John Bailey's Passion for Barbel

xenon

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Farming has gone industrial nowadays!
I was actually brought up on a dairy and chicken farm. The farm was small in comparison to most these days, my grandads actual herd of milkas was only about 70 cows. Obviously he had up and coming calves, and heifers also.
Back then the shippans were cleaned out after milking (twice a day) by hand with a shovel and wheel barrow. The cow muck was wheeled to a middin where it was left to rot down for months. It was spread on the fields via a shyte spreader which had a revolving bar with chains or metal spikes or similar which rotated and flicked out chunks. The fields were then raked and it was broken up and soon munched on by worms etc fertilising the ground. Even with heavy rainfall the muck was not washed into the ditches and streams as the sloppy disgusting smelling slurry they make the cow muck into today does.
The chickens were genuine free range, no fences, they just roamed across the fields and ate gras, insects etc and were supplimented with pellets in the sheds. Each shed held 500 birds and there were six sheds and the birds all returned to their own sheds at dusk and were locked in. The birds looked like pet birds in perfect feather. Their muck was mostly done in the cow pastures/fields and not really noticeable. The stuff out of the sheds went on the middin every few months, that was a nasty job!
The farm had several old mines which had filled with water and were stuffed with fish. There was a stream which always ran crystal clear and again, it was full of fish, watervoles and a multitude of amphibians, insects etc.
So, what i'm saying is, the old style farming had very little ill effect on the wildlife, unlike modern farming practices where maximum profit is all anyone is bothered about!
Quite-cannot recall offhand where I read it, but something to the effect that food after the war was about 40 % of an average household budget, whereas now its about 13 %. There is (part) of your answer right there.
 

LPP

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Farming has gone industrial nowadays!
I was actually brought up on a dairy and chicken farm. The farm was small in comparison to most these days, my grandads actual herd of milkas was only about 70 cows. Obviously he had up and coming calves, and heifers also.
Back then the shippans were cleaned out after milking (twice a day) by hand with a shovel and wheel barrow. The cow muck was wheeled to a middin where it was left to rot down for months. It was spread on the fields via a shyte spreader which had a revolving bar with chains or metal spikes or similar which rotated and flicked out chunks. The fields were then raked and it was broken up and soon munched on by worms etc fertilising the ground. Even with heavy rainfall the muck was not washed into the ditches and streams as the sloppy disgusting smelling slurry they make the cow muck into today does.
The chickens were genuine free range, no fences, they just roamed across the fields and ate gras, insects etc and were supplimented with pellets in the sheds. Each shed held 500 birds and there were six sheds and the birds all returned to their own sheds at dusk and were locked in. The birds looked like pet birds in perfect feather. Their muck was mostly done in the cow pastures/fields and not really noticeable. The stuff out of the sheds went on the middin every few months, that was a nasty job!
The farm had several old mines which had filled with water and were stuffed with fish. There was a stream which always ran crystal clear and again, it was full of fish, watervoles and a multitude of amphibians, insects etc.
So, what i'm saying is, the old style farming had very little ill effect on the wildlife, unlike modern farming practices where maximum profit is all anyone is bothered about!
Tigger - thank you for a reminder of to work with your environment...
 

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My thoughts on chicken farm pollution, is first scientifically proving that practices of chicken waste disposal are causing the river pollution (any river, not just Wye). Then objecting to every planning application - unless stringent rules are applied to the farm. It all starts at planning level and that is where the objections must begin, possibly a job for angling trust or similar organisation to research?
Here on the Towy and other Welsh rivers dairy farms have had a serious negative impact, though the Senedd has recently brought in stringent new laws - not gone down well with some of the farming community.
 

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Passion For Barbel. 31/07/2021

We’ve had a week now of cloud, rain and lower temperatures all round, so I might just venture down the Wye this afternoon and see what’s cooking. I expect it to be up a little and I’m hearing odd barbel are coming out, so I’ll see and report back. Of course, after the events of the last fortnight and the sightings of so many dead fish, salmon mainly but not exclusively, I’m apprehensive. There can be no doubt that barbel fishing has changed greatly these last three years. Are they not there but elsewhere on the river? Are they simply not feeding? Have they been educated to avoid bait? Are numbers simply much lower than they have been these thirty years? I’m being told not to make judgements 'till the autumn is upon us, so I won’t, but it would be wrong not to start wondering where we are going with this one...

