UK Coarse Fish Species Guide

UK coarse fishing species header
Want to know more about the UK’s freshwater fish? Fishtec’s UK coarse fish guide will help you find, catch, identify and learn more about twelve of our kingdom’s coarse fish species.

Whether you’re hoping to hook a small but perfectly formed Perch, or wrestle with a giant Wels Catfish, you’ll find some great coarse fishing facts in our guide below:

UK Coarse Fish Species Guide

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References
Average size – Farnham Angling Society and Fish UK
UK record weights – Anglers Mail and Angling Trust
Did You Know? – Farnham Angling Society, Fish UK and BAHS
Habitat – Ouse & Adur Rivers Trust / Environment Agency
All other data – experts at Fishtec

Image credits
Perch, Nikitin Victor
Rudd, Coprid
Dace, Konjushenko Vladimir
Roach, Regfer
Bream, Nikitin Victor
Zander, Krasowit
Tench, Sergey Goruppa
Carp, Alexander Raths
Barbel, Vladimir Wrangel
Chub, Malivan Iuliia
Pike, Balakleypb
Wels Catfish, Vadym Zaitsev

Best Summer Barbel Rigs and Baits

Beautiful Wye barbel

Beautiful Wye barbel. Image Ceri Thomas

Summer offers the barbel angler a wonderful opportunity to catch their chosen quarry.

Consistent water levels and clarity, bright conditions, and steady water temperature all contribute to an environment which makes barbel willing to feed and easier to locate.

The Barbel Society’s Dan Whitelock takes us through the most effective methods, rigs and baits for a summer barbel session.

As mentioned in our beginners guide to barbel fishing, the biggest factor is location. Look for steady gravel runs, streamer weed beds, overhanging cover and depressions in the riverbed. If you were good in the closed season and did your homework, you’ll know where these areas are. Find these features and you’re much closer to getting those barbel to your unhooking mat.

Remember to wear your polaroids, keep off the skyline, and avoid stomping around on the bank. Be discreet – that way you’ll avoid spooking the fish before you get a chance to see them, and minimise your chances of a blank day.

Static or mobile?

A Wye barbel caught using the mobile approach

A Wye barbel caught using the mobile approach. Image: Ceri Thomas

 There are two main ways to approach summer barbel fishing. Firstly, the mobile approach on small, clear rivers with minimum baiting. Or, the static approach (‘bait & wait”) where you build a swim up over several hours and let the fish gain confidence in feeding over your baited spot. The latter is a popular method on larger rivers such as the Trent or Lower Severn, though it will also work on smaller rivers such as the Great Ouse, Lea, Teme and Loddon.

One rig to rule them all

simple barbel rig

Keep it simple and you’ll catch!

There’s one basic rig you can use for both of these methods. The key factor is simplicity. There is no need to overcomplicate your rigs and end tackle. Barbel are confident feeders and lack any hint of intelligence, so there are no trick tactics needed to hook them.

My go-to rig is a simple running rig compromising of my mainline running through a run ring, stopped by a bead, which is tied onto a quick change swivel. I thread a tail rubber onto my hooklength to lock it in place. So when I have a fish resting in the net, or I wish to change my hooklength I simply have to slide the rubber down, unclip the hooklength, pop the new one on and slide the rubber back over the clip.

quick change barbel setup

Quick change setup.

Fishing smaller rivers

For fishing on smaller rivers, use a long hooklength – at least two feet. This keeps the bait as far from the mainline and lead as possible, to avoid line bites and enhance the presentation. That said, it also pays to use a couple of pieces of plasticine up the line as a backlead, to keep the line away from fish as they move around your swim.

If you’re lucky enough to watch barbel feeding, you will see that they work their way over the baited area, sucking in morsels of food and abruptly turning downstream to the tail of the swim again. It’s this turning that gives us the classic barbel bite that we all love and I believe that the longer hooklength, light lead and slack mainline enhances the presentation, and gives the barbel the confidence to pick up the bait without feeling any resistance.

This rig is best suited to fishing with larger baits such as boilies, pellets and meat on smaller venues. Start off by choosing a section of river about two to three hundred yards long, with roughly 50 yards between each swim.

The swim

A barbel swim is simply the place you choose to put your bait. Start at the downstream end, and using a baitdropper, deposit no more than a dozen samples of your chosen hookbait into the swim. It’s best to do this in all four or five swims then return to the first one.

A Summertime barbel swim on the Wye

A Summertime barbel swim on the Wye. Image: Ceri Thomas

Swing the rig gently into position, with a small PVA mesh bag of freebies clipped on to the lead. It’s best to clip it to the lead, as when the PVA melts in flowing water, most of the bait is washed far beyond the hookbait if it’s clipped to the hook. By releasing the bait where the lead is, it drifts down and lands around your hookbait: right in the path of the barbel!

Fish each swim for about an hour before moving on to the next one. Before leaving the swim, drop in another dozen freebies in case you choose to return later. Barbel can travel quite a long way and by having five small swims baited up you’ll greatly enhance your chances of catching.

You can even try a variation on this method, fishing even more swims for a shorter amount of time, say, twenty to thirty minutes.

Staying still?

The variation to the running rig works best when you are staying in one swim and building up the feed with particle baits such as hemp, maggots, caster and corn. The rig is almost identical to the mobile approach, but uses a much shorter hooklength – it only needs to be about 4-6” long –  and a large, heavy swimfeeder. This gives a bolt effect which is required when fishing with small particle baits on the hair such as casters. Barbel tend to ‘’hoover’’ up lots of these in one go so we need a bit of resistance to be felt to encourage that abrupt turn when they pick up the bait.

This approach requires both patience and confidence but will give you a much greater chance of a bite.

Baiting up for static fishing

The best bait for this method is a hemp and caster combination, or maggots. Either way, you’ll need about a gallon of bait. With the hemp and caster combination I like to use about three pints of caster for a gallon of hemp. Start off by depositing a good couple of pints of bait in your swim using your baitdropper.

Leave this alone for about an hour for the fish to gain confidence. It’s best to select a swim where you can gently swing a dropper out with minimum disturbance to avoid spooking the feeding fish. However, it’s amazing to see just how quickly feeding fish will return to a swim following the splash of a dropper.

The swim will need topping up with a couple of pints per hour for a good three or four hours, if you can do this over five or six hours then even better. It may sound hard to fathom, spending six hours by the river and not casting a baited hook, but it’s essential to build up that confidence in the feeding fish so that when you do cast your rig out, the bites will come very quickly.

The most effective presentation of the hookbait is to use two neutral buoyancy rubber casters glued to a fine hair. This avoids the problems of smaller fish destroying the hookbait and hooking themselves. The feeder is loaded with the loosefeed, and cast into the same spot.

It’s vital that the dropper and feeder land in the same place every time. You can make sure you manage this if you sit in the same position each time, and use the reflection of a tree, telegraph pole or weed as a marker.

Mobile barbel baiting

simple barbel baits

Barbel baits are a simple matter.

A favourite bait for the mobile method is boilies, fished either whole in smaller sizes, or broken in half and fished back to back to offer something a bit different.

