Posts Tagged ‘coarse fishing’
I’ve had a query from a reader of my last blog, after I mentioned that I was embarking on a tench and bream campaign this spring. Specifically, he wanted some advice on location of gravel pit bream. So, let’s have a look at this important aspect now. I’ll be reporting back on my first sessions in my next blog in a couple of weeks.
Most gravel pit location is a painstaking affair of mapping the contours of the water, and then trying to interpret how they will affect the location and feeding behaviour of the bream. During mapping, I am looking for the gravel bars and humps, areas of extensive bottom weed, areas of clean bottom and what that bottom composition consists of. Is it, for example, fine gravel or hard packed mud or silt? Most importantly, which features are naturally weed free? Unlike tench, bream show a distinct tendency to favour naturally weed free areas. Also unlike with tench, dragging has never proved very productive; I have had very poor results after manual weed clearance.
For the actual mapping, there is no doubt that the job is far easier if there is access to a boat or baitboat, together with echo sounder. But let’s assume neither are allowed, which is the case on many waters. Compared to the boat and echo sounder approach, the time spent mapping a pit with the standard plumbing methods from the bank is colossal. But it is time that must be spent to maximise chances of sport with big bream. The correct coarse fishing tackle must be used to generate a picture of your chosen fishing grounds. I use a TFG marker rod, in conjunction with Banana Braid braided line especially designed for feature finding. A bobbled 2oz Fox feature finding lead is slid on to the braid and large buoyant float tied on the end. The lead is mounted on a short link with a large enough eye to allow the float’s buoyancy to easily pull braid through it. To avoid the lead resting on the float during the cast, the lead is stopped about 18” up the line by a rubber float stop and bead. When this is cast out, the buoyancy of the float naturally makes it pop to the surface. Depth finding is then simple. Smoothly wind down the float to the heavy lead until the line is taut, and then allow off six inches of line at a time until you first see the float again break surface. You have now established the depth at that position.
Now wind in a few feet and repeat the procedure, establishing the depth once again at the new position. By continuing this process back to the bank, you now have a rough idea of the contours between you and the furthest cast. Any areas of real interest discovered can then be relocated and examined more carefully. I use a second rod, rigged identically. Having cast to the feature to be more closely examined, the float is then left in place as a focal point, and the float on the second rod cast all around it. You can build up a remarkably accurate picture of each feature in this manner. An hour’s work will give you details of feature size, and steepness of gradient. There is no need to use special braid on this second rod. The information I require about bottom composition will have already been established in my initial investigation with the actual feature finding set up.
I may want to leave in place a permanent marker for the duration of the session. To do this, I set up a marker float slightly differently, in a traditional sliding float arrangement with normal monofilament line. If you haven’t fished a slider, it is set up as a normal float rig but the float is not fixed in place but simply allowed to run freely on the line. A stop knot or rubber float stop is placed at the appropriate place depending on the depth of the water. Having again located the feature and made any fine adjustments necessary, I cut the line about a foot above the float stop and tie a loop in the free end. A similar loop is tied in the end of the reel line and the two loops joined with a firm tie of PVA. The float is then cast to the required position, left for a minute or so until the PVA has melted, at which time the free line is retrieved, leaving the marker in place. Make sure that you can retrieve the float after use. I use a special grapple made up of an in-line lead and large sea treble, which casts like a rocket.
Having found the features, which ones do we fish? Reliable areas do seem to be gravel bars, especially those that exist in otherwise weedy areas and are themselves clear of all but light silkweed. The other reliable feature is the clean, apparently barren area of either mud or silt. This area more closely mirrors the situation in a reservoir, and big pit bream, once they arrive in such an area, will often hang around for days. Small gravel bars and humps, while reliable, rarely hold big bream for more than the odd night.
If I am fishing within range of my Spomb, about forty yards, I usually do not bother with leaving permanent swim markers in place. Having found the area to be fished with a marker float I then cast one of my rods so that the terminal rig alights alongside the marker. The line is then inserted into the reel line clip and the line marked at the spigot with a thin sliver of insulating tape. When doing this, it is important to wrap the tape round the line with the sticky sides perfectly flush with each other and that the tape is then squeezed flat so that it adheres properly to the line with no air gaps. Then trim the tape as close to the line as possible and put a slight bevel at each end so that there are no sharp angles to foul the line during casting. My finished markers are around 1mm wide. I then walk out the rod on the bank until the line tightens to the clip, and mark the bank. Next, assuming I am fishing the other rod or rods at the same range, it is a simple matter to walk them out, clip up and tape as before.
