Lee Swords Fishing

Just another WordPress site


Barbel fishing…Struggling to get a bite during the day, have all the barbel turned vampire!?!

Here is an old barbel based article that was published in the Anglingstar some six or seven years ago, I actually smiled as I read it. I remember the season well, I really did struggle to catch much that season during the day…But by God did I make up for it when it went dark!

What I am going to do with this “effort”is make additions to this article in “red” illustrating what I would do now to change things around a little bit which  would have hopefully got me a few bites.


The mysterious phenomenon of vampire fish and alarms that go beep in the night

By Lee Swords


The river Trent is doing my box in, it can look cock-on and be running quite nicely but if you are trying to catch the bigger than average fish with specialist methods, unless there is at least the slightest bit of colour running through you will struggle to tempt anything to feed during the hours of daylight, what’s happened to all my daytime barbel sport?Lee Swords Twighlight

Have all the barbel turned into vampires unable to feed during the hours of daylight?

Is it really possible that the vast majority of barbel on the Trent have become pellet and boilie devouring monsters that can only feed during the hours of darkness?

“No the fish have simply become a little wary of the angling pressure they are receiving  it is time to make changes to your rigs, if you are not prepared to change how you are approaching your fishing how can you expect your results to improve?”


I have had one good daytime session this year when the river was carrying about 12” of extra water and had the slightest of tinges to it, weak tea would have been pushing it. Recently I have had a couple of long sessions on the tidal and non-tidal Trent and on both occasions spent 11 hours or so of daylight looking at a lovely looking bit of water, noting all the different birds, animals and butterflies that were in the area but as for fish not a sniff, not even a twitch, tug or line bite, nothing, nowt, zilch!!!

A nice furry backed butterfly

The first barbel session was at Collingham with fellow Anglingstar writer and photographer Alan Urrity, the river looked good, the rig looked good and the bait was A1 but could I tempt the fish to feed?


” The rig was tired and old hat it was the same shit rig incorporating a carp clip that the fish had been looking at all season long, it incorporated 11lb Fluorocarbon in the trace and the bait was too big for daylight hours…lets knock the bait down to a pair of 4mm mini elips on a 14 DSS or equivalent and whilst making changes trim the b/s on the trace down to 7 or 9 lb shall we?”

daytime barbel bait for clear water conditions

Not a chance! I simply could not get the barbel to move onto my mixed pellet and crushed boilie ground bait; Alan who was fishing below me was using a lighter maggot based match type approach and had maybe 5lb-10lb of small stuff including one small barbel, by no means prolific but a far better result than what I was getting only 25 yards upstream.

“The fish are obviously in the area then…what more did I need in the way of encouragement from them…a bloody e-mail”

The bait was dropping fast!

I was thinking about moving swims but by tea time I had invested a lot of bait into the swim and simply had to sit it out and thank the Lord I did as all the casting had put down an impressive banquet for the nocturnal inhabitants to concentrate on and good Lord did they get their heads down!


“Now the table has turned, the fish can no longer see what a crock of shit my rig is and the oversized bait is perfect as it is giving off a lot of food signals…now I am fishing “right”"

It was a complete bream fest! The faster the bream came on to the bait, the more bait my feeder was depositing and the faster the fish came, it was a total feeding frenzy eventually I was catching fish so fast it was a matter of unhooking, releasing, re-loading and getting the bait out before the other rod went off and began the whole process again.

The bream were great fun but after a coupe of dozen it is time to try and get a barbel on the bank!

Anti-bream rig

The elips pellets that I had drilled for the hook were being depleted so fast that I switched baits to Dynamites Frank Warwick spicy shrimp and prawn 10mm boilies fished in pairs like the pellets.

“Don’t drill glue…faster..safer”

Kryston glue...safer than drilling

The double pellet or boilie hook bait soon went up to a trio in an attempt to slow the bream down and give the barbel a chance to get in on the act but still the slabs came to the net. Eventually I retied my hooklengths with extra long hairs to accommodate six 10mm elips pellets, this gave the appearance of a sausage type bait and it proved to be the one that the barbel managed to get to with three good sized specimens managing to get to the front of the queued up bream and finally give the rods a proper work out.

Trent barbel

the biggest of the barbel went to 9lb5oz but it looked  a dammed sight bigger, I was sure it would have gone almost a pound heavier. Judging fish by the light of a head torch can be a bit tricky at times The other highlight of the night was the Perseid meteor shower that seemed to come and go in short bursts, the clear skies and lack of light pollution exaggerating the intensity of the shooting stars, it was almost like being in the film “War of the worlds”!

