The Severn’s up and looking good (barbel article, entry 481)

It’s always important to consider the conditions prior to a fishing trip. That applies to all species and venues but especially so if it’s barbel you’re after. And even more so if the venue in question is the River Severn.

Fishing for barbel doesn’t have the same flexibility as many other fish; for example their feeding spells from a temperature perspective is different to, say, roach. And as for the Severn, well, say no more. It can be in the fields, trickling over pebbles, the colour of strong tea or gin clear. And all in the space of a week!

The thing is, if you’re targeting barbel on the Severn you don’t just turn up and hope for the best. You monitor the situation beforehand and strike when your chances of success are greatest. And even more so in the winter. But we’re not there yet so it was for some early autumn action I set off on a glorious sunny day.


Baits soaking and ready for action

The river had been up a metre or so and had fallen slightly but was stable. Colour was good, temperature also, so I was more than confident. Fishing with two rods I had an M2 boilie on one and a squiddy Barbel Stix on the other. I had samples, as well as hook baits, soaking prior to the session.

I wasn’t fishing that far out, about one and a half lengths. Just like many sea anglers think they need to cast to the horizon to catch something, river anglers often instinctively put a bait in the middle. In both cases the fish are often closer than we realise.


The first barbel of the session

The hook baits were enclosed in PVA bags with a few freebies and pellets and several goodies thrown out by hand to create a feed area. It was the Barbel Stix upstream rod that took first honours with a small barbel. But the first one isn’t that important in terms of size – it’s just good to get off the mark.

Regardless of whether I catch or not though, I always enjoy every session. And one reason for that is because I see the big picture of the natural world around me. And although they may not be rare birds, there’s just something nice when a flock of mallards get out of the water and set up camp next to you!


Dr Doolittle strikes again

The second barbel, which was to be the biggest of the afternoon, again fell to the squiddy rod. The last few times I’ve fished with two rods it has been the M2 that has out-fished Barbel Stix. It shows that you can’t always read too much into head-to-head encounters.

The third and final fish though took a fancy to the 12mm boilie. It was only a small one, which was a good job really because as I played it the handle on my Daiwa reel snapped. I ended up bringing the fish in by having to turn the spool manually.


The second – and biggest – fish

I contacted Daiwa the next day. I wasn’t after a new reel, just a handle. I ended up having to buy one, which I don’t think was fair really as the product wasn’t up to the job. I never ‘cut my nose off to spite my face’ though so I won’t be doing a Daiwa embargo or anything like that.

But after many years of fishing with Daiwa reels this is the second problem I’ve had in recent times. The other one was also barbel-related as the bale arm ‘folded’ as I was playing a fish. Along with having to buy a new handle I may consider elsewhere next time I upgrade my reels though.


Two very different handles

My next session was cancelled due to injury. A football-related one that is. I was playing an 11-a-side game the evening before and I felt a pull so had to go off. I very rarely allow an injury to affect me but in this instance I couldn’t walk.

I was getting into the game as well. The other team played high balls to the big centre forward and he won the first two. Then I worked it out and started to turn the encounter. Then I was off! It wasn’t even a tackle, it just went. The only pulls I want are from fish not muscles! The next day I couldn’t have done anything other than a car park swim.

Then my handle arrived. It’s a good job I’m not a tackle tart as it was very different to the original. And much better made. It looked very much like a design improvement to me, which if that was the case, then more the reason for a free replacement from Daiwa? Anyway, it’s done now and I’m only commenting anyway, not moaning.


Off to the river after barbel again

Back to the Severn and my bait approach was the same as before, and apart from soaking new boilies and Barbel Stix and topping up my pellet bag, it was just a case of ‘as you were’. The river was about 5 feet up but stable. Perfect barbel conditions; just need to choose the swim carefully, that’s all.

I had to recast a little more than normal due to debris on the line, but it wasn’t a problem. I had a small willow just upstream that helped deflect the flow. You can see the submerged tree in the photo – it is normally bankside.

The river was up – note the tree

The Severn is a big river and over the years I’ve seen all sorts of things drifting down, including dead sheep, cows and on one occasion a coffin! On this session though I had to settle for a bog-standard willow tree! But it does show the power of a flooded river as it uproots fully grown trees and sweeps them away effortlessly.

I’ve described the conditions as perfect but that didn’t translate into fish. In fact I didn’t even get a tap and I was in the same swim for several hours. But then, with a couple of hours to go, one of my banker pegs became available, so I decided to move.


An uprooted tree on its way downstream

I had to wait until well into dark before a fish picked up the boilie. It was only a small barbel but after a fish-less 8 hours I really didn’t want to lose it. Fortunately I didn’t and it made the net, bank and pose position! If nothing else it was a lesson in perseverance.

Just the one fish to end the day but the natural world had been kind to me. I had already seen a whinchat in Bobbington on the way in taking my bird count for the year to 123. Then a noctule bat and barn owl at dusk made it 2 special sightings. I love the platform that angling provides to connect with the wider nature scene. I also managed to capture a treecreeper on film. They aren’t rare birds but can easily be overlooked.


A small barbel right at the end

If you follow my angling adventures on a regular basis you will know I’m always experimenting with the format. This time it’s the turn of the video to sit in the spotlight of change. As I have started taking my camcorder out with me on a regular basis so I don’t miss anything, I’ve decided to insert videos on a weekly basis. That starts this week and you can view them at the foot of each piece.

And finally, once I’ve finished this piece I will be getting ready to go to Molineux to see Wolves play. We all enjoy a bit of friendly football banter with our rivals don’t we and this this season I’m in a head-to-head prediction league with Dave Harrell. Dave is a nice bloke and of course his angling pedigree speaks for itself. But he does have one major fail in his life. He supports WBA. Anyway, each week we are both predicting the Wolves and WBA scores with 1 point for a result (as in win,draw or lose) and 3 points if you get the correct score.

Being a Wolves fan and therefore more knowledgeable about football it’s no surprise I’m currently ahead 11 points to Dave’s 8. And this weekend’s predictions? I’ve gone Wolves to win 2-1 and WBA to lose 1-2 while Dave is tipping a 2-0 for both of us. Hi Ho Wolverhampton!  (article published September 27 2012)


My Angling Journal website – updated every week since July 2003   HERE

This week’s videos:

Barbel fishing on the middle Severn

Treecreeper feeding







  1. hi, I am returning to angling after a 20yr layoff,I have chosen to barbel hunting,using pin and rods,I like the adcock stanton would like your views on that reel,also advice on general purpose float rod thats up to barbel,also a ledger rod quiver for general purpose but good enough for barbel,the rivers I will be fishing on are hampshire avon and the itchen,hence gen purpose.Thanks for the help you’ve aready given via you/tube. Joe

    1. The one thing you will notice is how things have changed! The Adcock Stanton is a collector’s reel and is a classic. It will certainly perform but some anglers would sooner keep it than fish with it! So many options with rods. I don’t float fish for barbel but you will need a powerful rod to cope. I’ve got a Wychwood, Harrison Interceptor and a Fox barbel at the moment for my barbel fishing.

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