The same procedure is carried out with my TFG spod rod and, before retrieving the marker float, the line is put into the reel line clip as well. This now means that every rod when cast out will land the terminal rig, baiting cone or marker float at the same range. All I have to ensure is that my direction of cast is not wayward, simply by lining up a horizon feature such as a tree or telegraph pole.
For baiting up, all I have to do is cast my Spomb hard enough to tighten to the clip and then I can be certain that the bait is in the correct position. The reason I also fix the range on my marker float as well is if I decide to do any baiting by catapult, say for balls of groundbait or loose feeding boilies. Obviously, I then need a visual target at which to aim.
Sunday 11th March 2012
Waking up at 9AM I was greeted by water on top of my sleeping bag from the dew overnight. However it was a bright and sunny morning.
I began to pack up straight away and head for home and contemplate my next move.
After my hunger taken care of I began a long deliberation of my next move, receiving texts from friends fishing the tidal Trent which were all positive. Most anglers’s hooking two to three barbel per night, and numerous bream so I thought Collingham would be worth a punt.
Sat-Nav all set for Collingham, I was just about to reverse out the drive when I got a text off a friend stating that he had just arrived at Collingham and it was heaving with angler’s with fires burning, dog’s barking and drinking beer, not my idea of a peaceful coarse fishing trip. As I have stated many times, Collingham does have a problem with this persistent minority that for all intents and purposes are there to drink and get totally off their trolleys and become noise driven which can only be described as ‘loutish’ behaviour.
So a quick re-think and I decided to right the wrongs and return to my first spot I had chosen yesterday, with the feeling that as soon as darkness fell I would be in with a chance. It was 21 degrees and blue skies above so I thought I’d wait until 3.00PM to make my move.
On arrival I decided to try out a different peg for a couple of hours before returning to where I had started yesterday for the night.
Despite putting in eight to ten balls of pellet (damped down to form a ball) and chopped Crustacean boilies with many re-casts of the feeder comprising of the same mix I didn’t have a touch. I’ll try again in the morning I thought.
Once at the peg I had fished and left yesterday I was determined that I would wait and give it the night before I made any judgement on the swim I had chosen. Nothing was going to come easy at this time of the year, generally big fish are caught with hard work and perseverance.
By this time however it was beginning to get dark but my rods were out and fishing, both on pallatrax multiworm boilies, and just as they were the day before one upstream and one downstream.
Light was fading fast and water Voles began to appear from each side of me. I left the fishing rods out for half an hour before re-casting again and then again but to no avail.
By which time the clock was nearing 7PM then all of a sudden I got a huge thump and drop back on the downstream rod, so I struck into it and felt some resistance from a fish straight away, a typical thump, thump from a chub of around 4Lbs as it quickly made its way to my waiting landing net and first fish on the multiworm boilie. Good sign! Chub follow barbel, so if you have chub in your swim the barbel won’t be too far away.
The voles were now getting a little more adventurous with their intentions, crossing from bush to bush behind me which made me look back thinking someone was there!
A few more casts and no more action I decided that I would take my receiver and go and sit in the car just behind my peg to get out the way of the voles as they scurried across me, in front of me and directly behind me; it was freaking me out.
I switched the engine on and fired up the heating, it was getting rather cold at this point.
I was just beginning to drift off, when BEEP! BEEP! There goes my receiver!
I run down the bank and strike the downstream rod. Again resistance is felt, a bream, around 4lbs which was quickly landed and returned.
I re-baited both rods and cast out again and returned to the car in the hope the next run will be a bit more enterprising than the first two.
I was awoken at around 10.55PM by my receiver on a ‘one toner’, quickly I ran down the bank like an Olympic sprinter,t Dean Macey would have been proud of me, to see my reel spool shipping line, now this was evidentially a bit more promising. Lifting the rod (no need to strike) I felt a better more substantial weight, something with a bit more of fight to it. After five minutes or so it came close and I saw it was a barbel, at last!
Two minutes later it was in the net, and recovering, while I set-up my camera.
After taking a couple of photos, a quick weigh which read 8lbs 4oz I released the fish. What a relief!
Like it or not, we have a three month lay off from the rivers every Spring and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. For many of us anglers who go coarse fishing this merely gives us either a chance to catch up with domestic chores or, for the sensible and luckier ones amongst our numbers, it means a change of species as we move to the lakes and canals. However, don’t ignore the river just because you can’t fish it.
