Well OK, they have not so much ‘gone’ on my local rivers but they are certainly not where they should be and the anglers who have been catching well during the first couple of months of the season have not always been those you might expect. Indeed if you were a complete barbel novice I reckon, on the smaller venues at least, you may have be able to hold your own against the more experienced barbel anglers.

I’m not alone in holding this view, a recent conversation with barbel Society stalwart Steve Pope showed me that he was thinking along essentially similar lines, having struggled to catch consistently on the beat of the River Kennet he fishes (no such problem for him on the Wye or Severn where he is caning them!)

The problem on the smaller rivers is, I think, almost certainly down to the unseasonable weather we have experienced for much of the ‘summer’ months.

Summer flooding is no bad thing, especially if, as recently, we have not experienced any winter flooding. It scours the gravel clean of deposited silt, clears accumulated weed and debris and generally breathes new life back into the water. On top of that we certainly needed the groundwater to be re-charged in my part of the world.

However, flooding and cool temperatures are not the norm for the start of the season and I’m sure it threw the fish as much as the anglers and I know from a couple of barbel populations I tend to just watch, rather than fish for, that their behaviour has been decidedly unusual in that they were late leaving their spawning areas and – although coloured water has made it tricky to keep tabs on them – even now they have not properly settled back into their usual holding summer spots. Given the length of daylight is dropping off and the temperatures will soon be falling away, I doubt they will either.

The consequence of this, on some river sections at least, has been many of the noted summer barbel swims being largely devoid of fish and decent fish turning up in areas which don’t normally produce well.

The scenario of the experienced barbel angler blanking in a ‘banker’ swim and the novice netting a double from a ‘no-hoper’ has been happening a lot in these parts this season!

Of course a few of the experienced lads have wised up and, like me, they have been largely ignoring the usual spots and trying the odd session in swims they wouldn’t perhaps usually fish. It has certainly produced a lot of fish for me in the past couple of weeks after a relatively lean spell so, wherever you fish, perhaps it’s worth thinking outside the box and trying something – or rather somewhere – a little different before winter proper sets in.