THE year was 1974 and I remember it like it was yesterday – Mud’s Tiger Feet had been at No1 for weeks and I’d just met my future wife at school, although I didn’t know it then. Harold Wilson was Prime Minister, and those pesky Germans had won the World Cup for the second time (and two more to come, but I didn’t know that either).
More importantly, my dad had landed a new job with Yorkshire TV, had moved up to Huddersfield and was spending his spare time barbel fishing on the River Swale.
School holidays couldn’t arrive quickly enough. We simply didn’t have barbel nosing around in the Rivers Evenlode or Windrush close to my Oxfordshire home. To this angling-mad lad, catching one became a teenage obsession.
Well, the big moment finally arrived on the banks of the Swale at Skipton. That fish fell to a cube of Bacon Grill (Dad’s favourite). There it lay in the net, seven pounds of statuesque bronze magnificence!
These days, Dad’s living in Italy, chasing carassio and carp, while I live close to the Trent where barbel grow to immense proportions. Ranks of green and camo-clad anglers line its banks looking like soldiers going into battle, as well they might, because the fighting qualities of a natural-born Bertie are more than a match for the stoutest tackle and strongest nerves.
All this brings me to the subject of this week’s Live Test, the latest incarnation of Daiwa’s two-sectioned 12ft Powermesh B2 barbel rod, available in 2.25lb and 2.75lb test curves.
Daiwa had also kindly sent in its new gunmetal grey Emcast 25A reel, which I really liked the look of the moment I saw it.
I don’t know anywhere better to test rough-and-tumble barbel gear than the Trent’s boisterous Gunthorpe Weir. It’s a heaving, boiling, foam-flecked torrent of water whose deafening roar blots out every other sound.
An extraordinarily exhilarating angling experience it may be, but boy is it tough on tackle! It’s a boulder strewn snag-pit, and even with Arnie-grade end gear you’re never going to land everything you hook.
I filled the stunning-looking Emcast reel with 15lb Daiwa Sensor line, which you could use to haul a tractor out of a ditch. It was probably a bit overgunned for use with the lighter 2.25lb Powermesh B2 rod that I had chosen to use, mainly because it’s likely to be the one most anglers will prefer.
I didn’t need to cast anything weightier than a 2oz lead and a PVA bag. The rod has a 150g (5oz) recommended maximum casting weight, but if I were using anything approaching that or casting over 75 yards I would opt for the 2.75lb Powermesh B2.
With a small bag of pellets and meat, and three hair-rigged cubes of porky goodness, it wasn’t long before I had my first bite, and it took even less time for the fish to get itself set firmly into a snag. Fish one, Mark nil.
Twenty minutes later the rod top nodded, then the line went slack with a massive drop-back bite. As I wound down to the fish it took off at an astonishing rate of knots, straight across the white water. Happily the Powermesh had enough backbone mid-section to pile on the pressure, despite its fairly soft through action – I’d describe it as forgiving but firm.
Eventually the fish came up in the foam, but the 11lb hooklength had somehow wrapped itself around a loose bit of floating branch. Two attempts to net the whole lot in one go failed dismally, and a desperate third go at scooping up what looked to be a 10-pounder ended in failure. Fish two, Mark nil. Not the rod’s fault, nor the reel’s. Bad angling? You be the judge, but like I said, this isn’t a swim for the faint-hearted.
The sun rose, the temperature soared, and I wondered if my chance had gone. Nope, the rod buckled over and it was game on... alas, the line fell slack again just as quickly, and it really was all over. Fish three, Mark nil.
The day wasn’t a complete wash-out, as a decent chub put another bend in the Powermesh, although nothing compared to the brute force of a wild barbel.
This faultless two-piece rod is mellow yet gnarly and growly and would suit nearly all UK rivers. The new Daiwa Emcast reel is just fab – it has an impeccable line lay, and enough winding power to cope with the heaviest of feeders and leads.
I really enjoyed its tough and robust feel, which is just as well for a reel likely to get chucked around a riverbank and needing to cope with hauling in double-figure fish. It even comes with a spare spool, so next time I go out with this dream rod-and-reel team I hope to get my three-point win with those barbel.