Before I go any farther please check with your angling club whether or not you are allowed on the banks during the lay off, some permit it some don’t. If you do want to go for a look around then a phone call to the club secretary in advance may well be worthwhile to either gain permission or to at least let him know who is wandering along the banks whilst fishing is prohibited.
That out of the way, my first recommendation is to make certain that you have a decent pair of polarized sunglasses, they are imperative.
Without them you will just see reflections on the water but with the you will see through most of the glare and be able to make out fish and just as important, features.
Knowledge of the features on your section of river is just as important as spotting fish for several reasons, not least that the fish will move yet the features tend to remain for many seasons. If you have an idea of the make up of the river bed then you are half way to deducing where the next bite may come from.
I find April and May the best months for feature finding as the algae and weed that tends to colour the water and obscure our view is yet to form. If we have a period of dry weather with a bit of sunshine to assist with visibility a whole underwater world can be on display and whilst the rivers banks are quiet, the fish are generally quite easy to locate. A few pellets dropped into likely spots will often bring hungry fish out within seconds.
So what are you looking for? My simple answer to that is ‘anything out of the ordinary’. If you consider your river bed to be fairly even, consisting of gravel, stones and a few scattered rocks then you find an area as shown in it is worth investigation.
What had happened here was that a tree just upstream and out of camera shot, had caused a shift in the current and a swirling crease had scoured the river bed clean of algae etc. This may look like a good spot to fish however, that scouring action will have also torn many invertebrates from their homes within the stones and, for the fish, pickings may well be better elsewhere. There is also the bright, pale river bed that is left and fish will stand out against that making them feel insecure. This was all driven home to me as I was looking at the feature and I saw a couple of barbel happily feeding over the darker, untouched river bed yet they stopped short of the cleaned area only to drop back and have another feeding run over the dark area. This colour change on the river bed was invisible at the start of the season but, when I fished there I was confident and found that a bait farther down the swim worked very well indeed.
Above, there’s another feature that isn’t obvious for much of the year but a walk in the Spring revealed this dramatic drop off close to the near bank. Subsequent fishing sessions found that barbel loved to tuck in against the almost sheer drop off whilst big chub were content to bask and feed along the crease that it caused on the outer edge. It has been a real hot spot at times whilst being walked past by the majority of anglers.
This is just a glimpse into a vast area of intrigue and exploration and I guarantee that you will find plenty of areas that you may have missed before and it will fill your head full of plans for the new season. Some years the fish are less easy to spot but when you do find one just sit back and watch what it does in its unpressurised state, then give it some food and again just observe, you’ll have nine months in which to try and catch it.
Occasionally you will come across a shoal of fish like here. I suspect that they were in that spot as a prelude to spawning but, interestingly, the one feature they gathered around was a modest boulder that just pushed the current up a little and caused a boil on the surface. They were milling about up and down the area but that was the focus of their attention.
Again, come the new season, although I never saw this many fish gathered at one time, I caught plenty of barbel from this spot proving just how invaluable a little bit of homework can be.
If during your wanderings you find evidence of anglers poaching during the close season then please report it to your club secretary and the Environment Agency, don’t let the few spoil it for the rest of us.
Varying light conditions may deem some shades of polarised glasses useless, when the sun tips low and daylight is fading a lighter shade lens is usually more productive on cutting out glare and lightening your view. The yellow also helps pick out dark objects such as shadows on the river bed, giving you better indication of fish and structure. Instead of carrying many different pairs of glasses to the river I opted for a pair of Airflo Interchangeable polarised glasses a while back, these have interchangeable lenses which can be swapped in varying light conditions.
Richard has kindly offered to present Fishtec with a weekly update of his barbel fishing outings, Richard says “The moment you hook into a barbel which often makes your heart skip a beat when you feel the weight and shudder of its first run are incomparable to anything you can catch so readily in British river systems.”
Saturday 10th March 2012
My plan initially was to begin fishing at 2 – 3pm and stay until late Monday afternoon. Such was my excitement however, and nothing really to stop me, I decided that at 11am I would make my way to do a spot of coarse fishing on my favourite stretch of the River Trent.
Upon arrival at the river, I decided that my ‘banker’ summer swim would be the peg of choice. The water here is around 6 – 12ft deep with a swift flow that comes from the slalom course upstream. These shallow rapids twenty or so yards upstream are where barbel will spawn during the summer. It’s an unbelievable sight; I have seen it here many times.
My research of barbel have lead me to believe that they will in most cases stay in the deeper areas of the swims until water temperature improves, usually until late March early April. They will then inevitably make their way upstream into the shallower water to spawn and stay there or thereabouts all Summer and into early Autumn.