Any decent boilie from a reputable company will catch barbel. The fishmeal base mixes with a meaty/spicy/fishy flavour are the most successful. Halibut Pellets are a superb summer bait too, in the small quantities described, and will draw fish to your swim quickly. If bites are hard to come by, and you know that you have fish in the swim, try supergluing two small pellets back to back on the hair with a smaller hook.

For after dark fishing, try wrapping boilies in a matching paste and leave in the swim for a good hour, or fish a generous lump of flavoured luncheon meat over a bed of hemp and small pellets. Beware though, if your river has problems with signal crayfish your lump of meat won’t last long!

Go fish!

barbel swim

Keep low, keep under any cover you can find – they’re under your feet!

So that’s about it, you can’t get any more simple. Use this rig and these baits to catch barbel all over the country throughout the summer months. The tackle you need is all covered in the beginner’s guide.

There’s never any need to over-analyse your rigs, worry if your bait is working or if you’re wearing the wrong colour hat! Barbel are an incredibly obliging fish once you find them: all they’re designed to do is eat, avoid danger and make little barbel. Keep that in mind and your barbel fishing will rapidly become more successful.

Remember, though, that success isn’t always measured in the biggest or most fish. Enjoy the time on a riverbank in the summer as it’s one of the most magical places you can spend a few hours. Don’t take it too seriously and remember to smell the flowers along the way.

A hard fighting summer barbel

A hard fighting summer barbel. Image: Ceri Thomas

Always consider that in the summer the fish fight hard and can take a while to recover from the battle, so make sure you follow the Barbel Society Handling Code, and ensure fish are fully rested before release. If you release an unrested fish, they may struggle later in the day when they’re moving against the flow of the river.

Tight lines, and happy fishing!

All images © Dan Whitelock unless otherwise stated

12 Top Tips For Successful Barbel Fishing

Barbel are one of the strongest, powerful freshwater fish you will ever encounter. Such is the thrill of hooking a barbel, once you catch one you will never look back!

Barbel are now thriving in many UK rivers, so it’s no wonder barbel fishing is becoming more and more popular. Here the Fishtec team have put together their top barbel fishing tips – follow these 12 great fish catching tips and you won’t go wrong when barbel angling!

Barbel fishing is becoming ever more popular.

Barbel fishing is becoming ever more popular.

Tip 1. Bait up 2 to 3 swims before starting fishing. This gives the barbel time to settle and gives you options to move if you need to rest your first choice swim.

Feeding halibut pellets into a nice looking swim.

Feeding halibut pellets into a nice looking swim before starting.

Tip 2. Be prepared to walk. The first and most accessible swims you come across may have been hammered, so be prepared to find unfished water. The legwork involved often pays off!

Tip 3. Never forget ‘old fashioned’ baits like sweetcorn and luncheon meat when barbel have been hammered on pellets. Another tactic for heavily fished barbel is to use just a single 8mm pellet.

Tip 4. Don’t forget the Polaroid sunglasses, these are essential for spotting barbel. Remember you won’t catch them if there not there. Spend more time looking for fish, and less time sitting waiting!

Tip 5. Barbel love weedbeds. These areas are always worth paying a bit more attention too. Here the barbel can take cover and forage for crustaceans and insects.

Look for weedbeds - the barbel will be nearby.

Look for weedbeds – the barbel will be nearby.

Tip 6. Make sure you use a feeder or lead that’s heavy enough to stay put in the flow and not move when its emptied or the PVA bag has dissolved. If it moves it will be fishing on a different line to the loose feed.

Tip 7. Use a long fluorocarbon hook link. Barbel can associate a feeder with danger, so In ultra low clear water use fluorocarbon hook lengths of up to 6ft in the day time, pinned down with tungsten putty in to prevent barbel from spooking.

Tip 8. Don’t leave your rod out too long! Recast every 15 – 20 minutes. Halibut pellets break down within 20 minutes and will leach all of their flavour. Re-baiting and then refilling your feeder frequently is a good tip for best results.

Tip 9. Use different size pellets in your feeder or PVA bag free offerings. Different sized pellets will break down at different times and keep the barbel grubbing around for longer in your swim.

Tip 10. Use a quick change link – so you can vary your lead weight depending on the strength of the flow; fish as light as you can without the flow moving your feeder or lead.

Tip 11. Barbel like to feed in low light. The more pressured the water, more likely they are to follow this pattern. Make an effort to fish early morning or late evening into the darkness if you are struggling to catch.

The best fishing for barbel is often at night.

The best fishing for barbel is often at night.

Tip 12. Rest your fish. Once you have caught a barbel always make sure you rest the fish in the landing net prior to release. Barbel give their all in the fight, so make sure your catch is fully revived before you release.

Always rest your barbel in the net before release.

Always rest your barbel in the net before release.

Beginners guide to Barbel fishing

barbel-rod

Image source: Barbel Society
Avon barbel double and rod 

 

Barbel offer some of the most varied, exciting and dynamic angling in the UK. Aside from their sheer beauty and power, they can be found across a wide range of rivers. From small, shallow venues such as the Nene backwaters and Teme; steady flowing rivers like the Upper Great Ouse and Kennet, through to larger, powerful rivers like the Lower Severn, Wye and Trent.

The variety of river venues that we have in the UK offers the angler the choice of catching multiple fish of average size in a day, or putting the time in on tougher venues for a double figure fish. There is no finer moment in angling than when that barbel, big or small, picks up the bait and gives us the classic ‘three foot twitch’ on the rod. They can be caught all year round, using an endless variety of baits and tactics.

This piece shows you the very basics, along with a few simple tips to put your first barbel on the unhooking mat.

Location

barbel river

Just one of the reasons to love barbel fishing

Finding the right location is by far the most important aspect of barbel fishing. After all, you can’t catch what isn’t there! Barbel are usually found in clean, faster flowing rivers, such as  those mentioned in the introduction, although it often pays – especially in the winter months – to seek out the deeper, steadier flowing water.

Barbel love to feed over clean gravel; if you can find the gravel then you are half way to finding a good barbel swim. The most important part of your armoury in the summer months is a good set of ploaroid sunglasses. These cut out the surface glare on the water, and help you to spot the gravel beds, deeper holes, weed beds, and if you’re really lucky, some fish!

Swims to look for are areas of smooth surface movement with some cover nearby. Streamer weed beds are the classic holding area for barbel, and finding gravel channels between the weed will increase your chances of catching.

Barbel also love to have a roof over their heads so seek out overhanging trees and bushes, preferably on your near bank to make feeding and fishing easier. It’s worth noting at this point to avoid the temptation of fishing tight to the snags. It’s these areas of refuge that barbel like to drop back into and it’s easy to spook them out of the area completely if you fish right in to their front door!

The ideal barbel swim will have a deeper area of water among a streamer weed bed, about twenty yards upstream from an overhanging feature, nearside reed bed or undercut bank. The best time to find these features is simply by walking the banks in the closed season and having a good look about. You’ll soon get an idea of the river by doing so.

