Floodwater barbel fishing on the lower Severn (barbel article and video, entry 275)

In spite of barbel becoming extremely popular in recent years, there are still many anglers who view a flooded river as a definite no-go and a waste of time. Articles about the species are more numerous than ever before, and no barbel angling journalist is going to write too many words without mentioning floodwater fishing sooner rather than later. So it is surprising that you still encounter fellow fishermen who pass comments about the rivers being high and switching to canals and pools instead. And if that’s you, let me encourage you via this article to at least consider the option of tackling a river in flood.


Choose your swim carefully

I think one of the factors that deters anglers from rivers that are carrying extra water is the assumption that it will be a waste of time. Well if you are considering casting a small stick float into the middle of a River Severn twelve feet up and racing through, then I agree, you may as well try an alternative venue. The first thing that you have to do is to choose your swim carefully. On the stretch of the lower Severn I fish regularly, I have walked the bank at low water and noted what lies at the water’s edge, and what swims will be good when in flood.

That way, once the river is up you know which swims to fish – and which to avoid. On my visit this week, as the river was right at the rim, I set up in a peg that is ideal for such conditions. With a large English oak tree just upstream keeping the currrent away from the nearside bank, and the peg on a slight bend, I knew that no matter what the flow may bring with it I would be able to present a couple of baits securely on the bottom and not have to worry about leaves, debris and the like.




Sunrise over the lower Severn

Look away now

If you’re a barbel purist, then as they say on the BBC news just before Match Of The Day, look away now. Doing a two-night session I had brought my bivvie and was fishing with the rods in bite alarms. So none of the ‘I sat there poised on my chair braving the cold with the line held between my fingers’ for me. Instead I was stretched out on a bedchair with a Trakker Big Snooze to wrap around me. That’s a sleeping bag by the way just in case you were wondering. And if your blood is boiling right now I won’t mention the bait runner reels, bolt rigs and hair rigged boilies. As for my pillow…


Tip of the week

If you have never fished a flooded river then consider doing so. Ideally the first time go with someone who is experienced and will show you the ropes.

The rewards can be great.

But one thing that you have to bear in mind when considering the above is that when you’re on the lower Severn it’s a hard slog. The fish are very often few and far between and as long as you are on the rods and the fish aren’t taking you into snags then there isn’t an issue. And if you aren’t breaking any club rules then as far as I am concerned, go ahead and fish that way. And if you’re skeptical about it all do bear in mind that you don’t really sleep as you would when at home in bed. It’s more of a catnap and you are playing a fish the moment you get the signal from the bite alarm. But above all, live and live I say. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but when I’m doing a couple of nights on the lower Severn, that’s how I fish.


Moving home proves to be productive

My first night though was fishless. No leaves or debris, but no barbel either. But I fancied another swim that I have never fished before, so come morning, with the river having fallen, I carried my Trakker Armo (that’s a bivvie by the way just in case you were wondering) 100 metres along the bank. I then returned for the rods, finally driving the third leg of the journey with everything else in the car. The move proved to be the right one as I caught a small chub and a barbel. The latter wasn’t that big, but at least it was a fish.

The lower Severn is fickle at the best of times. I have been barbel fishing there for some years now and to say it’s unpredictable is an understatement, which is why I’m sure we always refer to her in the feminine gender. And this stretch, which I have now been fishing for three seasons, is the peak of the pyramid as far as hard is concerned. But like most specimen anglers I like the challenge. And as it’s about time a real biggie came out of the river below Worcester, then I’d like it to come out to me if possible.



The only barbel of the session


Doing a Mary Poppins

It was an unusual session in that there was not a single drop of rain that fell from the sky. However what the weather lacked in precipitation it more than made up for with wind. With open fields, if the wind is coming in the ‘wrong’ direction (as indeed it was) then you feel that at any moment you could be doing a Mary Poppins. But when I researched for a bivvie, that I was in the market for a year ago, one of the pluses that stood out for me with the Armo was that it could stand up to severe gales. So although the wind drove in powerfully, not once did I feel anything other than totally secure. Once or twice in the past, even with my Fox Evolution pinned low to the ground, on the lower Severn I have been seriously concerned that everything might become airborne.




Click on the icon for this week’s video clip


The week ahead

The river Severn will be back down to something approaching normal level this week. But that isn’t going to deter me and I will be back for another barbel visit. It will be different fishing from this week, but hopefully will still produce a fish – or two.

(Originally published October 2008)

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