on the fly
2021, the world is still on lockdown, travelling has become a far memory. For the addicted to big and strong fish a real curse. Is there a chance to find a real challenge close to home?
The European barbel can reach a meter in length and a weight of 8 kg. It is a very strong fish. Once hooked, it sticks to the bottom and won't give up until your arm's sore. In large sizes, they will open your hook if the wire is not the best quality. A perfect choice for lovers of strong and combative fish. So where to find them and how to catch them?
First, select the right waters. Rivers are divided into three regions: trout, barbel, and bream. The barbel region is typically lowland, yet with a certain degree of a gradient. It has a water flow and temperature that ensure a good oxygen content. In this region, the substrate is a mixture of silt and gravel and plants can take roots. Additionally, the place must be ideal for sight fishing. There are huge barbel in the river Rhine, but they mostly thrive in depths that remain for fly angler unreachable.
Spend time searching for them. Mind that the sun is your friend, it will help you spot their golden reflex. Do not be in a hurry, blind casting will not produce any result. Take your time to observe, look for strong currents, stay put, and gaze at the bottom with a good pair of polarized sunglasses. Find the shoal, barbel always graze in groups.
Some anglers do without it, but I like to use a strike indicator. If you decide to employ one, use one that makes it easy to change its position on the leader to adapt to the depth you are fishing. The nymph must always crawl on the bottom.
Once you spot the group, keep some distance. Even if they graze and focus to the bottom, they will see you if you get too close. These are wild fish, not stock ready-to-catch farmed trout!
Once you hook one, you will feel like you snagged the bottom. Many times you may notice the difference between a snag and a bite by seeing a golden reflex right before the bite. Thus stay always focused and try to imagine the position where your nymph is rolling.
In regards to the flies, there are several theories and preferences. In my personal record "juicy", fat larvae have been performing best. How to catch the big ones? I found most of the times the largest barbel are in the middle of the shoal, but this might be just a supposition of mine. Explore, observe and experiment on your own, this is always the best way to learn more. Each water might have fish with different alimentary attitudes and behaviors.
After the big joy of the catch, set them free with all cautions back into their element.
In many European countries the barbel is protected during the spawing period, depending on the location between May and June.
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