A couple of days back I mentioned The Big Fish Scene compiled by Frank Guttfield back in 1978. I was especially interested in John Everard’s super chapter on Thames Barbel that explained touch legering in crystal detail, and which inspired so many of us young “speci” hunters to follow in his footsteps.  

I did little but touch leger for barbel in the Nineties, and still adore the method, but once barbel wise up to it they can be the very devil to catch. On a hard fished swim, you experience the spooky feeling of a barbel picking up a bait, sensing your fingers, and gently putting that bait down again. You feel them, they feel you, and it all becomes a bit of a Mexican stand-off.

John Everard wrote that, whilst he loved to touch leger, he still liked to watch a rod tip, and there is much sense in that. If the barbel are wised to the method, a soft tip can give you an early warning of a pick-up and allow you to strike early, or even give the taking fish a little line and build up confidence. Why not simply sit back and use the tip, rod secure in the rod rest, you ask? Of course you can, and very often so do I, but there are times when you can’t use a rest when you are wading, and equally there are swims where the fingers still tell you more than a visual take can. 

This afternoon, 9th November, the barbel were exceptionally finicky and bites minute, probably as the river was still cold. Fingers AND tips in tandem, Everard-like, worked better than anything else on the day. Chris waded and worked and deserved his near nine pound fish. I guess we have JE to thank for this fish… and I’d love to know what happened to John post-Big Fish Scene if anyone has a history of this great angler?