Barbel Fishing Musings – Bivvies and Bite Alarms!

With more and more carp anglers trying their hand at barbel fishing, I see lots of anglers fishing behind 2 rods with bite alarms and even at times lying in their sleeping bags on their bed chairs inside a bivvy, as they would do in carp fishing, and paying more or less no attention at all to watching the rods.
Now you can probably get away with this on big rivers like the Trent or Severn (as long as you aren’t fishing a snaggy swim), but personally I think this should be a definite non starter on smaller rivers like the Dove. Whenever I am river fishing I sit so that I can touch each reel whilst sitting in my chair and have never ever used a bite alarm.

barbel fishing thoughts and tips

A 13lb 4oz River Dove Barbel with a massive tail, this was a real ‘hit and hold’ situation, I would have had no chance if I hadn’t been on the rods straight away!

By the very nature of the River Dove (narrow and usually tree lined) you will be fishing close to some sort of snags. Now, if you are fast asleep how can you hope to be in control of a barbel on that first run? Surely the barbels welfare should be the number one priority. How many responsible carp anglers would snag fish at night and go to sleep? Not many, so surely the barbel should be given the same level of respect! Not only that, but the sound of an alarm bleeping every time a bit of debris hits the line, is really annoying. This is one of the main reasons I will always try to avoid the busy/well know stretches.

Also by using alarms and/or sleeping you really are missing out on a lot of vital information that your rod tops are telling you. The alarms will only really tell you when a fish has taken line through the alarm, by which time they have probably already hooked themselves. Whereas you will movement on the rod tip without any line being taken. Now by carefully watching the rod tops you can tell so many more things;

1. Slow bend rounds – maybe lots of weed gathering on line… do I need to increase the length of my hook length?

2. Continuous rod tip movements for small period of time – feeder/lead moving… do I need to use a heavier weight to hold bottom?

3. Sharp jabbing type knocks on rod top – fish obviously in swim but either not feeding properly or scared of hook bait being used… do I need to change my rig/bait?

4. Slow little knocks every few minutes – on rivers like the Lower Severn, this usually means you are being ‘breamed out’ … do I need to try bigger baits, change feed from pellet to hemp? Or if it continues move swim?

5. No movement on the tips at all and other are catching – obviously fish are feeding in other areas so it’s time to move swim.

barbel fishing thoughts and tips

A change to a heavier feeder produced this lovely Derwent 14 pounder on just my second trip to the river, last season.

Barbel Fishing thoughts and tips

After getting lots of sharp pulls I changed the rig to a bait mounted tight to the shank of the hook – this resulted in a positive take just ten minutes later (the paste is just starting to dissolve) from this Warwickshire Avon double.

The five points mentioned above are just a few examples of the sort of thing the “alarm only” angler misses.

If you use the Enterprise Tackle rod tip adaptors with a high powered isotope (as shown in the picture above) you can continue to watch the rods closely in the dark. I can think of many, many occasions where watching the rods has caused me to change what I am doing and that change has resulted in the capture of a good fish. Give it a go… I’ll bet you’ll be surprised!

Pat Gillett.

barbel fishing thoughts and tips

A Winters evening on the Lower Severn and the Enterprise adaptors in action.

This article first appeared on the Quest Baits Blog & is reproduced with kind permission


One thought on “Barbel Fishing Musings – Bivvies and Bite Alarms!

  1. Paul Cooper says:

    Hi Pat
    I totally agree with you. Carp tactics cannot work on a moving piece of water.
    You need to be in touch with the last few feet of your end rig and the only way to do this is by watching your rod tips and a tight or semi-tight line. Debris is continuously on the move on a river along with weed and leaves which would send alarms crazy.
    I don’t get the bivvying up idea either! Barbel are quick and very strong and with the assistance of the current, the barbel would be straight into the nearest snag. Fortunately there are a lot of similar minded anglers to ourselves out there and it is the minority that are causing the problems.
    Piece, quiet and tranquility, listening to the flow of the river. That is what river fishing is about. We try to get away from the crowds and the sound of idiots and there alarms.

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