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Coarse Joe Chappell River

Big Barbel, Beginners Luck?

Last weekend I took part in a lure fishing competition on the Lancaster canal. Somehow I ended up coming second out of over 20 people which was a complete shock for me. I’ve only been lure fishing for a couple years and before last month I’d only ever dabbled in it. I never entered to win, for me it was about meeting people and learning. I met some great guys on the day and one of them, James, offered to take me barbel fishing.

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The longest pike of the competition which helped me secure second place.

I’d never been barbel fishing before but it was always something I’ve wanted to do. The stories I’d heard about how hard they fight had me set on catching one but the opportunity had never arose. James and I both had Thursday free and he offered to take me barbel fishing on the River Ribble. The Ribble runs through Preston which is only half an hour from Lancaster where I am at university. Apparently, the best barbel fishing comes in the evening and night so we left around 3pm.

We arrived at the river and it was surprisingly low. Just the previous week it was in flood however James thought that it still looked really good for a fish or two. We chose a couple of swims next to each other and got the rods out. I only brought limited gear to uni with me so my rod of choice was a 6ft 2lb stalking rod. I hoped that the length wouldn’t hinder my casting too much or put too much line in the water. Thankfully the river wasn’t flowing too fast and I was managing to hold bottom with 3oz.

As suggested by James, I opted to use a simple hair rig of about 18 inches on a running ledger set up. My first bait of choice was 2 14mm halibut pellets however after the first cast they had fallen off. I subsequently decided to use just 1 pellet topped with a small piece of buoyant fake corn. I hoped this would prevent the pellet falling off. We also used small pva bags of pellet on each cast as well as catapulting a few handfuls of pellet over our spots.

The sun set below the horizon and cloud cover prevented the moon from shining down on us. It was a dry night with a slight breeze. The weather was really nice. We’d been there for nearly two hours and I was in James’s swim having a chat. A friend rang me to discuss some coursework so I headed back to my swim.

We were talking for no longer than 2 minutes when a fish picked up my bait and line slowly peeled off my reel. I ran to my rod before telling my mate I’d call him back in a minute. I shouted down the bank to James and he came running over. The fish felt good and my rod was coping nicely. The fish went on a few runs before James scooped it up in the net and we exchanged high 5’s. The fish looked really big and James said it looked like it could be double figures. My heart was racing, there was no way my first barbel was going to be a double.

We weighed it in the net and the scales tipped around to 12lb 8oz. The question now was how much did the net weigh? I was ecstatic and we took some photos before allowing the fish to rest in the net. The fish swam off strong and it was time to weigh the net and see if I’d just done the unimaginable. The net came in at 2lb 4oz meaning I’d gone and caught a 10lber as my first barbel. I was over the moon.

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The Prince of the River

The rods went back out and we waited, and waited. Nearly 2 hours had passed and we were both getting restless. I was in James’s swim and he suggested we could try somewhere further upstream with deeper water. We decided to give it another half an hour as we’d both had a couple knocks.  As if on que, James had a savage bite. The result was another great barbel which weighed in just a few ounces under 10lb.

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James and his barbel

We decided it would be best to stay where we were for the rest of the night. Unfortunately I didn’t catch anything else however James caught a lovely 5lb chub. Even though I had just the one fish I cant complain at all. It was more than I could ever have hoped for. It was great to get to know my new friend James a bit better too and I can’t thank him enough for putting me on some fish. Hopefully there’s some more barbel in store for me this year and if not, I’ll definitely be giving them a good go next year when hopefully I’ll have passed my driving test.

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One reply on “Big Barbel, Beginners Luck?”

Well done Joe! I’m not a barbel virgin, I’ve had a few many years ago but over recent years I haven’t fished for them.
They can also be caught using a roving approach, freelining lobworms, meat etc searching for the fish rather than waiting for them to find your groundbait. (as a fly Fisher that’s the approach I used to favour!)
I’ll keep an eye on your blog, I might start one myself in the new year to compliment my you tube channel. Cheers

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