Tackle:

simple tackle

Pure simplicity

 

Barbel are one of the hardest fighting fish in UK waters. Couple this with powerful flowing water and you’ll need robust tackle to land your quarry. Robust tackle doesn’t mean heavy: using rods that are too stiff with very heavy lines will result in hook pulls at the net.

The ideal rod on small and medium sized rivers is a 1.75lb test curve rod with a good through-action to absorb the powerful lunges close in. There are dozens of superb rods dedicated to the species on the market now to suit all budgets. I like to have a pair of isotopes on the rod tip about twelve inches apart to aid bite detection at night and give a useful sight tip in lower light conditions.

Reels need to have a good, smooth clutch and be of medium size and reasonably lightweight. This makes them more practical while moving between swims. While baitrunner type reels are useful, their designed use isn’t recommended, especially if fishing in snaggy rivers. A barbel can cover quite some ground in a short space of time, and become snagged before you pick up the rod!

Line should be of at least 10lbs breaking strain monofilament. Don’t be afraid to go up to 12lbs if you think the river calls for it. My personal preference is Gardner Gr60, or good old Daiwa Sensor in either clear or brown. The TF Gear nantec mono is also good stuff.

All offer good strength and abrasion resistance. Hooklength material is another topic that can, and has, have entire chapters written about it. I prefer to use the new Mimicry hooklength by Pro Logic, or Airflo fluorocarbon in 15lbs breaking strain, with a short two inch piece of supple braid running to the hook as a ‘combi rig’.

This offers a superb presentation that helps to fool the wise, old barbel in my local rivers. There’s also no reason why you can’t use a decent quality soft braided hooklength in a nice gravel brown to match the river bed you’re fishing over.

Hooks need to be strong and sharp. There are dozens of good hooks on the market, and any good tackle shop will be able to offer advice. One thing worth looking for are hooks with an in-turned eye as fishing over gravel will soon blunt your hook and you’ll be changing rigs every cast!

You’ll need a selection of leads from half an ounce to two or three ounces depending on the flow, and some free running rings and beads. A simple running rig is all that’s needed for barbel with a hooklength of around two feet, three feet if the barbel are a bit wary of tackle.

A couple of small lumps of plasticine three and five feet back from the lead can also help to pin the line down to the river. Of course, you’ll also need a rucksack to carry your tackle and refreshments, a decent hat in the summer, a lightweight chair if desired, and some comfortable clothing.

A decent landing net of at least 36’’ is essential, along with an unhooking mat. Most clubs now insist on the above items and good fish care can’t be emphasised enough. More on that later.

Bait

fishing bait

A world of baiting possibilities exists for barbel

This is every barbel angler’s favourite topic and one that has also had entire books written on it! Favourite baits include pellets, both big and small; luncheon meat, boilies, paste, maggots, caster, lobworms, bread, sweetcorn…… I’m sure you get the picture! Many anglers’ favourite bait is a decent quality boilie.

You can use a variety of sizes depending on conditions and the river I’m fishing. 14mm is a decent average size for both feeding and hookbait, though it pays to have a mixture of sizes and shapes both whole and broken up. Pellets are a superb summer bait too but use them in small amounts It’s very easy to overfeed, especially on smaller rivers.

Luncheon meat is a fantastic bait, and the following preparation is a simple and cheap way to make an effective bait:

Using an apple corer, bore into the meat in the tin and halve the pieces that you remove. With the leftover oddments, tear these into small chunks and pop into a freezer bag with the cylindrical shapes you already made.

Sprinkle in a generous amount of curry powder, shake about and pop in the freezer. Thaw out the night before you go fishing and you have one of the finest and cheapest hookbaits about! The cylinders can be presented on a short hair or directly on the hook, with the rough pieces that you tore off threaded onto a PVA string and tied to the lead.

Tactics

simple fishing

Beautiful barbel caught with simple tactics

Undoubtedly the best tactic for barbel is the ‘bait and wait’ method. The theory here is that the fish build up confidence in feeding in your swim over several hours, so that when you arrive and cast out, you’ll get a bite within minutes.

You might be crying “but I don’t have time to feed a swim, I only have a day to fish so I need to get my hook in the water!” Well, every angler is in the same situation and the predicament is easily solved as follows:

You arrive at the river full of excitement and anticipation. You get out the car, pop on your polaroids, fill your pocket up with a few dozen boilies, some broken up, and maybe a few 8mm pellets.

The biggest mistake is made at this point by many anglers is that they do not move along the bank quietly and stealthily enough! Barbel will sense bankside noise and disturbance while you are still a long way from the swim, so stay low, quiet and use any cover you can.

Pick out three or four swims, and using your bait dropper (a handy item of tackle that’s neglected by far too many anglers), lower in no more than a dozen samples of your hookbait over your chosen area in the swim.

On the last swim you come to, your ‘’banker swim’’ (ideally one that’s got a lovely deep hole about twenty yards up from an old overhanging willow tree), deposit a good couple of dozen broken boilies and small pellets. Forget about this swim completely now for several hours.

Quietly wander back to your first swim and get yourself comfortable, and if possible, off the skyline. Fish with your bait and a small PVA bag of free offerings over the baited area. It’s worth spending a couple of hours in your first two or three swims before moving into the final swim.

Barbel commute along the river all day long so it pays to wait just that little bit longer in a swim to increase your chances of catching one as they swim through and find your bait. Fish with the rod pointing roughly towards the bait, low to the water, with a slack line as possible  to avoid spooking the fish with a tight line to swim into. Many anglers believe that barbel can sense a tight line ‘’singing’’ in the water.

When the barbel does find your bait, you’ll know about it! Barbel give the most spectacular bite of any coarse fish so it’s essential that you sit with the rod butt on your knee, or within arm’s reach. Play your fish firmly and keep the rod bent. With the right tackle you can stop the most powerful specimens in their tracks and it’s never good to prolong the fight.

Don’t ‘’bully’’ the fish to the net, but have faith in and use your tackle as it was intended. Once you have the fish in the net DO NOT LIFT IT FROM THE WATER STRAIGHT AWAY. Barbel give everything in the battle and they need to recover. You too will want to catch your breath and steady your hands after your first encounter with ‘Old Whiskers’!

Landing your barbel

rest fish before landing

Always ensure fish are fully rested before lifting fom the water

Make sure your net is in a steady flowing margin, with plenty of depth and that you won’t slide in. While the fish is upright and resting, wet your unhooking mat and weighing sling, zero your scales and set up your camera. With practice, the fish can be out the water, unhooked, weighed and photographed within a very short space of time.

Always check for other anglers’ hooks in the mouth, especially on pressured stretches or rivers that are match fished. Ensure a barbel is fully recovered by holding it in the flow with its head upstream. You’ll feel the fish regain its strength and only let go when you are sure it’s strong enough to swim away.

For more detail on handling this glorious fish, check out the Barbel Society’s handling code right here:

As the start of the barbel season starts on the glorious 16th of June, there’s plenty of time ahead for you to get out and find your first barbel. The methods mentioned in this piece are ideal for summer barbel fishing. But with a little bit of adapting, they can also put a big winter fish on the bank.

