Back to the lower Severn barbel (barbel article, entry 213)

I am thinking of changing my middle name to ‘indecision’, such is the current state of mind I find myself in as far as my angling is concerned. One minute I am going to have a perch campaign, then I decide to fish for zander, only for barbel then to enter the mix. And it was the latter that rose to the top this week, as I headed southbound on the M5 to see if I could catch an elusive lower Severn fish. I say elusive, as that is what they are in the summer on the particular stretch that I headed to. Whilst they are more common from October onwards, they seem to be pretty thin on the ground before then.

 I was there to do an overnighter, and so arriving mid-afternoon I had plenty of time to set up and get myself ready before dusk began to descend. The river itself was at normal summer level, and it was difficult to imagine that just a few weeks earlier this gentle, sluggish waterway was actually a raging torrent that engulfed towns and villages along its banks, showing no mercy in the process. The deposited debris is still there, and I even encountered a water dispenser in one of the nearby rural communities, but apart from that it is back to normal for most of the people now.

 Usually at this time of the year the river is alive during the day with boat traffic. However, it was more like a winter session with just the odd craft showing. One of the consequences of the recent deluge was that a lot of holidaymakers cancelled their bookings. Boats on the lower Severn aren’t the same as when you are fishing the canal though; in fact with twenty feet of water in front of you, it’s hardly an issue at all.

Tackle-wise I used 10lb Sufix Synergy line to 10lb Drennan carp dacron hooklength. Fishing one of my home-made boilies on a hair rig, hook choice was size 4 Drennan boilie hook. This is pretty much my standard stuff for barbel fishing, with the only item that changes regularly being the lead, depending on conditions. I work on the basis that if something is not broken then don’t fix it, and I’ve had some good fish using the above components, so why try something new if they haven’t let me down? I don’t want to give the impression I am inflexible as far as innovation is concerned though, just that I’m not easily led by clever marketing either.


The days are getting shorter now, which is good news for those of us that enjoy our night fishing. At the height of summer it isn’t properly dark until 11.00pm, and within three hours, it is starting to get light again. We’re not quite at the stage where it is pitch black by 4.00pm, but before we realise it, that time of the year will soon be upon us. Of course, with the benefit of extended night-time fishing comes colder weather, so you can’t have it both ways. As anglers we should always be appreciating the moment though and not wishing the days by.


With the Severn being very slow and sluggish, I was able to fish with the baitrunner facility on the reel engaged, with no fear of line being pulled away due to debris or even the general flow. So when I had a screaming run just before midnight I knew that I hadn’t connected with weed or sticks; instead a barbel had picked up the bait and was swimming off downstream faster than an express train. It’s a great feeling when you lift the rod and feel on the other end a feisty fish that will do all it can to evade capture. This particular fish certainly put up an excellent fight, but in due course I was able to slip the net under it.

 It wasn’t a big barbel, but all fish are welcome – and as this proved to be the only one of the session, particularly so in this case. A couple of photographs and the fish was returned back to its watery residence to hopefully put a few pounds on. Whilst we as humans like to watch our weight and shed it whenever possible, we hope for the complete opposite as far as our chosen quarry is concerned. In fact if ever Weight Watchers launched a piscatorial division, we would all be extremely horrified at the prospect!


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