In the first instance, let’s see what this afternoon brings us!
 

tigger

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John, for what it's worth, I fish a river that has been very hit and miss over the last several years. People have been blaming otters for the demise of the barbel, yet the otters have always been in the river, the barbel were illegally introduced 35 to 40yrs ago with the otters present as always and over the last 30yrs the barbels numbers exploded. Only four or five years ago, maybe less I could go float fishing and be confident of catching 10 to 20 barbel everytime. My best days trotting was 43, plus numerous chub, dace and trout. Anyhow, over the last several years things have slowed down quite dramatically and I myself have only been catching an average of one to three barbel in a session, sometimes non at all, however there have been lots of everything else being caught.
At the back end of last year I had my best catch of the year, it was either 13 or 15 barbel, I really have forgotton.
I knew the fish were still there in numbers because I could see them now and again and they just wouldn't entertain my trotted baits. I often switched to touch legering and I would usually pick one or two up, but, the fish just weren't having it! I really have no idea why. It was frustrating watching my bunches of maggots trotted down to them only to see the maggots slide over the fishes backs, or down their flanks and the fish paid it no attention whatsoever.
Now this year, although not brilliant for me as I haven't been out much, I do know of a lot of good numbers of barbel being caught by people I know.
Those same people were really adamant that the lack of barbel being caught was because of otters. Now those same people are having to eat their words!

Just to show how much barbel are frightened of otters, last autumn I was stood mid river, casting across to the far side, maybe trotti g the float about ten foot from the bank. An otter suddenly appeared porpoising up the opposite side and hung about diving around right in my swim!!
Within a couple of trotts through while the otter was in my swim I struck into a nice barbel. I had two more barbel out of the swim while the otter was still actually mooching in it.
Same thing happened to me a few years ago but on a small river, an otter popped up very much as a seal does, neck stuck up and head looking around, it saw me and vanished. I caught a dace a chuck after that!

Imo, pollution is the main problem, rather than predators. Lets be realistic, predators are the first things to be affected if their food source is deminished, so if there are still predators around there must be something to feed them, and enough of it to keep them coming back.


The above does look a little random and out of place on your thread, but, i'm trying to say that in all probability the fish are more than likely still there, something is just making them harder to catch....jmo mind 👍.
 

dorsetsteve

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John, for what it's worth, I fish a river that has been very hit and miss over the last several years. People have been blaming otters for the demise of the barbel, yet the otters have always been in the river, the barbel were illegally introduced 35 to 40yrs ago with the otters present as always and over the last 30yrs the barbels numbers exploded. Only four or five years ago, maybe less I could go float fishing and be confident of catching 10 to 20 barbel everytime. My best days trotting was 43, plus numerous chub, dace and trout. Anyhow, over the last several years things have slowed down quite dramatically and I myself have only been catching an average of one to three barbel in a session, sometimes non at all, however there have been lots of everything else being caught.
At the back end of last year I had my best catch of the year, it was either 13 or 15 barbel, I really have forgotton.
I knew the fish were still there in numbers because I could see them now and again and they just wouldn't entertain my trotted baits. I often switched to touch legering and I would usually pick one or two up, but, the fish just weren't having it! I really have no idea why. It was frustrating watching my bunches of maggots trotted down to them only to see the maggots slide over the fishes backs, or down their flanks and the fish paid it no attention whatsoever.
Now this year, although not brilliant for me as I haven't been out much, I do know of a lot of good numbers of barbel being caught by people I know.
Those same people were really adamant that the lack of barbel being caught was because of otters. Now those same people are having to eat their words!

Just to show how much barbel are frightened of otters, last autumn I was stood mid river, casting across to the far side, maybe trotti g the float about ten foot from the bank. An otter suddenly appeared porpoising up the opposite side and hung about diving around right in my swim!!
Within a couple of trotts through while the otter was in my swim I struck into a nice barbel. I had two more barbel out of the swim while the otter was still actually mooching in it.
Same thing happened to me a few years ago but on a small river, an otter popped up very much as a seal does, neck stuck up and head looking around, it saw me and vanished. I caught a dace a chuck after that!

