The River Trent is leading barbel river in the United Kingdom and the quantity of large fish in comparison to other rivers puts it second to none. Every week reports of big fish are in the angling press and the chance of a 16lb plus barbel is a real possibility. I had been considering a trip to the river for a couple of years and so when my mate Neale Woodward invited me to join him, lee Chatfield, Jim Mathews and a couple of other anglers I jumped at the opportunity. The date was set for the beginning of September and I had planned to make the most of it by booking some extra time of work. I had four days ahead of me to bag a PB barbel which stood at 11lb 7oz caught from the river Medway in back in 2015.
September arrived and I found myself driving up the M11 and heading for Nottingham. The drive was comfortable and I managed to get to the river within three hours but on arrival I discovered that I had left my camera SD card in the computer at home and so I had to go exploring for a superstore. This took another hour or so and then I managed to find myself on the wrong side of the river and had to drive twenty minutes back to the nearest bridge. All these detours took a considerable amount of time but finally I had arrived at my intended destination. I met Jim on the river and we discussed tactics for the session and we were both buzzing to get fishing. It was obvious that Jim shares that same passion for fishing as I do and we pitched up next to each other which was nice to have some good company.
The barbel in this particular stretch are particular tricky to catch during the day but are almost suicidal at night. I wanted to try and nick a bite or two during the day and so changed my tactics accordingly. I used 10lb fluorocarbon to a size 12 hook with either maggots or small pellets hair rigged. I was hoping theses scaled down tactics would produce a fish or two and considering the river was running low and clear delicate presentation would be key. During darkness I went with a much heavier set up comprising of 12lb braided hooklink of around two and a half feet to a size 8 hook with a 15mm hair rigged boilie. I fished two rods, one with a feeder and one with a 3oz grippa lead. The top rod was fished with a feeder and this was packed with halibut pellets plugged at each end with ground bait. I originally had this on a bolt rig set up but changed to a free running rig because of all the snags present. The bottom rod was fished with a bare gripper lead with some halibut pellet paste moulded around both the lead and hookbait.The first evening arrived and I sat in anticipation waiting for the rods to rip off. Ten cups of tea later they were still silent and I drifted off to sleep dreaming about barbel of immense proportions. I suddenly awoke to an absolute ripper on my left hand rod which kited over my right hand rod taking it out and tangling lines in the process. Or so I thought? After a quick battle I was looking at my first Trent barbel in the shape of an absolute monster weighing a mind boggling 4lb! I think I caught the smallest fish in the river however it was a fish, first blood and I was chuffed. It was then that I noticed something wasn’t quite right. My other rod was still releasing line but I had the fish in the net so after a moment of stupidity I finally realised I had hooked another one almost at the same time as the first. I grabbed the rod and bent into something with more power and it was obviously a better fish. After gaining back half a spool of line I managed to net it with the other one. I had a brace of trent barbel on my first night. The second fish was a better one weighing in at 8lb 6oz. I made a coffee and waited for sunrise.
On the second day I decided to go and see how Neale was getting on in the weir and he updated me on his catches. The statistics were incredible to say the least and by the time I arrived it was evident how prolific theses barbel were. Lee and Neale were getting takes every other cast and had already banked fish to over 13lb including a couple of 12s and plenty of other doubles. It was then that Neale kindly invited me to chuck my rod out and catch a couple for some daylight pictures and to be honest it didn’t take much persuasion. I ran down to my bivy picked up a rod and joined the gang in the weir for a fishing bonanza complete with some Remy Martin courtesy of Neale. Thanks mate. I was informed where to cast and was assured it would produce a fish. Ten minutes later the rod was away and I bagged an 8lb 5oz followed by a 8lb 8oz and then a super double figure fish in the form of a cracking 10lb 5oz. That would be my lot for from the weir but I was very grateful to be given the chance to fish it and bag some daylight barbel. It was also a great social with all us anglers sharing fishing tales and having a few drinks. Back to my swim I plodded a little merry and got prepared for the night time feed.
On the second night I had a chat with Jim about tactics and we decided to fish more accurately walking out our rods and clipping them up to ensure that we were hitting the correct spot each time. The river gradually slopes into around seven feet of water and ideally you wanted the hookbait where the central deep gully started. We unclipped our rigs and used a large feeder to distribute some bait to the area before casting our rigs out. It didn’t take long and at 9pm my rod ripped off and I bent into a much better fish. After an absolutely ball breaking fight Jim scoped the net under a corker weighing 11lb 4oz. After the pictures were complete and the fish returned I approached my rod pod to straighten up the legs when the other rod slammed into action. Now this one felt even bigger and I was sure it was an absolute monster by the way it held deep in the water and used its weight. I could barely feel my arms but managed to coach it into the waiting landing net. On the scales she went 11lb 15oz and was a new PB. I also had another fish that morning weighing 8lb 7oz. I was happy to say the least and had achieved my target so anything else would be a bonus.
I was woken up early the next morning by a cow that had decided to come into my bivy and eat all the bait out of my bucket. It scared the life out of me and I gave it a few soft bangs on the nose to try and move it away. Eventually she waddled off but straight in the direction of Jims bivy. I was crying with laughter as the cow put her head through the door and licked his head torch while he was asleep. I didn’t really know what to do so I just took some pictures and laughed. Sorry Jim.
That day proved uneventful on the Barbel front and I even had a go trotting with the centerpin but it just wasn’t happening during daylight hours. It was time for my mates to leave as they had booked the weekend and so I said my goodbyes and moved down further to another section of the river for the remaining two nights. The first night produced another 8lb fish but that was it until midday when a man approached me and said that he and a friend was fishing the weir and had it booked until tomorrow morning however they had a few to many drinks last night and were heading home so if I wanted to jump in there for the last night I could. I instantly packed up my kit and moved down into the prime swim ready to catch some decent fish. I was absolutely shattered to be honest and the fishing was draining.
By 3pm I had managed a small chub of around 3lb, a small barbel of 4lb and an 8lb 4oz when suddenly my rod doubled over and I hooked a fish that was clearly in a different league. After playing it for a couple of minutes I couldn’t feel my arms and was having to pull hard holding them high in the air to clear the fish from any snags. Trying to net it in the fast flowing water was also a challenge and I missed the fish twice. On the third attempt she fell into the waiting mesh and I knew then I had achieved my main goal of the session. I zeroed the scaled and placed her in the sling and watched as the needle swung round to 12lb 3oz. I had done it and banked a PB 12lb barbel. I did loose another massive fish that evening but I had my fill and decided to reel the rods in for the night, get some sleep and head of home early morning. It was a great session and I would like to thank Neal, Lee and Jim for the great company and opportunity. Tight lines.
Pictures as follows 1) 12lb 3oz pictured top, 2) 10lb 5oz, 3) return shot, 4) my swim, 5) 11lb 4oz, 6) 11lb 15oz, 7) 8lb from weir.