An angler's journal

Fishing the Warwickshire Avon: My Approach to Barbel

Every year, the Warwickshire Avon attracts Barbel anglers from all over the country hoping to cash in on some of the quality fish that inhabit its waters. As a result the same question often arises:
‘I’m visiting the Avon next week. Any advice on day tickets and where to go?’ The idea of this article is to give people some background information on fishing the river as well as my approach.

The Warwickshire Avon rises from its source near Naseby, Northamptonshire before winding its way through the towns of Warwick, Stratford upon Avon, Bidford on Avon, Evesham and Pershore before meeting with the River Severn at Tewkesbury. For much of the way, the river can be described as medium paced although its course is punctuated by many weirs, which result in faster stretches.

Tickets

Much of the fishing below Bidford is run by the Birmingham Anglers Association, who at the time of writing offer annual membership at £35 with day tickets at £8. Their website is pretty informative with details on their stretches along with directions. Above Bidford sees clubs such as Stratford AA and Royal Leamington AA controlling stretches in the Stratford and Warwick areas. The Manor Farm Fishery near Harvington also offers day tickets and is rumoured to contain decent fish of all species.

I am not going to talk about specific venues, not because I am trying to keep them to myself but because I believe that many stretches are much of a muchness. The other reason is that most stretches also contain Barbel and all are capable of throwing up doubles.   



Over 20 miles separates these three venues but you can see the character remains similar



Swim Selection

As I have already mentioned and as the pictures above show, the river retains its character for much of its length although the lower reaches see it widen and deepen and Bream, silver fish and predators begin to dominate. The Avon benefits from a number weirs and these always attract Barbel anglers. There’s no doubt that the faster, gravel runs also attract Barbel, particularly in early season although you’ll have to be up early to beat the crowds. I find that anglers often become obsessed with weir fishing and ignore the remainder of the stretch and with it some good Barbel.

The average Avon swim will give you about 6ft of medium paced water. However, swims upto 10ft deep are not uncommon and it’s these areas that I tend to focus on during the colder months. Due to the lack of shallow water, it means that features are not always that obvious to the naked eye. The Environment Agency is also keen to keep bankside trees to a minimum meaning traditional looking holding spots are at a premium on some stretches. Barbel love gravel and if you find it then you’re in with a chance. You might be thinking how you can find gravel when you cannot see the bottom? Well, you just need to look for the signs and the reed growth will give you a clue. The reed in the top picture is common on the Avon and tends to grow in gravel whereas the broader leafed Reed Mace (bottom) prefers silt. By using this logic you can be sure an area you’re fishing has a gravel bed.


Find this and you have also found gravel
Reed Mace usually grows in silt

Once you’ve found gravel then I study the pace. A nice steady, even flow is what you’re looking for and if you’re lucky enough to find this plus an obvious fish attractor such as a tree  then you’ve found a potential good Barbel swim. 

My Approach

The Avon, like any river, can be fantastic on its day. I find that these sessions usually coincide with the river carrying extra water and colour. Without rain, the river becomes crystal clear and with it the fishing becomes hard work. In fact, in these conditions I would rarely try and catch Barbel during the day as I find it’s often a waste of time.

As for tactics, I’m not a huge fan of the swimfeeder on the Avon. Although it undoubtedly works for some, I find its repeated use can cause a disturbance on some areas and prefer to use a medium baitdropper  (3” dia) upon arrival. That doesn't  mean I discount the feeder or any method for that matter. Be flexible in your approach and adapt it as necessary. A typical summer session would see me deposit about 6 loads of hemp and couple of pellet. Depending on the stretch, how busy it is and my confidence, I may do this in several pegs. I could increase this initial bombardment of bait to 2 pints or more depending on how confident I am that Barbel are present in my chosen area or the level of competition with the river's other species. I have found it will take about 30-50 minutes for a bite to materialise, if at all, so I would give the spot an hour and then move on to the next baited area, putting another couple of dropper loads of bait in before I leave. I repeat the process in each spot until I land on some fish. If I’m sticking to the same spot then it’s a waiting game. If the swim is quiet I will use a baitdropper to keep the bait topped up. If I am getting indications that fish may be present then to reduce disturbance from repeatedly casting a baitdropper, I will use PVA pags with pellets and will always make sure I get a bait in place as the sun drops. I think this is important since the last hour or so is the most productive time and I don’t want to be casting unnecessarily at this point. I will also change to meat at this time if I am not already using it since I believe it’s the best option as the light fades. It’s at this time that the river appears to come alive and an area that’s been unmoved all day suddenly has fish topping and showing interest in your bait. It’s not unusual to have several Chub or Barbel in quick succession. Many Barbel anglers see Chub as a nuisance. Not me, apart from providing good sport they are also Barbel magnets. Barbel are near the top of the river’s hierarchy and once the Chub get their heads down a hungry Barbel cannot resist getting in on the action. That said I will often return them, with care of course, 20-30 yards downstream since putting one back in your own swim can often be the kiss of death.

If the river is carrying lots of extra water and colour then meat comes into its own. Here I will be looking for slacker areas that provide an even flow and sanctuary from the raging torrent. I’ve had reasonable success with a method feeder in these conditions. I will scald some 6mm pellets and mould them around the feeder which will see them stay there for up to 50 minutes or so, giving off a scent trail in the process and hopefully attracting fish to your bait.

My approach in winter is not massively different except the weather (I’m looking for an influx of mild rain to the river, especially if it proceeds a cold snap) will govern my trips and I will cut down on the amount of bait introduced into my swim. I will either use small PVA bags and meat as bait or wrap a boilie bait and my ledger in paste. I’m not looking to feed the Barbel, merely attract them and if they’re hungry then my hookbait is their only real option. 

