Posts Tagged ‘barbel baits’

After spending a few days on the Wye, it was time to head back to the Kennet for a couple of days.  I started off with Geoff on a Newbury controlled stretch.  It was a deep, heavily overgrown area.  The top end was a little shallower but gradually deepened as it went downstream, ending up with 10-12 feet of water.  The average seemed to be 6-8 feet.  Despite finding some nice swims and managing to take a nice upper 4lb chub, very little else happened.  Personally I think that it’s a stretch that will come into it’s own from Autumn onwards, as the barbel look for deeper water.  Geoff only managed a bream and so we packed up around midnight.  We’ll definitely be back but not for a couple of months.

The following day I headed to a Reading section of the Kennet for the first time.  I was due to meet Micky Holtom, owner of the Barbel Angler website, to hand over the Association of Barbel Fisher’s ‘Beast’ centrepin reel.  Whilst there, Micky suggested we did a bit of rolling.  I haven’t done this method for a couple of seasons and even when I did,  it was with little aplomb, however I fancied giving it a go again.  Without a doubt it’s a tricky method to get right and therefore plenty of practice is required to get a feel for fishing this method.  Basically you fish a large lump of luncheon meat on a big hook (size 2) and if extra weight is required you can add a lump of plasticine 6-8 inches from the hook bait.  You can add a little weight to the hook too.  One way to do this was shown to me by rolling meat supremo Jez Brown.  You mold a little extra heavy tungsten putty around the shank of the hook and then encapsulate it in some industrial type shrink tube.  It works extremely well and I wished I had carried on with this method a couple of years a go, I might have been reasonable at it by now!

The Kennet

The Kennet

One of the other reasons for giving up on it was the reel I was using.  I opted for a fixed spool whereas the more accomplished meat rollers invariably use a Ray Walton rolling pin.  This is a centrepin that can be turned so that the drum faces up the rod and then switched back to it’s normal position after casting.  This means casting is easy and more importantly allowing line off the reel is efficient.  You need to create a bow in the line so that the meat will trundle downstream along the bottom of the river, in a straight line.  The use of braid allows you to quite literally feel the meat bouncing along the gravel.  You then need to keep feeding line off of the pin to allow the bait to continue downstream in a free manner.  When you feel a pluck, whack it.  Often bites are quite delicate and I can clearly remember Jez saying that you often sense a bite rather than feel it.  I can only concur with those sentiments, it’s hard to describe what you are striking at sometimes but you know its a fish.

Anyway Micky lost a fish early on and then wandered downstream after showing me a hot peg to feeder fish.  He soon phoned me to report that he had caught a couple of small barbel and a chub.  I decided to wander downstream and join him for a while.  He kindly allowed me to have another go.  I found the main difficulty was getting the bow in the line right, so that I could feel the bait trundling along the gravel.  I often felt nothing and therefore wasn’t in control.  Still with a little guidance I eventually had a few knocks and one good one which I whacked.  The fish was on but sadly not for long.  Still it was a fish on, so I was doing something right.  With more practice and the right equipment, I’m sure I’ll improve quite quickly and I’m really looking forward to another bash at this method.

I returned to my swim for the remainder of the afternoon and evening.  I was fishing a deep run under a tree.  I started with a block end feeder filled with pellet.  This is designed to just offer a scent trail rather than dump bait on the bottom.  It’s a method that I have used many times and it has been very successful in the past.  The idea is that the barbel pick up the scent trail and it triggers a feeding response, however the only bait there is the hookbait, so they don’t have a lot of choice in what they can eat.  It’s not a method which everyone is convinced by and often people look at you like you’ve just been let out of the looney bin but it has worked extremely well for me on occasions, so there!

The Kennet

The Kennet

Anyway it wasn’t too long before the rod top slammed round and a feisty little barbel was scooped out.  It was only about 4lbs but was my first Kennet fish of the season.  Sometime later and the rod tip whacked round again.  This time it was a slightly better fish of around 6lb+.  During a quiet moment in between bites I glanced up for some reason (maybe a shadow caught my eye) and a beautiful barn owl swooped silently by, just above my head, with a mouse clutched firmly in its talons.  What a stunning sight and just before that I watched a Kestrel swooping and hovering in the field opposite looking for a similar meal to the owl. I decided to call it a day about 9.45pm and headed home to Kent.

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Kevin and I decided to have another crack at the Kennet this week.  Geoff had gone AWOL, using some sort of family holiday as an excuse. Mind you when I spoke to him on Wednesday he was trying to catch roach at Britford.  Hmm, family holiday? My foot!

Anyway the real anglers headed to Aldermaston and were taught a very valuable lesson.  Don’t pretend to be real anglers when you can’t catch fish! Unfortunately it was another tough session here.  One or two fish rolled, just to prove there was some life down there.  I was fortunate to catch a barbel of around 7-8lbs and that was my only bite.