There are much deeper areas further downstream, so would they be this close to the spawning grounds? Barbel do not, in my opinion move much during the Winter. So it’s conceivable that they could be 30 – 40yds away from my chosen pool. Their lack of movement during this time could be detrimental to the fishing; they will simply not follow a scent trail for long enough unless it equates to a big reward at the end of it.
One thing I religiously do before I begin to get any rods out my bag, is check the water temperature with a thermometer. From many sessions void of fish and others where barbel seem to be crawling up the rod tip, there’s a common occurrence which leads me to believe that a barbels preferred water temperature is of 7-9 degrees. They seem to feed more actively and respond better to baits, maybe the scent is enhanced due to the water temp or the head just kick starts their metabolism. The water temp is usually between six and seven at this time of the year.
I began to set-up my fishing rods and position my trusty tripod (these type of banks make it difficult to use bank sticks).
My rigs were very simple so I opted for a stonze weight and as I wasn’t convinced they would be feeding avidly, despite good water temperatures I went with a ‘stringer’ approach.
The water was carrying a tinge of colour, but I still remain cautious with the feeding approach to begin with. I wanted to offer the barbel a couple of options only to take my Pallatrax Crustacean boilie, presented on a Size 8 ‘The Hook’ hair-rig, thus resulting in more hooked fish. I was also using a 25lb steamlink hook link also on a 15lbs main line.
I chose to use both rods on this rig and position one upstream (as I normally do) and one downstream, I find that if I hook into a fish from either rod it will never tangle up with the other line doing it this way.
I started by making up a couple of stringers and attaching them to the size 8 strongly forged hook and then placing a boilie on an hair-rig.
Casting out and creating ‘a bow in the line’ with the upstream rod. With this technique you are waiting for a huge drop back bite from a fish as the weight is dislodged.
Minutes passed, no bites, the wind was making up for the lack of action by blowing hard and making presentation difficult as the rod tips bounced from side to side and up and down.
I decided on re-casting both rods to which I left them out for another hour with no action at all.
The pressure eventually won over my better judgement. With direct sunlight which in hindsight the fish were probably under cover and waiting until dark to feed in the main water. Sadly at the time it wasn’t even something that entered my head (funny how your mind works under pressure). I felt that a move was in order, to a stretch about a mile away as it was deeper and where I thought the barbel would be.
On arrival of the new stretch I was both exhausted from lugging my fishing gear to the peg and disappointed that I was still not out the wind.
I decided to use one of my feeder rods fished upstream at 4oz with the idea that there was a steady stream of pellets going into the river (I poured cold water into a bucket of skrettings and left until they reached my preferred consistency).
At 7.30PM I made something to eat with the intention of getting an early night. I set up a bed chair and sleeping bag but without the bivvy as my intention was to leave early morning.
Last cast out with both fishing rods I was ready to get some sleep and write off this session and re-evaluate in the morning. I knew I made a big blunder by not staying where I was though.
I learnt when you put yourself under pressure to deliver you make catastrophic errors of judgement, ones you wouldn’t normally make. I guess you could say it’s like taking a penalty at Wembley in a cup final in football terms.
I got myself into the sleeping bag and fell asleep almost immediately.
I was just about to reel in and cast out again when one of the alarms sprung into life as the line peeled from my spool initially and then just stopped. I struck anyway to find a bit of resistance at the end, thinking it was a piece of weed or something I began to reel in, then a nod on the rod tip could only mean one thing, fish on!
It came in rather easily which suggested one thing to me, Bream!
Indeed it was at 5lbs 6oz nice but not what I came for unfortunately and that remained after trying various baits the only action of the night.
Since my last Fishtec blog in autumn, my fishing became very disjointed from October onwards and only really came back to normal in February. The main reason was a succession of health issues within the family, which saw me missing a lot of fishing and only going locally for a few hours when I could get out. Consequently, I was never able to get a proper campaign underway and the results suffered as a result.
The main target of my river fishing was the upper Warks Avon near my home, principally because it is so close and I could be home quickly if need be. Unlike the middle to lower stretches, the chub and barbel of the upper river are fairly modestly sized, 5lb chub and 10lb barbel not being that common, this looked to be the perfect place for a few short coarse fishing sessions. So I made those two weights my initial targets and would go from there. My first few trips produced a few barbel to just over 7lbs and chub to about 4lbs, but the fishing was very slow at times. Blanks were common. Then, in late November, I had my biggest Avon barbel of just over 9lbs plus a chub of 5lb 4ozs ten minutes later. Obviously, these are quite modest fish by Ouse standards but I did feel that I was getting somewhere. Over the next couple of weeks I had another two small barbel, but struck a purple patch with the chub, taking three more five pounders on the bounce. That made four 5lb plus fish in a few weeks and, according to regulars who have fished the stretch for years that is very unusual.
