Barbel with Kenny Parsons

Two species absent from Ireland but our nearest neighbours enjoy, are the barbel and chub. With cheap ferry crossings and airfares, is it a matter or time before anglers start making the trip over to fish for a few days for these species? With a couple of mates it could be quite cost effective so I thought I’d ask Kenny Parsons one of the UK’s top barbel guides to help us how we would go about it….

Kenny Parsons

Kenny Parsons


Me: Kenny If someone wants to make the trip over, should we get a guide or is it necessary?

KP: There is not always a necessity to hire guides for catching barbel on rivers. It does though improve your chances of at least fishing a river and swims that contain them. Fishing is fishing and even guides cannot always assure that you will catch. Guides should be able to help with tactics, tackle, bait and show you what features on a river contain them. Here in my opinion it is an important matter. Some guides will take you to syndicate venues where you might catch barbel however the likely hood of you returning to the venue in the future would be minimal without the cost of the guide again. However look for guides who can show you swims and places you can fish by yourself in the future to use the knowledge gained  from the original session.  Probably though you will be visiting for a few days so to save on the guiding costs get the guide to show you best swims and how to fish them so that you are prepared with the knowledge for a few days. The objective of the guide should be to ensure that this happens.

The other side of the story is if you are going to fish for barbel just the once in a long while then a guide will try to catch you a barbel and whether it’s a private section of river or a day ticket.

So have a good think of your objectives.

The Avon at sunset

The Avon at sunset

Me: If your more interested in the catching a big barbel, again with a guide or without, what times of year etc should we be looking at?

KP: That’s a very interesting question. However one of the most important factors for me is barbel really feed heavily during warm flood waters in the summer and winter. We are not talking snow melt in winter but water temperatures of above 48f. Any flood during the summer months is also good. Now for the travelling angler timing a session to coincide with these conditions is practically impossible.

So for me the summer is probably the best time to visit. If the rivers are in flood or in low water conditions there is still a very good chance. To catch a big barbel they tend to put on weight during the later part of the season. February and March can see them at peak weight. However quite often the weather plays an important part. So it’s summer time for me, June to October! 

10 lbs 4oz for Jake

Me: Is it possible to catch chub while were over as we don’t have chub in Ireland?

KP: Chub are one of my favourite fish. I fished for many years on the Bristol Avon where there are stacks of chub to 4lbs. Catching 20 in a day would be possible with ease. However it would be likely that they would not be larger than 5lbs.

However all this changed about 7 years ago when I started fishing the Hampshire Avon and Dorset Stour. I was catching many 6lb plus chub during the year on a variety of tactics. The largest chub and my pb is a 7lbs 12oz fish caught on the D.Stour a few years ago.

Most of the time I’m using boillies and hemp as an attractor on both these rivers during the summer and for most of the time I can see the chub take the bait. This is very exciting as you can imagine.

6lbs 8oz D.Stour chub

During the late autumn and winter it’s the float and trotting with maggots that score’s however only when the river is low and clear. Chub fishing in summer with light lines will see every chub take you into weed and break the line. Also the minnow’s are so active during the summer it’s next to impossible to fish with maggots.

You can imagine last year in November I was trotting maggots only for a couple of hours each evening on the H.Avon for about a week whilst on holiday and I caught 4 chub over 6lbs. Easy fishing if you are prepared to introduce a pint of maggots each hour. So this was going to my year to land some huge chub…….wrong the floods hit the south west of England in Dec and the river was still in flood in April.

So the answer would be about the same summer would be a good time to fish for chub.

the river Stour

the river Stour


Me: Martin Bowler recommended the river Wye to us, what other options are there?

