A walk along any barbel river will see the majority of anglers sitting behind a rod waiting for the tip to wrap round in typical barbel fashion. Presenting a static bait is by far the most popular method and it’s very successful. However, reports of late suggest this method is not working so it was time to try something different rather than sit for hours watching a motionless rod tip.
The method I’ve been using by no means new but for some reason, it’s rarely seen in use when walking the banks. I’ve been of the mindset for a few seasons now that when barbel will not take a static bait, presenting a moving one might be the better option . So with this in mind and ideal conditions to compare methods, I have been attempting to catch using the rolling meat.
For those not familiar with the method, a bait is allowed to trundle down with the current with just enough weight added to enable this to happen under control. Trefor West made this method his own using weighted hooks to balance the bait but with me still being a relative novice in comparison, my set up is slightly different.
I use 10lb line straight through to a size 2 or 4 barbless hook. Before tying the hook on I slide on a float stop to which plasticine is added to match the speed of the current.
Ray Walton was probably one of the first anglers to use the plasticine method, in fact he was possibly one of the first to “actively” roll meat, and with phenomenal results too.
But my addition of the float stop gives me a) something for the plasticine to grip onto and b) the ability to slide it closer or further from the hook, depending on how I want to present the bait.
Most brands of luncheon meat and bait manufactured meats are very slow sinking, almost semi buoyant, which is why it makes such an effective bait so having the ability to slide the float stop with the plasticine on it, means I can make fine adjustments depending on depth, speed of flow and the amount of weed present.
Alternatively, you could use a swivel to connect at hook link to your mainline and mould the plasticine around the swivel. However this will of course “fix” your hooklink length. But if the current is strong, the plasticine will grip the swivel more than it will a float stop, so experiment on your own river to find the best set up.
I don’t believe the material of hooklink matters since fish have a simple choice: take the bait or watch it disappear past them. If fishing with the swivel method, you might want to consider fluorocarbon, but with the hooklink as short as it is, you may find it makes no difference.
Supermarket luncheon meat and tinned meats in their various guises vary from brand to brand, but one thing they all have in common is that they are fairly soft.
Because of this you can place the hook inside the meat in much the same way as you do a piece of crust when fishing for carp. You can simply apply a piece of grass to the bend of the hook, which when you tighten, gives the meat a little support but when you strike, the hook will still pull straight through the meat.
The importance of this is not so much in a “hooking” ability, a hair rigged bait would do that job for you but it is the fact that with no hook point showing, your meat can travel through a swim, over weed and across silty or gravel bottoms without catching. A fully exposed hook would catch on pretty much everything it passed. But a hook, with it’s point tucked safely in a soft, oily and very appetising piece of food , is what makes it the ideal bait for this method. There are now some softer pellet style baits on the market like Bait Tech hybrids and they might be worth a go. But compared to the meat, they are still pretty firm and are not as buoyant.
To fish this method effectively then it stands to reason that you need a stretch of river with a current strong enough to carry your bait downstream. On rivers such as the Severn or Hampshire Avon you will be spoilt for choice but other rivers will require some watercraft.
Ideal areas will include weir run offs, gullies where the river narrows and the pace increases or the outside of a bend. Once your swim has been chosen then it takes a few casts of trial and error to achieve the correct balance. Keep adding or reducing the amount of plasticine until your bait is moving at a speed you’re happy with. I always cast upstream, take up some of the slack line but leave enough of a bow to feel the bait down the swim in a straight line.
It’s a great way to explore the river and learn about the nooks and crannies that you would be otherwise oblivious to. When fished correctly you can feel your rig grating across the gravel bottom which usually are natural Barbel holding spots. I have found most bites to be an unmistakable ‘pluck pluck’ although you still get the occasional rod wrenching takes that almost rip the rod from your grasp.
I have used this method to good effect on my local river and had some relative success. Most barbel have been of an average size but satisfying all the same, especially given they have been caught when everyone else on the stretch has blanked.
With a hot spell of weather gripping the UK at the moment coupled with low water levels I have heard anglers state ‘the fish aren’t feeding’ or ‘they are not there.’
Of course this is hogwash! The fish are there and they need to feed. However many anglers are creatures of habit, fishing the same few swims in the same way. This is fine if you want to play the “bait and wait” game but it will often mean a series of blanks before your rod gets a bend in it.
For those that are willing to try something different, then there’s still an opportunity to catch fish when everyone else is struggling. Rolling meat is such an enjoyable method and the sensations transmitted down the line,keep you on your toes. That moment when you feel the urge to strike, is one of the most exciting moments in angling, as you connect with a barbel in fast water.
So get out there and give it a go.