About Nathan Walter

Nathan has been angling since the age of eight and is now based in Kent, and continues to pursue his first love of fishing in flowing water. An expert coarse fisher and river angler, he pursues all sorts of fish from barbel to grayling and travels to explore new waters and countryside. Nathan has sponsorship with the Lone Angler. As well as contributing to the Fishtec blog, Nathan has written about angling for Freshwater Informer, Coarse Angling Today, and Riffle magazine. Keep up with his fishing diary over on The River Angler.

Britford Coarse fishing

As the evenings draw mercilessly in and the frosts creep over the land, it’s time to hang up the barbel fishing rods for a while and head to one of the countries great chalk streams, the Hampshire Avon.  It’s a river shrouded in history and endless tales of mythical giants are regaled in the local hostelries.

It is a magical river and one that I’m proud to say I fish on a regular basis.  I still feel I don’t fish it enough and I’m sure the day will eventually come, when I end up joining Christchurch Angling Club but only when I can do it justice and that time is not now.

Britford Dawn

Still, today Geoff and I headed down through the Wallops to Britford.  The river here lies in the shadows of Salisbury Cathedral, which gives it an almost hallowed feel and rightly so.  For those that know of theAvonin this region, they will be aware of the treasures that it contains.  Visit the river in the height of the summer, when the waters are gin clear and you’ll soon see why this river is so famous.  With a little patience, discretion and some Polaroids you’ll soon be spotting huge roach and dace.  The old river also contains a healthy stock of grayling up to specimen sizes and with the odd decent chub, a few barbel and plenty of trout thrown in for good measure, it makes this quite a mixing pot.

Britford Cathedral

As we arrived at the river, the late autumn mists hung in the fields.  The sky was clearing after a night of rain and there was still a dampness in the air.  Still, the sun was beginning to break through, so the day held some hope of decent weather.  We took a wander down to the river, expecting it to be up a little and with a touch of colour.  We were surprised to find the old river still gin clear and very low.  There was still thick, flowing ranunculus evident throughout the river system, which would make for some tricky float fishing conditions.

So on went the waders and I headed off in search of a few grayling and dace.  I found numerous deep runs in between the weed.  I had set-up my trusty Drennan float rod and coupled that with my Young’s pin.  The line was a little on the heavy side for this sort of fishing, but I had not brought another reel with lighter line on.  Ideally I would like to have used around a 2lb 6oz mainline.  So I had to make do.  I spent the morning wading along the river and fishing all the likely runs.  The fishing was tricky due to the density and abundance of weed but nevertheless I started catching from the word go.

Two red maggots seemed to do the trick, on a very light float set-up.  First up were a couple of nice grayling and shortly followed by some reasonable dace.  Nothing big mind you-grayling to about 10oz and dace to 5 or 6oz.  By now they were coming thick and fast.  Each new spot produced a few bites, before the inevitable presence of the minnows became known. Once they come every cast, I will move.

It is wonderful wading out into the river.  You find all the deep runs and gullies.  Even slight depressions are easily found and a mental note made for future reference.  It amazes me how close you can catch fish to where you are wading.  The fish rarely take any notice.  After a while and several moves, I had taken about half a dozen grayling, and couple of dozen dace to about 8oz, 2 enormous gudgeon and countless minnows.  I decided after lunch to fish for another hour and then have the last 2 or 3 hours on the main river, above the sluices.

Britford Grayling

Geoff was sticking it out for the roach but as they often do, they were not playing ball.  Surprise, surprise!  I wandered upstream and found a nice swim, with a reasonable depth and not too much weed.  The swim produced plenty of dace over the next hour or so, including the best of the day, a fish of about 9oz.  As the light was beginning to fade, I decided to head downstream and try for some roach.  Again wading out into a likely spot by some alders, the first trot through produced a bite.  This time something much bigger was banging away on the end.  I guessed it was either a British record roach or possibly a chub.  After a nice scrap the fish turned out to indeed be a very nice chub of 4lb+.  I always think if they look like a ‘5’ they are probably a ‘4’ and this is invariably the case.

