Weirpools For Barbel by Graham Marsden
Although many small weirpools - or millpools if you prefer - are lovely, peaceful places to fish, some larger weirpools give the impression that they are really fearsome, with rushing, gushing water powering over the sill, cascading onto the apron and then exploding into white foam. From there the current charges down the center before dividing into two distinct flows that usually turn and then flow gently back towards the apron. There are many anglers who are put off fishing weirpools because they seem so formidable, yet the old adage of not judging a book by its cover is very true, for what goes on beneath the surface can be entirely different to what you see on it. The only true way to read a weirpool is to fish it and see what happens to your tackle. Watch how your float sometimes follows the surface water, and at other times travels in the opposite direction. Note how your leger weight will stay put in some really powerful looking swims, and yet will roll out of others that look exactly the same. A weirpool can change regularly as floodwater carries in more debris and cuts different paths in the bottom, so never be surprised if your float or leger doesn't behave the same every time you fish there.
a Variety of Swims
Weirpools offer a great variety of swims. Even where the white water crashes onto the apron can be an excellent place to fish, for the apron is there to protect the bottom from being gouged out from that mad rush of water. Barbel, fish which are built to withstand strong currents, love to lie below the apron, sliding out to feed in the turbulence for a minute or two, before gliding back under for a spell of respite, for below the apron is an undercut where the water is fairly calm, no more than a gentle turbulence. The central flow is strongest, but even there the bottom is nothing like as powerful as the surface, and again, barbel, along with chub, forage there. The side eddies are great for all species: roach, dace, chub, barbel, perch, bream and pike all favouring this gentle, almost still, flow of water. The creases between the main flow and the side eddies are very much favoured by chub, but of course barbel will often make an appearance. The run-off, or tail-end, is also an area where most species will feed at some time or other. However, the head of the run-off is favourite with roach, and dace love the faster, shallower, tail-end of it.
are Usually Snaggy
Weirpools are notorious for being snaggy, for the intricacies of the currents ensures that all manner of flotsam and jetsam is carried round in the eddies and backflows until it becomes waterlogged and sinks. As well as these snags being a disadvantage, in that they can be tackle devouring monsters, they can also be an advantage, for they are usually hot-spots,
specially for barbel. Location of barbel certainly becomes easier, for it is a case of find the snags and you find the barbel.
It pays to fish weirpools with at least slightly heavier tackle than you would normally use in that same river. For instance, where 6lb line would be your norm for barbel fishing, then use 7lb test, or even 8lb, in the weirpool, specially if you intend fishing a snag swim. There are snags in a Dane weirpool I fish (see below) that many anglers tackle with 10lb line. Where you would use 4lb line when float fishing for barbel then go for a 5lb or 6lb line.
Care When Feeding
Feeding the swim in a weirpool is probably the most difficult aspect to get right. Loose feeding is a real gamble, for the surface flow can carry the bait away from where you want it to end up. Which means that loose feeding has the reverse effect, acting as a magnet away from the swim rather than towards it. This leaves us with three options. When legering with small particle baits, such as maggot, caster, hemp, etc, use a swimfeeder. One that carries a bit of weight that will cut through the fast surface water and get the bait distributed along the bottom. If necessary, tape over some of the holes in the feeder to prevent too much of the feed escaping as it sinks. It is better to begin with too little feed escaping (which you can establish by casting and retrieving at different time spans) and gradually expose more holes, than to spread too much feed around in the surface area that could end up where you don't want it. I fish with a slightly heavier feeder than is needed to hold bottom in order to achieve a rapid sink rate and to ensure the feeder stays put when it hits bottom.
Big, solid baits, such as cubes of luncheon meat, boilies, sections of sausage and Pepperami, etc, can be fed with a stringer. Even the fastest dissolving PVA isn't fast enough to melt before the bait hits bottom. On slow-flowing swims I often use a stringer, for other than a swimfeeder there are few better ways of ensuring the loose feed lies close to the hookbait.
Finally, when float fishing or legering close enough to make it feasible, a bait-dropper can be used to lower bait to the bottom. Use a big bait-dropper to get through the fastest currents, and a smaller dropper for the slower ones. When using the heaviest droppers tackle up a separate rod with heavy line. A long, stiff rod is best, which will make it easier to drop bait in a little further out than you could manage with a shorter, more flexible rod.
