James Champkin Banks New River Lea Barbel Record
Specimen ace James Champkin ended his 2021/2022 river season in style by writing his name into the history books with the capture of a new River Lea Barbel Record at 19lb 7oz. Here’s his exclusive report of how the catch unfolded…
“For the last three seasons, I’ve been fishing hard in pursuit of a truly huge barbel from the Lea and have dedicated a lot of time to learning about the river.
On this particular session, extreme weather and high river levels coincided to create perfect conditions for winter barbel fishing.
The air temperature was around 15C, we were due to see a huge drop in air pressure through the day as Storm Dudley swept across the UK and a huge amount of rain saw the river in flood and the colour of strong tea.
Having seen the conditions that were to come, I decided to try a new approach to target the river’s low stock of big barbel. This time I left the boilies in the garage and the night prior to my session, I prepped some garlic luncheon meat that I would fish in big chunks, roving around lots of different swims over the course of the afternoon.
I fished these with a 3oz running lead, 15lb mainline and a 12″ coated braid hooklink culminating in a size 6 hook. It was a very simple set-up but absolutely perfect for the river conditions I was faced with.
Arriving at the river around lunchtime, I had a wander along the stretch with a storm pole to probe the depths of the floodwater and assess where was safe to fish, while earmarking several swims to fish through the afternoon and evening.
My first swim of the day produced nothing, but literally two minutes after dropping into my second spot – a brilliant looking spot with a huge crease and some snag bushes that had been partially submerged by the floodwater – the 2.25lb test curve rod wrenched round and I found myself playing the beast!
I fished on for the rest of the evening and added another smaller barbel around 8lb.
For me, this capture represents one of my greatest angling achievements and the pinnacle of barbel fishing in England – a near-20lb fish from a small river.
Right now, I believe that we’re living through a golden age of big barbel fishing and the specialist angler now has the choice of numerous different venues to target, from diminutive streams to powerful rivers like the Thames and Trent.
For me, extracting fish of this calibre from tight, snaggy swims on overgrown small rivers is so much more challenging, exhilarating and rewarding.”