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Barbel and Bream

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The Barbel, when well grown and in season, is a very handsome, noble looking fish, of a golden olive-brown on the back, and a silvery white belly. The scales are placed in very exact order; the fins are of a pinky colour except the dorsal one which is darker, as is also the tail, being tinged with purple and of a forked shape, the upper part being curved over to a sharp point and very strong; with this it is able to defend itself and often to break the tackle. Barbel occasionally attain a weight of eighteen to twenty pounds, but these are very rare occurrences and one of twelve pounds is considered very large. The head is somewhat pointed, with sharp cunning eyes and four wattles or barbs under the mouth from which he is supposed to take his name. The mouth is situated underneath, enabling him to suck the worm from the ground: the lips consist of a fleshy substance which lie can contract or protrude at pleasure, the teeth being in the throat.

They spawn in April and May; the best months in which to angle for them being July, August and September. Their general haunt is in the deep part of rapid steams. At the end of scouers in mill ponds, and under overhanging banks, they may be seen during the summer routing up the sand and gravel with their noses like pigs. Ephemera justly remarks that he is "a lazy, wallowing gentleman, and the Launcelot Gobbo, of the subaqueous pantries and cellars. The sound of the smacking of his lips tells you how fond he is of a good morsel. He acknowledges its receipt by the best music he can make, and yet what a shame it is that food should be thrown away upon him. So it is, however, and let him swallow good things ever so swiftly, let him be worm or gentle crammed his flesh is never the better for it. His great angling value being his obstinacy, which gives him strength notwithstanding the morbid appearance of the muscles, and he will resist your efforts to tow him out of the water with exciting energy. His large tins give him great power when in the water, and he works heavily with them to get away when hooked, making them tread and beat the water like the paddles of a slow steamer."

The Rod used for Float-fishing for Barbel should be stiff and light, about thirteen feet long of mottled cane, - with an extra top to shorten it about two feet for leger fishing, which requires a stronger rod. The Line should be of the finest prepared plaited silk, about eighty or a hundred yards in length for float-fishing, but. should not be so fine to use with a leger. The Winch may be either wood, brass or bronze. It must be understood here, that when I mention float-fishing for Barbel, I refer more particularly to that with the running float known as the "Traveller." These floats are made of cork, long and thin; of various lengths to carry from a dozen to forty shots, and are fitted with a small ring at each end bend down at right angles with the float. Through these rings the line passes, the float, running ultra veiling loose on the line, hence its name. To use it: select a long steady swim with a tolerably even bottom, free from large stones or other obstructions. There are several swims in the Thames where I have worked the " Traveller " successfully, quite fifty yards down the river. One of the best of these swims is in the neighbourhood of Great, Marlow. I remember well fishing it with a friend in July, 1856, and rather astonishing sundry Piseators who were using the leger line from the bank, without having so much as a nibble among them all in a day and a half we landed very nearly three hundred weight of Barbel, some Perch and Dace, and though last, not least a fine Trout weighing five pounds. We should have taken more but in consequence of the Mill stopping, the water was lowered considerably in depth and the current was so slow that comparatively speaking it; was dead water. Three of the Barbel were over nine pounds each; many of the smaller ones we returned to their native element, apparently none the worse for their trip to the higher regions. We were fishing from a punt anchored lengthways in the stream and hooked several of the best fish upwards of forty yards from the punt.

