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

Cheese Paste Recipe For Chub – A Recipe For Success This Winter

Cheese paste, in my opinion, the best winter chub baits on the planet. It is quick and easy to make, it doesn’t really go off (the older and smellier, the better), and its cheap! I’ve tried sever recipes and this is the one I’ve settled on.


  • 500g frozen shortcrust pastry
  • 500g mature cheddar
  • 450g of blue cheese
  • shortcrust pastry packet mix


Grate the frozen pastry and cheese into a bowl and knead, then sequentially add the dried shortcrust pastry packet mix until you reach a plasticine like consistency. The recipe works fine by itself, but you can add whatever additives you want to it to give you an edge on those bitterly cold winter days. I have read articles where anglers have even added cinnamon or banana flavourings to there cheese paste mixes! Chris added curry powder to his (and it smelled delicious!). I opt for sever cloves of grated garlic cloves and 4/5 heaped tablespoons of turmeric, which makes it a bright yellow colour.

That is my favourite cheese paste recipe, however these are also fantastic recipes for cheese paste:

Recipe 1

  • 500g liquidised bread
  • 500g grated cheddar
  • 2 table spoons of margarine


Add all ingredients into a bowl, mix together then knead. Add any flavourings you like, I usually add Richworth Blue Cheese flavouring. This recipe does need freezing due to the use of liquidised bread. If left out it tends to go slightly hard!

Recipe 2

  • 500g mature cheddar
  • 450g blue cheese
  • Shortcrust pastry packet mix
  • 1 tbspn margarine


Very similar to my first. Follow all steps remove the grated pre-made shortcrust pastry and add dry packet alternative, and add the margarine before you knead.

Give it a go this winter! You will not be disappointed!


Chub Fishing On The Dorset Stour, Throop

This week saw my cousin and I tackle the Dorset Stour at Throop, one of the most prolific chub fishing venues in the country. With the tail end of hurricane Gertrude bringing heavy rain and gale force winds to the South, the river was up and colored. Fishing conditions were not ideal. We knew that if conditions didn’t improve by the end of the week we would have our work cut out.

Being two avid chub anglers the Dorset Stour is a river we have both wanted to fish for a long time. When fishing a new stretch of river the odds are often stacked against you. On the first day we decided to do what we knew best, roving with lob worms and cheese paste. Despite our best efforts only 3 small chub fell foul of our ledgered worm.

Wednesday was a new day, with renewed enthusiasm we awoke with a few swims in mind and a new plan of attack. I was to fish steak and mince in a swim feeder, whilst Chris was going to build a swim feeding regularly with a maggot feeder and a short hook link. Despite our confidence our rodtips remained stationary all day.

By the final day the winds had subsided and the float rods were out! I knew I would need something special to tempt these big wise chub, so I opted for an old favorite of mine, steak and mince, whist Chris trotted maggots. I knew that steak and mince was rarely used on the stour after speaking to several anglers and the owner Davis Tackle shop. I believed that this would give me the edge.

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The first fish to fall to my float fished steak – 5lb 15oz of Throop chub

Several chub fell to this method in quick succession, while Chris caught a couple of chub to 4lb trotting maggot just before he snapped his new Drennan Acolyte float rod.

For those who are interested I have detailed exactly how I fish the method below.

My Float Set Up

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A heavy float (Drennan 4 swan chubber) with the bulk shot close to the hook allowed me good float control and made it easy to hold the float back in the current when I needed to. I used 5lb mainline fished through to a loop to loop knot to which I attached a Drennan Size 14 Margin Carp (barbless) tied to 3lb Drennan Supplex Hook length. A combitation of lines that i find works extremely well with Drennan IM9 Classic float rod and gives me the backbone to handle very large chub.