KP: Martin is a great angler and lives just a few miles from me. We bump into each other on the Bristol Avon most years. He is right in saying that the Wye is the best option for barbel fishing. The Wye and Usk Foundation has a very impressive web site that allows you to see the catch returns for the beats it controls.( The cost of a day ticket is £22 pp and offers the best chance of catching a barbel. It’s this river that I guide on for most of my barbel fishing. Mostly the clients say I’ve never caught a barbel before so we normally meet up on the river and catch a few. I have a 100% success rate on here providing people with their very first barbel. One poor chap on a red letter day and caught 32 barbel to just over 7lbs in one day. He left early because he was quite tired.

There are a few day ticket waters on the Warwickshire with Birmingham AA however they are not easy waters and you need to be there for a few days. The fish are quite large but there are few of them.

The river Severn has plenty of day ticket stretches too that are worth a look.

The Dorset Stour has a few day ticket waters and a free stretch (quite difficult) that normally throws up some good chub and barbel. The day ticket (£10) on the D.Stour is Throop fisheries. There a few barbel to 15lbs but they are difficult to locate and then catch. It has many chub to 7lbs and it’s here where I do most of my guiding for chub. Summer with hemp and boilies and the winter trotting with maggots. Tickets can be bought in most of the local tackle shops in the area.

There is also the Royalty fishery on the Hampshire Avon that contains a fair head of barbel. They tend to be fished for and landed frequently so they are canny fish. Tickets can be bought in Davies tackle close to the fishery.

The river Wye too is a great place to fish for chub. When you are fishing for barbel, chub do get hooked and landed. The ratio is probably 50/50 with some of the chub going to almost 6lbs in weight. So this river cannot be recommended enough.

A flood on the Wye in June

A flood on the Wye in June

Me: If your coming over without a guide, you may have to join a fishing club to fish the necessary places or there are some day tickets available, can you give us a basic run down of this?

KP: The question had been answered partially with the previous one. I would say that by and far the best place to go is the river Wye. For £22 pp you can fish any number of beats. You can read the catch reports for each day on any beat which indicate anglers views. The history of the beats catches go back many years.

If I were travelling from Ireland I would make this one of my first ports of call. “Barbel and chub city” at a reasonable price. The other great thing about fishing these beats is that the local bailiff will come around and offer you great advice for the beats and show you where you should be fishing.

Martin Bowler is right it’s the river Wye for some of the best fishing at the moment.

Jim Perrin 12lbs 3oz


Me: What has been your own favorite barbel catch and can you tell us the events surrounding it?

KP: I have so many memories of great catches. One of these was fishing for a barbel that went 14lbs on the Bristol Avon. It was a long 2 mile stretch between two weirs and the barbel used to move around between these. I started a campaign in the summer trying to catch this fish. My usual method of hemp and boilies was employed. I fished throughout the summer and caught plenty of chub and a couple of small barbel. Late summer  came along and one early September day I hooked my monster barbel after a good few blanks. I had laid my hemp and a few crushed boilies  bed down as a trap near a sunken bush on the far side of the river. I just knew that the barbel would use the snag as a place to hide up. The day developed into night and around went the tip of the rod. The fish fought really well and when I eventually landed it the bent peck fin showed it to be the one I was looking for. On the scales she was down on her weight at 12lbs 9oz so I was a little disappointed but knew that she would get larger as autumn approached. I continued fishing for her. Then late one Novembers day the river was up a little from some previous rain and my Monster Crab boilie was taken by a good barbel. The fight from the fish was terrific in the extra water in the river and a couple of times it had me worried as it powered off taking line from the reel. Eventually she tied and as I pulled her over the net she was mine. A quick check showed it to be her again and this time on the scales she went 13lbs 4oz and a new pb Bristol Avon barbel for me.

Later in March she came out again at over 14lbs to another barbel angler. So I didn’t see her at her peak but what a lovely barbel.

6lbs 3oz H.Avon chub


Me: Thanks Kenny for all the advice I enjoyed chatting

KP: Anytime lads…..

About paddykeogh20

We are three anglers who enjoy all aspects of fishing. Whether we are blanking or catching were happiest on the bank or shore. If you like your fishing join us by watching our many trips and as we interview some top anglers along the way.....
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