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Archive for August 7th, 2011


I fished a gin clear river recently for barbel.  I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who do this week in week out and so will already know what observations and opinions I am about to express.

Firstly I am often surprised how much feeding fish will tolerate from an angler before finally giving up and spooking out of the swim.  Providing an angler is sensible in his concealment (or not as the case maybe), feeding barbel will continue to do so despite the obvious presence of an angler.  Slow, deliberate movements don’t seem to cause too much alarm.  I would still put a great deal of importance on stealth of course, but not to the extremes that some may think.

What I think is far more important is how the bait and tackle is presented in the fishes environment.  Let me quantify that.  I have seen on several occasions barbel moving into the baited area and then suddenly spooking off.  Now its fairly obvious to me that this was due to the mainline being either visible or coming into contact with a fish.  When one spooks, it does tend to spook the others.  The fish then tend to retreat, but will often return to the swim to continue foraging for the food that they know is present. However the more spooky those fish become the less confidently they seem to feed.

How can we overcome this problem? My set-up has evolved over many years of fishing for barbel.  It works for me although not 100% of the time.  I doubt anything works 100% of the time and there will be many occasions where you have to think about what you are doing and alter it to suit on any given day.  Keep ringing the changes as they say.  However I like to use a long, coated hooklink.  I particularly like the ones made by Suffix.  The one I use, is a fast sinking one and lays on the riverbed very nicely.  I also like it because it is available in lower breaking strains, which is unusual for this type of line.  I don’t like the idea of using 15lb hooklink with say a 10lb mainline. Anyway, above this 3 foot hooklink I will use a backlead.  Sometimes a standard flying backlead sometimes though, depending on the river and flow, a standard in-line lead of an ounce.  This is an important addition to the set-up.  Why?  Because it pins your mainline down on the deck so the barbel can’t see it as easily and more importantly can’t swim into it.  Nothing seems to spook barbel more than touching a tight mainline, that is often not actually visible to them, in the case of a flourocarbon mainline.

They are occasions when adding a further backlead would be beneficial, I think.  Sliding one off of the rod tip, so it pins the line down from the rod tip.  What you have to remember though is what the riverbed is like.  If there is quite a bit of weed, this becomes a bit pointless.  But its worth playing with the set-up to see what works.   I also like to keep the rod tip as low as possible.  What I won’t use is leadcore.  I don’t like the idea of large lengths of leadcore being possibly tethered to a fish.  The thought of leaving a long hooklink attached to a fish is bad enough, but heavy leadcore leaders as well is just too much for me, so I won’t contemplate using them.

Anyway the end result of this is less spooking of fish.  Perhaps not entirely but a significant improvement.  But of course this is geared towards people fishing a static bait with either a lead weight or a swimfeeder.  We all know that there is more than one way to skin a cat.  Float tactics, rolling meat, free-lining etc.etc all work well on their day too.  That’s what makes fishing so enjoyable.

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