With the river season fast approaching, my thoughts have turned to the myriad options and challenges which running water offers. During the Summer months, I enjoy nothing more than finishing work and heading off for an evenings fishing. I love Summer lure fishing, but I also enjoy sitting behind a couple of barbel rods, knowing that any minute I could connect with a bronze torpedo! This joint Summer passion left me with a bit of a conundrum – do I spend these short sessions fishing for perch & pike, or barbel & chub? After a bit of thought, I realised I didn’t have to make that choice – if I refine my tackle I can carry enough with me to fish for both!
My general plan is to lure fish until it is almost dark, then swap methods altogether and cast out some leger/feeder rigs for the first couple of hours’ darkness. This allows me to make the most of the key feeding times for both predators and barbel! My tackle for such sessions consists of a 2-piece spinning rod with front-drag reel loaded with 50lb braid, and a handful of proven lures. I wear a fly-fishing waistcoat which holds my camera, scales, forceps, lures and headlamp. It also has a loop on the back, where I clip-on my collapsible, flip-out landing net. I wear thigh waders, which gives me a couple of advantages; I can wade across the river to cast a lure to a hard-to-reach feature, or wade in to steer a hard-fighting barbel away from a near-bank snag. I carry my two rigged-up barbel rods in a lightweight Chub “Triple-S Rod Sleeve”, which also holds my banksticks and if necessary, a small umbrella. I then carry a collapsible bait bucket which holds my loosefeed, hookbaits, PVA bags, baiting needle and some spare terminal tackle. I have no trouble walking with this tackle for a mile or so if need be; which makes it ideal for roving with the lure rod. If I find a likely-looking swim, I simply place down the rod sleeve and bait bucket and start casting a lure!
Generally, the last swim I lure fish is the swim I intend to fish for barbel later. You may think that casting a lure through a barbel swim is a sure-fire way of spooking every fish in there! This is what I also expected, but in practice, I haven’t found it to be the case. I have landed barbel and chub from the same swim as pike and perch, within 20 minutes of packing away the lure rod! Fishing with this kind of approach gives you that extra flexibility, and the chance of landing good fish of various species in the same session. Chances are, one method will outfish the other on any given night, but I have had sessions where both spinning and legering have produced me memorable fish.
A way to boost your chances of catching a barbel is to pre-bait a couple of swims as you rove around with the lure rod. A few handfuls of pellets or groundbait here and there could pay you dividends when you return to the swim later on, set up for barbel.
Pack light and adjust your set-up until you feel comfortable carrying it some distance. The fly fishing waistcoat, folding landing net and the triple rod sleeve have all helped me tremendously in being able to “double-up” my tackle and still be able to walk with it! Give it a try between June and August, while the evenings are long enough to make the lure fishing part worthwhile. You’ll have plenty of fun and hopefully a fish or two to boot!
“These two photographs show a near-2lb perch caught on a heavy spinner and a 7lb barbel, caught from the same swim on the same night, within an hour of each other.”