The following article was published in the Anglers Mail:
“Nine Barbel scaling 46lb caught by Bristol Angler, Mike Nicholls has set the seal of success upon an experiment started 20 years ago.
At that time there were no Barbel in the Bristol Avon, a river of long, slow flow running reaches and occasional fast runs.
As a long-term experiment, officials of the former Bristol Avon River Board planted 54 tiny Barbel into the river in 1955.
Now Mike has proved the experiment is a success by taking the nine fish, the best 5lb, from the Manor Field length at Claverton on float fished tares.
Two more barbell captures have been confirmed from Lancashire’s River Ribble.
Wigan angler Peter Hodgkinson landed two 2oz fish at Melling Wood, Preston.
Roger Newport secretary of the Leigh-based Fir Tree AS landed a three inch fish at Barton Flats, the next length downstream.”
I caught these fish from the “Funnel Swim” in Manor field. I went there expecting to catch Roach and Hybrids on Hemp and Tares and couldn't believe it when I started to catch Barbel. This was the first time I had seen one in the flesh. I actually hooked ten but lost the last one, as it straightened the hook. Another angler fishing upstream from me asked what bait I was using. I explained that I was feeding hemp, with tares on the hook, both of which could be purchased from pet shops. Just as I was packing up the angler came back, explaining that he had been into Bath and bought some tares, but couldn't get them on the hook. Because hey were too hard! I apologised to him, for not explaining that they required cooking for an hour before use! I hadn’t fed that much (typical do I hear) so I gave my remaining bait and offered him the swim. I do hope he caught on them. I have not fished the swim since.
This catch was taken just four days before my first son Steven was born.
Later that season in one of the regular Bathampton AA Open matches, Jim Baines weighed in a couple of caster caught Barbel from the “corner swim” at the top of the Manor Field. These matches were always well supported with usually 100 plus anglers – what’s happened?
As happens, I didn't have my camera with me so, no photographs of these particular fish. However, on the 01/09/2006, exactly 33 years later, I was invited by my good friend Andy Gifford, who is Roach and Barbel Specialist (pictured below left with me and Barbel - sorry Andy - too small to photograph - I know tiddlers to you) to fish the Avon and Tributaries waters on the River Frome. We both caught a net full of Roach, Bream and Chub; plus we both landed a Barbel each. All caught on tares!