Lee Swords

The next session was on the non-tidal Trent blow Nottingham I was fishing with Iain Swift, the young lad I fished with last year in attempt to help him catch his first barbel, now this lad has come on leaps and bounds in fact his p/b carp is now a couple of pounds heavier than mine, A fish of just over 20lb’s! How things have changed when I was his age a 20 lb fish was still a proper monster, whereas now virtually every venue you can name has the potential to throw them out, almost by the trailer full! Direct from Australia, France, Holland or Romania!

I arrived in my swim at around 2pm on the Sunday, fretful that the entire length would be busy as it was a bank holiday weekend and surely there had to be somebody else wanting to try the Trent, I need not have worried the stretch was desolate, oh how I love commercial fisheries at times; Iain was due to be arriving early the next afternoon. I set up camp and started to spod out a heavy bed of mixed pellets and broken boilies.

“Spodding is ok on the tidal when the tide is turning and the flow drops to zero but it is a messy way of getting bait out on the non tidal…Not to be recommended  the feeding zone is far too large and lightly set”

The bombardment lasted a good half hour and by the time I was finished around 5kg of mixed particles were on the river bed with another 5kg earmarked for the feeder and p.v.a bags. I was going to use BFW’s 10mm elips pellets as hookbait but should these fail I had a change of bait in the Frank Warwick dynamite baits 10mm squid and octopus boilies which had been glugged with “liquid source” to match the pellet mix which also had a dash of this fantastic feeding trigger.

Big brown slugs and their armour plated cousins the “snails” began to emerge from the bank side vegetation, my previous observations that any pellet mix containing “liquid source” drives them insane was again proven without doubt. I can cope with snails but I hate slugs; take a close look at the business end and you will see the gaping orifice of your worst nightmare, thank heavens they are not nine foot tall and a little bit quicker. As the renowned angler and angling writer Jim Gibbinson said of swans, I say it of slugs! “I am not a fan”IMG_1480

Just as the sun touched the tops of the trees and the light began to fade into a glorious pink, the entire surface of the river began to glow and circles of bright water began to appear, marking the spots where small fish were feeding on aquatic insects dimpling the surface and leaving their mark, just as the dawn chorus builds up to a great crescendo of activity and noise so did the swirling and rolling of the fish with ever larger specimens showing themselves on the surface until the tension of waiting for the inevitable bite was unbearable.

“Once again I was making the same mistakes…I should have scaled back…I may have already had a half dozen fish in the net by now”

The tip of the rod finally jagged downwards and released me from the torment of the anticipation. A fine chub powered away but the barbel gear I choose to employ does not allow them much leeway and he was soon brought to the net. Another chub and a bream were soon to follow, the BFW pellets obviously to their taste. The sport faded for a few hours and I had to be content watching the bats flying around my rod tips until at stupid o’clock in the morning the barbel finally arrived and banged my left hand rod over into a screaming semi circle. The clutch gave line a little too easily and before I knew what was happening it was crashing through weed beds but luckily there was no snag up and a quick twist of the front drag and a little extra pressure from my thumb had the fish arcing across the river with the flow and into safer steadier waters. The net was soon slipped under slipped under the fish and straight away it was apparent that this was a good fish, the scales stopped at exactly 10lb, my second double of the season.

Another couple of barbel up to 9lb joined the double on to my list of captures but soon the sky was beginning to lighten up and with the darkness went the sport, with only two more fish being caught until Iain joined me at around 4pm that afternoon.

” Once again I was fishing with night-rigs rather than day-rigs and making excuses all the way!”

His immediate and enthusiastic inquiry as to whether or not I had caught anything was met with the reply that there was almost no chance of either of us catching in these conditions until the sun is well behind the trees on the far bank, the water was so clear it was startling, a phenomenon made even more surprising as we had experienced a decent amount of rain in the preceding week and I did not think it unreasonable to expect the slightest of tinges to be remaining, but no. A river of gin was flowing past my feet and until the angostura’s bitters arrived with the setting sun there was almost no chance of a party.

sunset on the TrentThe sun hit the top of the trees and at that moment the rod tip bounced down in a perfectly typical bream bite, the bream although rather large didn’t have much in the way of an argument and simply nodded in agreement to the persuasive case the 2 ½ lb test curve rod put forth. It was soon to be joined by a far more belligerent chub of 4lb 12 oz that could do a rather passable impersonation of a barbel tearing off 10-15 yards of line in a couple of surging runs before like most second rate impersonators it soon ran out of jokes and kited into the waiting net with its huge gaping maw wide open.

