Season's Best Barbel - Dean Macey

For an all rounder like myself, winter fishing is all about those small windows when all the planets align and it’s bang on for your chosen quarry. This winter has been quite tricky. With all the rainfall you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s been a barbel-angler’s dream but as good as the rivers that weren't over their banks have looked for a bite, the temperatures have been quite low and it’s that small increase in temperature that quite often bring the fish on the feed.

On my last outing everything looked right. The river was slowly rising and the extra water that was coming down was very warm. Perfect! On arrival it was clear that I wasn't the only on that had been
watching the weather forecast carefully as there were a few cars already in the car park. The swim I wanted, however, was free. In the summer this swim would only be a foot deep but with an extra three feet on
and clean gravel under my feet, it’s a perfect area for barbel to hold up in the heavy flow. That said, I have still found that even though I'm sure they sit out of the flow when resting, they almost always feed in
the fastest water, so heavy gear is needed to make sure you can hold bottom. My choice of kit was 12lb Sub Line, a Micro Lead Clip with a 4oz to 6oz Grippa attached, 15lb N Trap coated braid hook link and a size-eight Wide Gape. Yes, I could catch on lighter gear but in these condition barbel can really put up one hell of a fight and I'm always geared up to land the biggest fish in the river. You can never brag about lost fish and on this gear, I DON'T
My first cast produced a spirited barbel of about 7lb,
which was a great sign as these open-water swims tend to only do bites after dark at this time of year. I rested the swim for an hour after introducing a small handful of Hinders small Elips pellets and a few
broken Mainline New Grange 10mm boilies into the area with a bait dropper. I hoped that it would be just enough to get the remaining fish searching. On dark I made my next cast and not long after all hell broke loose. I kid you not; this fish took 20 yards of
line and flat-rodded me in the process, it was brutal!

Never have I felt so under-gunned while barbel fishing in my life. Once the initial run was over everything became much easier. As with most big barbel she started swimming up stream and pretty much stayed mid river until she surfaced for the first time, at which point my good friend Dave slid the net under a very big-framed fish.

We both thought she was a good double right from the start but I must admit that it surprised both of
us when she registered 13lb 11oz on my Avons. A belting fish by anyone's standards and my biggest of the season by 1oz. You've got to be in it to win it.