Getting your hands on a good barbel rod, or a matching pair if you are a real Bertie enthusiast, is a bit like buying a suit.
One option is to have it tailor-made (or, in this instance, custom built). Then you can specify its action, which could be sharply progressive for fast, deep water and long casts, or maybe more forgiving, for battling it out with the leviathan whiskers now found in many of our smaller rivers. Whatever length, test curve and action, not to mention furnishings such as guides, reel seats, and handles you go for, a bespoke rod will set you back a pretty penny.
The other route, which most mere mortals go down, is to buy a straightforward off-the-peg number. Just about every major tackle company with rods on its books produces them, and while you undoubtedly get what you pay for, there are some quite lovely branded barbel rods out there.
The frustration for the keen barbel angler comes when river conditions suddenly change, or you find yourself on a venue that demands different tactics. At this point you end up investing in yet more rods to cover all eventualities, often making do with inferior models that are either too stiff or too soft, can’t handle enough weight, or simply can’t cast far enough. At worst you could find yourself attached to a lifetime best fish, only to lose it – because the rod wasn’t up to the job.
At this point may I present Korum’s seven-strong Specialist Quiver and Barbel rod range, with specific actions and test curves that run from around 1.5lb for the 12ft Specialist Quiver right up to a beefy three-piece 13ft monster, said to be able to cast up to 8oz – perfect for big rivers in flood.
Incredibly, all but one of these Specialist rods are priced at just £49.99, the exception being the 13ft Barbel at £79.99. Now you can own a matching family of three or four rods to tackle any water, anywhere, for less money than you’d spend on just one ‘Savile Row’ job!
Even the most discerning tackle tart would have to admit that these understated rods, with their retro cork handles, matt grey finishes, full white quivertips and lined guides, could pass for custom-built models. The full carbon blanks have casting and fish playing actions that fully live up to their specified performance. The 1.75lb, 12ft two-piece Barbel rod on live test duty handled feeders and leads up to 3oz with ease, and showed a pleasingly soft but progressive action, with a firm middle section ready to kick in when needed.
In my view it’s the ideal small-river roving rod, able to cope with hasty changes in terminal tackle when you’re on the move.