Imo, pollution is the main problem, rather than predators. Lets be realistic, predators are the first things to be affected if their food source is deminished, so if there are still predators around there must be something to feed them, and enough of it to keep them coming back.


The above does look a little random and out of place on your thread, but, i'm trying to say that in all probability the fish are more than likely still there, something is just making them harder to catch....jmo mind 👍.

Mostly agree with you there Trigger. Although I believe Otters are being affected as I recall a recent piece of information saying they were living around half the lifespan they should (can’t recall the source). Also being an opportunistic predator there is no fixed relationship between them and fish numbers let alone one particular species of fish, if all the fish disappeared tomorrow they’d survive on Crays, birds eggs etc etc.

My personal observation of Otters is they seem to work bloody hard to catch anything much, they hunt in daylight as well as their optimum time to hunt and take risks on big ticket high risk items like swans. Not the behaviour of an animal with a bounty of food to have at. Anecdotally their numbers seem to be falling, I used to see one virtually every trip out on the river, now barely at all, it’s a pronounced change. I’ve seen more Otters flat on the side of a busy A road this year than on the Rivers. The A road has houses behind the river with a couple of fields between , the Otter/s have raided quite a few garden ponds through there, risky business that kind of behaviour. Personally I think they are doing far less well than many suspect.

As a key indicator species for good or ill I personally think that Otters are a bit of a red herring. But then I’m not qualified to make that call.

There’s a definite change in our rivers in recent years. The numbers of fish definitely reduced, not just Barbel, the Roach have done well but that’s artificial. Otters became more visible or common.
 

tigger

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We all know what the reel problems are, nothing to do with predators at all imo.
The pollution going into the rivers is just too much.
They say the effluent from human sewage works is sifted to take out larger "things", yet the rivers I fish, one in particular, the brambles on its high bankings have thousands upon thousands of wipes of one kind or another, ladies pads etc left stuck amongst them when the levels fall after a tide or a rise in the levels.
It really is shocking, and i'm quite sure during this lock down period the pollution has just increased massively!
Even if there are lots of fish in a river, if the water quality is poor then they will be put off feeding.
I cou.d go on and on about the pollution incidents locally to me which many people have reported to the ea, and to the councils sending them video footage of daily pollution and dead amd dying fish.
The ea sent one of the people who reported some incidents a letter saying that they know about the pollution but are just to busy to do anything about it at the moment!
Even the local counsil got no joy from the ea.

Oddly enough, there was an otter filmed on one of the very small and polluted riivers several weeks ago!
 
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whitty

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Barbel not being scared of otters is at the barbels cost and part of being not clever enough for their own good Ian,as enough barbel carcasses with otter damage have been found over the last ten to fifteen years on many venues I fish,that said levels of unseen pollution are rising along with the population,something that doesn't bode well...
 

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Just read through this thread, firstly well done John for getting your friend with Parkinson's out and about, that is inspirational to see. Secondly, it is not just anglers that get affected by bad weather forecasts, many events get cancelled because of rain forecast and it is a shame for all the organizers and public when this happens and it does not rain; I find this is getting quite common.
 

tigger

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Barbel not being scared of otters is at the barbels cost and part of being not clever enough for their own good Ian,as enough barbel carcasses with otter damage have been found over the last ten to fifteen years on many venues I fish,that said levels of unseen pollution are rising along with the population,something that doesn't bode well...

At the end of the day otters eat fish, so what? There are many other creatures that eat fish.
Wierd how the majority of anglers who moan about otters are barbel anglers, who claim otters eat nothing but barbel, and they always hunt down the heaviest barbel in the rivers.

Why do anglers moan so much about otters which are a true native species, and which has been a natural inhabitant of our waterways since they evolved?
Yet many of those same anglers want to, and do introduce invasive species, such as zander, and huge fish eating machines in the form of catfish. Then when someone says they would kill one of the catfish if they caught it anglers slag the person off...if it was an otter I doubt many would slag the person off?
How is it ok to catch and release an invasive wels catfish knowing full well that it is going to eat it's way through god only knows how many fish, birds, amphibians, mammals etc and call for culls of otters?
It's because those anglers are selfish scrotes with no concerns for the ramifications of releasing an invasive fish species which they want to catch, just so long as they can go and catch it...those anglers are imo just another part of the pollution problem!
 

