An angler's journal

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Barbel: Are you brave enough to try somewhere new?

When the river season opens in around two weeks time, anglers up and down the country will take their new found optimism and high hopes back to the river bank. There will of course be a number of venues that get more attention than most based on past form and fishy tales. Take the river closest to me, the Warwickshire Avon. You can bet that the vast majority of anglers looking to land an opening day barbel will end up at of Marcliff, Salford Priors, Pershore, Fladbury or Barton on the Birmingham AA stretches with the day ticket stretches around Harvington also getting a bashing. This trend will continue throughout the whole summer until the leaves begin to turn brown with some
Summer on the Avon
swims being fished on an almost daily basis. I am sure whichever river you fish in the UK you can picture a similar situation so why do anglers persist in visiting so few venues when there's a whole river to go at? Well, there's a bit of a cycle at play here. Since the majority of anglers are fishing the same handful of venues, it stands to reason that this is where most of the fish are caught. When a barbel then has its picture posted to say, the BAA's homepage or a Facebook group, then of course more anglers flock to this venue in the hope of getting a piece of the action. In turn, the notoriety of these few venues increases and the under-fished venues get forgotten and labelled unproductive. The nettles grow, the pegs disappear and miles of river become ignored. Take a look at the BAA's list of Avon waters. Deduct the ones I have mentioned and ask yourself the last time you or indeed anyone else fished them with regularity? I remember turning up at Barton on one summer's evening to find no less than 15 cars parked up. As I drive to work, I pass a few venues that barely see anyone visit, let alone fish them.

My opinion is that aside from the upper reaches, the Avon's character and make up is not too dissimilar for much of its length. Punctuated by weirs that see an increase in flow, much of the river is medium paced and around 8ft deep. Obviously, there are areas where this is not the case but I don't think I am too wide of the mark. Now, why do barbel only live in the popular stretches? Why don't anglers target them in the less frequented venues? The reason you don't hear of any being caught at these places is because no one is fishing for them. I picked a random, under-fished venue and leaded around for a bit recently. What did I find? Clean gravel and perfect barbel habitat. If I fished there this summer would I face competition from other anglers for the best swims or would the fish be full up on others' bait? Not a chance.

Are fish after sunset the result of pressure?
Now, think about the effect of angling pressure on the more heavily fished venues. Anglers casting at regular intervals on a daily basis, each putting bait into their chosen swims before packing up and going home. Soon after, along comes another angler who sets up in the recently vacated hotspot. Out goes more bait to attract the fish. Remember, all this is going on during the summer when the river is most likely low and clear. The barbel, especially the experienced ones are holed up where they feel safe. Angler's habits have had an effect on the feeding patterns of these fish. Therefore, is it any wonder daytime fishing can be next to useless in these conditions? You will probably pick up some 'shoalies' who have much to learn and maybe strike gold with the odd better fish but there will probably be nothing consistent about your catches. I know, I have been there! Once darkness falls, the fish then begin their patrol route knowing that the BAA's night fishing ban gives them relative sanctuary to mop up all the beds of bait unhindered. They can then sidle off to their snaggy hide outs and wait for the next dollop of freebies to be deposited. The end result? You end up with certain stretches where barbel have had their habits changed due to the angling pressure. They have learned that the noise from casting means fishermen and therefore danger. The barbel know that they are able to find food very easily and as a result are rarely hungry. No need to go searching for food on this stretch and last but not least, they know they can have a free, safe meal that very night. Fishing for pressured and full up barbel is not the best scenario for consistent catches.

This has been on my mind for a year or so and I am ready to make a break for it, a leap of faith if you like. I am planning to spend my summer on the quiet, hardly fished venues where I hope barbel live unmolested. Their feeding habits are hopefully that of a wild barbel that has to forage and search for food to keep up with its big summer appetite. With a sensible baiting approach, I hope to prove that barbel can be caught up and down the river. I have to admit to being quite motivated about this and quietly optimistic. I am sure many of you that read this will be able to apply the same logic to your own river so perhaps you too could give it a go and see what turns up. Of course, I could be completely wrong on this in which case I'll be queuing up for the best peg with everyone else by August.

I would be really interested to see what other people's opinions are on this topic so share, like and comments would be most welcome.

17 comments:

  1. Very thought provoking, I intend to go away from the crowd this season.

    Neil.

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  2. I will be fishing new rivers this season,

    Regards

    The barbel hunter

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  3. Yes Neil, I think it's the way forward.

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  4. By this theory I should just turn up to the river late and reap the rewards off other anglers baiting. Perhaps I will try it on my beloved River Teme.

    Hugo.

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    1. Try it, it has previously worked for me.

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  5. I tried a new quiet spot once and at sunset I seemed to be surrounded by the local doggers. .....I made a sharp exit!

    Adrian.

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    1. Ade, I'm sure you hung around for a bit longer than you're making out.

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    2. Well I got a few photos and videos. ...who wouldn't?

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  6. The only reason the fish are there is because the bait is going in so regularly. Fish like all other living species will source the maximum amount if food for the least effort.
    If others follow your theory, hopefully I'll get a swim when I turn up.

    Marc

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    1. Marc, I agree with you. The fish are there because of bait but their habits alter without a doubt. Fish have to be hungry to be caught so there's a thin dividing line to be had here.

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  7. Robert Mitchell4 June 2017 at 10:17

    Its all about fishing other peoples swims and the same swims I've caught in for years for me. Got to keep the sponsors happy and blanking on new swims which is the norm for me would be a disaster. Hopefully see some guys catching this season so I can steal their swims and wear my 3 different hats for the pics, all about keeping my sponsors happy #coursefishing #barbel #dinsmores #3foottwitch #blanktackle

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  8. Interesting thoughts Lee. I'm very much one for trying seemingly unfished stretches/swims. Nothing better than creating your own success.

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    1. Completely agree but there's plenty out there that see it as s#it or bust.

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  9. Lee,why is it that most barbel anglers disagree with the BAA no night fishing rule yet still go ahead and purchase a ticket,I've voted with my feet this year.Without any revenue coming in they would be forced into change

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  10. I guess that the amount of water they own still makes it viable. However, I can see their membership continuing to decline.

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