An angler's journal

An angler's journal

Sunday, 7 July 2013

You've got to roll with it

With the river season entering its fourth week, many anglers have reported a slow start particularly where barbel are concerned. There have been several reasons put forward to explain the mediocrity ranging from late spawning to weather conditions and everything inbetween. However, I have chosen to experiment a little to see if I can find a method that will bank barbel while others struggle and the results have been interesting.

A walk along any barbel river will see the majority of anglers sitting behind a rod waiting for the tip to wrap round in typical barbel fashion. Presenting a static bait is by far the most popular method and it's very successful. However, reports of late suggest this method is not working so it was time to try something different rather than sit for hours watching a motionless rod tip.

The method I've been using isn't new but it's rarely seen in use when walking the banks. I've been of the mindset for a few seasons that when barbel will not take a static bait then a moving one is often the key to success. So with this in mind and ideal conditions to compare methods I have been attempting to catch using the rolling meat. For those not familiar with the method,
it's simplicity in itself.
Keep things simple
A bait is allowed to trundle down with the current with just enough weight added to enable this to happen under control. Trefor West made this method his own using weighted hooks to balance the bait but with me still being a relative novice in comparison my setup is slightly different.  I use 10lb line straight through to a size 2 or 4 barbless hook. Before tying the hook on I slide on a float stop to which plasticine is added to match the speed of the current. Alternatively, use a swivel to connect at hooklink to your mainline and mould the plasticine around the swivel. I don't believe the material of hooklink matters since fish have a simple choice: take the bait or watch it disappear past them. A static bait allows finicky fish to inspect the bait and choose to ignore it if they so wish.

To fish this method effectively then it stands to reason that you need a stretch of river with a current strong enough to carry your bait downstream. On rivers such as the Severn or Hampshire Avon you will be spoilt for choice but other rivers will require some watercraft.

Perfect for rolling meat
Ideal areas will include weir run offs, gullies where the river narrows and the pace increases or the outside of a bend. Once your swim has been chosen then it takes a few casts of trial and error to achieve the correct balance. Keep adding or reducing the amount of plasticine until your bait is moving at a speed you're happy with. I always cast upstream, take up some of the slack line but leave enough of a bow to feel the bait down the swim in a straight line. It's a great way to explore the river and learn about the nooks and crannies that you would be otherwise oblivious to. When fished correctly you can feel your rig grating across the gravel bottom which usually inhabits these areas. I have found most bites to be an unmistakable 'pluck pluck' although you still get the occasional rod wrenching takes that almost rip the rod from your grasp.

I have used this method to good effect on my local river and had some relative success. Most barbel have been of an average size but satisfying all the same given they have been caught when everyone else on the stretch has blanked. With a hot spell of weather gripping the UK at the moment coupled with low water levels I have heard anglers state 'the fish aren't feeding' or 'they are not there.' Of course this is hogwash! The fish are there and they need to feed. Unfortunately, too many anglers are creatures of habit, fishing the same few swims in the same way. For those that are willing to try something different then there's still an opportunity to catch fish when everyone else is struggling. Rolling meat is such an enjoyable method. The sensations transmitted down the line keep you on your toes and that moment when you feel the urge to strike is one of the most exciting moments in angling as you connect with a barbel in fast water. So get out there and give it a go.

A typical barbel taken on rolling meat
Fish usually come quickly


  1. Excellent post Lee, and great advice. Don't give 'em the time to think!

    I mean what's a long time to a barbel? I'd say in clear low water two seconds is too much. one second a half chance, but half a second just right!

    Not that I have the experience other than my fishing buddy practices just the same method and always catches

  2. Cheers Jeff. I think the balance is key. I'm no expert but I think you know when it feels right and it definitely seems to pick up a fish during tough conditions. As you say, they have to take it or leave it.

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