Steve Pope Barbel Fishing

Catch more barbel!

Mid July Update!

Back in the swing on here now. Facebook is ok but it’s here on my website where I can expand thoughts and put out more information.

My first outing of this new season was a bit of an anti climax, mind you these days the Teme isn’t the easiest of rivers for barbel but it’s certainly one of the most scenic.

Steve was my guest, a fellow Springsteen nut and a man from the East End of London who now lives in Sheffield; we had lots in common apart from the fishing.

He also knows his stuff when it comes to barbel fishing but had never fished the Teme and this was the main reason we were on the river, catching was going to be important but it was not the primary driver.

We had a bit of a dabble on the Thursday, I decided to brush away the cobwebs and gave the trotting rod and reel a much needed airing. Many moons ago I used to love float fishing, especially trotting a float for roach, back then I was pretty good but forty plus years hiatus is enough to make anyone a tad rusty!

But fishing is a bit like riding a bike, you don’t forget and it wasn’t long before I felt really comfortable and the float was winding its merry way downstream, not quite up to Dave Harrell standard but at least I was active in the float fishing stakes once more. It wasn’t long before a couple of chub, a few dace and a manic trout all provided some fun but barbel as I thought, proved to be somewhat elusive.

Back in my caravan  I pondered on what we might expect the following day and developed a plan of action.

Bright and early and at the rivers edge, a blue sky day was forecast which coupled with the low water level meant it was always going to be difficult.

And so it proved to be.

We covered a number of swims, tried a number of different tactics but all to no avail, not even a chub could be tempted!

And to cap it all a fellow angler had turned up and was fortunate enough to land a small barbel from the swim Steve had been fishing the previous evening – it just wasn’t meant to be for him this time out!

So the first guiding day of a new season and a glorious blank!

This text came through as I made my way home across the glorious Teme valley.

‘Thanks for a lovely couple of days, I thoroughly enjoyed myself even if I blanked. Great surroundings and equally as good company. Tramps like us…………….’

Never mind, I’ll be meeting up with Steve on the Kennet later in the season and I really hope the barbel gods are in a good mood because its a fair old hike form Sheffield to Berkshire!

And a few days later Berkshire is where I found myself ready for three days on the Kennet, and hopefully plenty of barbel action.

I was really pleased to meet up with Richard for the third consecutive year. Richard is not an out and out barbel angler and his catch ups with me have provided him with a barbel fix which will prove difficult to maintain once he completes his house move. Brixton to Scotland is a dramatic change of scenery no matter which way you cut it!

Mind you from a financial perspective it’s a very canny move and with newly arrived son Luca, a brother for three year old Sofia, a whole new world awaits across the border.

The air temperature was on the rise and 30 degrees by midday meant the brolly came in useful to prevent sunstroke.

The fishing was hard as you might expect. If it wasn’t a guiding day with all the commitments that go with that I would have been home topping up the tan in the back garden.

My usual trick of baiting a particular swim with hemp and 6mm cubes of meat had failed to produce a bite within the statutory thirty minutes so it was off to the prepared swim for an all out caster and hemp attack.

A nice sized trout was the culprit as the old pin screamed into life at midday and it wasn’t till late afternoon that a barbel around the six pound mark picked up the bait.

That was it, no matter how hard we tried the fish were having none of it and in the oppressing heat I can’t say that I blamed them.

Once Richard is fully domiciled in Bonny Scotland we’ll meet up again on the Wye or the Severn, I enjoy his company and there’s a lot more fishing to come.

‘Thanks again for a top day.’ No worries mate we’ll be doing it again soon.

Next morning and it was another Richard who greeted me in the carpark. I knew straight away that here was a man of impeccable taste because the Landy he arrived in was just about the smartest I’ve ever seen, fully loaded is probably the correct expression!

And it didn’t stop with the wheels, the rod was equally impressive.

An Edward Barder Mk IV, as light as can be and simply stunning to look at but then it ought to be because you don’t get a lot of change from two grand!

With such an exquisite rod there really is only one make of reel that can sit comfortably on the handle and that’s a Chris Lythe and that’s exactly what Richard pulled out of his bag!

The Scotton Trotter to be precise and it too was every bit as beautiful as the Barder, with a combined value around 2.5K, I informed Rich that this was most certainly the most expensive set up that I had ever encountered on a guided day and I was extremely jealous!!



Serious Kit!


Now bearing in mind that Richard was a barbel virgin and our day together came courtesy of a Christmas present from his better half the pressure to catch became just a little more intense!

