During the past few years the mighty River Trent has become a barbel fishing Mecca. The fish are getting bigger and the populations of this species are well established.
If you are in search of Trent barbel, the tidal probably offer the best chance of all for success, not only with numbers but size. The biggest barbel caught is certainly from the tidal areas which start at Cromwell Weir.
Location Barbel love gravel. That goes without saying. A large percentage of the bed of the River Trent is gravel. But there are also areas of silt and mud. To locate the gravel areas is fairly easy There are other features of the river bed that barbel also love. Dirty great big rocks and there are plenty of them on the Tidal Trent.
Another significant location feature is bends. Although a lot of my fish on quite straight stretches of the river, always be very confident when fishing the outside of a bend. Here the water is fairly deep and you don’t have to cast too far either. If you fish the inside of a bend it often means that you have to cast a fair distance. This is something to avoid. Certainly during the daylight hours, passing craft can cause problems with long casts.
Tackle A sound, through-action 11 to 12 foot barbel rod with a 11/2 to 1/3/4 lb test curve will be found ideal.. Trent barbel are not delicate biters. Try and attach a beta light.
Try to use two rods. The Trent is a big river and casting to two separate areas can help with fish location. When the fish start coming, maybe dispense with one of the rods for obvious reasons.
Any sound reel with a bait runner that will take 200 yards of 12 lb line should be found suitable.
Maxima .line is possibly one of the best lines for barbell of 10lb/ 12lb and nothing less.
For hook lengths 8lb maxima is one of the best or braid.
The only time to use feeders is for maggot or caster fishing. You may have to add the odd ‘Dead Cow’ lead in a fast current.
For leads, you can’t beat the flat ones made by Korda and for really fast currents, a watch lead.
Rigs Most of the time keep a simple rig consisting of a lead stopped by a swivel and a rubber bead. The feeder is attached in a similar way. Then attach a 3 to 4 foot hook length. That’s right – up to 6 feet long. A long hook length prevents the fish being spooked by the reel line, especially when fishing close in with the line entering the water almost vertically at times. For large baits such as meat, pellets and boilies, a size 6 or 8 Drennan Continental Boilie hook does very well. For maggots and casters, a size 10 or 12 Drennan Super Specialist can’t be beaten.
Landing Nets landing net for barbel is a pear-shaped job of 29 inches diameter with a deep fine mesh. They are much easier to wield than a triangular carp net. Your landing net mesh should also be big enough to allow your barbel to recover.. You will need a long landing net handle on the high and rocky Trent banks.
Rod Rests those adjustable rod rests with the hardened screw thread are indispensable on the Trent banks. You can take one of those fancy angled rod pods of course. A buzzer bar and two buzzers screwed to the top complete the equipment.
Tactics and Baits it pays to consult a tide table, not only for the best times to fish but for your own safety. The tides on the lower Trent can be awesome at times. Watch out for the big spring tides which are more common in the September – October period. A 5 metre tide at Dunham Bridge means 5 metres between high and low water! That’s 15 feet so watch it.
If the river drops down to a very low level at this time, it means that a big tide is due. Get well back from the river or you could lose all your tackle. Sometimes the Trent will have a tidal bore, a dramatic wave that can be as high as 1 metre, be very careful indeed if you are fishing at night.
The best time to fish the Tidal Trent is after high tide when the river is running off. If this coincides with evening, and you have some extra water in the river you have the best conditions of all.
Most Trent barbellers use what are called ‘Bait and Wait’ tactics. If you can get to the river at high tide when the river stands still, you can then get a carpet of bait out and it will go straight to the bottom. In the lower Tidal river the current will reverse in flow, but normally little is caught during these conditions.
For feeder fishing you need to try good old white maggot and white maggot on the hook sometimes a white and a red works as well or caster and hemp with caster on the hook and chuck in about every 5 minutes in the same spot.
Pellets, boilies and other items can be fed close to the hook bait via PVA stringers and bags. The mesh bags are especially good for this tactic.
For ground bait these days maybe use a mixture of pellets, crushed up boilies and Nutrabaits Carpet feed. This stuff is excellent for binding the mix. To deposit the bait, try tying on a heavy Method feeder. Mould the bait around it and jerk it off when it hits bottom. An hour spent doing this in your chosen swim will often pay dividends.
Bait droppers by the way are a complete waste of time.
Many baits work well for Trent Barbel. Halibut pellets, luncheon meat and boilies based on fishmeal all have their days. For low clear conditions you still can’t beat maggots or casters. It also pays to have some lobs when you have a flooded river to contend with.
And talking of flooded rivers, these are the best conditions of all. Most anglers will baulk at the sight of the mighty Trent running 8 feet up, the colour of chocolate with the odd tree, dead pig or sheep floating down. There have even been dead horses and cows before today.
During these conditions it pays to know your ground. You must take note of features such as cattle drinks, rocky headlands thistle patches and little bays during low water conditions. When the river is running bank high, this is where the barbel will be, and right under your rod top of course.
In conditions like this it pays to step up your tackle to 15 lbs. A big chunk of luncheon meat is one of the best baits then, and don’t cut it into cubes, tear it off in rough chunks and hair-rig it using two bits of grass crosswise.
The whole of the Tidal Trent from Cromwell to sludgy corner peg 305 contains barbel these days. There are plenty of new swims to be discovered and who knows you just might be lucky enough to contact a new record.