Fishing For Barbel On A Winter River

Trying to fit fishing in with a full time job is tricky. If you have a “floating” day off like me it is important to keep a close eye on the weather forecasts to help determine the species you fish for, and make the most of your sessions. 

The amount of rain we have received recently brings a wide eyed smile to a barbel angler. When a river looks un-fishable to most we come out in full force intent on catching a river prince. 

This week I went on a very wintery expedition to the River Derwent to try and snag a winter barbel. In this article I will show you how I fished for barbel on a high river in January.

Swim Choice

This is by far the hardest bit to get right, I have found this out the hard way with many fish-less trips over the years. An influx of warm coloured water will turn barbel into feeding monsters, even in the darkest depths of winter. 

What to look for:

  • A steady flow – Somewhere not too fast. Fish are opportunist feeders, its all about maximum reward for minimum effort. They won’t burn energy holding in a flow when they can sit just off it and pick off food coming down in the current, therefore using less energy. Barbel usually hang around these areas. 
  • Gravels – I am not 100% convinced that this is an essential for barbel to feed, but it really does help. 

These are two of the main features I look for in a high, and coloured river. However, barbel will also be found in:

  • Glides
  • Undercut banks
  • Behind weed rafts
  • Behind snags such as dead trees etc
  • In and around streamer weed (not really applicable in the winter months as the weed dies off and gets washed away)

Bait & Rig

I used two Drennan Avon Quiver rods (with the heavy tip), with Diawa Emcast 5000A Baitrunners with 10lb Fox Soft Steel Camo line. I fished these on a Korum River Pod. 

My End Gear:IMG_2027

As simple as that. I may sometimes change the paste for a stringer of boilies, a PVA bag of chopped boilies, or pellets.

After only an hour or so my rod screamed off (thank Odin I had my freespool on!) and I was into a 13lb 2oz Derwent Torpedo. After a courageous fight in a very strong current I had this lump of muscle on the bank and I was a very happy chappy!

That will definately warm you up on a cold January Day!


13lb 2oz River Derwent Barbel

James’ Top Winter Barbel Fishing Baits:

  1. Boilies
  2. Lobworms
  3. Luncheon Meat
  4. Paste
  5. Cheese Paste

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