Catch More Barbel – Rob Young

Bait-Tech’s Rob Young is highly regarded as one of the finest running water specimen anglers, with some incredible captures under his belt from multiple venues. In this article Rob shares some of his edges on catching more and bigger Barbel from low stocked venues…

I’ve been fishing for over fifty years now and I still love every moment of it. The blanks, walking back to the car in the mud and rain, these are the memorable moments and of course not forgetting the monster fish I’ve occasionally caught. I mainly fish for barbel in two low stocked rivers near to where I live.

I’ve been using Poloni boilies since 2015 and all the fish in this article were caught on Bait-Tech products including my Barbel PB at 17.03, which was caught on a 14mm Poloni Dumbell in 2018. I changed baits last year for a few months to another bait company mainly to avoid certain repeat captures as the fish would not leave my Poloni bait alone. I stopped using this bait at the end of February 2019 and went back to Bait-Tech Poloni to end the season. So there you go honesty is always my policy. So that puts that straight, now lets get down to business. I keep a record of all my catches and always get a good witness to help me weigh the fish and take the best possible pictures in sometimes very testing conditions.

                                                                       Rob’s current PB of 17lb 3oz!

Like most people I have a full time job, so when my day starts I’m like a well-oiled machine. I have my routine, thus in the morning before work I load my fishing tackle in the car and make extra sandwiches for down the river after work.  On occasional mornings the last thing I feel like doing is fishing, but I know by 16.45pm I will be up for it and will regret not loading the car, so pushing myself is a must. It is a 40-minute drive from work to the river and in the winter I need to go straight from work as it gets dark early and I will be sat in traffic if I leave it late.

I try to keep my carrying load as light as possible. Tackle wise I keep my tackle very light, well as light as I dare with such powerful fish; its important things are well balanced. I rarely use more than one rod, normally a 1.8 Test curve rod with 10lb main line and a light fixed spool reel with a good soft line clip. I’ve stopped using bait runner reels, I prefer to just loosen the clutch, less to worry about when I hit into a hard fighting Barbel under the rod top.

I try my best to stay away from other anglers to avoid any angling pressure; my general rule is if I see another angler I’ll walk in the opposite direction. On the weekends, I will try and get down the river mid-afternoon and walk the banks, looking for fish or signs of fish. For instance, any clean gravel patches that I think may have been cleaned and turned over by Barbel, looking under the margin shelf and under all the nettle beds covering the margins, the more unfishable the better. I look for anything that gives the fish cover, as this is where they will be or where they slip into at night.

Most of the Barbel I catch had come from around a foot or so from the bank, so I’m not looking far out. I will place a few baits in the areas I fancy and keep popping back to see what turns up. On one occasion during the summer I observed that in a spot where the gravel or sand was so fine, that I could actually see where the fish had taken the bait. I had put bait out in two foot of water and returning two hours later the bait was all gone. With a closer inspection I could see where the bait had been sucked out the sand and even the marks in the sand where the fishes barbs had rubbed and left a mark.

When I find these spots where the gravel has been turned over I will slowly start baiting them up. When I return to fish these shallow or deep spots I make a point of trying not to look into the water at first, staying well clear of the water, keeping all my tackle and myself a good distance from the river as I don’t want to disturb the swim before I even start. Stealth is key.

I cannot stress how important it is to keep any disturbance down to a minimum. I set my rod up, getting bank sticks and rigs ready with bait on and mesh bag attached and then when I’m ready, I slowly move in to position. The first thing I do is clear the fish out the way, I do this by dropping four bollies or pellets one at a time in the spot where the fish are, this is something I learnt on the Dorset Stour. This four-bait disturbance is often just enough to move the fish long enough for me to get a baited rig in position, without totally spooking them. Use no more than four as they may not return or may take along time to do so. This is a tried and tested trick of mine and I use it on every recast. I use rock hard baits on the hair to try and keep the minnows and crayfish at bay, There’s nothing more frustrating than winding in after no action and finding your hook bait missing. I use soft baits as free offerings so they can easily break down if I do over feed, but I recast every hour using the four-boilie trick even in the dark, as you never know what’s sat on that little bit of gravel in front of you.

