Barbie doll part 4!

After all the success of the close season with feeder maggots I was keen to try out the Barbies on the Trent, so June 16 saw me fishing a favourite swim. The trouble was it was very hot, the river very low, and bites were hard to come by. A couple of 3oz roach fell to live maggots, then a change to a Barbie gave me a nice dace and a 1lb chub. Back in a different swim on June 18 , I faced pouring rain. Still, it gave me a few more bites, and the Barbies scored with a bream of 2½lbs, two 1lb perch, a 6oz roach and a skimmer – making five different species to the artificials in the first two trips. However, the rest of the month was a struggle on the feeder in the low water and hot weather conditions, with catches well down on normal. Float fishing was useless; small perch came non-stop so I gave up on it for the time being.

My first July trip was to the upper Trent, on a much smaller and faster stretch of the river. Although I made a good catch of mixed silver fish and baby barbel on the feeder, this time the Barbies didn’t work: just one dace came to the bait. Yet Steve some miles downstream made a good catch of roach on the Barbies, mainly fish between 8oz and 14oz. So I tried a Red Fleuro artificial and first cast had it ripped off the hook with a violent bite, but no more takes followed. I feel that I need to experiment more with hook lengths – longer ones of eighteen inch plus seemed to work better on this day.

The big breakthrough came on July 5 on my local patch. The river was up nearly a foot after heavy rain, and still rising. My helicopter feeder rig, fished upstream, brought bites to live maggots immediately, using a cheese flavour: skimmers, silver bream, roach and perch. A swap to Barbies started to bring a few better fish, a roach of 12oz, a silver bream of a pound, and a perch close to 2lbs which fell off at the net. I tried a Red Fleuro for a change, and this prompted some really first bites; so fierce that the only two artificial reds I had with me were torn off the hooks: as had happened on the upper river.

However, the Barbies were really doing the business helped by a Polony groundbait and hemp. I filled the Drennan flat maggot feeder with one part groundbait, one part hemp, and one part cheese flavoured maggots. I also dipped the Barbie in the flavour bottle before each cast, and from then on the bites came so quickly I could scarcely put the rod on the rest before the bait was taken. I ended the session having caught so many fish I’d lost count, but I still made a mental note to take plenty of Red Fleuro’s next time, as well as the Barbies.

Over the next couple of trips, as the river dropped back again, catches slowed. Far more dace started showing, including a nice one of 9oz. By now both Steve and I had started to use pellet filled feeders with banded 8ml pellets as hook bait. This produces the bigger Trent roach, 1lb plus, and we are always hoping for a 2lb fish. As an experiment during one of these pellet rips I tried a single Barbie hookbait with no maggots at all being fed into the swim. I immediately hooked a good fish which felt like a sizeable chub, but it came off. I told Steve about it, he tried a single Barbie, and caught a 1lb perch and a big gudgeon – yet another species to fall to the artificials. For the rest of July we concentrated on the pellet feeder approach; maggots went on the back burner.

In early August Steve tried a swim on the Derbyshire Derwent and caught small perch, a small chub, a good dace, and an 8lb bream; all on a small dendrobaena tipped with a Barbie. This approach on a river needs looking into further.

By the middle of August the low Trent levels had brought low catch levels, so I made a return visit to my number two pit, which I hadn’t visited since the close season. My approach was the double hook bolt feeder rig, starting off with live Peach flavoured maggots as bait. Bites came instantly but they were all small roach in the 4 or 5oz range. I put a Barbie on one hook and caught a 1½lb perch within minutes. I then swapped to a Red Fleuro on the other hook, and immediately had a 2lb perch on it. I stayed with the two hook artificial maggots presentation until I left at dusk, and the change in the size of fish caught was remarkable. The roach were now running at 6oz to 1lb, I had two ½lb skimmers, five perch in the 1½lb range, and another at 2lbs. No small roach came to the fleuro’s, but came every cast to live maggots.

From there on my approach centred on the on the pellet feeder on the Trent until the water went colder, at which time Steve and I switched to our winter barbel campaign. However, we had proved conclusively that artificial maggots work for most of the Trent species. I would have liked to do more with the stickfloat, but my feeling is that the swims would have to be built up first using live maggots, as often happened on the stillwaters. Unfortunately, record low Trent levels and the hot weather meant I never really managed any good trotting sessions throughout the summer.

So, this will be continued.

Note: I’ve recently read about a 7½lb chub from the Severn on 3 rubber sinking maggots, feeder fished. No colour mentioned, but this is an exceptional specimen – to artificial maggots.