Just after Christmas, I was fishing the lovely crease swim where I had taken my most recent 5lb chub. A large near bank rush bed projects five yards out from the bank, throwing the main flow across to the far bank and creating a really pronounced midriver angled crease. At a steady 5ft depth and smooth gravel bed it is a perfect set up for chub and barbel. I was fishing an 18mm boilie, with a PVA bag of broken boilie pieces impaled on the hook on each cast. My first cast was made around midday but it wasn’t until nearly dark that I had my first serious indication. I don’t count a kamikaze 12oz chub that nearly choked itself on the boilie in mid afternoon! A vicious pull had me on my feet and I soon realised that this was another chub, but what a beauty. It weighed 5lb 7ozs, another very big fish for the Upper Avon. It was my biggest Avon chub by a couple of ounces.
Ten minutes after the recast, I was in again and this time it was obvious that I was connected to a big barbel. That fish gave me a memorable scrap, making the clutch scream more than once, and I was soon netting my first Avon double figure barbel. It weighed 11lb 5ozs and I was absolutely over the moon with it.
After those fish, with all family worries now behind me, I was able to resume my love affair with the Great Ouse. Like waters everywhere, it was painfully low at the back end of the season, and four trips to a stretch where bites are always few and far between, but the fish are big, saw me averaging but one bite a day. And a day means fishing from about mid morning until well after midnight. The previous season I had taken my 7lb 13oz personal best chub from the same stretch, and I was never able to come close to that this time. In all, I landed eight chub, which comprised a baby of 4-12, four more five pounders to 5-15 and a top three of 6-1, 6-2 (featured below) and a 6-6.
Most pleasing was a final session barbel of 13lb 6ozs, my first barbel from the stretch for three years following the attentions of otters.
As well as the chub fishing, I also had two sessions at the perch stretch where my 5lb pound fish was taken in 1999. Sadly, that has also been badly affected by otters and, although there are still big perch to be caught, the numbers have been drastically diminished. Apart from a solitary small perch, all I caught on my lobworms were average chub and a small pike.
I can look back on the season just ended as one of the most difficult I’ve ever experienced, for several reasons, and in some ways I was glad to see the back of it. Now, after two weeks off, I’m planning some tench and bream fishing, commencing next week. The water has produced tench to 11lbs plus and bream to over 16lbs so I’m hoping for some exciting fishing. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Targeting your intended quarry can sometimes be mind numbing as fish often become unresponsive. Many reasons cause fish to not feed throughout the day, fishing pressure or plenty of active food source available underwater can sometimes deter fish from feeding on your ‘patch’ its then your fishing tackle needs to be modified or another species could be on the cards.
It’s all about knowing when to move and where. Scott Cordingley explains his preferred method of targeting Carp, Perch and Roach! Check out his most recent coarse fishing outing.
For me the end of the river season marks the beginning of my fishing, it’s a time for me to look at different venues and new targets. At this time of year two species are very heavy on my mind and that’s Tench and Bream, for the fighting qualities spring Tench are a fantastic quarry at this time of year, hungry, egger and ready to test your fishing tackle. Bream on the other hand are not really noted for the fighting ability’s but the willingness to feed and the impressive sight of a big bream is enough to get any coarse anglers hot under the umbrella. This year I have opted for a change of tactics to hopefully increase my chances of reaching my targets and that is to target two species of fish using the same fishing tackle and bait, hopefully this will put some more fish on the bank, the logic behind the idea being that if ones not willing to feed then maybe there other is and if they are both feeding then some PBs and red letter days should be coming my way, well that’s the theory anyway.
Venue and Aims
The lake I’m fishing today is Reed Lake on the Mid-Kent Fisheries ticket, plenty of Tench and Bream to be caught and with it’s deep margins should provide some great sport for both species. Tench are noted for being great margin feeders but bream are not, I hope that the deep margins 5-6ft straight down will give the bream some more confidence to feed close in. The aim today is to catch my first Bream and Tench of the season, now you can never guaranty that you’re going to catch a monster so I’ve decided to set realistic targets that can be achieved. For the Tench its 3Ib and for the Bream its 5Ib, this may not sound big but being my first time fishing this lake its best to keep the targets low until you get to know the venue, if you do catch a monster it make the victory even more sweeter.
