308463. This column is sponsored by www.retfordangling.co.uk.