“This year the River Trent has been busier than ever and the barbel have been hammered this summer. As a result, the fishing has become challenging, but on a recent session I managed 28 barbel, 13 of which were doubles, topped by a 16lb 3oz fish, and I put my success down to a number of changes I made to my tactics.
“Most anglers on the Trent pile in loads of bait, crash in heavy 6oz feeders and fish multiple rods in the same area. While this can work early in the season, a little more finesse is required to catch the cagey autumn barbel.
“The first thing I do is cut right back on the feed. I introduce just small amounts of bait and keep topping it up, little and often, rather than piling it all in at the start. Those barbel have been caught over massive beds of bait all year, so a more steady approach gains their confidence.
“I also do away with the heavy feeders and fish the lightest leads I can get away with alongside PVA bags of free offerings. This reduces disturbance when they hit the river, something that the fish have grown wary of.
“Many people fish through the day and night on the Trent, but I decided to rest the swim overnight, allowing the fish to have a free feed and gain some confidence. I also turn to a classic bait that’s been somewhat neglected these days – Spam. Everyone uses pellets and boilies, but a big chunk of Spam dropped in the margins can catch some big fish.
“I landed fish to 15lb 2oz on the bait, fishing just 5ft from the bank, as well as numerous other fish, but the 16-pounder came on a Vortex Cocoon fished over a small pile of bait.
“I’ll be honest, when I first hooked this fish, I thought it was a big river carp – the fight was ridiculous! It swam 60 yards upriver, and it wasn’t until I netted it that I realised it was a barbel.
“I’d just landed a 14-pounder, so when I lifted it out and realised it was substantially heavier, I knew it was something special.
“It topped an awesome session, all made possible by thinking outside the box and doing things my own way. If your local river has been fished hard this year, try scaling things down. The results could be phenomenal.”