Rigs

There are many rigs out there and many of them are from the Carp world. However, I try to keep things simple so I rarely mess about with the latest fad.

Mainline is 10lb Daiwa Sensor. To this I will use a running ledger weight of about 1-1 ½ ounces with a bead acting as a buffer for my swivel, which in turn is connected to my hooklink. Much is written on leads and I simply cannot believe it when I read people stating they had to use 4oz weights to hold bottom. I can’t remember the last time I used more than 2oz on the Avon and I have no trouble holding a bait in place. For pellets and boilies, I use 12lb fluorocarbon for hooklinks and hooks in sizes 10 or 12 tied with the knotless knot so I can mount the bait on a hair. If I’m fishing meat then I don’t mess about, a large chunk on a size 2. As I fish meat in coloured water or fading light I see no need for fluorocarbon and use a length of my mainline to create a hooklink. It’s a simple approach, which is also safe should a break occur as the weight will drop free meaning any fish is unable to snag itself.


My standard setup

Whilst I don’t profess to be a Warwickshire Avon expert, I do experience reasonable success so I hope someone, somewhere finds this beneficial. Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.

Before you go then please take a look around the rest of my blog and join my Facebook page & this site. I also have a similar page for the River Severn so take a look here. Thanks for looking.

32 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed reading that.

    Well done Lee

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  2. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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  3. Interesting read, I've only ever been carp fishing on lakes before but this river fishing for barbel looks very exiting, could I use my existing carp rods & reels or do I need something more specialized? Thanks.

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  4. Thanks Matty. It is indeed an exciting to way fish. My rods are 1.75lb although I'm sure you could get away with carp rods in the 2.5lb class. You just need to ensure the action is forgiving enough but I'm should you could use your setup to get a taste for things. If you like it then you could look into buying gear more focussed on the method. I'd say location is more important for a beginner as you want to be fishing a river that has a good head of average fish such as the middle Severn so that you get plenty of action. I'm happy to help you with ideas if you need them, Lee

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  5. Nice one Lee, although I'm not a barbel hunter, I do fish plenty of club matches on the waters you mention. Nice blog.

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  6. Thanks, much appreciated. I'm sure a barbel or two are always welcome in your matches.

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  7. That was really informative, thanks Lee

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  8. A good read lee n very informative. Apparently Im off there tomorrow so will try the tips. thx mate keep up the gw

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  9. You might be in luck as the river is slowly rising after a low & clear summer. Cheers for commenting.

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  10. Good article any idea what the Avon is like behind Tesco in Warwick. I was going to try float fishing with pellets or maggots.

    Thanks
    Ted


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  11. Thanks Ted for the feedback. Never fished Warwick myself but barbel do frequent the area so there's no reason why they shouldn't be there. Obviously, the river is low and clear at the moment so maggots probably the best way to go. You've got to be in it to win it.

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  12. Nice read,just got baa ticket..drennan super specialist at the ready,,tight lines

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  13. Cheers, glad you found it useful. Let me know how you get on.

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  14. Great blog pal. I have been searching the net for a site like this. I have fished for 30 years but never targeted big chub and barbel and will be starting soon. I live in bournville so will be looking at Avon stretches such as anchor meadow and evesham way. Is it best to avoid day time and just go in the evening. I will be using the method you have described with a weight and large chunk of meat over a bed of pellet, maggots and corn etc. Can't wait to get cracking

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  15. Appreciate the comments. Daytime fishing is generally tough unless there's some colour in the river. Also, if you're fishing meat that usually works better in the evening or scale the size of the bait down in the day. Good luck, Lee

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  16. Well written. and sensible comment returned for a change

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  17. cheers for the info lee I,m down there next week on my annual holiday and will be putting your advise into practise

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  18. Good luck. The river is normal summer level and quite clear so the river will come into its own early morning and evening. Fish smaller baits through the day so that you can bank a few fish of all sizes and perhaps a bonus one too.

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  19. thanks again lee wont be fishing much during the day so early morning and evenings suit me fine, river runs along the bottom of the cottage garden so I,m hoping to build up the swim over the week, are signal crayfish in the avon yet ?

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  20. Never seen one and long may it continue.

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  21. hi lee just a quick thanks had a good week starting with a great win for Leicester city against man u and ending with a new avon pb barbel of 11lbs 4oz from the cottage garden and 1 or 2 more in between all coming on small baits between 1700 hrs and 2100hrs cheers again
    steve

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  22. Well done Steve. Cracking fish in the conditions.

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  23. Hi Lee ime planing trip to Stratford early may may try river fishing ime disabled could you suggest anywhere with fairly easy access on day ticket.

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  24. You'll have to wait until 16th June.

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  25. Hi Lee, sorry if this is an out of place question. Brand new into fishing and have yet to try river fishing. I'm tempted to give it a go soon by before I join onto any memberships I truely want to make sure it is for me (standard permit already obtained). Are there any spots along the s-o-a stretch that you don't need to be a member for that you know of?

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  26. Have to be honest and say don't know. Stratford isn't familar to me as far as angling goes. You could try one of the tackle shops who I am sure would put you on the right tracks (tackle shop - 01789 293950).

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  27. Good read some good pointers........

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    1. Thanks, I have a similar post based on the Severn so look it up.

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  28. Hi Lee I'm fishing from my holiday cottage garden again in a weeks time,have you any idea how it's fishing in the barton area ? It'll be the 3rd time we've stayed at this place and so far it's been very good to us
    Cheers steve

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  30. Hi Lee, I usually fish for pike on boxing day in Pershore whilst the wife and I are on our annual holiday for Xmas, however I will be following your advice and throwing a feeder rod out for the barbel or chub,I'll let you know how I get on. Gary

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  31. Cheers Gary, hopefully conditions will be just right. All the best.

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