I always fish with my rod tip as low as possible; I don’t see any point in sky-high rods when I’m fishing so close in, other than spooking the fish. If I was fishing the far bank then maybe a high rod, but I rarely fish more than a few yards these days. Keeping the rods low also helps to avoid the dead weed drifting down across much of river. The debris can run down the main line and ruin rig presentation. If needed, to try and combat this, I put two float stops four foot up my main line, which helps to trap rubbish away from the rig. Additionally, I incorporate two methods using a back lead. A flying pin down lead on the main line. I use this at very short range when I’m fishing over reeds, or awkward swims that are too awkward to be able to clip a back lead on without it catching on nettle beds and reeds and such like in the dark.

Also, a friend of mine has made me some back leads with a bigger ring on the end; I clip on the line and then push it over the actual rod tip. Then I can manoeuvre and actually drop it off the rod tip and slide it into position preferable on some gravel in front of me. This is something that works very well in the dark, as I don’t want a back lead stuck in the weed, this allows the back lead to run free when I hit in to a fish.

As most of my fishing is done in the dark, it is important to fish properly at this prime time with as little use of a torch as possible. I’ve noticed most other anglers find it hard to get the perfect cast after dark and therefore avoid casting or making too many casts or flashing a head torch about. I want my casts (under arm swings) to be perfect every time, as can be fishing on tiny gravel patches mid-river in and around weed-beds. Constantly using fresh bait in a mesh bag attached gives me a massive advantage, before every recast clearing the swim with the four bait “plop”. I have a note pad with every spot I bait up and yardages recorded, so I can clip the line on the reel clip after running the line out between two sticks and by doing this every cast is bang on, day or night. When I first started doing this method my catch rate went though the roof.

This also allows me to drop into a swim in the dark and with one cast land directly on the hot spot with little disturbance. I once dropped into a swim and within 20 minutes I had hooked into a 15.3 Barbel, I’m not going to fish any swim simply for the sake of it.

When you are directly on feeding Barbel, most the time you only get one chance to recast, any extra casting can destroy the swim. The Barbel on my local river are at times near impossible to find and so spooky when you do find them. If they see you first that’s it you won’t see them and they will be long gone.

On every cast, I feel for the drop otherwise I could be well and truly wasting my time. You could be dropping down into weed so make sure the rig and bait hits the spot and then take the line out the clip and loosen the clutch. With everything in position with the rod and myself well back from the river behind or under cover, it’s become the time to wait.

I will bait swims and move into them later, I sometimes use a bait dropper but mainly use maybe six mesh bags loaded with bait. I also prefer to use what I call depth charges. This is a few pints of hemp, one pint of Poloni boilie crumb, half a pint of soaked 2mm pellets, Poloni and Krill & Tuna Oil and then mixed up with a method mix. I use  Krill & Tuna Method Mix and the Sweet Coconut Big Carp Method Mix or the Poloni Big Carp Method Mix.  This is then compressed like concrete and made into balls the size of cricket balls. Winter time I might start with five balls, then more when I’m leaving if I’m planning to come back the next day and I wouldn’t miss the next few evenings as it will kick off big time.

This depth charge method works a real treat in wintertime, far better than putting boilies in, which can often be the kiss of death in wintertime. If I want the balls to drop quicker in deeper water I will put rocks in them, If I depth charge I know I’m going to catch over the next 3 evenings, I only need one bite as I’m fishing for big fish. These balls are so hard they will slowly break down sending oil and crumbs all over the place, filling the gravel with bait that will take some getting out. Also one of my favourite methods is compressing the ground bait mix around the lead I use just a normal lead for this to avoid it sticking to the lead too much, using the same groundbait mix but much softer so it more less breaks down as it hits the bottom, this is a devastating method and a killer in the wintertime.

If I catch a Barbel within the last hour I will re-bait the swim and pack up. It’ s pointless pressuring the swim, as I want the pod of Barbel to stay as long as possible. If I start noticing the bites getting later, I will start leaving 30 minutes earlier and baiting up as I go. After doing this for a few days, maybe longer, I will repeat this packing up, baiting up process, but leave my rod out and stay the extra 30mins. This can be an effective trick and will often produce the big fish.

Tight Lines

Rob Young 

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