Richard was more at home on the Dorset Frome or casting a line for salmon and trout and I wasn’t surprised when he told me that he had a few more Barder rods and a stunning ‘pin collection or that Eric Clapton was a customer of his – a man of taste indeed, and don’t even think it………………!

At the swim I already had a rod set up and a pint of casters and hemp had already been deposited so we were ready to go, the super set up could wait a while.

Worth going into a bit of detail with regard to the swim. Three and a half feet deep, a few clumps of streamer weed on the nearside and overhanging trees on the far side.

When I ask anglers who have never seen the swim before where they would place their bait to a man they all say as close to the overhanging trees as possible – when I say that is wrong they are all surprised.

The only time I would cast close to or under the trees is when applying hit and run tactics, one fish and then move on. If I’m sitting it out for the day then the bait goes in where the fish don’t expect it to be and that’s close to the near bank.

I take no credit for this tactic, my dear friend Fred Crouch proved to me many years ago how successful this method is and as he was keen to say, ‘ If I’m good enough to bring along some food for them then they can at least make the effort to pick it up where I put it.’ And of course he was right.

So the hair rigged casters were delicately placed no more than two feet from the bank and eased into position to lay underneath the swaying fronds tantalisingly tempting the unsuspecting barbel.

It didn’t take long.

My old Rapidex – it was certainly feeling sorry for itself knowing it was soon to be substituted for  a Lythe, sprang into life, the tip pulled round and Richard was out of his seat in a flash and it was game on!

Despite a couple of spirited attempts to get back under the farbank cover Richard applied maximum pressure and the barbel was resting in the net in double quick time.

It was obvious the unusually high air temperature had made an impact and the barbel was rested for fully ten minutes before it was lifted from the water, no chance of unhooking in the water because of the low level ( 18” down) and the ‘high’ bank. A quick photo, no weighing and back it went into the river after another ten minte rest in the landing net.

Richard’s first ever barbel and he was elated, and then he told me was left handed and I wouldn’t have known it because he handled my right handed set up perfectly.

However it was now time to rest the swim and change over to the Barder and Lythe to see if we could repeat the action using this superb tackle.

It was at this point that Richard informed me the rod was yet to be christened!




A nice barbel to start off with.


So another challenge, but first I had to shoot down to the tackle shop to collect the casters I had on order. Only a ten minute drive and Richard was cool, he knew what to do if that Lythe purred and made sweet music!

Twenty five minutes later and I’m back at the swim to see that Richard was not in his seat, the roid was not in the rest and he was twenty five yards downstream in the landing swim holding my landing net!

Yep, it all happened in my absence, a double figure barbel had read the script, it wouldn’t have been quite right for a smaller fish to be the first to test such sublime tackle!

10-06, what a result and once more we took all the time it took for the barbel to fully recover.

You can see from the photo that this fish was deformed, we get a few like this on this particular venue.



Brokeback Barbel


Varying opinions on the cause of this in barbel, there is possible linkage with pollution, bacterial infection or it could be genetic. There is quite a bit of information online, Google spinal lordosis, kyphosis and scoliosis in fish and you will find much interesting data and you can form your own opinion. I tend to go with an egg abnormality because it seems most logical.

There was one more to come, a very lively fish just short of 8lbs and it went off like a train putting a healthy curve in the cane as you can see in the shot below.

We received a visit from Simon, my guest for the following day who had driven down from Birmingham and had just checked in at the Pub B and B which I always recommend to those coming a fair distance.



Barder in Business!


We called it a day before dusk fell, the heat had worn us out and fortunately Richard did not have too far to drive and anyway he had the comfort of his gorgeous Landy so I didn’t have too much sympathy!!

A fascinating day, fabulous company, Richard was a very interesting character and I was very pleased that he could return home and tell his wife that the Christmas present was well worth it!



Summer Days on the River


Next up was Simon who I had already had the pleasure of meeting when he paid a quick visit on the previous day. A man from Birmingham, used to fishing the Warwickshire Avon and courtesy of a Christmas present from his wife eager to learn as much as he possibly could while hopefully beating his personal best.

Using my tackle we set about the swim in exactly the same way as I had with Richard and it didn’t take too long before the reel started to spin and it was game on.

However it was at this point that Simon informed me that he too, just like Richard was left handed and my reel is set for me and I’m right handed!

