Last autumn and early part of this winter and I have been bang into my barbel fishing. After gaining a ticket to a rather special stretch of a Thames Tributary, I have dedicated a fair amount of my time trying to track down and catch some of its big, yet nomadic residents.
I have fished some hard and low stock sections of river in the past; however this venue has to be right up there with the trickiest stretch I have fished to date. As I touched on, the fish are nomadic, often traveling several miles between captures and combine this with a low stock of big fish, you can begin to understand the appeal.
I always relish a challenge and with lots of effort I have been able to slip the net under a few good’uns. As I write I have done about three weeks of fishing (one or two trips a week) and my last four bites have culminated in fish weighing 11lb+, 12lb 10oz, 14lb 4oz and 15lb 8oz. Not oodles of fish, but everyone has been a ‘cheese’.
As the old saying goes ‘the more you put in the more you get out’ often rings true, especially when targeting big fish. Taking the time to regularly prime a couple of areas has certainly helped and allowed me to drop into swims and get bites fairly quickly. However, priming is just one small part of a larger puzzle and there have been a few rig and bait tweaks that I have been utilising recently that have certainly given me an edge.
Can they ever be sharp enough?
I don’t think it would be unfair to state that many budding specimen anglers are often a step or two behind in terms of rig presentation, especially when compared to a large percentage of carp anglers. Look at hooks patterns and hook points for example and the understanding of how to take them to another level. The revolution has been a progressive thing, but the introduction of certain tools has naturally accelerated this process. Carp anglers have realised that it is possible to get a hook sharper if you can be bothered to practice and take your time to hone the hook to a point that is unlikely to be matched by any but the very best ‘1 in a 100’ hooks…
Tools are there, readily at our disposal. If you want to take meat off of your points there’s nothing better than a pillar file and the Jag ones suit the purpose perfectly. However, when Lewis Read gave me a Point Doctor to try, I knew just after a few minutes of experimentation, it had already earned a place in my tackle box. This product fills a niche in the market for anglers wanting a tool that is genuinely easy to use, for just gently touching up all those hooks that just cried out for the tiniest bit of TLC. Something so easy to use that anyone could get them to work with the minimal of practice. I have seen a very tiny percentage of anglers when fishing for barbel or chub even bothering to check their hook points, let alone touch them up. Sharpening and touching up hooks is nothing new in terms of modern day angling, but believe me it makes a big difference and even more so, when fishing pressured venues.
Forcing the hook to react aggressively…
More and more in the today’s barbel scene, anglers are adopting rigs and terminal tackle ‘borrowed’ from carp angling circles. Forcing a hook to act aggressively is another key improvement that will go a long way to enhancing your rigs overall efficiency in converting more bits to fish on the bank. The more aggressively the hook acts, the faster it reacts in that minuscule moment when the fish makes a mistake. Why not elongate the shank of the hook and add a ‘kicker’ so the hook reacts faster and the result is that the hook is more likely to stay in the correct orientation within the fishes mouth for longer. The combination of the two factors means that the hook (you have lovingly sharpened) has a much greater potential to take hold. Add a pivot point away from the hook point – positioned on the shank so that the bait pivots and the weight of the hook allows it to drop and turn and you have already created a rig that most fish won’t be able to easily cope with.
I have touched on this before and a simple way of doing this, especially when maggot fishing, is to thread an Enterprise Mag-aligner grub down over the hook shank. When conditions don’t suit maggot fishing or the angler wants prefers a pellet or boilie rig, what then? A short length of shrink tube, creating a line-aligner is the simple solution. How many barbel or chub anglers have you seen going to this miniscule level of effort? Several tackle manufactures even produce preformed kickers, to aid the process. When we started playing around with the design of our Covert Hook Aligners, I knew they would make a great addition to many modern day specimen rigs, improving and enhancing the effectiveness without being large and bulky. I was quick to cotton on to how effective this small addition can make and I rarely cast out without one nowadays.
Don’t just fish during ‘textbook’ times…
It has been well documented that dusk and fishing into darkness is THE time to fish for barbel. If rules allow, have you ever thought about visiting your chosen venue during the early hours of the morning, when most people are tucked up in bed? Several years ago when fishing one of my favourite stretches of river, most anglers would fish up until midnight or the latest 1am. It was common to hear them throwing their bait in at the end of the session, before heading off home. That winter, I recorded the time when I experienced any action and a pattern soon emerged that most bites were coming (unsurprisingly) from 1am onwards. I soon twigged that the fish had tuned into when it was ‘safe’ to gorge and adjusted my fishing times accordingly. Often I would arrive after everyone had left the venue and fish from 2am until just after first light. The results were mind blowing to say the least and unsurprisingly some very big fish fell to simply thinking outside the box.
Making your bait work for you…
Bait is an extremely important aspect of fishing and I am a firm believer of using the very best available. When using baits such as maggots as caters I always visit a reputed match shop, as they often keep their bait in tip-top condition. When it comes to boilies and pellets, I often give them a spruce for a couple of days before going fishing. Don’t get me wrong, the boilies I have been using a more than good enough straight from the bag, however, I am looking for that edge over fellow anglers. In short, I want the fish to eat and search out my bait rather than the anglers that might be fishing nearby. When removing my boilies from the freezer, I have been placing them in a sealed top bag and adding a good dose of Krill Amino compound from CC Moore. After sealing the bag and giving it a good shake, I leave the boilies to soak in the goodness for several days. This gives the bait enough time to fully absorb the goodness, giving it an extra ‘kick’. This has the added bonus of giving a continual leak off, which is especially important if the bait might remain untouched for several hours. There are some great liquid additives available on the market, use them to your advantage.
Think about your fishing and don’t be afraid to do something different from the crowd. Often it will pay dividends. Good luck next time you are out on the bank and most of all enjoy!