The " Traveller" is used thus: - -the gut-hook, size No. 2 is fastened to the gut line by a small swivel to give the worm free play The bottom shot should be about a foot from the hook, then five or six large Swan Shot, and instead of a long string of shot above these, it is preferable to use two or three small dip leads to increase the weight. The running line being now passed through the rings of the float, is fastened to the gut bottom thus prepared; the line should be sufficiently weighted to show quite an inch of the top of the float, otherwise you will not be able to see it a long distance off. After plumbing the depth, which can be easily accomplished by pushing a small plug of wood into the upper ring of the float to fasten the line while the operation of plumbing is performed, remove the plug and plummet, and make a slip knot in the line about two inches above the top of the float, inserting a double piece of stout gut sufficiently long to project half-an inch on either Ride of the knot; now draw this latter tight and there will be a sufficient impediment, created by the projecting pieces of gut to prevent the float rising on the line higher than required for the depth of water. It must be obvious that this is a most useful style of fishing in deep water, because it is equally easy to fish a deep hole of twenty feet, for although the gut offers resistance enough to the float to keep the bait at the required depth, still it is sufficiently limp, when wet, to draw through the rings of the rod; so as to allow the fish to be brought within manageable distance. The float, meanwhile being loose on the line, drops down on the shots; after the fish is landed and a fresh worm put on, slack the line and the float regains its original depth; the weight of the shots carrying the line rapidly through the rings on the float, until it reaches the gut-stop. Thus I have easily fished a twenty feet hole with a rod of twelve feet, which I certainly could not have done so comfortably, Lad I used a fixed float,. A sketch of the "Traveller" is annexed, showing the gut "stop" knotted in the line.

To fish a Barbel swim successfully, it should he well ground- baited the previous day with lobworms. If it is an eddy or al most dead-water, these may be thrown in without mixing with anything else, but if there is much stream, the greater portion should be made into clay balls, thus: - take some clay (which may be generally found in the river bank) and working it into large balls, press a good-sized hole in each, fill with worms and stop it up tightly. Throw these towards the head of the swim; the worms working out are sure to be carried far enough down by the stream, whereas, if thrown in without- clay as some writers recommend, they would soon be washed anywhere but where you wanted them.

The following day, when you commence fishing throw in about twenty or thirty lobs (each being cut into about four pieces) sufficiently above where you fish to allow the stream to work them down the swim. Remember that the bait should always be in advance of the float, and as little line as possible in the water between it and the top of the rod. It must be evident, that when the float is swimming first and dragging the bait after it, the shot must come first against the nose of the Barbel; and even if he should see the bait, he has to take the trouble to turn round and swim after it; not only disturbing his own equanimity, but probably upsetting the little domestic arrangements of some other greedy old epicure, who, had you not interfered with the first old gentleman would have remained very quietly sucking in the juicy little morsels like a city Magnate over his turtle, till a fine luscious lob sailed stately down towards him; he would then gently have opened his leathery mouth and allowed it. quietly to glide in; discovering, to his sorrow, when you proceed to disturb his balmy reveries abruptly with a sudden jerk, that "all is not gold that glitters" Therefore to prevent any such unfortunate contretemps, and to ensure a good day's sport as far as lies in your power, proceed in a careful manner. Should you be fishing from a punt, with the wind blowing slightly up stream, your task will be so much the more easy. By raising the top of the rod and allowing the line to run out slowly, you keep it as taut as possible to the float, which will then point up-stream; while the tackle w ill swim in advance of it, the bait, naturally being first. If the wind is blowing down the river, the stream at the top is impelled faster than the stream at the bottom, and the float must be managed accordingly; always regulating the line so that the bait shall be in advance. After a few- fish have been taken, throw in some more chopped worms, but not too many; and be particular, to calculate as near as possible when you throw in the first instalment of worms, what distance they will be carried by the stream before they reach the bottom. Do not spread them about, but draw the fish as much to one part of the swim as you can. If the water is very clear it will be better to keep them ten or fifteen yards below you; they will bite better and for a longer time by being kept at a distance. Strike directly the float goes down and play your fish carefully so as not to disturb his late companions in the swim; proceeding in this manner and throwing in a few chopped worms occasionally, to keep the Barbel together, success is certain. Always, of course, providing that the place has been ground-baited the previous day. and that you do not overdo it while fishing. It must be evident that as each fish can only eat a certain quantity, by throwing in too much at once, you probably satisfy the greater portion and then wonder why they will not feed, when your bait is rendered almost invisible by the cloud of worms you have sent in. But throw in about twenty chopped small, and there will probably be a scramble amongst the shoal attracted by the prospects of an El Dorado of lobworms; prospects which your large deposit of ground-bait of the previous day- would seem to warrant. What are eighty little bits among a shoal of Barbel waiting for a fresh banquet? Presently, down comes a bonne-bouche in the shape of your bait; it is immediately pounced on by an unsuspecting gourmand, who to the astonishment of his confrères, immediately departs in an extraordinary manner for the upper world. Another goes in like manner, and so on through the shoal, a very few chopped worms serving to whet their appetite; until the few that remain have been rendered too shy by the continued hooking and disappearing of their friends.

