Sunday, 1 January 2012

Barbel Clinic

  "Barbus Barbus"

Hello and welcome to barbel clinic please feel free to contribute or indeed ask any questions relating to barbel or river fishing in general. I will endeavour to answer or comment on every point raised but I am by no means the 'font of all knowledge' on this subject, in fact at this point in time it has been less than three months since I hooked into my first barbel but...

you never forget your first barbel 3lb 8oz River Dane 18th June 2011..."thanks Billl you're a gent"

If you are one of those anglers who are blessed (some might say afflicted) with the sometimes "frustrating" path of specimen angling then you'll agree barbel fishing is "funny ole game" and as Forest Gump once said;

"barbel fishing is like a box of never know what you're goin' ta get"

This post aims to discuss all things related to fishing for the magnificent species "Barbus barbus, the barbel native to Britain is known simply as the barbel and is a popular sport fish." (1) taken from Wikipedia

I've also quoted the introduction to the Wikipedia definition;

"Barbels are group of small carp-like freshwater fish, almost all of the genus Barbus. They are usually found in gravel and rocky-bottomed slow-flowing waters with high dissolved oxygen content. A typical adult barbel will range from 25 to 100 cm in length and weigh anywhere between 200 g and 10 kg, although weights of 200 g are more common. Babies weigh 100-150 g.

Barbel roe is poisonous and causes vomiting and diarrhoea in some people.

The name barbel derived from the Latin barba, meaning beard, a reference to the two pairs of barbs — a longer pair pointing forwards and slightly down positioned — on the side of the mouth.

Fish described as barbels by English-speaking people may not be known as barbels in their native country, although the root of the word may be similar. For instance, the Mediterranean barbel, Barbus meridionalis is known as barbeau méridional or barbeau truité in France, but also as drogan, durgan, tourgan, turquan and truitat."

I hope you enjoy this post and can find the time to read it through or contribute,

Tight lines,


14th October 2011

Lets start with a contribution from "Sir Cliff" a long standing member of Lymm Anglers and an accomplished barbel angler.

"Sir Cliff" admires a magnificent river Severn Atcham barbel...

Cliff has posted the following on the LAC forum on 5th September 2011 in response to questions raised at the September LAC Barbel Fish-In;

"What are the right conditions for barbel fishing on the middle river Severn?"

The single most important aspect to success when fishing for barbel on the River Severn is the condition of the river. When conditions are favourable, fishing is easy but when they are not catching barbel can be nigh on impossible.

At the two fish-ins this year we have been unlucky enough to encounter extremely poor river conditions for two very different reasons...

Cold Water Releases
At the first fish-in in July the river levels were reasonable and on first glance confidence was high that quite a few fish would be landed. However, even though there had been no significant rain the preceding days the river rose slowly throughout the day. Significantly, the river did not change colour throughout this rise. I realised that we experiencing something that I had often read about but not come across previously and this was the effects of a release of water from a dam named Llyn Clywedog in mid Wales.

The dam was built between 1965-67 to regulate the flow of water in the Severn, both as a protection against flooding of the upper sections of the river during the winter months and also to ensure the maintenance of a minimum flow in the river during the summer. Hence, every now and then during the summer months water is released into the Severn system. This water comes from the bottom of the dam and is therefore usually much colder than the water in the Severn. The sudden drop in temperature switches the fish off the feed instantly.

Apparently there is a telephone number that you can dial to find out whether water has recently been released but I don't have this number just yet, having never needed it previously. I'll certainly find it out now for my future summer barbel fishing sessions!

Low and Clear River
At the second fish-in last Saturday, I took one look at the river and thought "oh my God, they've got no chance". The river was lower than I had ever seen it to the extent that large amounts of Canadian Pond Weed had formed in several swims. At one point during the day I went wading with just my wellies on!

Leading up to the event I had checked reports from around the area and the news was glum with very few fish being landed. However, one of the anglers who took part in the fish-in said he had been for an evening session there on the preceding Tuesday and between him and his father they landed six barbel between them. So, maybe there was hope after all? Wrong! The fishing was simply dreadful with the results being the worst of any of the fish-ins over the last 6/7 years. Just 5 barbel and a chub were caught across 30+ anglers.