For further information, check out the Barbel Society Facebook page or website. Happy barbel fishing, and tight lines!

All pictures (unless stated) and article from Dan Whitelock of the Barbel Society

Beginners guide to float fishing – waggler floats

bream caught on waggler

A nice small water bream to a very simple waggler rig.

The sight of a dipping float is something that sums up the excitement of coarse fishing. Learn to fish the waggler, and you’ll have a method that will work on countless waters for all manner of species, and bring you that excitement wherever you fish.

Fishing For Dummies and Canal Fishing author Dominic Garnett provides an easy-to-follow guide to waggler float fishing.

What is a waggler?

There are various types of float used in coarse fishing, but the waggler is perhaps the most popular these days. They’re easy to set up, and allow for a stable, relatively tangle-free presentation that works with all kinds of baits on all kinds of fisheries. So what exactly is a waggler?

In simple terms, wagglers are floats that are attached by the bottom end only. This makes them easy to rig, because you can simply pinch them in place on your main line with split shot. This type of float also gives good stability, with the angler able to sink the line into the water, beating surface tow and debris.

Which waggler to choose?

types of waggler

There’s a wide selection of wagglers

Walk into any tackle shop and you’ll see various waggler floats to cater for different fishing scenarios. It’s well worth buying a variety of wagglers to suit various uses. You might be fishing right at your feet one session and casting well out into a stiff wind the next, with each scenario requiring quite a different float. There are several kinds of waggler to look out for:

canal wagglers

Canal and mini wagglers

A: Canal & Mini Wagglers are for fishing sensitively, usually at close range. They are often tapered and have a fairly fine tip. These are great for fishing on natural stillwaters and canals, where species such as roach, skimmers and crucians can be shy biting. Short versions like those shown also make sense for shallow water, where you don’t want a long or heavy float crashing down each cast.

insert wagglers

Insert wagglers

B: Insert Wagglers: Come in many sizes, but have a noticeably finer tip section or “insert”. This aids sensitivity for spotting gentle bites, although larger models can still be cast quite a distance.

Straight wagglers

Straight wagglers

C: Straight Wagglers: As the name sounds, these floats are straight, and have a thicker tip than insert models. These are sensible floats to use when you need extra stability; for example, when wind or tow will pull a skinny tip under and give false bites. The longer, larger floats can handle blustery conditions and be cast a fair distance. Some also have little “bodies” or thicker sections to offer even more casting weight and stability.

loaded and pellet wagglers

Loaded and pellet wagglers

D: Loaded and Pellet Wagglers: Some wagglers are weighted or “loaded” at the bottom, or come in much chunkier dimensions to allow longer casts made. These are excellent for aiming at distant features such as islands, and are often used for carp with slow sinking baits.

Typical Waggler Fishing Tackle

pellett waggler

Image source: UK Match Angler
A pellett waggler, hard at work!

The best rods for waggler fishing are float or match rods, although you will also get away with a light spinning rod for fishing close to the bank. However, ideally a float rod will be 12 or 13 feet long and suited to use with lines of 4-8lb breaking strain.

Many quite powerful “Carp match” or “power match” rods exist these days, and are ideal for commercial fisheries stocked with hard-fighting carp. Lighter rods that are ideal for natural venues and species such as roach and rudd are less commonly available, but a lighter rod is a lovely tool to use on canals and rivers.

It’s best to combine the rod with a small to mid sized reel, loaded with quality line (avoid cheap mono at all costs!). 5-6lbs main line would be typical where species such as carp and tench are the staple, or 3-4 lbs strength for silver fish and bream, where the odd bonus might show up.

Last but not least, it is always worth using a hook length (a foot or so of finer, more sensitive line to which the hook is tied). Not only will this give you better presentation (fish are less able to detect thinner line), but means that should you snag up, you will only lose a hook, not your whole rig. You can tie these yourself, but they also come ready-tied for convenience.

Tackle and typical waggler rigs

fishing tackle

Tackle!

Setting up a waggler rig isn’t rocket science, but the way you do this can be crucial to success. While not essential, it’s very helpful to use a float adaptor. This is a little silicone sleeve which accepts any waggler float.

The adaptor allows you to change your float at a moment’s notice without starting all over again. For example, you might decide to switch to a larger float to combat wind, or to make longer casts.

First, attach your waggler by trapping it onto your main reel line with split shot. Most floats will tell you how many shot are required by the numbers and letters written on the side (for example “3BB” or “5AA”).

A good general rule is to trap the float in place with at least two thirds of the required shot. This is because having most of the weight in one place helps with casting; lots of shot scattered down the line tend to cause tangles.

Attach your shot snugly to the line, but avoid squeezing them on so tightly that they’re fixed. You should be able to move them along the line to adjust the depth.

waggler on line

A balanced waggler outfit, ready for action

 

With your float secured in place, you will also need to attach some shot down the line, to help sink the bait and indicate bites. A few smaller weights (typically sizes 4, 6 and 8) will be much better for this than one or two larger samples. If you want the bait to get down quickly, try a little “bulk” of shot clustered together a foot to eighteen inches from the hook.

If you want a slower sinking bait, for example when you can see fish such as rudd or roach swimming higher in the water, try spacing the shot out evenly (see drawn illustration below).

Last but not least, you’ll also notice that we always set up with a final, small shot just 2-3 inches from the hook (usually a size 8,9 or 10 shot). It might be the least visible, but this little shot (often called the “tell tale shot”) is so, so important.

Why, exactly? Because when a fish takes the bait, this little shot also moves and gives you an early indication that you have a bite; without it, you will spot bites late, leading to more missed and deep-hooked fish.

waggler rigs plumbing depth

Try a “bulk” of shot to get down quickly; or space evenly for a slower fall of the bait.

Basic Waggler fishing skills

Many new and inexperienced anglers just want to cast their float as far as possible. However, the best advice on most popular day ticket lakes would be to start much closer in, because there will often be many more fish right by the bank and close to marginal features.

Sometimes you might fish off the bottom when fish are cruising in midwater, or even fish “overdepth” with a little line on the bottom if it is too windy to keep the bait still. Most of the time, however, it is best to start with the bait just about touching the bottom. This ensures that any bites you get will quickly be transmitted to the float tip.

Plumbing the depths

Sussing out the depth of your chosen spot is a vital skill. Too many anglers either don’t bother, rush the job, or get it wrong. Do take your time, because there is a huge difference between having the depth spot on and “about right.”

The easiest way to test the depth with a waggler is to carefully pinch a larger shot, such as an AA, onto the final inch of line right next to the hook before casting out and observing what happens. If the float plunges down and out of sight, you are set too shallow and should move the float away from the hook.

If the opposite happens,and the float sits up too high or even lies flat, you have too much line between float and hook and must narrow the gap. Adjust this length carefully, until just the very tip of the float shows and you have the right depth.

Be warned though, you must give a little slack line when testing the depth. This avoids creating a diagonal angle between hook and float and getting an inaccurate reading.

