One tactic is synonymous with catching barbel on rivers – the blockend feeder. Allowing you to put a stream of bait into the tightest of spots that can’t be accessed with a waggler, the blockend has caught thousands of barbel down the years. Maggots are most often associated with the tactic, but in recent years pellets have come increasingly to the fore.
Barbel seem to love the taste and smell of halibut pellets, especially in coloured water, and unlike maggots, they won’t pull in dace and bleak that can prove to be a real pain to the angler in search of a few big barbel.
Use pellets and you know that when the bite alarm goes off or the rod top heaves over, it’ll be a barbel!
1) Always use a running rig
The chances of a barbel finding a snag are high, even if the angler concerned is highly skilled, so if disaster does strike and the line breaks, you don’t want the fish to be towing a heavy feeder around.
By having the feeder running on the mainline, stopped by a bead with a tail rubber to cut down on tangles, you can fish safe in the knowledge that no harm will come to a lost fish.
2) Feeder weight
This is decided by the power of the flow and how far you need to cast. Obviously, the feeder must be heavy enough to reach its destination but once it’s settled, it should only just hold bottom.
A fish that takes the bait will easily dislodge the feeder, causing a big ‘drop back’ bite on the quivertip. Too heavy and the feeder won’t move – the fish will feel the disturbance and drop the bait.
To get the right balance, pick a feeder that’s slightly lighter than needed and then add some extra lead. This can be in the form of specially-made stick-on weights or a length of lead strip, available from DIY shops. Add one small piece at a time until the feeder just holds bottom.
3) Length of hooklink
When it comes to the hooklength, as in any type of feeder fishing, this can vary from a short 12ins tail to a long flowing trace of up to 4ft. Start with around 2ft, but if positive bites are coming quickly and no fish are hooked, shorten this by three or four inches at a time.
Likewise, if you get knocks but nothing develops, lengthen the hooklength until you get hook-ups.
4) Serious tackle
You can’t leave anything to chance with tackle, as barbel are powerful fish that will be found in the main flow of the river.
A robust 8lb or 10lb mainline to a hooklink of 8lb is a minimum, matched to a large forged hook in sizes 16 to 12. An eyed hook will also allow you to fish with a pellet in a band, or drilled and hair-rigged.
5) Go for halibuts
Where pellets are concerned, it’s tough to beat halibuts. Their oily make-up offers more attraction in coloured water than a plain carp-style pellet. Big is best, so starting on an 8mm bait and working up to a 12mm is a sensible move. Inside the feeder, cram a mix of pellet sizes such as micros, 4mm and a few 6mm offerings.