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The main reason barbel anglers down south moan about otters is the fact that there werent any,twenty or so years ago,now they are everywhere,we see them swimming around in daylight in busy towns,add to that lower spawning success rates they are dying out,if your rivers were going through similar problems you might sing from a different hymnbook....
 

tigger

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Alan, imo otters have more right to live than I have to go a play about catching fish. They catch fish to survive, not to have a bit of sport. If they eat all the barbel in my local rivers, so be it. I'd rather them eat the barbel than giant invasive catfish which anglers seem intent on putting into every water.
Reality is they don't just eat barbel, they have a wide and varied diet.
Regarding catching barbel, you do better than most anyhow, as you say your regular river has lots of them.
 

John Bailey

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Passion For Barbel. 1/08/2021

Well. I promised an update after yesterday’s visit to the river, and true to my word, here it is.

Enoka and I began working on our cute(?) little hut, which we hope will provide a home for a long while to come. A second coat of paint, foliage tamed and at long last, it was time to actually fish a little. When we had first arrived, before the brushes had come out, I’d baited the chosen swim so my hopes were moderately high.

Rightly so. Very first cast, after no more than a minute and a half, the tip flicked and pulled round and a fine, fighting barbel was careering down river. Woohoo. Happy, happy days. A couple of photos. A careful release, and we were off home exactly nine minutes after starting the session... and that included taking off the chest waders.

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Points of interest (to me at least.)

That first cast is always the biggie so get it right. Especially in shallow water.

Putting bait in a few hours before fishing is a terrific advantage.

Rather than a lead, two 2SSGs (you know, the big ones) will often cope and hold against the flow, and go in far more quietly. Perhaps they even sound like 14mm pellets when they land?

Whilst I love touch-legering, a soft tip might provide even less resistance. If you are not using a bolt-type rig, confidence is the name of the game.

Note that we caught a fish and left. IF you have access to relatively unfished water, this is the way to keep a swim going for years. Hammer any swim, and it gets exponentially harder 'till the fish only feed at night or in floods.

Things are not right on the Wye, and a single fish a summer does not make. Cooler temperatures have helped, but the very few fish I have seen have all been painfully thin. Are they not feeding? Is there no food for them to feed on? Or both?
 

whitty

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Alan, imo otters have more right to live than I have to go a play about catching fish. They catch fish to survive, not to have a bit of sport. If they eat all the barbel in my local rivers, so be it. I'd rather them eat the barbel than giant invasive catfish which anglers seem intent on putting into every water.
Reality is they don't just eat barbel, they have a wide and varied diet.
Regarding catching barbel, you do better than most anyhow, as you say your regular river has lots of them.

The stretch I fish at present has no otters,yet,im not saying otters dont have a right to eat fish on our rivers,but otters were not on southern rivers,for an awful lot of years(more than my lifetime),then as if by magic they ate everywhere,living in much closer proximity to their brethren than is normal,we,humans have interfered with their reintroductions,as we did with their demise,as I said,if your rivers suddenly went into crash decline for barbel and chub you might think a little differently,you have said to me that you would love to have the chance to catch big barbel like I had well that has been taken away,gone,finished,and unless something drastically changes we will never see a return to viable barbel fishing in Bedfordshire,only around 9 or 10 years ago we had some of the biggest fish in the country,plus back up fish,otters are normal on your rivers,on ours they were unheard of,like letting seals loose...
 

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The stretch I fish at present has no otters,yet,im not saying otters dont have a right to eat fish on our rivers,but otters were not on southern rivers,for an awful lot of years(more than my lifetime),then as if by magic they ate everywhere,living in much closer proximity to their brethren than is normal,we,humans have interfered with their reintroductions,as we did with their demise,as I said,if your rivers suddenly went into crash decline for barbel and chub you might think a little differently,you have said to me that you would love to have the chance to catch big barbel like I had well that has been taken away,gone,finished,and unless something drastically changes we will never see a return to viable barbel fishing in Bedfordshire,only around 9 or 10 years ago we had some of the biggest fish in the country,plus back up fish,otters are normal on your rivers,on ours they were unheard of,like letting seals loose...