You’ll find it much easier to get the exact depth closer in – and it’s also worth spending a few minutes trying different spots around your swim and seeing how the depth changes. This can give you some handy answers to important questions. How deep is the water right by the bank? How deep is it two or three rod lengths out? Does the depth drop away suddenly or gradually? Answer these kinds of questions, and you will be able to catch more fish!

Where to begin

A good starting point for your waggler fishing session is often to try just down the “shelf”, where the margin drops away into slightly deeper water, often between one and two rod lengths out. In warm weather, fish like carp might come right under your feet; in the winter, you may fare better by fishing deeper water.

Once you’re happy with where you want to fish, it’s time to add some bait. Start with a small handful of samples, but be prepared to keep adding a small amount to this at regular intervals.

Spotting Bites and Striking

action on the waggler

The author plays a good fish on the waggler; in this case a tench, hooked in deep water with a long bodied float

Bites can vary a lot between different fish species. The classic movement will be the float just pulling straight under – for fish like carp and tench it’s best to ignore the tiny movements, and wait for this to happen before striking.

Other bites can be cagier, however, with the float “taking a walk” but not submerging. Sometimes the float can even lift slightly. Experience and practise will tell you when to strike, but with shy-biting fish like roach and skimmers, you might have to hit these indications early!

Above all, pay close attention to that float, observing how it settles as the bait and shot fall through the water. If the float stops or behaves suspiciously, this can quite often be a fish taking “on the drop” as the bait falls. Strike!

Waggler Fishing Tips

waggler caught tench

A margin caught tench, caught on the waggler

    • One of the best tips for all float fishing is to hold the rod at all times. Don’t be lazy and put the rod down in a rest! Much of the time you will have missed the fish by the time you pick the rod up. Instead, be ready to strike with a nice positive lift.
    • As with the casting and feeding, the strike takes practice. It should be decisive but not violent – find a happy medium! Strike too softly and you won’t set the hook Strike brutally and you’ll “bump” fish off, or risk breaking the line on a big one.
    • One of the most common mistakes when fishing the waggler is to have too much float showing above the water. If you give the fish too much tip to pull under, many of them will simply get suspicious and drop the bait. Aim to have just the brightly coloured tip showing – or just the final 2-3mm if conditions are calm.
    • For most waggler fishing, a floating reel line is sensible. However, in windy conditions, you can also sink the line to avoid tow. Do this by dipping the rod tip under the water and giving a couple of pulls after casting out.
    • As with most types of general float fishing, you will usually catch a lot more by loose feeding. Try doing this “little and often” by throwing or catapulting in just a few samples of bait every three or so minutes. If you keep casting to the exact same spot and keep your feed accurate, this will help concentrate the fish.
    • Try Stotz rather than dust shot for your smaller weights. They tend to stay on the line much better than tiny traditional shot in sizes 8,9 and 10.
    • Don’t just sit there when you waggler fish. Quite often the fish will bite just as the float settles, because they have spotted the bait sinking to the bottom. Try recasting to get extra bites – or search different areas of your swim. For example, if you’re catching a lot of fish in your main feed area, you might find that the fish start to back off or go a little further out.

Further Info:

You can find more of Dominic’s fishing tips, tales and photography at www.dgfishing.co.uk

His book “Fishing For Dummies” is excellent for beginners and those returning to the sport, while Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide provides the lowdown on a wide range of methods, species and locations across the UK.

 

All images courtesy of Dominic Garnett unless otherwise stated

Weird fishing baits

bait and beer

Image source: Piscatorial Quagswagging
Baits and beer!

Glace cherries, curried peas, Peperami – we love anglers who think outside the tackle box to come up with perfectly strange bait ideas. 

We’ve got the lowdown on some of the weird and wonderful concoctions anglers use to tempt their prey. Why not give them a try?

Meat you by the riverbank

spicy sausage pepperoni

Image source: shutterstock
Pepperoni power!

The strong spicy flavour of Peperami makes it an excellent bait for winter and spring, when plainer flavoured pellets don’t pack enough punch to attract attention.

The crew at Gofishing fish their Peperami in “small chunks hair-rigged and fished alongside a PVA bag of pellets”. They say it’s the combination of flavoursome spices, garlic and fat that attracts fish like chub, barbel and even carp.

Meat loving sea anglers also rate bacon for bait. South West Sea Fishing say that although bacon isn’t the obvious choice, smoked or unsmoked rashers make great bait for catching Bass, Mullet, Pollock and Smoothhound. Here’s how they present it:

“Concertina it up the hook until it is tightly packed”

Bacon’s strong flavour draws the fish to it, then the softness of the meat works in your favour too. When the fish bites and you strike, the hook pulls straight through the bacon giving you a great chance of hooking your catch securely.

Consider “Carpohydrates”

macaroni cheese

Image source: Go Fishing
Pasta la vista, baby

Go Fishing reckon tinned macaroni cheese is a “devastatingly effective” bait for luring carp and tench. Bites are near unmissable because the hook pulls straight through the soft pasta.

According to the Go fishing guys, the best way to bait your hook with macaroni is to:

“ Pass a large, round bend pattern straight through the inner, following the curve of the bait”.

As macaroni is so soft it can’t be cast, only lending itself to close range work using a pole rig.

Vegged out

potatoes for bait

Image source: shutterstock
Carp your eyes peeled for a great catch

The humble potato was once a popular carp bait, but fell out of fashion as more commercial products became available. Now is the time to rediscover spuds.

The King’s Lynn Angling Association‘s, Martin Chandler adapts a technique used by angling champion Bob Nudd: raw potatoes punched into 6 mm discs and dyed with coffee or gravy.

For the summer months, Martin soaks raw potato discs in molasses and warm water. He says: “The molasses dyes the bait and gives it a sickly sweet flavour fish just love.”

Fishing in UK recommend that you make the potatoes softer by parboiling before cutting to pellet size and soaking in gravy or coffee.

curried bait

Image source: smartcarping
Curry favour with your catch

Carp are suckers for strong flavours and veg baits make perfect carriers for added spices. Ian Gemson from Smartcarping recommends fishing with “curried baked beans using Fox armour mesh to keep the bait on the hair”. He says curried peas will do the job too.

Love it or hate it

marmite

Image source: abimages / shutterstock
Marmite, the Fisherman’s Friend

You either love it or hate it, but fish love yeast extracts like Marmite. The naturally high vitamin content of the paste has a very strong smell, which is instantly attractive. Tim Richardson  from Fish South West says it sends a message to the fish that there’s “soluble nutrition” leaking from your bait.

For a dynamite bait combination that’ll really get the fish biting, Tim mixes Marmite into a paste with flour, Parmesan cheese, garlic granules, curry spices, sea salt, eggs and liquid amino acids.

Angler’s Mail writer Colin Davidson smears Marmite on small chunks of white bread or dips dog biscuits or pellets in it to make them sticky and yeasty.

With Marmite, less is more. Colin reckons if you use too much of it on your pellets, you’ll turn a floater into a sinker, so use it sparingly.

Turn to jelly

jelly cubes

Image source: shutterstock
Jelly is a winning bait!