Again it seem as though the weather man has got it wrong “warm and sunny”… far from it. The average air temperature was around 8-10 degrees C and the water temp around 9 degrees C, wind direction was southwesterly and blowing around 15-17mph, pressure was still high at 1020mb going down to 1016mb by the evening. Really it was quite chilly with cloud cover all day.
Fishing Tackle, Rigs and Bait
I’m using my 10ft nan-Tec float fishing rod, what can I say apart from amazing and it’s the only rod I’ll use for float work in the margins. Seeing as Im targeting two species I needed to average and balance my tackle out to accommodate both fish so with this in mind I set up an insert waggler on 6Ib main line with a bulk shotting pattern to get the bait hard on the deck before the small Roach and Rudd had their way with it. The hook needed to be a bit of an all-rounder so I picked a size 16 Drennan wide gape hook which I can use for all the different hook baits. Bait wise maggot, caster, red worm and sweetcorn either on their own or cocktailed depending on what is working at the time. Loose feed was a mixes of all the hook baits along with hemp and 8mm Halibut pellet, this I hoped would attract both species into the swim.
Getting down to the lake just before dawn ( no trouble with the public transport this time round )I set up the fishing rod and plumbed the depth to around 5ft but I allowed about an inch over depth. After mixing my bait, I balled up and threw out 10 handfuls of the loose feed and left it to stew for about an hour. My first three casts produced thee small Rudd, these can be a nuisance when fishing small baits such as maggots so I moved the bulk shot closer to the hook to get the bait through the skimmers on the surface. Eventually the float settled and the bait reached the bottom, after a while I got the first signs of activity in the swim with small pockets of bubbles hitting the surface. It was around 3 hour into the session before I got my first proper bite, the dull shake of a bream as I struck really put a smile on my face as it’s the first of the season.
The action continued with more small Rudd, Roach and Skimmers up until about noon then the swim went dead. I feed some more loose feed and grabbed the opportunity to have some lunch while taking in the surroundings. It was some time before the fish started to feed again so I opted for red worm with a red maggot on the hook to see if it would induce more takes. Sure enough the float slide away and another bream around the 2Ib mark was placed into the keepnet. The action really started to hot up with more 2Ib bream gracing the bank, until the float rose up and the slowly sunk below the surface; classic Tench bite. As I struck the fish sort refuge in the reed close to me but with applied pressure it was back out into open water, spinning around in circles like it was confused it hit the surface and the red eye and olive green body of a Tench meet my gaze. Carefully I slipped the net under and banked it, weighing the fish at 2Ib 15oz meant that I was just one ounce shy of my target but who cares my first Tench of the season is always a special fish to me, regardless of its size.
I was happy enough to pack up then but my targets were still there to be met so with more loose feed and more persistence, small Bream were quing for the bait but as I stuck into a really positive bite I knew straight away that it was a bream but was unsure as to how big, it just hugged the bottom for a while before coming to the surface, and I then knew I had hit my target. On the scales it went 5Ib 7oz and I was very happy to have hit at least one of my criterias for the day. The next cast hit the water and before it had time to settle, the float lifted again and I connected with what felt another 5lber. It slipped into the net and weighted just over 5. Could it get better than this?
With the day at an end it was time to weigh the fish in the keepnet and get a quick snap before heading of home. Now I know that I had a good day but when the scales went around to 25Ib 8oz I left the lake with a beaming smile that I’m still wearing as I write this.
Until then tight lines and best fishes
A couple of times a year, and far too infrequently, I get to fish with great mate John Kemp. It’s something I always look forward to. I think we both have the same outlook on fishing, which is basically enjoy the surroundings, the friendship as well as the fishing.
Anyway, we had another trip planned to the upper Thames in pursuit of large chub. It’s a spot I particularly like and still holds some stonking chub. A couple of years ago John caught his Thames monster here, a magnificent chub of 7lb 2oz. So we know it still holds the potential to throw up a real whacker.
The forecast was pretty grim and yet we seemed to miss the worst of the weather, which is exactly what happened last time. The only thing this time was the wind. It must have been gale force at times. Nevertheless we fished on in brave fashion. As always we started in the big weir. John tends to fish a small cage feeder with liquidized bread and flake on the hook and I use a large piece of crust anchored a few inches off bottom. If the swim allows, I will throw in a few balls of liquidized bread as an attractant.