Large barbel are most likely old barbel, so they may have been easy targets for any predator, or even just died out.
I'm sure I heard of a named fish that was caught regularly for many years that had been found dead a day or two after being caught and its demise was automatically blamed on an otter.
If the river had been as it should be, you would expect there to be at least some youngsters to come through, surely otters arn't going to wipe out every fish. I would imagine otters would have moved elsewhere if the pickings were that scarce, well before there were no fish at all.
As I said in a recent post my local river has been very slow on the barbel front for several years now, lots of anglers shouting loudly for otters to be culled, even though 99% of them have never even seen an otter! Anyhow, this year there has been an increase in the number of fish being caught and people are saying how they don't understand where they went.
I've only had limited fishing up to now this season but on all but my first session I have caught barbel, only three on a session, but plenty different sizes, and lots of roach, dace, small chub and some very decent chub. Bear in mind, i'm float fishing for the biggest part with the odd bit of touch legering and only fishing for 2 to 3hrs at a time.
 

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Barbel seem to be the main prey,especially in winter,as stocks deplete otters turn to chub,perch etc,until they go to roach and dace,the river where I caught my PB from has only four or five of its original stock barbel,the EA stocked the otter larder up around three years ago I believe with small barbel,which you can see odd ones that have survived around spawning time,this used to be a really prolific chub river,with a fair few fish over 6lbs,today it isn't easy to catch chub,perch were common over two pounds,now you see none,this all happened after the arrival of otters in around 2013/14,I do not call for a cull,I do however believe that we shouldn't be 'helping' an apex predator to be as prolific as they are on the Gt.Ouse and Ivel catchments,this all is being multiplied by poor river levels and water quality not allowing recruitment,but I will say it again,as i've said before,if it isn't happening on your river today,watch this space because it is probably going to in the future...
 
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whitty

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More on subject matters,the Wye and Usk foundation were formed to ensure the rivers could continue to bring revenue to the surrounding area whilst maintaining the health and prosperity of these rivers continued,but it seems,like all organisations,no actual clout to push governments amounts to what we see today,this situation pertaining chicken farming has been building for more than a few years,with the phosphates building up,scientists must have known the levels per hundred birds and any threats that might occur,yet farms became bigger and bigger,the video states that farms holding less than 40,000 birds do not have to register,which is incredible,because those dots on the map only show those that are above that,how many others are there below that figure,our country is full of individuals,who vehemently believe what happens in their corner of Britain pertains to every part of the country,whereas in reality it is like being in a goldfish bowl,the most shocking thing is,that the people who's job is to keep an eye over industries,farming and sewage do basically nothing,like ostriches burying their heads in the sand,then our leaders tell us that we must buy electric cars,eat less meat,use less plastic,all very laudable,but without firm legislation everything is doomed to fail,because there is always some slimeball trying to cream a dollar from the environment...
 

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Only one in seven Barbel are females, females are generally the bigger fish. So if you had a population of 30 fish over a mile or two and the one that was taken was one of the two females you’ve lost 50% of your recruitment for the area.
Compound the above with the more sensitive nature of Barbel than most corse fish to pollution and it’s damn obvious why your population is adversely affected by the stresses put on them.

The answers are actually pretty obvious, proving them is timing consuming, expensive and most importantly critical to be able to do anything. Pointing at any one issue and screaming it as the smoking gun with anecdotal evidence isn’t productive, in fact it can if done the wrong way be quite the opposite (as we’ve seen). Sadly no ones interested in proof as they all think they already have the answers.
 

whitty

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One stretch I fished(still can,but it's pointless)had one fish 20lbs plus,two 17/18lbers,with a host of 13-16lb fish,plus smaller(males),this stretch was around three quarters of a mile long,with a high weir upstream and six inch deep shallows downstream,the fish very rarely went looking downstream,now(I hope)there is one fish around 15/16lb and one around 12lb to the best information I have,with very few singles(4 or five),plus what stockies have survived,the biggest fish was my PB of 18lbs in 2012,she was one of the last better fish to succumb,she was in perfect condition apart from the otters bite marks,I know this because the guy who disturbed the otter whilst chomping on her,he showed me photos of her in his bath as she died whilst he was trying to revive her,she is now in a glass case in his living room,quite fitting to be honest as he caught her three times,his biggest capture of her was just over 20lbs...
 
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