Ever wondered whether fish have a sweet tooth or not? Fred Davis at Talk Angling reckons they do. On the lookout for a hookable soft pellet recipe that was inexpensive to prepare, he hit on powdered gelatine mixed with molasses.

Simply mix half a sachet of the gelatine into a 1/4 pint of water and add molasses or Activ-8. Allow the mixture to stand, then pour it over pellets, leaving them soak up the solution.

Angler’s Mail offer a similar idea to Fred’s, swapping the powdered gelatine for good old Rowntree’s Fruit Jelly.

Hook, line and sweetener!

strawberry laces for bait

Image source: smartcarping.com
Strawberry laces for bait!

From aniseed balls to pink shrimps, the sweet shop is your oyster. Mike Samways from catch-app recommends jelly babies, marshmallows or bubblegum balls for luring carp. But any sugary ingredient you have in your kitchen cupboard is worth a go – glace cherries are always a good bet.

Smartcarping’s Ian Gemson is also a fan of the sweet approach saying that that tic-tacs and even strawberry laces make great bait for chub and carp.

What usual bait ideas do you have to share? Head to our Facebook page and join the conversation!

How to buy a fishing rod licence

fishing licence

Image source: Environment Agency
David Miller’s beautiful design for the 2016/17 licence. Got yours yet?

The fine for fishing without a licence is anything up to £2,500. Each year, thousands of anglers are prosecuted for fishing without a licence, and while it’s unusual to receive the maximum penalty, a fine of between £200-£800 is quite common.

If you bought a licence last year, it’ll expire on the 31st March. Don’t get caught out – renew!

So how do you avoid the fines and stay on the right side of the law? It’s easy – just by a rod licence. A standard licence costs £27. Here’s how (and why) you should go about getting one.

Who needs a licence?

The Environment Agency says a licence must be held by:

Any angler aged 12 or over, fishing for salmon, trout, freshwater fish, smelt or eel in England (except the River Tweed), Wales, and the Border Esk (and its tributaries in Scotland)

There are discounts for under-16s, over-60s and Blue Badge holders, but if you’re over 11 – get licenced!

What type do I need?

There are two main types of licence available: the Non-Migratory Trout & Coarse Licence and the Salmon & Sea Trout Licence. The Salmon & Sea Trout Licence is more expensive, but also covers you for Non-Migratory Trout & Coarse.

You can buy either licence for one day, eight consecutive days, or a full year. Dedicated anglers will make sure they have a full-season licence so they can fish whenever they want during the season.

How do I buy my licence?

PO_Header_Desktop_Logo_79x59

Rod licences are issued by the Post Office. They offer a number of ways to buy:

 

Online:

Just head to the Rod Fishing Licence page on the Post Office’s website, and fill out a few details. You can either buy a fresh licence, or renew an existing one (if you have your renewal number to hand). You don’t need to register with the Post Office if you’re only buying one licence, and it’s quick and easy to go through the process and pay securely with your bank card.

By telephone:

There are two numbers available here:

Call 03708 506 506 to set up a Direct Debit. Once you’ve done this, your licence will renew automatically each year, taking the payment on the 1st of March. You’ll get your new licence through the post in time for the 1st of April. Easy!

Call 0344 800 5386 to buy from the rod licence sales line. This doesn’t renew automatically. Between 1 March – 30 September the line is open from 8.30am-8pm daily. Between 1 October – 28 February the hours are 8.30am-6pm Mon-Sat. The line is closed on bank holidays, apart from Easter.

In person:

Just head to your local Post Office and buy one over the counter!

Proposed changes to the licence reported in the Anglers Mail include making the licence a rolling licence, so that it ends a year after purchase rather than at the end of March each year – but that won’t come into effect until 2017 – watch this space for more information!

Once you’ve paid for your licence, you’ll be given a receipt number and (if you’ve bought online) a transaction email. Take these details with you when you go fishing, and if the bailiffs come to your swim, you’ll have evidence of having a licence, if it hasn’t arrived yet.

Make sure you only buy your licence from the Post Office. There are scam sites around, and the Money Saving Expert site has some great advice on how to avoid these. Don’t get stung!

How much does a fishing licence cost?

  Adult Senior (60+)/ Blue Badge Junior (12-16)
Non-Migratory Trout & Coarse Licence £27 £18 £5
Salmon & Sea Trout Licence £72 £48 £5

Again, the proposals to update the fishing licence include removing the Junior licence – so that from 2017, all under-16s can fish for free!

If you want to fish the locks and weirs of the Thames, there is an additional licence you’ll need: the Lock and Weir Fishing Permit (£48 for adults). This is in addition to your fishing licence, so make sure you have both if you’re heading to those areas.

What do I get when I buy a licence?

A Trout and Coarse licence gives you the right to fish two rods in rivers, streams, drains and canals in the UK. That doesn’t include spod or marker rods, as long as they don’t have hooks on the line. Want to fish with three or four rods? Buy another licence!

The proposals for the 2017 licence include increasing the allowance to three fishing rods rather than two – but for now, make sure you’ve only got two hooks out there!

The Salmon & Sea Trout Licence allows you to fish one rod in rivers, streams, drains and canals, and two rods in reservoirs, lakes and ponds.

Where does my money go?

The Environment Agency uses the revenue from fishing licences in a number of ways. Over £20 million is raised each year from licensing. Here are just a few of the ways it’s spent:

  • Rearing coarse fish to stock fisheries
  • Improving fishery habitats
  • Enforcement of fishing laws (including licensing)
  • Fish movement operations to improve fisheries
  • Fishery monitoring and improvement

The EA gives a full report of its annual expenditure in its Annual Fisheries Report. There’s an enormous amount of detail there, much of it broken down by region.

Get licenced!

Make sure you get your licence before April 1st. If you’re out fishing without a licence and you’re caught by one of the licence enforcement team, you could find yourself with a hefty bill to pay.

The angler’s guide to sharing FishSpy video

FishSpy - see what you're missing!

FishSpy – see what you’re missing!

The FishSpy camera is capturing the attention of anglers out there, and many of you are using it to help make better catches. Did you know how easy it was to edit and share the videos you take?

Here’s the lowdown on exactly how to do it, and we’ve got plenty of hints and tips to help you on your way.

To give you an example of what you can do with the FishSpy footage and VideoPad Editor (we’ll show you how to use that), here’s a video made from raw footage supplied by our FishSpy testers. Enjoy, and then learn how to do it yourself!

Transferring footage

fishspy connectivity

Fishspy is made for connectivity

Taken some great footage, but unsure how to show the world? If you can upload photos from your digital camera, you’ll be able to do the same with your FishSpy footage.
Take the flight off the FishSpy, and find the USB port

fishspy connected

Plug in, and you’re good to go

Plug your FishSpy into your computer with a USB cable. It’ll show up in your file explorer, where you can navigate to the FishSpy files. The footage can then be dragged, dropped and saved to your machine.

finding fishspy

Finding the FishSpy

fishspy files

All your favourite FishSpy moments

The FishSpy Manual also shows you how to get rid of any film you don’t want:

‘Delete footage from FishSpy using your computer or using Wi-Fi by pressing the X button’

Basic Editing

Want to edit a short section from a longer piece of footage? VideoPad Editor by NCH is free to download and easy to use. It’s compatible with Windows and Apple machines, and their ‘how-to’ guides on YouTube are incredibly helpful.

