Jamie Harrison Match Diary Part One
Fri 07 November 14
Match Barbel – A more refined approach
Going into the third hour of the 2010 Angling Trusts’ Division One National on the river Trent it was obvious that unless something drastically changed I would be returning to the HQ with fewer points than a UK performer at the Eurovision song contest! Then after running a heavy stickfloat through my swim at Fiskerton for the umpteenth time, it buried and when I struck my 13ft match rod was greeted with a split second ‘bump’ and then the line went slack. The hooklength had gone but it happened so quickly that I wasn’t even sure if it had broken on a fish or in my haste of actually seeing the float go under I’d struck too hard into a snag. None the less, my optimistic streak prevailed and I was sure it had been a fish. Fiskerton is known for barbel and at this stage of the match, most of the anglers around me had resorted to fishing for one to try and muster some ‘get out of jail’ points. They were all fishing in the middle of the river with the usual big pellet / meat approach but nobody had even had a sign. I’m sure most of the anglers around me know this stretch much better than I’ll ever know it but in these events I’ve always been a 100% team angler so whilst I decided to try a catch whatever had broken me, I decided to not be too selective in my approach. Rivers like this hold big chub and perch in these faster flowing pegs so I decided to try for a bonus fish using maggots. After all, whatever had broken had done so taking a double maggot hookbait and whilst most people tackled the middle of the river, I tackled the main flow which was right on my stickfloat line 10 metres out. To cut a long story short, by fishing with 3 red maggots on a size 14 Drennan Super Spade hook direct to 6lb Daiwa Sensor I landed an 9lb barbel within 10 minutes and another of 10lb right on the final whistle. For the last 2 ½ hours of the match, almost every angler I could see fished for a barbel and nobody caught one. These fish got me 2nd in the 76 peg section and a 9th overall individual medal and trip onto the podium and to this day I’m convinced it was because of the none-selective and refined approach. Popular areas on these rivers must see barbel getting caught all week long and as they get older they obviously get wiser. It’s been a trend on the tidal Trent for the last 2 years that anglers targeting barbel are having to fish with increasingly longer and longer hooklengths in order to catch them. Last year for example, they were fishing tails of up to 5ft just to get a bite. This year I know that they have been having to fish with tails up to 7ft and whilst I haven’t heard of anglers mentioning it, I’m sure this behaviour will be being repeated in all our rivers up and down the country.
On a small stretch of river close to my home in Sheffield, until recently there have been reports of big barbel being caught but they are getting increasingly more difficult to catch. For this reason, anglers in the matches there very rarely target them as they have become quite illusive and unpredictable. The main baits here are halibut pellets and meat. The general approach being to feed small pellets through a feeder with a larger 12-14mm pellet as hookbait or a large cube of meat. Now whilst barbel on rivers like the Trent wise up year after year, on smaller rivers they must be increasingly wary as there are fewer places to hide! A great approach can be to simply scale down your tackle slightly and fish with smaller baits. This can only be done realistically though if small aren’t a problem and the scaling down of tackle can only be done if the swim is relatively free from snags. We feed certain baits to try and draw and hold fish in the swim so why not use them on the hook as well? An ex-world champion once told me that there’s no point feeding something that you’re not willing to put on the hook!
Watercraft is also important in these situations and on small rivers it’s wise to think about how you approach the swim for the duration of a match. Some swims may only hold one big fish so you need to think how (and where) that fish will be at any stage of the match. During the middle part of the day when the sun is at its highest, the fish are more likely to be close to, or in, any snags or features. Later in the day however, as the light fades they may be more confident in the reduced light levels so they may venture out into the flow or closer to any feed you’ve introduced. One method which works well is to simply fish with a bomb and a single, large hookbait. Start the session fishing into or around any ‘holes’ and features at the top of the swim. Then as the match progresses, work your way down stream until you find where a ‘lump’ may be lurking.
With all the best watercraft and bait at your disposal there’s an essential factor to catching these fish, durable tackle. Tackle and line diameters will often be dictated by the swim but it’s important to use balanced, durable tackle that won’t let you down. The main tackle I use for these situations is usually Guru Drag Line on the reel with N-Gauge hooklengths. These lines are very robust and can withstand plenty of ‘grating’ should a bolting fish drag your rig through or against any underwater obstacles.
There are a lot of river specialists out there who are better river and barbel anglers than me but these are experiences that I’ve found work and have won me both money and medals. One things for sure, in order to gain confidence in your kit and your approach to tackling these match winning fish you’ve got to get out on the bank and try things out. That’s exactly what I’m doing and adding yet another string to my match method armoury.
Until next time!
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