Lewis Porter reflects back on a recent very successful session for barbel that saw him adopt tactics more commonly used when targeting carp…
Don’t worry there isn’t a spelling mistake in the header of this article, it is supposed to say carbel lol. Apparently that is what those ‘in the know’ refer to the style of fishing when carp-based tactics are used to catch barbel. If you are a purist barbel angler you probably are not a fan of this style of angling so I apologise now, but having done it earlier this week I have to say it was immensely good fun!
Above: With a PB pike under my belt, the next target was a barbel...
A Goal Was Set
Back in October I was very fortunate to bank the fish of a life time in the shape of a 31lb 8oz gravel pit pike that was caught on a lure. Buoyed by this achievement my mind began to wonder on what other species I would like to catch over the coming months. The first target that I thought of was a double figure barbel. I had previously caught them to around 7lb but using traditional tactics of super-long hooklinks, feeders and caster hookbaits. I had never had a double and the thought of getting one really did light my fire as Chilly would say. Following s conversation with Mark Pitchers it was apparent that he too had the desire to try and catch a double and so a plan was soon hatched to fish with our friend, and fellow Fox-sponsored angler Wayne ‘barbel’ Glossop. I told Wayne we only had 24-hours to fish and we both wanted a double each (no mean feat) so please arrange for us to fish somewhere on the River Trent that gave us the best possible chance. Being the legend that he is Wayne soon had us pegs booked on the famous Cromwell Weir on the tidal Trent at Collingham.
The River Trent is one of the UK’s most iconic rivers, home to some of the largest fish in the country, with many experts believing the river could well be home to British record species such as chub, zander and of course the barbel. The tidal Trent at Collingham is widely regarded as one of the most prolific areas for big barbel anywhere in the country, in fact it can be that prolific I have even seen some ‘proper’ barbel anglers say that fish caught from this area don’t count! Well that logic just doesn’t make sense to me, and to be honest if the catch shots are in my album they count to me! Having spoken to the bailiff the biggest barbel the weir had done was a specimen of 17lb 4oz, which was a few years previous but the number of double figure barbel is very high and he felt that if we could get a few bites between us then there was every chance that me and Mark could achieve our goal of getting a double apiece.
Lewis The Punisher
Now that is the title I can imagine that Dean Macey has me saved in his phone as such was the punishment I unleashed on him in the run up to my trip. You see, Dean had fished this area quite a few times in the past to great success and had fished it about 10 days before our trip so I was regularly messaging him asking him about tactics and areas to target. Dean, being the absolute gent that he is was very forthcoming with lots of handy advice and one thing that soon became apparent was if I went there using the traditional barbel tactics I had used elsewhere on the Trent before I would be massively under gunned given the time of year and conditions…
As I mentioned at the start the style of fishing we were going to undertake is refered to as carbeling by some. The rods I had with me were my 13ft 3.75lb Horizon X5 carp rods, which were paired with EOS 12000 reels spooled with Tapered Exocet in 15-35lb. Dean had told me I’d need 6oz leads to hold bottom and that I needed to be casting as far into the weir as I could. A quick look on Google Earth suggested that casts of 80-120yds were needed so if I was going to do that with a 6oz Kling-On lead (not the most aerodynamic of designs) and a PVA bag attached then I was going to need my out and out distance casting tackle. Thankfully the barbel’s mouth is such that hookpulls are not a big risk and as such I felt that I could get away with the stiffness of a 3.75lb during the fight. Due to the fast flowing nature of the river it was important to keep as much line as possible out of the water (to reduce drag on the line, which can move the lead) I therefore placed my rods on a Sky Pod, which is perfect for having the tip pointing towards the sky! The pod is also very sturdy, which was also important as I was told the bites could be savage and with the banks being gravel it could be hard work getting long banksticks in etc. The pod then had my trusty RX+ bite alarms coupled with some big MK3 Swingers. I’m all for watching a tip or float but when doing a 24-hour social with mates that was not the one so the trusty technology that serves me so well when carp fishing was the order of the day.
Due to using the Tapered Exocet line I had no need for a leader as my line was 35lb (0.50mm) nearest to the rig so I had plenty of shock absorption for the big cast with a heavy lead, plus plenty of abrasion resistance for the rocks and unseen snags. Onto this line I used an Edges Angled Drop Off Run Rig Kit, which is perfect for fishing running rigs. The hooklink was then around 14ins long, tied from 12lb Illusion Trans Khaki fluorocarbon with a size 8 Stiff Rig Beaked hook attached D Rig style. A Mini Hook Ring Swivel was placed on the D and then a single 15mm Link boilie was mounted onto the swivel and secured in place using the ‘blob’ method. I then wrapped some of the matching Link paste around the hookbait and moulded some more onto both sides of my 6oz Kling On lead for added attraction. Finally a small PVA bag of Elliptical pellets and red maggots was nicked onto the hook. I didn’t plan to introduce any other free offerings, but instead would regularly recast every 30-45 minutes to keep a fresh bit of flavour going into the swim.
Above: The rig that did the business!
Above: Maggots and pellets were used as free feed...Above: ...and were fished inside a small PVA mesh bag
A Dream Come True
About an hour after casting out I received my first bite – the adrenaline rush was incredible and my knees were knocking as I played it. Then with the fish halfway in one of my other rods also rattled off so Wayne took care of that whilst I got the first one, a fish of around 7lb, in the net. I then took the rod off Wayne and played what felt a much bigger fish. The battle was epic and once it went in the net me and Wayne were totally blown away – the width across its back was huge! I said to Wayne “that’s gotta be a double ain’t it mate?” he promptly told me it was way over 10lb! On the scales the impressive beast went 15lb 12oz – myself, Wayne and Mark were all ecstatic we just couldn’t believe how big it was, lady luck was most certainly smiling down on me! Not only had I achieved my target of catching a double, I had actually caught a fish that weighed closer to 20lb than it did 10lb!
Above: On Cloud 9 - 15lb 12oz of dream come to true!
A Session To Remember
Over the remainder of the session I was fortunate to land a further six barbel with no less than another four over the magical 10lb mark including brutes of 13lb 2oz and 14lb 6oz.
Above: This 13lb+ sepcimen came in the hours of darkness
Above: 14lb 6oz of Trent chunk
It truly was a session to remember for me and I even managed to winkle out a near-20 pike on a roach deadbait too!
Above: The weir wasn't only productive for big barbel!
However, what made the session even more memorable was how it panned out for the other guys too. Mark managed to achieve his target of a double in great style too by banking a chunk of 15lb 3oz whilst Wayne also pitched in with a fish over 13lb. For all three of us to catch doubles was amazing but for myself and Mark to both catch fish of 15lb+ really was the stuff of dreams, and made this one of my all-time sessions to remember and once again reinstalled my belief that it is better to be lucky than good…
Above: Unbelievable! Mark also had a 15lb+ specimen!
Above: Wayne's best of the session went 13lb+
Now as I said at the start for many purists the style of fishing and the location would cause them to belittle our results and say they don’t count or are not of merit. Well let me leave you with this closing statement. I went fishing for a night with two great mates, we laughed loads, caught fish that made us cry with happiness and enjoyed being outdoors and in the fresh air. We have photos that we will all look back on for years to come and make us smile and think happy thoughts, if that’s what catching fish that don’t count can do for you then please let me catch some more!
Above: Carbeling on the Trent was certainly a unique experience.