The Prince Of The River

I think everyone who’s been fortunate enough to have been graced by one of these beautiful fish can relate to the fact that the barbel is the most majestic fish on the river ‘bucket list’. I remember in my early twenties making it my mission at least once in each season to make a trip with Gregg Owen and Kevin Vickers down to the River Severn at Bridgenorth for a barbel bonanza.

At that time this particular area was the Mecca for barbel fishing and in all honesty I don’t think anything can compare to the experience of catching a barbel, from the anticipation of a bite to the rod nearly being dragged in, to an unbelievable fight and then to be graced by what I believe is the holy grail of river fish.

As with all venues I always find it interesting how evolution has reshaped certain waters, and now barbel are in abundance a lot closer to home now on the mighty River Trent. Plenty of matches are now being won with them and they can be caught from a lot of pegs as they have spread along the river. In a way there’s a stigma attached with barbel that you need specific tackle to target these unique fish, but like with all disciplines and approaches, from a match angling point of view it’s all about getting the balance right.

In abundance or not, these are without doubt the most elusive fish to tame, as especially as they get older they’re so susceptible to light, and as a result trying to target them in match conditions makes them even more challenging. That to me is why I love this style of fishing.

Although I haven’t reached that crossover point yet of getting ‘bivvied up and night fishing for barbel, I still find it extremely challenging to try and target this species during normal daylight hours and of course that’s exactly what we need to do as match anglers.

To show my thought process behind how I target these beautiful fish on a match style approach, I met up with Dave Wesson on the tidal Trent. Now in my belief ‘location’ for this feature is the lesser part of the story, as without doubt it’s the actual approach that makes a huge difference to whether or not you manage to trigger these fish into feeding during the day, because more often than not they’re reluctant to feed until the light drops, unless there’s colour in the river. As with all fishing, staying in tune with nature is paramount, you need to feel part of it, and especially with river barbel keeping up to date with the weather and river levels is crucial if you’re going to reap the rewards.