Making due allowance for the lightness of the tackle, be particular to strike hard enough; the mouth of a Barbel being very leathery, a sharp jerk is required to fix the hook firm. Lose a fish and you disturb the swim, and unless they are very strongly on the feed, they will take a little time to recover from their fright.

The Leger is very good when the water is colored, or if you are fishing ground of too uneven a nature for the float; such, as the side of a tumbling-bay or similar place. It is made in the following manner: - a long shanked No. 1 gut hook is attached to the leger line, the bottom part of which is composed of two pieces of gut, so as to leave the bait about a yard below the bullet; at the upper end of the gut w a small swivel, above which is a foot of yellow gimp, on which the bullet runs, a drilled shot being on the gimp next the swivel to act as a stop to the bullet. Many Barbel fishers use a leger hook of this description about two inches from the end of the shank of a No. 1 gut hook, a small lip hook is whipped on the gut; when the lobworm is threaded on the larger hook, the worm is drawn up the gut and the head is placed on the small hook. When legering, many Barbel take the head of the worm and I have caught numbers with the small hook which I should probably have missed had I not used that useful little addition; the worm also is kept much straighter than when without it.

To use the Leger, we w ill suppose that the place has been well ground-baited as before described. If you are fishing from the bank, throw the Leger lightly and steadily a little across and down the stream, as near as you can to where you suppose the ground bait has collected. Lower the point of the rod, holding it in such a manner us to keep the line taut to the point of the rod, so as to be able to feel the slightest bite, and remain perfectly quiet. The bite of a Barbel at a Leger may perhaps be best described as a double knock, two distinct little jerks directly following each other, and requiring an instantaneous strike in reply.

If you do not have a bite in ten minutes or so, draw up and make a fresh throw, longer or shorter, according to circumstances, but always in the direction of the ground-bait; first examining the bait to see if some part of the hook may not be exposed.

I have practised this style of fishing with great success in parts of the Thames where it would have been extremely difficult to use a " traveller," owing to the rough state of the bottom; but where, nevertheless. I picked out some heavy Barbel with the Leger; ground-baiting with the clay balls.

Greaves is sometimes a good bait and may be used either with float or Leger, in either case the stream should be slow to allow the bait to lie on the bottom. Greaves should first be broken in pieces with a hammer and requires soaking some time in water: some recommend that it should be boiled a short time, constantly stirring it, to prevent it burning. To bait with it: - select the whitest and put four or five small pieces or a long narrow strip on the hook, so as to cover the bend up to the point; the hook should be smaller than that used with a worm. Ground-bait with the rougher pieces but use very little.

Cheese is used in a similar manner. The stream must be very slow; before you commence, throw in several pieces cut to the shape of dice, for ground-bait, It is used in the following style with the ordinary fixed float: - plumb the depth, setting the float about two feet deeper, so that the bait and shots may lie on the bottom straight down the stream, and then proceed the same as for legering; the float will show the bite.

Barbel are also angled for, with the ordinary fine roach tackle baiting with gentles; and are sometimes taken of great weight. They are frequently caught foul when fishing with the Leger, through swimming over the line; the angler supposing it to be a bite, strikes, and often hooks the fish.

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