Iain joined the commotion by landing a very nice barbel of 9lb 4oz as soon as proper night fell, a fish which I have previously caught at 10lb 4oz and although it still looked every bit a double it was lacking somewhat in the belly region but a 9lber as your first barbel isn’t a bad start and probably better than bagging a double straight away. Apart from that fish and one more screaming run Iain’s sport was over for the night, ruined in part by the fluctuating levels of the river caused by the hydro-electric generators up river and the masses of weed and debris that this brought with it. It’s a whole lot different to fishing lakes and reservoirs with a completely bewildering range of obstacles to overcome but I think Iain did a cracking job on his first Trent overnighter; it’s just a shame that as far as Iain was concerned she was in one of her “funny moods”.

” Sometimes she can be a bitch, you just have to accept that”

Being a bit more aware of her little spats however gave me an advantage over Iain and I was able to stay with the fish and land a half dozen more good fish, the biggest being an 18lb leather carp that led me a merry dance for a fair few minutes.nice leather 18lb and an 11lb 4oz barbel that gave me a fantastic scrap before finally succumbing to the net, both fish falling to a trio of BFW 10mm elips pellets. The leather carp was the second carp I have had from this peg in consecutive sessions, they don’t half brighten up quiet nights!

A bream was the final fish to visit the net before the night was out and the sun brought a close to the proceeding for other 11 or so hours, I still find it difficult to fathom the change in sport. Yes, I know fish have always had a crepuscular habit of feeding at dusk and dawn but on some stretches I used to visit the feeding habits of the fish were predominantly diurnal, with the best of the sport coming early in the afternoon. The catches of barbel I have made in bright sunshine are legion with many, many ton up bags falling to different feeder methods (I really should start to catch a few on the float!) The two most productive of these being what I called the “bouncing bomb” and the polar opposite of that method the “pig sticker” so even now after repeated sessions where the fish were almost totally nocturnal I cannot quite find it in my heart to rule out daytime as a viable time to catch fish, big ones as well! I will simply have to work at it, and adapt my “Van-Helsing” type methods.

” I tweaked and changed and eventually fathomed it all out, it took some time but I got there in the end, yes barbel can become very nocturnal but with a bit of thought there is no reason why any decent angler shouldn’t expect a little bit of sport regardless of clarity and flow” 

5 Responses to “Barbel fishing…Struggling to get a bite during the day, have all the barbel turned vampire!?!”

  1. Enjoy reading your blogs on the trent but one thing puzzles me at a time when you promote the bait company for getting good results using there bait,,how come in your blogs you use something different or is it that they didn’t work.

  2. Hi Steve, for most of the time I have fished the Trent I have used bait from two companies, Dynamite ( which I rate highly) and Teme Severn ( which has now ceased trading)

    Before I was taken on by Teme Severn as a consultant I used Dynamite almost exclusively but then switched over to T7 and stayed on with them for 4 years.

    T7 ceased trading last year and if I am honest I had no intention of going back down the track of consulting but an offer came in to work with a good little company that is trying to do things a little differently and so I decided to help them along and I am glad that I did, its good gear.
    and that is why in more up to date blogs I am using Hook Bait Company gear, its good stuff and it catches fish…

    I hope that answers the question

  3. Since emailing you lee I purchased some products from the hookbait company,unfortunately I havn’t had any promising results yet,however I,m still persevering,i’m using the 3b & river secret barrels with relevant glugs.Anyway if there’s any tips I might benefit from you it would be appreciated.Cheers Steve

  4. My results have also been hit and miss, the Trents is being very fickle at the moment and all the fish seem to be in packs so its feast or famine.

    Keep the faith!!

  5. Hi my name is wayne i fished the trent for my first time on the 5/10/2013. I found it a hard venue but what a great result as i had my pb at 15.09 was over the moon just think you have to try all types of baits have been on the severn for most of the year where i have had only 2 duble figures this year but 29 barbel the trent was my 30 one of the year.
    bait was 2x14mm boiles just thought i would shear that with all thanks

Leave a Reply