I took five barbel today, and a near 20lb pike, all on trotted maggots. Why does this method work so well so much of the time?
Let's take a look at today. The Trent is low and clear, with a good number of leaves coming down on the surface of the river. The season is five months old the fish have seen it all, they are becoming exceedingly difficult to catch in any numbers. Two guys packing up today had fished all day and left without a bite, they were fishing pellets in a feeder. It's this style of fishing that I see most on the Trent, what I call two rods in the air style. Fishing the centre channel with heavy lead feeders, or flat leads. Size ranges from 3oz to 5oz, they make a big splash when cast in.
I'm guessing this splash is like a dinner bell for all barbel near by, but it's also a caution bell. I don't think fish can reason but they can and do learn from experience. So that dinner bell tells them food is available, but that they should be cautious. The feeder or pva bag deposits a small amount of food in an area, but by the time the barbel overcome their caution, it's been eaten by the small fish or has drifted off in the flow. Because the average angler cannot replicate every cast into the exact area, over a day the food ends up all over the river. I'm convinced barbel do turn up, but find nothing to eat in most cases.
When trotting the feed still drifts off downstream, but because your constantly feeding every cast maggots, or hemp, when they do arrive they have something to eat, then it keeps on coming. When you catch a fish, you step up the feed, and a number of fish is possible. When you catch a fish on the feeder, it's several minutes before you cast again, and then it's just a mouthful again. Not enough to hold a shoal of fish. Your next cast could be several yards off to the right, left, too far or not far enough. Either way it's a one fish method at this time of year, in these conditions. Trotting allows you to bait very accurately, following it with the float, and your own hook-link. Food is always available and the fish don't have to search for it once they arrive.
The fish have to work hard as the food items are very small hemp and maggots in my case. Imagine just one handful of hemp and maggot is possibly 100 individual food items to drift between all those rocks and crevices. Barbel are just like any other fish, and come preoccupied on such tiny items, so they search very diligently. I'll maybe present a bait many hundred times in a six hour day, giving any barbel plenty of chances to eat it.
If no bites are not instantly fore-coming I'll change depth after maybe an hours trotting. Then I'll try holding back hard, or just inching the bait through very slowly. Recently most of the fish have come when just letting it go through at normal speed.
I've no idea in truth what will happen this winter, and if the method continues to catch me fish through the very cold weather. But I fancy when I start to reduce the feed as the weather turns, fish will still feed, maybe for just a few hours only. One friend tells me he catches barbel by just pushing up the float and laying on, still feeding continuously, but with much less amounts. I'm looking forward to giving it a try!
See you on the bank.