The Barbel is of a fine cast, and handsome shape. He can live in the strongest streams, but prefers shallows ; sharp ones in the summer: sometimes he takes to the deep and swift water about bridges and floodgates, reposing amongst piles or in hollow places, where he will take such hold of the weeds that the swiftest streams cannot dislodge him.
The most favourable season to angle for Barbel is August and September, and the best time from day-break to ten in the morning, and from six in the afternoon to sunset. The baits should be clean and sweet, and the worms well scoured. The best of all baits is a well-scoured lob-worm, especially if the place has been well baited the night before. The best ground-bait is made with soaked greaves and clay, mixed together in pellets about the size of an egg. Having indented the pellets, put some gentles into the holes, close them tightly, and the gentles will work out gradually when at the bottom of the river. This ground-bait must, however, only be used in still holes. The Barbel will bite at gentles, and the green ones are a delicious bait for him.
The rod must be very strong, with a running-line made either of silk or hemp, the bottom link being made of gut. Use a plu<mb about two feet above the hook, of sufficient weight to resist the action of a great depth of water. Let the plumb sink gently to the bottom about two yards from the side, draw the line tight till the plumb be felt at the bottom, by which the top of the rod will be bent a little, and the bite then, of even the smallest fish, will be felt. There is one caution necessary to be observed in angling for Barbel, never to throw in further than can be effected by a gentle cast of the rod, letting the plumb fall into the wTater with as little violence as possible.
The Barbel is a leather-mouthed fish, and when he is hooked he must be governed with a tight line, not only to keep him from stumps and harbour, but to prevent him throwing himself across the line, which he will endeavour to do, his back fin being very sharp, and indented like a saw, which will cut the line, or at least damage it very considerably.
To the angler the Barbel presents great attraction, being a game fish affording excellent sport; when of a large size he is exceedingly crafty, sulky, and strong, struggling a long time after he is hooked, often lying motionless at the bottom many minutes; and so cunning is he, that he will suck or nibble off the worm close to the hook, and after that it is indeed a difficult task to hook him. If once hooked he seldom escapes from a good sportsman.
The Barbel spawn in April, at which time they are out of season. The flesh is considered unwholesome, the spawn and liver almost poisonous. It is advisable to bait the places three or four times before you begin to angle, which may be done with a number of worms cut in pieces, or clay-balls in which either worms or gentles are placed. Greaves, also, are a good ground-bait for Barbel. According to Walton, it is scarcely possible to bait too highly for Barbel; at all events there is little sport to be expected where the ground has hot been previously baited.