My fishing tackle set-up is very simple. I fish 6lb line straight through to a size 6 hook. I slide on 2 Drennan Grippa Stops and then loop over a piece of line and attach the appropriate amount of shot that’s required to just hold bottom. I use the size 2 or 3 ssgs. I vary the distance from the hook but generally its 4 or 5 inches. If its really cold then it will be just a couple of inches from the hook. I then use a big piece of crust. The crust helps to balance the setup, so that it’s easy to move the bait with a twitch, in fact often the bait will move of its own accord. Once you have cast out, keep a nice bow in the line so that if the bait does move, it will travel downstream in a straight line and act far more naturally.
After a couple of casts to get the weight right, I flicked the crust out into the weir pool and put the rod on a rest. It was a tight swim but a good angle to attack the pool. The bait bumped a couple of times and then that tell tale knock on the tip indicated a chub. One more knock…..yes then the tip pulled right round. This is a typical chub bite on crust. The strike was good and the fish on the other end felt heavy as it plodded upstream. For a minute I thought maybe this was not a chub but then it headed for the snags on the inside and I thought, yes it’s a chub. It finally broke surface and I could see it was a decent fish. Once in the net I realised it was even bigger than I thought. I called JK and he came down to assist.
I though it looked a good five but inside I was thinking it was bigger. Well it turned out to be a good fish and weighed in at 6lb 1oz and is my first 6lb Thames chub. I jumped up and down a few times and shook John firmly by the hand. This was one of the highlights of my season. I haven’t caught a 6lb chub for some years. I used to fish for them almost exclusively and now rarely, so I was absolutely chuffed to bits and so was John.
John wandered upstream and I followed a couple of bite-less hours later. We opted to move upstream where there were lots of enticing marginal swims with deep water and loads of cover. We slowly worked our way back down towards the weir. During this process I managed 2 more chub, which both weighed 4lb 13oz, despite being caught a few hundred yards apart. John also tempted a couple of fish, including a good 4lb+ fish before we ended up back in the weir.
We finished here about 7pm. John took another nice chub that was in the region of 4.8lb and I sadly couldn’t tempt another fish. Still what a great day. Beautiful scenery, I saw a wild deer, plenty of bird-life and great company and all the chub were fat and healthy and in mint condition. Oh, and we never saw another angler as usual. Lovely chubbly
As we reach the last few days of the season there is no better time to be out with a fishing rods, trotting the odd red maggot into an unwary shoal of Grayling or Roach. As winter slips into spring the rivers become slightly warmer and the days that little bit longer which provokes a strong feeding urge in most of our fish species. There is no better time of the year to target roach especially as they are fighting fit in readiness for their spawning activities in a month or so’s time.
I have been fortunate to fish a couple of exclusive sections of two of the Southern Chalk rivers, the Test and the Wylye but returned for a very pleasant trip on a small river much closer to home, the Lugg. Each river is very different from the rest and my approach had to reflect those changes in the methods used, here is how I went about it.
The Test was my first port of call, its a trip I make most years and I know that the fishing will be relatively easy but you still get more out of it the harder you work. I used a 13′ float rod with a very soft tip as I was predominantly fishing for the grayling that swim there in large numbers and they have an uncanny knack of shedding hooks due to their twisting action during the fight. My ‘secret weapon’ when grayling fishing is the Guru QM1 hook, its circular design helps to secure a firm hook-hold and I find that more fish are landed as a result. They are barbless and easy to remove from landed fish indeed often the hook falls out in the net. I tied a size 16 or 14 to a 4lb hooklink attached to 6lb mainline which may sound strong but, it was low visibility fluorocarbon and, as the river is very fast, the fish have little time to decide whether to take the bait or ignore it, so there is no point in going ultra fine. The other factor in choosing line strength was the presence of numerous large brown trout which ignore the fact that they are out of season and gorge on the bait, fish up to 15lbs have been landed and their toothy mouths and powerful fight makes short work of light tackle.
Although the river was only 3 to 4 feet deep I put most of the bulk shot about 15′ from the hook with a no4 dropper 10” below that to get the bait to run deep and I was immediately into a shoal of grayling taking several over a pound in the first hour.
Fishing with my mate Tony, we leapfrogged down the fishery trying several glorious runs and pools catching more grayling, numerous trout to about 4lbs (I lost one much bigger!) and a few roach albeit mine only went to 12oz whereas Tony had one knocking the door of 2lbs and another almost as big. We both scored best with red maggot as bait whereas on some days its sweetcorn that sorts out the better fish. I did find that sweetcorn attracted the attentions of too many trout so I baited with corn to keep them chasing the yellow grains whilst I trotted maggots beneath, it seemed to work well on the day and it shows that experimenting with bait is always worthwhile.
