From the savagery of the bite, to the endless power of the fight, hooking a barbel (Barbus barbus) is an unforgettable experience. These are fish of fast flows and strong currents, using the weight and power of the water to hold station against the bottom – their stream-lined shape perfectly suited to life in the fast lane.
A barbel is actually heavier than the water in which it lives, but sweeps across gravel runs with effortless ease. They are so named after the four barbules that surround their thick lipped underslung mouth. These they use to seek out food, and they are far from fussy – eating insects, crustaceans, molluscs and small fish. They are similarly unfussy when it comes to angler’s baits, with a double figure fish as happy to take a couple of maggots on a size 16 as a matchbox sized lump of luncheon meat on a size 2. The key to catching one is not in the bait but in the location. Put something edible beneath a barbel’s nose and he will invariably take it, and take it boldly. Pellets and boilies are popular modern baits but worms and even bread will take their share of fish.
Just take care when returning them. A barbel gives everything in the fight and often needs attention and support before it swims off.