I did change tactics this week.  I dropped the pellets (they went everywhere!) in favour of a more traditional approach.  I cooked up some hemp (peace, man) and mixed in a good helping of casters.  I superglued 4 casters onto a hair and masked the size 14 Pallatrax ‘The Hook’ with another one.  I then coupled this with a longish hooklink and a 2.5 ounce Preston blockend feeder.  This was then filled with the hemp and caster mixture.  First part of the attack was to bait dropper 10 loads into the swim.  Leave it for 45-60 minutes and then fish over the top.

It did produce some interest early on when a really nice dace pulled the rod top round and then a little while later a barbel  did an impression of  Usain Bolt and ripped the tip round whilst tearing off down stream.  The fish put up a good fight and looked around the 7-8lb mark. It was an awkward swim to fish and I decided as dusk was approaching, I would move into an easier swim.

Kennet Barbel

I adopted the same tactics but this time nothing was forthcoming.  I decided to call it a day about 10.30pm as I was totally cream crackered.  Kevin was happy to turn in for the night as his rods had remained motionless since arrival.

The next day we decided to move to one of the other beats.  Again, adopting the tactics of the night before I decided to be a little more patient and move a few times into baited swims.  The first swim which is a really nice shady spot only produced a few dace and a roach.  The next move proved more productive.  Just as I opened a packet of crisps and took a bite out of my Tuna and sweetcorn sandwich (and you thought I was unhealthy) the rod tip slammed round and my lunch went about 7 feet into the air! The result was a small barbel of about 2.5-3lbs.  Nice result and I moved on feeling a little more pleased with myself.

The 3rd swim had a lovely big bush opposite.  This time I decided not to use the bait droppers.  This was a small, narrow section and I thought it may cause too much disturbance.  So I kept recasting a smaller feeder out at regular intervals, to keep some bait going in.  This seemed to work, as over the next couple of hours I had 3 more barbel to about 5.5lbs.  Then the swim died.  I would have moved but the heavens had opened and it was tipping it down.  So at around 8pm we decided enough was enough and we packed up and headed back to Kent.

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The three musketeers arrived at the Kennet Tuesday afternoon full of anticipation.  We have found it tough going so far this season.  In 8 sessions I have only managed 5 barbel and lost 4.  Geoff and Kevin have taken 5 between them.  So not the best of starts.  I have tried altering my approach slightly this season and so far my results have been slightly better than the other two guys, but its only a very small difference.

The Kennet

Tuesday night saw me fishing 2 areas.  I opted for a open-end cage feeder (Andy Witham’s feeders) stuffed with barbel bomb and small pellets, all mixed in together.  I then used 2 of the medium sized elips pellets superglued to a hair on a size 12 hook.  Usual hooklink: 3 feet of Suffix camfusion.  I also incorporated a flying backlead a further 2 feet up the line from the feeder.  Its been difficult to use backleads this season on some parts of our Kennet, due to the amount of weed in the river this year.  There is more weed than I have seen over the past 5 years.  I suspect it was due to low river levels and the unseasonably high temperatures through April and May, which were obviously perfect for weed growth.  Its good to see it in the river in such abundance but we’re just not used to seeing on this part of the Kennet.

The only barbel during this part of the session came to me about 7.30pm, in a nice deep run over a thick ranunculus weed bed.  A spirited fight resulted in a barbel of around 5lbs.  I was just putting a few bits into my rucksack, as I was just preparing to move, when I turned around on my chair to check the rod and see the butt right up in the air and almost heading off into the river!  Luckily I fish with the rod often resting on my chair, but if not very, very close to me.  I managed to get my hand on the rod before it disappeared.  Never take your eye off the rod for a second.  I would normally put the bait runner on if I am going to be distracted for a few moments.  Anyway disaster averted.

A move proved futile as no further action came, nether did Kev or Geoff have any success.  Another tough day.

The following day saw us move beats. We headed to the Warren and Dalston sections.  I had decided to knock the barbel fishing on the head for today and concentrate on the quality dace and roach fishing to be had on these sections.  I set up a light quiver tip rod with 5lbs mainline and a small blockend feeder.  I used a 2 1/2 foot hooklink with a 16 hook and tied a small bait band to the hair rig.  I was using single small elips pellets as a bait, which I know these roach and dace love.  I filled the feeder with some large pellets (these are for flavour leakage) and some small micro pellets.

Action was steady.  A few nice dace took the bait but no sign of any roach.  I moved to a lovely shallow gravel run, with a deeper glide on the inside of a crease.  A few knocks resulted and then the tip pulled round.  The strike met with solid resistance followed by the steady pull of a decent fish.  This was either the biggest dace ever recorded or a barbel.  After a lovely fight on the lighter tackle a barbel going 7lb 6oz was returned to the river.  A little while later another barbel took the pellet and this time it went 7lb 7oz.  Like peas in a pod.  Maybe the smaller baits and lighter set-up made the difference with the barbel.  Both Geoff and Kev sadly blanked barbel wise although Kevin lost a fish in a snag.  Food for thought.

A very big dace!

I have certainly been toying with the idea of returning next time armed with hemp and casters.  Certainly the larger baits, perhaps in particular pellets, don’t appear to be working.  It’s time to re-think and change tactics again.

The roach sadly failed to materialise.  Another time perhaps.

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