Getting Info on Water Levels
So, why were the fish feeding on Tuesday but not on Saturday? A quick check on the River Levels Wales website when I got home revealed that there had been a slight rise in levels on Tuesday. This was caused by a number of heavy storms over the preceding Bank Holiday weekend and the extra water, although small, had resulted in an instant feeding binge from the barbel. The illustration below is from the River Levels Wales site and shows the rise that took place on Tuesday:

One of the really good things about the River Levels Wales site is that is shows the levels from high upstream on the Severn right through to the Worcester area. By looking at what the levels are like upstream you can assess what is going to happen in the Atcham area 24/36 hours later. For example, if the river at Montford Bridge has risen to 3ft above normal level you can expect the level at Atcham to rise by around 1ft some 24 hours later.

Even if you don't intend going fishing it's worthwhile studying the levels during the Autumn and Winter months to see what effect rises that occur upstream have further downstream and how long this takes. Armed with this information when you do go fishing you will know exactly what to expect when you get there and, more importantly, whether or not the barbel are likely to be on the feed.

The monitoring stations on the Severn are listed below, starting from the upmost point and working downstream:

1. Caersws
2. Montford (just upstream from our stretch at Rossall)
3. Welsh Bridge (Shrewsbury Town Centre)
4. Bewdley
5. Diglis (near Worcester)

You can get to the he River Levels Wales site by clicking here. You will need to register on this website to get access to the river level data.

The Environment agency do something similar (although in my opinion not as good) and the site can be accessed by clicking here.

To see a live view of the condition of the river at Atcham, click here.

Best Conditions for Catching River Severn Barbel
1. When the river is coloured after a warm weather front has crossed the country.
2. When the river is on the rise after being low for a while.
3. At the peak of a flood.
4. As the colour is starting to drop out of the water after a flood.
5. After several days of frosts followed by heavy rain.

Worst Conditions for Catching River Severn Barbel
1. Very low and clear
2. Snow melt entering the river (kiss of death)
3. Cold water release from the Llyn Clywedog dam.

Best Time of Day for Catching River Severn Barbel
In perfect conditions the barbel will feed throughout the day and fish can be caught quite steadily. However, the best time of all is undoubtedly around two hours before dusk through to an hour after dusk, especially if the river is carrying litttle on no colour. So, if you can, time your visit to coincide with this feeding period.

Most of my best barbel sessions have taken place when I have fished the river after work. I typically arrive at the river for around 6pm and fish through to 10.30pm and would expect to have anthing between 4 and 10 barbel plus the odd chub during this period. Barbel will continue to feed throughout the night and often you will find a quite spell of an hour or so is followed out of the blue by hectic, arm-wrenching action.

Flood Water Conditions
If you arrive at the river to find the level at the top of the banks and ripping through, don't be put off. The barbel will still be feeding heavily, especially if the level has peeked and is starting to drop off. The bigger barbel are often caught in these conditions.

During the summer months you should take a mental note of each swim so that come the floods you will know exactly what is in front of you. Ideally, you are looking for a swim that has a tree upstream of it. The tree will slow the flow down considerably, leaving a slack area in its wake. Fish here! The barbel will use it as a refuge/resting point from the flood. But be prepared to move if you get no action within an hour.

Don't try and cast into the main flow as your feeder/lead will most like like end up snagged in the marginal vegetation as the current pulls it round towards the bank. Heavy feeders (3oz to 5oz) may be required but leads can be quite a bit lighter as they won't get moved so easily by the current.

What's the Best Time to Target a Big Barbel?
1. During a flood
2. Mid September to Mid October and the last three weeks of the river season.

When to Go Next?
There is heavy rain forecast overnight tonight and throughout tomorrow. The weather is also looking unsettled for the next week or so. I'm not going to tell you when you should get out next; just take a look at what I've said above and judge it for yourself.

Tight Lines to All


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Thank you for your comments, tight lines, Bob