From one extreme to the other (barbel fishing article and video, entry 375)


The biggest problem that I face in my angling is what to fish for – and that bar is raised even further when it’s not just the species that I have to juggle but the venue. When people say they wish that there were eight days in a week, multiply that emotion a few times and that in a nutshell is me and my fishing. It’s one of the reasons why I fish alone, with so many permutations and options I often change my mind several times until I settle on a final destination. And this article leads us to the lower Severn. Below Worcester is a term synonymous with the challenge of big barbel – well relatively so as the river seems to have fallen behind so many others in recent years in terms of weights. But I love that section of Sabrina and it has always held a special attraction for me.


Looking through some of my old notes before I left home I realised that almost eight years to the day I caught a barbel of 13lb 11oz from the section I was going to fish. But of course in the meantime, the floods will have taken their toll so although the peg may look the same, beneath the surface it will be a totally different one. And that’s why, as soon as I arrived at my swim, I cast a lead around to get an idea of where the snags were, if any. It’s no good casting out and spending the night with your hook bait lost because it’s embedded in a dense tree root system. The lower Severn is hard enough as it is without making it any more difficult. The first thing I noticed though was how low the river was. That far down it will never be clear and shallow but it was down several feet on what you normally get.


After casting around for a while it was time to put the bait out. Pigeon conditioner seeds, hemp seeds and brown crumb as the carrier. The hook bait of a 14mm SBS lobworm boilie was enclosed in a PVA bag containing pellets and a few boilies as free offerings and then promptly cast out. Thus began the waiting game, which is what lower Severn barbel fishing is all about. I did have a screaming run just into dark but almost at the net the chub gained its freedom without having to go through me first. There were some large crashes as darkness descended over south Worcestershire but it was well in the early hours when the one and only fish was banked. This was also a chub. Not a big one, but at least I wasn’t a blanker and that’s always something to be thankful for.


Following my session on the Severn I then decided to make a number of short-into-darkness trips to a waterway that was just about the opposite, in the sense that if I was limited to just two words to describe it, then I would choose ‘shallow’and ‘narrow’. You could fit it many, many times into the lower Severn, hence the title of this week’s article as I was literally going from one extreme to another. On the first of the outings I made I blanked for the first time in five on the river. Although the barbel had proved to be very elusive, the chub at least kept the blanking monster at bay. I did have a few plucks but my net remained as dry as it was when I left as when I arrived.

However, that was not the case on the second trip as not only did I catch but I avoided a blank big-style by landing my first barbel from the river (see photograph below right). I’ve had plenty bigger – much bigger – but in terms of personal satisfaction, the only barbel that have come close have been the ones I’ve caught from the River Sow. And that sums up my angling in a nutshell, it’s not about quantity but quality. I thrive on a challenge and when you accomplish what you set out to do it doesn’t half give a sense of achievement! I did actually time my session just right as heavy rain the day before had not only given the river a welcome flush but had also added some colour.

Setting up late in the evening I was watching several common pipistrelle bats right in front of me when I noticed a noctule bat across the river in flight. As a keen naturalist I always have one eye on what’s going on around me. But when barbel fishing you also need to keep the other on the rod and watch what’s going on there. So when I had a savage take just into dark I not only knew what was on the other end, but I was also into it immediately. Dropping down the bank to net the fish, I think you need to be an angler from the same mould to fully appreciate how I felt. I was absolutely ecstatic!


The image on the left is of the set-up that saw me achieve my target of a barbel from the new river I am fishing. The hooklength is Drennan Double Strength and the hook is a Drennan Boilie size 6. The boilie(it’s a pellet shaped boilie) is SBS Undercover and you can listen to Des Taylor talking about that very bait on the video trailer for this article that you can check out via my YouTube site.



I had no more fish but with the river still rising when I left, I knew that it was very much approaching ideal conditions. So with that in mind, no guesses where I was going to spend the following evening! I was still on a high as I made my way to the river. However that wasn’t reflected in the condition of the river as it has dropped back down again to low and clear and I was back to counting the pebbles on the bed! Yes it is that bad. I had a few chub plucks but nothing to show for my labours. I did think that I had a barbel though on my final visit to the river for the article. The rod wrenched out of the rest and I struck into what I would never have said was a 1lb chub. But that’s what it was. At least it avoided the blank though. One barbel in eight visits, you really do need to be out of my mould to understand why I get excited about that!

And finally, I am often asked about barbel fishing on the lower Severn. Without doubt if it’s day-time fishing you are after then in terms of quantity of venues, the BAA take some beating. But if you want somewhere where you can night fish without the hassle of obtaining specific tickets (and then only on selected venues) in addition to your club card, then look no further. Kinver Freeliners have water on the lower reaches of the river and with a half-price reduction on membership from October, now is the time to seriously consider this option if you’re looking for somewhere to barbel fish below Worcester. The link to their website is on my home page. Contact Steve Williams: he’s your man and he is very helpful and approachable. (Article published September 11 2010)


Click above for the trailer video for this article (42 on the list)

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