To upload and edit in VideoPad, click ‘add media file’ icon on the toolbar. This will open up your files. Browse to find your clip, select and click ‘Open’. This drops it into the Media List.

Importing files

Cutting out duller stretches of recording between more interesting snippets is easy. VideoPad lets you set ‘in and out points’ in your film. Select your video clip in the media list so it appears in the clip preview window.

Play the file and drag your cursor to the point you want to start, and click the red flag. This will set the ‘in point’. Mark the ‘out point’ by dragging the cursor to where you want the film to end and click the blue flag. This will set the end of the clip. To set it you click the green arrow.

Setting in and out points

If you’re not content with shorter clips, try compiling all your best moments from different trips into one blockbuster ‘Cream of the Carp’ movie.

Adding transitions to your film

Give your film a professional touch by adding in transition sequences. Transitions are smooth ways to move between clips. Fade to black, crossfading between clips and sharp cuts can give your film a more polished look. Select the film clips you want to move between and click the ‘Transitions’ tab on the toolbar. You’ll see a number of different effects to experiment with. Once you’ve found one you like, select it and add a duration time. About one second is usually plenty.

Adding text to your movie

Add interesting titles or snappy comments to your film by using the text editor. Use the ‘Overlay’ tab on the left hand side toolbar. Type your text into the ‘Add overlay text or image’ box. The text is added at the ‘in point’ on the film clip. You can move this to feature in a different place by simply clicking and dragging the little box and dropping it in the position you’d like.

Saving and exporting your film

It’s easy to save your film as a work in progress. Select ‘File menu’ and ‘Save file project as’. Give it a name, and choose a location on your PC to save it to. Files from VideoPad are always saved as .vpj files, but you can choose to save as .avi which is a better format for sharing on social media,.

Once it’s finished, export it! Find the ‘Save movie’ button at the top of the screen. There are a few options for saving your movie. Save to a disc or to your computer first. Then you can choose to save the film in a format that will be easy to send to YouTube or to your portable device such as an iPhone or other smartphone. Select which option you want to use, give each file a name, and then hit ‘OK’.

Social media sharing

Now your FishSpy film is looking great, what better way to show off your skills than to share it with your angling buddies on social media? Here’s how!

Uploading to YouTube:

Log in to YouTube and use the Upload tab in the top right hand corner. Drag and drop your exported movie into the box, or search your PC for the right file. Click the file and choose ‘Open’, and it will send it to YouTube.

You have options to personalize the film, so give it a title, add tags and a description. It can take a little time to upload the film, but when it’s finished and you’ve edited the boxes, click ‘Done’ and it will appear.

Uploading to Facebook:

Uploading directly to Facebook is a great way of achieving wider views and shares of your film than if you simply link to the YouTube video you created.

On your Facebook profile page, go to the status update box. Find the camera icon in the ‘What have you been up to?’ section. It will open up your PC files and you can select and add your film clip.

Depending on the size of your file, upload time varies, but you’ll get a notification to let you know when it’s complete. Add in a snappy or catchy title for your film, and let all your friends know where to find it online.

Sharing more privately

If you prefer to share your film clips with just a few select angling buddies, then why not try applications like Dropbox or Google Drive? You need to sign up for an account to use them, but it’s very quick and easy to do and it gives you more control over who you allow to see your videos

Using Dropbox to share files:

One great advantage of using Dropbox is that it allows you to find uploaded files on any computer, anywhere, any time! Use the ‘upload’ tab, select and it will ask you to ‘Choose files’. This will open your file explorer and you can select the FishSpy footage you want to send. Click ‘Open’. You have the option to add more than one file. Once you get a green tick on the right hand side of the upload box, you know your files are uploaded. Click ‘done’ and your file appears in your Dropbox folder.

To share your film, go to your Dropbox folder and search for the file you’ve uploaded, click the link and it will turn light blue. At the top of the screen is a tab labelled ‘Share link’. Type in the email of the person you want to share it with and hit send.

Using Google drive to share files:

Head to the Google home page and click the ‘sign in’ button at the top right hand corner. Log in, and find the apps tab in the top right hand corner. This will show you your Google Drive page. Select ‘New’, and then ‘File Upload’.

Choose your FishSpy clip and select ‘Open’, and it will add it to your Drive. To share, right click the file, add in the email(s) of the people you want to send it to. Then simply choose ‘Shareable link’ and ‘Done’. Easy!

Sending files to friends

wetransfer

Wetransfer’s easy, quick form

Another great way to share your films with friends is to just send it to them! Wetransfer is a service which provides a really easy, free way to do that. Using their simple form, just upload your clip an enter their email address and your own. Include an optional message, hit ‘Transfer’. It’s that simple – they’ll get an email with a link to download the file. No logging in, no account to set up, nothing. You can even choose to send the link via Facebook if you sign up to a premium account!

Now you’ve seen just how easy it is to record and share your footage from FishSpy, why not have a go yourself and show us your results? We’d love to see what you can come up with, so share away on our Facebook page!

How do fish survive the floods?

river ouse flood

Image source: RobertChlopas / Shutterstock.com
York, flooded when the Ouse broke its bank

When the floodwaters rise, fish hunt for places to shelter; riverbanks, side streams or under bridges where the current is sluggish. But sometimes, things go wrong.

We take a look at what happens to fish when rivers burst their banks, and what you can do to help.

Stranded

dead fish at the goring

Image source: Matt Drew, EA
After the flood

Hundreds of bream and carp, some of them thirty years old, were stranded in floodwater near the River Severn in 2012. Rescuers were exhausted after searching ten acres of floodwater, but their dogged determination paid off and they saved the fish. Tom Sherwood from the Environment Agency’s fisheries department spells out how fish get trapped:

“As the water recedes, most fish will find their way back to the river, but you do get instances where there is a sump of water left and the fish are left behind.”

Disaster struck when thousands of fish came to a grisly end in 2014. A local man was horrified to discover the dead minnows, perch, dace and roach near the River Thames in Goring, after receding floodwaters left them desperate for oxygen.

An unexpected Discovery

There was something fishy going on at an Aberdeen golf club during recent floods. The Greenkeeper was amazed to find a salmon trapped in one of the bunkers:

“When I got down to the third hole, I saw that the bunker was flooded. However, when I looked closer I saw a fish swimming about. I couldn’t really believe what I was seeing, so I phoned the course manager to tell him and he thought I was winding him up.”

It took five people to catch the salmon. But their persistence paid off, and finally the fish slithered back into the River Dee.

Pollution and pesticides.

rain washing soil away

Image source: Angling Trust
Rain washing soil away into the river

”Catastrophic changes in the way we manage soil and grow crops make flooding more likely, says writer George Monbiot. His Guardian article laments the increasing rate of soil erosion over the past century:

“Worst of all is the shift towards growing maize. In three quarters of the maize fields in the South West, the soil structure has broken down to the extent that they now contribute to flooding.”

