Bitten by the barbel bug

Matt Rand

4th December 2014

Shimano’s media man Matt Rand doesn’t have a great deal of barbel fishing on his doorstep living in the Cambridgeshire Fens, and as a consequence very rarely targets them. It wasn’t until a few of his friends showed an interest in catching their ‘firsts’ however, that he decided to dedicate a little bit of time too them. Matt takes up the story…

Before this year I could easily count on one hand how many days I had spent on the bank targeting barbel. They have never been a species I have been willing to travel for, but after some of my close fishing companions expressed some interest in catching them, a session to the Wye was penciled in.

The Wye seemed the obvious choice for not only a few fish, but also to spend some time in peaceful, idyllic surroundings. With two days fishing ahead of us, we made the decision to pitch up at a riverside campsite that would give us easy access to the river.

Ben Greenhill with his first barbel

Ben Greenhill with his first barbel

This session was all about catching a first barbel for my four friends, even though with so many of us it was always going to be a possibility that we’d be battling between ourselves for swims. On arrival to the campsite we were greeted by an extremely swollen river Wye, in fact this was the first time I had ever witnessed the river in flood! It looked incredible roaring through at a serious pace and with the extra water appeared twice as wide as I remembered.

Not only was the river rapidly rising, but there also turned out to be a match on the section where we were planning to start. This meant that we needed to head back out of the campsite and locate some other water slightly further upstream. As we were on a social, we decided to not take the fishing quite as seriously as normal and all fished in close proximity.

Ali Edgar's biggest from the Wye at a little over 7lb

Ali Edgar's biggest from the Wye at a little over 7lb

The first day went by without much luck other than a chub to friend Mike, but we did realise this may happen after being forced to target a stretch we were totally unfamiliar with. Day two was upon us and this time we took the time out in the morning to visit Woody’s Tackle Shop in Hereford. If there is one thing I’ve learnt in my few sessions to the Wye, if Woody draws you a map you are bound to catch a few fish! After stocking up on a few larger feeders and leads, we were soon following Woody’s hand drawn map to the days stretch.

The day really couldn’t have started any better, as young Ben Greenhill soon latched into a barbel of around 4lb. This was then followed by friend Ali hooking into his first barbel – all 1lb of it! Even though Ben’s swim wasn’t to produce anymore that day, Ali who was sitting and casting no more than 4-yards apart with identical tactics proceeded to catch a further five fish up to 7lb 6oz.

Ben's dad Mike managed the biggest of the Wye trip at 8lb 8oz

Ben's dad Mike managed the biggest of the Wye trip at 8lb 8oz

Meanwhile, after a few swim changes Mike managed to slip the net under three cracking barbel to a best of 8lb 8oz. With the extra water and chocolate brown colour of the river, we all chose to fish larger smellie baits, with 15mm Dynamite Crave boilies wrapped in matching paste proving the most successful hookbait. Unfortunately however, try as we might, getting my last friend Rob Winkworth his first barbel proved mission impossible and aside from a few chub too my rods, our swims failed to produce any barbel.

Back home I was pleased for everyone who had caught their firsts, but I was gutted for Rob who unfortunately didn’t managed to land his first barbel. The decision was then made to have another crack at catching him one and we decided on a trip to the Tidal Trent.

A trip to the Tidal Trent saw Rob latch into his first ever barbel

A trip to the Tidal Trent saw Rob latch into his first ever barbel

This session was to be a success and even though it started with a token bream to my rods, luckily the second fish to grace our nets was a cracking 6lb plus barbel to Rob’s rod – mission accomplished! With his first ever barbel now in the bag, I really fancied latching into one myself and after a swim move it didn’t take long for my X-Aero Baitrunner spool to start spinning at an alarming rate! The fish I had hooked fought deep and it wasn’t until it appeared in the shallow margins that I thought I might stand a chance of beating my 10lb 6oz PB. In the net and up on the scales it wasn’t to be however, but at a pellet under 10lb it was still my second largest barbel to date. Rather than sticking to the boilie approach that produced for everyone on the Wye, Dynamite Baits Robin Red Pellets in 8mm did the damage on this occasion.

That was the end of that barbel session and the start of what can only be described as a bit of a fascination of the Tidal Trent. This large powerful river ticks all the boxes for me – quiet, testing and relatively unknown. It won’t be long before I’m back!

After everyone had landed their first barbel I was then rewarded with this near double

After everyone had landed their first barbel I was then rewarded with this near double