The secret life of one of the nation’s most popular species has been unveiled this week in a ground-breaking new film.
Former barbel record- holders Guy Robb and Stuart Morgan spent four years armed with scuba diving gear, fish finders and the latest camera and recording equipment to take footage that is set to blow many modern fishing theories out of the water.
The duo documented the behaviour and feeding habits of barbel in fisheries such as the Royalty on the Hampshire Avon to the mighty River Thames.
And what they found that:
-Barbel took baits off the surface
-Fish ate huge 60mm baits
-Disguising your tackle is essential
-Where exactly barbel live and how you can catch them
AT caught up with the creators of ‘Barbel…even closer’ and asked them to reveal what they learned during the four years it took to make the new film.
Q What was your motivation for and how much did it cost?
A Guy: “We wanted to get into the heads of the barbel and use the technology to discover things that would help us get a better understanding of where they live and how they feed. We want more people to catch barbel. Money can’t buy what we discovered and I’ll never fish for them in the same way again.
Q Which venues did you pick for filming and why?
A Stuart: ”Many fishing films in the past have been staged on private or exclusive waters but what we wanted to do was explore venues that every angler in the UK can visit. They can the apply our findings to their own fishing.
We filmed at rivers such as the Royalty on the Hampshire, Trent, Wye and Severn, but the findings and footage from the River Thames was truly mind-blowing and the most interesting.
Q You spent a lot of time in the barbel’s world. What was it like?
A Stuart: ”It took a while for the fish to get used to me and the equipment but it’s hard to describe what it’s like to have them coming up to the lens of a camera or swimming around your feet. The most amazing thing I noticed while in the water was the visibility. In swims of around 8ft to 10ft I could see Guy and all of his tackle as clear as day in the first couple of feet and then I couldn’t see anything at all. But to my amazement when I got within a foot of the bottom I could see as clearly again and even read the brand name on his feeder.
When light enters the water it reflects off the bottom and gets trapped in the last 1ft of water, enabling clear visibilty – especially on gravel or sand where most of the barbel we saw spent their time.
Q You said that the findings on the River Thames were ‘mind-blowing.’ Why?
A Stuart: “We’d travel for miles and it would be like there were no fish in the river until we hit a deep hole and fish of all species would be in and around a depression - including barbel.
We also discovered some amazing things about bait. When Guy and I fed big pellets and boilies, we watched how they behaved. You just don’t realise how far the bait travels. I followed a piece of meat in the scuba gear for 100 yards before it became lodged in a snag. And this wasn’t in flood conditions either.
Boilies would become almost weightless on the bottom and bigger baits would bump across the deck until they become wedged into depressions or against snags. But hemp and pellets stayed put much quicker because they got stuck and lodged on bottom debris easily.
Q What were the most important discoveries that you made about barbel while making the film?
A Guy: ”Everyone thinks that barbel only feed on the bottom and, although many won’t believe this, I caught a barbel with a pop-up presented on the surface. It’s all on this film.
Once the barbel had got used to us they just went about their natural business. But there’s one thing that they didn’t get used to and that was mono. They know what line is and immediately associate it with danger, which is why disguising your rig is vital.
We put tubing and other materials over our line and rigs and the barbel would happily approach the bait and even brush up against the terminal tackle. But as soon as a tight, naked line was introduced you wouldn’t see them for dust.
The barbel in the clear water of the Hampshire Avon were spooked by standard coated leads, but we changed to Stonze weights that matched the bottom and it made a huge difference.
This species will eat huge amounts of bait and I watched one fish suck up 29 pellets with one mouthful. On that particular day that one fish probably ate 2kg of baits.
Q You banked a 18lb 2oz Thames record barbel while filming. Did making this DVD help you?
A Guy: ”The underwater footage taught us that barbel can comfortably get a bait in their mouth that’s the size of an orange, which is a good job because we needed a bait that was too big for the vast shoals of bream that live there.
I made my own 30mm boilies and used two of these on a hair to catch the fish. Before I wouldn’t have dreamed I could use something like that for barbel.
Q Given what you’ve seen in the last four years, what would you say that anglers must do to catch barbel?
A Stuart: “Disguising your terminal tackle is a must because there’s no doubt that barbel have an inbuilt fear of line. Guy and I both use long lengths of tubing back from the lead and adopt other little tricks to make our set-ups look as natural as possible. Also avoid tight lines and any shiny pieces of terminal tackle like swivels and clips.
If there’s a deep area in your swim it will hold fish. Before you do anything tie a lead on and explore because even though it might look perfect on the surface it’s nearly always is a different story once you get under the water.
Don’t be afraid to feed a lot, or fish something big on the hook. If you find a deep hole, fish the nearest swim upstream and you’ll be in an ideal spot with a great chance of a barbel.
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