Water that pours off these fields contains a lethal mixture of soil, pesticides and fertilisers. The Inside Angle’s Mark Lloyd is blunt about the effects:

“Rain on wet fields runs into rivers, carrying rain with it slurry, soil, pesticides and fertilisers. These are lethal to fish and the invertebrates they eat.”

 

How can anglers help?

fish on worcester racecourse

Image source: Environment Agency
Floundering fish

Image Source: The Environment AgencyHow often do you go fishing? Anglers are in prime position to spot any trouble. Always make sure you carry the Environment Agency’s incident phone number (0800 80 70 60) just in case. Staff are on duty 24/7 ready to respond to calls about distressed fish or polluted rivers.

Early warning

racecourse fish rescue

Image source: Environment Agency
Just in time!

It was local people who came to the rescue when Worcester Racecourse flooded in 2007. At the time, coarse fish were in the shallows of the River Severn spawning, and when it burst its banks, a flooded racecourse seemed the perfect venue to head for.

But when the waters receded, fish got trapped in small pools of warm water. The situation was critical – warm water holds less oxygen than cold water. The fish had to be caught and moved before they suffocated.

A member of the public averted disaster just in time to save tens of thousands of fish. But more would have been saved if the alarm had been raised earlier. In 2014, when the same spot flooded, the Environment Agency reacted much more quickly and all of the fish were rescued.

Do you have your licence?

rod licence

The all-important licence!

You fund the Environment Agency through your rod licence fee. The £27 million raised last year provided funding for emergency responses as well as the specialist equipment needed to restore oxygen levels or rescue stranded fish.

But the Environment Agency still relies on anglers to call it in if there’s a problem. So next time the skies are full of rain, don’t let a bad forecast put you off. If you have a floatation vest to hand and you’ve checked that the current isn’t too strong, grab your waders, pocket your mobile phone and head to your local river.

You never know, it could be your turn to save some stranded fish.

6 Toasty Tips For Winter Fishing

Keep warm in winter - Dave Lane with a winter carp.

Keep warm in winter – Dave Lane with a winter carp.

Now’s a great time to get into some big winter carp. And for sea anglers, winter is the season for decent cod. You’ve got the know-how, the patience and the tactics. We’ve got the lowdown on what to wear to keep you warm, dry and comfortable while you fish.

If the thought of braving frosty temperatures leaves you cold, look no further than our handy guide to keeping warm by the water.

Layer up

staying warm

Image source: shutterstock
What’s under your coat matters

It’s not exactly your clothes that keep you warm, but the insulating air those clothes trap within and between their fibres. This is why the best way to retain your body heat is to wear plenty of layers of clothing.

Top angling blogger Leon Bartropp is a firm believer in layering up:

“There is nothing worse than being cold when you are out in the elements fishing. I’ve found through trial and error over the years that a three layer system will keep you as warm as toast.”

Base
Your base layer combines two functions. One is to keep your core warm, the other is to draw moisture away from your skin, stopping cooling perspiration from drawing heat from your body. Worn next to the skin, merino wool is a great natural insulator or for those who find wool a bit itchy, you won’t go wrong with a quality two piece microfleece.
Mid
Wear a thick wool jumper or fleece as your mid layer and for your bottom half, we suggest you go for a pair of TF Gear Hardcore Waterproof Trousers. They’re super-warm, and constructed so that if you get your feet wet, the water won’t seep up your legs.
Top
An extremely knowledgeable winter cod angler, Glen Kilpatrick who writes for Whitby Sea Anglers is also keen on layering for warmth:

“The best clothing for rock fishing is light breathable layers worn underneath a pair of studded chest waders and a waterproof jacket or smock.”

A waterproof jacket is certainly one option, or alternatively, a flotation suit will do exactly what the name suggests, keeping you afloat should the worst happen. And because it’s 100% water and wind proof, your under layers can do their job, keeping you toasty while you reel in the fish.

Keep your head warm

warm hat man

Image source: shutterstock
Warm head – happy angler. Beard optional

The “fact” that you lose most of your body heat through your head is actually totally wrong. The claim stems from a 1970 US military handbook that stated that without a hat, you lose 40 – 45% of your body heat through your head. The statistic originated from some vaguely scientific studies conducted in the 1950s but is manifestly untrue.

In fact left uncovered, you’ll probably lose something in the order of 10% of your body heat through your head. But anyone who’s ever experienced a case of ‘icecream head’ – the agonising pain caused by the cold wind rifling through your sodden hair – will know the value of a wooly hat!

Hands

yan tan gloves by gemma garner

Image source: Gemma Garner
Go fingerless

Fingerless gloves are ideal for keeping your hands warm without getting in the way of reeling, casting and baiting up.

For added warmth, invest in a pair of hand warmers. They have changed the way that blogger, Gurn from the Intrepid Piscator fishes:

“The petrol fuelled models by Zippo and Peacock are excellent. I use two, one for each side pocket. They keep the fingertips and the core of your body warm. I cannot emphasise enough how much these items have enhanced my angling.”

Happy feet

warm socks

Image source: shutterstock
Numb toes are a no-no. Just make sure you wear your boots, too!

Keep your feet toasty with a good quality pair of Gore-Tex lined boots and a pair of thermal socks. Take the Intrepid Piscator’s advice and you won’t go wrong:

“If your feet are cold then so are you, and once they’re cold they are nigh impossible to warm up again. Good thermal, waterproof footwear is essential”

The good news is, we have the ultimate antidote for cold feet. Our battery-heated fleece socks warm up in one minute flat and are ideal for wearing with your fishing boots.

Gimme shelter

igloo

Image source: shutterstock
The ultimate winter fishing bivvy!

Being comfortable will help you catch more fish, says angling blogger, Ian Brooke. And that’s particularly true during the winter months. Ian’s advice is to invest in a quality clothing to keep you warm and dry because despite the weather,

“Carp look fantastic in their winter colours and are usually at good weights. They are harder to catch but then it was never meant to be easy.”

But a coat will only get you so far. Investing in a bivvy that’ll stand up to the worst the elements can throw at it means you can get out of the weather, keeping you fishing for longer and in worse conditions.

Writing in his series of posts on winter carp fishing, Ian recommends making sure your bivvy has a substantial groundsheet. He says it’s “essential to keep warmth in and damp out.” And he adds, “I also like to have a piece of carpet with me to use as added insulation.”

Fuel up

flask of tea

Tea. Best drink of the day.

Hot comforting food and drinks are a must when you’re angling – and never more so than in the winter. As Ian Brooke points out, “…a cup of tea is an amazing morale booster”.
Take a large insulated flask filled with tea, coffee or soup. If you are planning a longer session and don’t want to carry excessive weight, pack a compact stove and stay fuelled with dried packet mixes or reheated meals.
Biscuits and chocolate bars will also boost your energy levels.

So what are you waiting for? Switch that fire off, stop making excuses and get out there! In Gurn’s words, “There’s no such thing as too cold….just the wrong clothing!”
Got a few tips of your own to share? Let us know how you keep warm when fishing during the winter on our Facebook page.