I know, I should have asked but Simon assured me he was ambidextrous and the reel position was not an issue – but the barbel won the battle and so it was time to turn the reel around so that Simon could manage much easier.

Later in the day we were into barbel number two and this time there were no mishaps.

In this particular swim the name of the game is to land the fish well downstream and that means lifting the rod to clear the bankside vegetation, Simon managed this with no problems at all and after one or two spirited runs our barbel was safely engulfed in the mesh of my oversized net!

Simon's 9-12


Not quite a double but no matter this was a personal best and you can’t do better than that!

We fished on for a few more hours but to no avail, the barbel refused to get btheir heads down and so we continued to talk about barbel fishing – I almost lost my voice because there were so many questions.

One in particular allowed me a moment for reflection that I hadn’t visited for quite some time.

Simon was interested to know why barbel fishing had taken over my life.

My mind went back to the mid eighties.

My dad had recently passed away and my mind was still in turmoil. My brother in law had encouraged me to go fishing and fate had decreed that I would find myself at Fishers Green below the Bailey bridge fishing for barbel. For one reason or another I started to forage about in the adjacent undergrowth and I found the empty packet that once contained cigarette rollingpapers. Rizla greens, I’m sure many will know.

Now my first reaction was one of annoyance that someone would leave this litter, my second was far more profound. You see back in the fifties, I can remember as if it was yesterday my dad giving me a few shillings to pop around to the local store to buy half of Old Holborn and a packet of greens and perhaps a few chews for me – you couldn’t do it today!

So with the state of my mind being somewhat fragile I interpreted this discovery as some kind of sign – from my dad.

It was if to say this is where you belong, stick with it – and I have.

Simon has been in touch since our day together and he is putting the methods we tried to good use on his local Severn, I’m sure the first double is not too far away.

My first three sessions on the Kennet had produced two personal bests and a double, that was the good news.

On the negative side a couple of the barbel showed distinct signs of otter damage, I know they are on the stretch having seen them in the past and I’m just crossing my fingers in the hope that any damage and indeed loss is kept to a minimum, we shall see.

A week later and I was back, heavy rain at the weekend and a drop in the high temperature gave me real reasons for high expectations.

I was looking forward to meeting up with Wayne.

I recognised his name and knew that he had been a member of the Barbel Society from the start and indeed was also a member of the Association of Barbel Enthusiasts – the organisation set up by Fred Crouch and Pete Henwood.

Wayne was just coming out of a long break from barbel fishing and his mission with me was to help regain his mojo that had deserted him.

And the reason it had gone was a very interesting one – burn out!

Wayne had let slip that he had caught barbel of 19, 18 and 17lbs – when he told me I wondered what on earth he was doing coming out with me!

But as I said his reason’s were altogether different from the norm.

Wayne’s fish had come from the Loddon, a river close to his home which meant that the use of milk protein baits could come into play. I have to say I learnt quite a bit about bait from this Head Chef.

I have never found it necessary to go down the milk protein route, mainly because the places I fish don’t really lend themselves to the method, plus I’m lazy and the thought of making bait doesn’t do it for me, I just haven’t the time.

But in saying that if I discovered monster barbel on the upper Severn then I just might find the time!

Wayne took full advantage of the opportunity that came his way but because of the intensity of that type of fishing he found himself with nowhere else to go, he’s not the first and won’t be the last to suffer the barbel burn out syndrome.

The barbel didn’t exactly go mad but three came our way, no monsters but big enough to put a smile on Wayne’s face and to reignite the passion, so it really was job done.

The following day I had to myself and so I invited Del, my pal from college days to join me.

Using the same caster method I landed three barbel before 11am including a nice double weighing in at 10 – 11.


A 10 - 11 for me



Ten minutes before the fish I put out a post on my Facebook page saying I hoped thenext take would produce a double so I could pass the swim over to Del, pyschic powers or what?

So Del and I swapped swims.

You can probably guess the rest!

Del gets a take, fish comes off – hook pull.

I get a take, barbel about 7lbs in the net.

Del gets another take, fish lost – hooklength parted!


Del with a Lea barbel.




It was just one of those days when the fishing gods refused to smile on my mate, never mind, we had a great time and will meet up again before too long.

And that brought my early season visits to the Kennet to an end, I’m not due back till the end of September.

The Wye is calling and when she calls I listen, with her natural beauty who can fail to be captivated?

As I write I’ve already enjoyed four days on the river and I’m off again this week, the following week and the week after and so it goes!

I’ll tell you about it next time.

Good fishing!







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