Steak and mince combined with Sonu Baits Cheesey Garlic Crush is deadly for big chub. I  Mix roughly 500g of ground bait with 750g of beef mince, breaking up the long strands of mince into small clumps. This ratio creates quite a dry mix, I have found if you do not add enough ground bait the feed will not break up in the flow, instead one large ball will bobble along the bottom. On arrival to each swim I throw 3-4 loosely packed walnut size balls upstream on the line I am going to fish, every 1-2 casts after that. You may recognise the photographs below from a previous article. I fished this exactly the same both times. Image-1.jpg

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Cut a slither of steak no wider than your thumbnail roughly 1.5/2cm long and nick it through a bit of fat. I have found that Tesco Value stewing steak is best.



give it a go and see what you think!

Chub Fishing, Mincing Around This Winter

Chub can be obliging biters when conditions are right. They will literally eat anything, livebaits, worms, maggots, strawberries, cheese paste and bread. The list goes on. This week I challenged myself to fish an old method that has all but been forgotten in todays modern angling mags, a tactic renowned for sorting out big chub – Stick float fishing steak and mince. In this article I will show you just how I did it!

After a busy week the only free day to fish was Sunday, and I couldn’t have asked for a better day. Mild conditions at the back end of the week saw temperatures reaching 13 degrees, this coupled with rain on Saturday afternoon bought the river into what i consider ideal chub fishing condition. When I arrived the level was dropping with the water clarity at around 30cm. It was just perfect!


Choosing a swim was easy. This is my local river and I know it very well. Its roughly 7ft deep here with an over hanging bush at the end. For anyone unsure on picking chub swims this is what I look for as a rule of thumb.


Chub are like any other fish. They will sit in slack areas off the main flow and pick food off coming down. The picture above speaks a thousand words. Anyone walking next to flowing water will see swims like this. Note the feature at the end of the swim, chub will hide in snags such as over hanging trees etc for cover. Feeding in line will draw them out and away from the snag. Trott your float down the same line you feed.




I mix my mincemeat with Sonu Baits Cheesey Garlic Crush. This ground bait STINKS! My partner hates me using it, she thinks she can smell it for days after! Chub love it though and it never fails me. A quarter of a bag this size is usually enough to mix with 500g packet of mince, it will give you a consistency like in the picture above. All the long strands of mince have broken up and the ground bait stops the meat sticking together allowing it to break down in the water. For the steak theres no need to go out and buy rib eye or anything like that! Tesco quick fry steak is perfect, its quite tough and fatty so it stays on the hook better! I usually fish a slither of steak about as wide as my thumbnail and around 2cm long on a size 14 hook (see photograph below)

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Place the hook through a bit of fat at the end of the slither you cut.


The first thing I do on arrival into a swim is introduce some bait. I mix my ground bait, and ball in three walnut sized balls on the line I am going to fish, then I set up if I haven’t already. If I’m fishing a totally new swim I set up first and have a few trotts down without a hook bait to get a good idea of the depth, snags, and anything else that may be lurking down there. I find that feeding first and leaving it while you set up will give the fish chance to gain confidence before to drop a hook bait in.

For the first five trotts I feed every time, and if I don’t pick up a bite or a fish within this time then I drop to every other trott, then every two trotts. I feed as much as seems appropriate, theres no point in throwing in loads of bait if theres no fish down there or they’re not feeding. Little and often is the key, I never feed anything more than a walnut sized (or smaller) ball at a time.


My Gear

I use my trusty Drennan IM9 Classic Float rod. You always buy quality when you buy Drennan. This is by far one of the best all round float rods on the market. It can handle reel lines from 3-5lb and is as comfortable catching small silver fish as it catching a 7lb chub. I absolutely love this rod. I pair it with a Daiwa TD Match 2508, again another quality product. I fish 5lb Berkley XL float through to a loop-to-loop knot attaching a Drennan Suplex 3lb hooklength. The hook I use is a Drennan Margin Carp Barbless.

My float is a 12X4 Preston Innovations wire stem stick float with a big shoulder. This allows me to have better control.

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It didn’t take long before I started picking up bites. My first 2 fish were two little grayling!  But not what I was after. Shortly after that I struck into a PERSONAL BEST chub weighing in at 6lb 1oz. Several fish all above 4lb followed. It is safe to say that steak and mince is a brilliant winter bait to pick out the “big-uns” – and one that should certainly not be forgotten!

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