RISING water levels and chocolate coloured water might look grim, but certain species, notably barbel, love these conditions and are usually well up for a bit of grub. Here are some barbel fishing tips.

Floodwater tactics differ enormously from the usual low level methods.

You can forget delicate 1 oz quivertips and tiny bombs and feeders, they are useless even in the calmer slacks as the increased pace and debris will swirl them around like clothes in a washing machine.

What you need are beefy rods, capable of dealing with heavy leads, combined with thicker lines more akin to tackling specimen carp.

Even traditional Avon rods aren’t always robust enough and dedicated carp rods are often necessary.

Choose your leads carefully too. You’ll need low profile, flat ones to make certain that your rig is securely anchored to the deck.

Flood loving barbel will simply ignore rigs that bump around the river bed and they will quickly become firmly lodged in the debris and other snags anyway.

Windy type rests are a sensible idea, to stop your rod from being dragged in should any large item of debris slam into the line or from aggressive takes from biting fish.

The ability to detect smaller baits is also an issue in heavily coloured water, so opt for a decent sized bait with plenty of stink to ensure the fish can easily locate your offering.

A big chunk of luncheon meat is a great floodwater bait, and give them a proper mouthful – just four baits from one standard tin is not unusual!

Lightly fry the cubes of meat in curry powder or garlic granules, to give them a flavour boost that can’t be missed by barbel, even in the most coloured water.


1. Barbel are a classic floodwater favourite and river fans will be out in droves following a period of heavy rain. Inhospitable looking stretches are no concern for these bottom hugging beauties, and almost no flood conditions are too hostile for them. Subtle plucks and tremors associated with low water conditions turn into blatantly obvious slamming takes which are impossible to miss.


2. Leave those dainty quivertip rods at home when the rivers are bank high and chocolate coloured, instead use carp rods with 2 lb-plus test curves to cope with raging bank bursting conditions. Playing even moderate sized fish in fast flowing water will quickly expose any weakness in your gear, so use thicker lines to avoid losses. Visibility of both the main line and the hook link is not such an issue in coloured floodwater.


3. A heavy lead that anchors your bait tight to the deck is more likely to be taken than a rig washed around into debris and snags. Flattened leads have a lower profile compared to standard bomb shapes and will hug the bottom best. Grippa leads are better still and occasionally you’ll need to use a real whopper – 6 oz or more – to hold the bottom. For feeder fishing choose oval varieties, carrying plenty of lead to hold the bottom and invest in some cow leads to add extra weight if needed.


4. Smell makes a huge difference in coloured water and a decent mouthful is also easier for the fish to detect. A big chunk of luncheon meat is an excellent floodwater bait and big oily 21 mm halibut pellets might look a bit over the top, but they’re no problem for a hungry barbel. Flavour trails won’t linger for long, so give baits a soak in some potent liquid booster for extra added flavours and odours.