Whether we have a good end to the season is totally dependent upon the weather. So far, this Winter has proven the stark effect of the weather on barbel fishing. From the middle of November until the beginning of January there might as well have been no barbel in most rivers, catches were almost nil. This corresponded with a period of sustained cold weather with biting Northerly winds and temperatures rarely making it above freezing. Within a few days of the temperature rising though, the barbel in Southern rivers at least went on a feeding frenzy. Suddenly anglers who had gone five, ten, even fifteen days without a barbel bite were catching fish like there was no tomorrow. This proves once again the importance of water temperature on Winter barbel. Forget moon phases, and other such rubbish, the only thing you need worry about is the weather.

Not only did the temperature rise as we reached the end of the month, but it was complemented by strong Westerly winds bringing a succession of cloud fronts over the country. Warm weather and high water levels got the barbel, and chub for that matter, feeding hard. Generally speaking, we can expect another spell of this weather before the middle of March, it doesn't happen every year, but if it does then barbel will be my target. If it stays cold then go chub or roach fishing, don't waste your time trying to catch fish that aren't interested in feeding.

One of the advantages of the peaks and troughs of Winter barbelling that I have never read elsewhere is that the fish are not wary of baits. Having gone a month or more without being caught the fish will be far more relaxed and willing to take baits than in the Summer. When the temperature rises the barbel are going to be actively looking for an easy meal, so give them what they want.

Having kept note of barbel catches over the years, one angler in particular catches a lot of fish during these warm spells. My good mate 'Rollin' Ray Walton really sorts them out from Christmas onwards. Ray's rolling meat method covers a lot of water in the course of a day and ensures that he gets his bait in front of a lot of hungry fish. With their guard lowered, a big lump of smelly meat will certainly attract their attention and some will make a mistake. I prefer using pastes and boilies, but I suspect that as more anglers cotton on to these baits the old lump of meat will once again find a place in my bait box. The key though is to get that bait in front of as many fish as possible.

Although I play at rolling baits, I'm willing to recognise my ineptitude, particularly with the elevated flows of Winter. I prefer to use an anchored bait, but to keep it on the move, searching the swim for half an hour before moving on to the next one. Although I don't cover as much ground with this method I make up for it by having more confidence and fishing better. Don't ignore any feature that might hold fish. Whilst the obvious over hanging cover and deep undercuts might hold fish, you are just as likely to find them in mid-river depressions. The fish will be far more catchable in mid-river spots where few anglers put a bait though.

With the barbel at their biggest and with extra water in the rivers you must ensure that your tackle is up to the job. My current choice of tackle consists of a Shimano 5000 baitrunner, which is just about bomb-proof, coupled to a Giant Ouse Barbel rod. Ten pound Maxima copes with the rigours of pulling big fish away from cover and balances well with the rod and reel combo. Leads from one to five ounces are often needed even in smaller rivers to hold bottom in the high flow. Don't be afraid to use as much lead as you need to hold bottom. Most of the flow will be close to the surface, so don't let this put you off. Size four and six Drennan continental boilie hooks make up the last piece of the jigsaw. Keep the hook length down to 18 inches to avoid snagging and away you go. Not complicated, but very effective. Get your timing right and everything else will fall into place.