The first problem to solve is the same old problem with any species on any water: that of location. I said earlier that the white water below the apron is a favourite barbel haunt, and so it is, but there will be one or more hot-spots along that apron where you will catch more barbel than any other. There may be a boulder that provides a food trap, or a slightly deeper hole that also holds more food than other areas. Most often the only way of finding these features is to fish, over a period of several weeks, or longer, each spot along the apron and see what transpires.
The main rush of water down the centre of the 'pool is the next place to try, in fact in certain conditions it should be the first place to cast a bait. This centre flow is usually the deepest spot, and later in the day, in summer, when the sun is high, it can be where the barbel move to following an early morning feed under the apron. The side eddies are best when the water is high and coloured following a spell of heavy rain. And for some reason I can't fathom I've found the side eddies can be very productive in the evenings, regardless of conditions. Finally, as I said earlier, if there are snags in any of the swims then it is almost certain you will find barbel in and around them.
It will probably take a couple of seasons before you have a detailed picture of a weirpool, before you are able to predict with any certainty where you will take barbel in a variety of conditions.
for Weirpool Barbel
I use a 12ft, 1lb 10oz, Harrison rod from my own 'Interceptor' range for weirpool barbel fishing. It is supple enough in the tip to register tentative bites, but has the power to handle the biggest fish in the worst of snags. Most often my main line is 10lb Sufix Synergy, with a hook length of 9lb Herculine Micro. Hook is a Penetrator Two, size 6, from the Gold Label range for big baits like cubes of luncheon meat and lobworms, and a Kamasan Animal size 14 for small baits like maggot and caster. Occasionally I'll drop down to a 16 when the barbel are being especially fussy, providing I'm fishing a swim where there are no snags.
Fish the rod set high when legering weirpools. It is important to keep as much line as possible out of the water between rod tip and end tackle so that those strong surface currents are kept away from the line. I prefer just one or two SSG shot on the line whenever I can get away with it. If not then a simple running leger bead with clip link does the job.
I don't float-fish weirpools very often, mainly because the ones I fish are quite popular and there just isn't room to run a float through any of the swims. If it is feasible on the weirpools you fish then by all means give it a try. Again, it is important to step up the strength of your tackle from what you usually use. I use a Harrison 12ft 9in Specimen Float Rod, again from my 'Interceptor' range, kitting it out with 6lb main line to a 5lb bottom, terminating in a 14's or 16's hook baited with maggot or caster. Of course you must fish even heavier if you're running your bait past a snag. Close-in swims can be tackled with a big stickfloat or Avon type float, but the shot must be bulked to get the bait through the fast surface water. Float-fishing distant weirpool swims can be difficult, for the line between rod and float is prone to going anywhere in that network of surface currents, and usually does go anywhere except the same way as the float. The bigger the float and therefore the more shot you fish the easier it will be to keep the float under control, and it helps a hell of a lot if you spray the line with floatant to keep it on the surface. A sunken line when float fishing a weirpool is a complete waste of time. The bait will do everything except behave as you want it to.
When fishing close to snags for barbel (with the heavy leger gear) you can't afford to pussyfoot around. The bites are usually unmistakable, and you should sit with your hand on the rod, and when the rod tip bangs over simply lift the rod to a vertical position and hang on. Don't give an inch, other than what the bend in the rod will allow. The barbel will keep trying to dig deeper into the snag and more often than not you'll end up with a stalemate, where the fish can't dig any deeper, and you can't reasonably pull any harder. Keep hanging on. With a little luck the barbel will give before you or the tackle do, and once you've removed it from the snag it is usually plain sailing from there to the net.
All the usual barbel baits: luncheon meat, sausage or Pepperami sections, sausage meat paste, luncheon meat paste and cheese paste, lobworm, sweetcorn, maggot and caster, with hemp, are all excellent most of the time. As a rule of thumb I use particle baits in a swimfeeder when the water is low and clear, big baits at night, and big, smelly baits when the water is coloured. My favourite bait for high and coloured water is the lob. Barbel love them most of the time, but especially when the water is brown, orturning brown.
Don't be put off weirpools when you see the white water and surging currents. Below that Maelstrom is another world where all kinds of fish, big and small, live out their lives. It is a fact that big barbel love weirpools.