The summer has arrived without a warning and with it, the low and warm water which makes trout fishing pretty difficult. This year had record-low rain levels in the spring. In fact, I think April was the dries one on record, ever. This means that some parts of the river became simply unfishable or at least extremely hard to fish. There are days when getting a trout larger than 25cm becomes an achievement and there are places in the middle of the current where the usual 40cm gave way to 15cm of depth. That's sad both for the fish and the fishermen.
However, Luxembourg's rivers are a paradise to barbels and these fish thrive in warm water. In fact, they do not seem to mind at all the low debit water and simply flock to the rapids, where more oxygen can be found. The best places can be characterised as deeper spots (1m for instance) directly behind a rapid, narrower section or even a tiny waterfall (they still exist despite the low water but are extremely rare). Actually, I am fishing barbels also in shallower parts but only in places where the current is strong, the bottom is full of stones, and preferably, parts of this rapid section are at least to some extent in shadow. Those spots will however only host smaller barbels, up to 50cm in length. The deeper the hole, the larger the fish and the more numerous the shoal in which they feed. In addition to barbels, such places also attract nases which do not seem to mind the company of larger fish. By the way, some of the nases are at least 45cm. However, they are very difficult to cach with a nymph. A friend has recently got one with a tiny fluo-larva imitation but overall it's quite hopeless to get them interested in your fly. Better stick to barbels and hope to get a nase by accident.
So, back to the barbels. What do we need?
A - a good spot (as described above, or simply located thanks to careful observation of the water. The really good spots reveal the presence of barbels easily: there can be 10 of them in a single hole and when they feed on the stones, they tend to roll over, jump, flash their bellies and in general, make quite a mess).
B - a nymphing set. In my case, it's a 5wt rod, with a 5 or 6wt leader and a fluorocarbon tippet of 0,128 diameter. The tippet could be thicker as well but this depends on the fly. I like to use the lighter ones which means that a thicker leader or tippet will prevent it from sinking fast. Also, on a windy day, the leader will swing and with it the smaller nymphs, causing an unnatural drift. The tippet-nymph ratio needs to be balanced. In general, I try to use max 3,5 mm tungsten heads on my nymphs. Only in really deep places with strong current would I need to use a heavier one. I usually fish with one nymph but two are fine as well. In the stone bottom rivers of Luxembourg, the snags are quite a common occurrence. One nymph makes it easier to navigate it along the bottom and to avoid the most notorious nymph-killing rocks.
C- a nymph. Here, any well tied nymph will do but I found that changing them every 30 min is the key to success. I have caught barbels on copper johns, pheasant tails with beads and cased caddis imitations but below are some of my tested standards: a peeping caddis and a weird, legged creature with a slender body and a jig-like head, which limits snags and sinks quickly. I dont know why but sometimes it takes 20 repetitions with the same nymph over the same stretch of water to get the barbel hooked. Sometimes they seem to prefer natural imitations and sometimes slightly more flashy ones. You need to see by yourself.
All that's left is to patiently investigate the spot selected earlier, using different nymphs and slightly deviating the path of each nymph, time after time, until you catch a hungry barbel. Some days are better than others and in general I would say that evenings are slightly better, at least during sunny days.
I attach some photos of my recent catch below. These barbels were nice and strong, in the range of 60-70 cm in length. Next time, I will try to take a camera and get a short video as well.