The next day saw us fishing a tiny tributary of the Wylye where you could almost touch the opposite bank with the rod tip. A smaller float shotted ‘shirt button’ style was called for. This means spreading the shot evenly spaced down the line (like shirt buttins) which allows the bait to drop slowly through the shallow water and also enables the angler to hold back and get the bait to rise up off the bottom so, by holding back, you can get your gear to negotiate depth changes and weedbeds along the run. Also, holding back and letting the bait rise is an enticing movement often irresistible to fish.
For such a small river the fish stocks are astounding and we caught countless grayling from a number of different features, my best, which must have been very close if not over the magic two pound mark, came from a slightly deeper bend where I had bites from just one small area beneath an overhanging branch.
The last swim we stopped at was in the main river and is renowned for it’s abundance of grayling and Tony had the privilege of fishing it. He had switched to his old split cane float rod and had countless grayling testing its soft action. I borrowed it and had a few myself, it reminded me of the rods I used as a kid but I was also struck by the forgiving nature of the cane and how it absorbed every lunge of the grayling, the old rod and the new hooks meant that every fish hooked was landed in that pool and that, for those of you that grayling fish, is food for thought.
Back on home soil I was after chub on a narrow, overgrown river, time for a tackle change. I have a Drennan float rod designed for carp fishing, it is however, perfect for chub and barbel and can be used as an 11 or 13 footer. I opted for the 11′ version and set about trotting any likely looking swim. I was using a 3 AAA balsa and can float which was shotted fairly well down with a single no4 shot between the bulk and the hook as the current was quite fast and I wanted to get my bait down quickly. I had a 5lb hooklength and was again using the wonderful Guru QM1 in a size 16.
I had my first bite by slowing the float right down and letting the bait waft up a little off the bottom at the end of the swim, a 2lb chub couldn’t resist the two red maggots and it fought hard in the tight swim seeking sanctuary amongst the overhanging branches of a willow tree. I have always found that balanced tackle will stand a lot of pressure and have landed much bigger chub on much lighter gear albeit in far less snaggy waters but, as long as you move smoothly and let the rod absorb the lunges, you can steer hard fighting fish with relative ease. This point was proved with the biggest fish of the day, a chub not far short of 4lbs that got stuck around a branch but, by walking down to point opposite it, my constant pressure slowly brought it back into the current and eventually to the waiting net.
In these days of our obsession with bigger fish the humble float gear seems to be ignored by many anglers which is a pity, it really is a great way to learn about the contours of the river and the art of presenting a bait on the float will bring guaranteed pleasure. The other benefit of trying it nowadays is that so few are actually doing it, its a method that is unknown to many of the fish. Go back a few years and everybody float fished to a point where it was often necessary to go ultra-fine to entice the wisest fish but nowadays they are as green as grass so you can get away with quite robust gear on many rivers so it is still a viable method for chub and barbel but with the possibility of having some wonderful sport out coarse fishing. Give it a go.
All anglers know that your fishing clothing is probably the biggest factor between having an enjoyable day or a disaster whilst on the water.
Layering and dressing to the conditions is only the first part in keeping warm and comfortable, retaining the heat is a different matter. Heat can be lost easily from open chest zips or loose fit collars. Your face is the most sensitive part of your body whilst out on the water, attracting harmful UV rays which are in effect doubled from most UV rays being deflected from the surface mass.
Buffs have been popular among outdoor enthusiasts for years and this simple yet clever tubular designed garment is now targeting fishermen with their properties blocking 95% of harmful UV rays. This seamless piece of clothing is designed to be worn a variety of ways and offers protection from UV radiation as well as a number of other uses.
Fishtec have now taken stock of both Original and Anglers BUFFs. Available in some great textured patterns and some favourite fish scale pattern, the Original and Anglers series really stand out from the crowd.
Original BUFF Headwear - ORIGINAL BUFF® is a multifunctional tubular accessory ideal for many activities. Designed to keep you warm in the cold, Original Buff® will also wick moisture (sweat) away from your skin to keep you cool when it’s hot.
Anglers BUFF Headwear - The Angler Series High UV Protection Buff® made with Coolmax Extreme fabric; a four-channel fibre that forms a transport system to pull moisture away from the skin to outer layers of the fabric. It dries faster than any other fabric, thermoregulating the body.