As the sun started to sink below the horizon, I was getting a fish a cast.  Another grayling was added to the pot and lots of nice dace.  Still, eventually it was time to call it a day and pack down my sparsely selected coarse fishing tackle.  I guess I ended up with around 30-40 dace, 7 grayling and that nice chub.  Oh and fifty hundred minnows…..well that’s how it came out anyway.

Coarse Fishing, Sometimes for nothing.

Yes, Churchill had it right when he said those immortal lines “A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.  Of course what you didn’t know was that this wasn’t referring to Russia at all but to Fishers Green on the Lea.  Just like the Ouse, Fishers Green screams barbel at every twist and turn and yet you get your coarse fishing tackle out and almost can’t buy a bite.  I used to fish here a few years a go and did reasonably well.  However, things have changed.  I have fished here twice this season, in some mouth watering swims and haven’t even mustered a single bite.  Of course my lack of angling skill has nothing to do with it!  Its a tough section and always was.  However, it seems to have got just that little bit harder.

Still one thing hasn’t changed: it’s still a beautiful looking river.  It’s a delight to fish.  The bankside vegetation seems to have been cut back a little and this opens up a few more swims.  Overall it still has a wonderful natural wild feel to it, which I like.  It’s still very clear and there is plenty of weed and water cabbages.  Sadly though, it was desperately low.  I’m sure this had something to do with the lack of action.  It’s a problem faced by many of the southern rivers at the moment.  A real lack of water is causing all sorts of problems.  So my lack of bites is small fry compared to the real issues faced by these rivers.

 

I certainly wouldn’t condemn a venue to the trash can after only a couple of visits either.  It takes patience and perseverance to tackle tough venues like this.  It still produces some cracking barbel and chub, so there is no question that The Green can still produce the goods.  All I need to do is visit it more often and re-learn the venue. Therein lies the real crux of the matter.  You can’t expect instant results.  You have to work for your fish here and that takes time.  This is not a Wye or Trent.  The fish here are much harder to come by and I’ve been spoiled of late.

So, it’s back to the drawing board and on with the barbel and chub head (most people prefer that to my normal head).  It will be a while before I venture back for the barbel, but I certainly intend to return this winter for a session or two after those massive Lea chub.

 

My Favourite Fishing Tackle

After using numerous float rods for trotting, I was always left feeling they were not really right for the job.  I was using them for grayling, roach, dace and chub fishing.  Some of the float rods I had used previously felt too heavy or too stiff and unforgiving.  They seemed OK for chub but I was suffering an awful lot of hook pulls whilst fishing in particular for grayling.  To be fair, grayling do have a habit of coming off, due to their gyrating movement during the fight.  However I felt I was losing far too many.

So it was that I began a comprehensive search for a perfect trotting rod.  It was unlikely that I would find an absolute perfect tool for the job in the price range that I had in mind, but I intended to try.  So after quite some time of reading reviews and looking at numerous models in fishing tackle shops, I came across a rod that sounded just about right.  Basically what I wanted was something that would fulfill certain criteria:

  1. It had to be light enough to hold all day (and this is really important)
  2. I wanted a 14ft rod.  This would give me a little extra control over the float.
  3. It had to be designed with silver fish in mind.
  4. It needed to be capable of handling lines down to very light hooklengths of under 1½ lbs
  5. It needed to be able to pick line up at distance with a nice crisp action
  6. I wanted a rod that would cushion the strike and lunges from silver fish using very small hooks but capable of handling much bigger fish if hooked
  7. The rod had to be able to pick line up at a distance and set the hook up to 30 yards away

I came across the Drennan Matchpro Ultralight.

After reading a few reviews and the company spiel, I felt it was the right tool for the job.  After receiving the item it was time to give a good workout throughout the winter months.  Several trips to the River Itchen would test out the rods capabilities on the grayling population.  The rod performed beautifully.  It was very light and comfortable to hold all day, despite being 14ft.  It had a lovely tippy feel to it, which enabled excellent line pick up at distance and set the hook even on a very long trot.  The rod had a very nice through action and this was ideal for grayling.  It cushioned the fight from these tricky fish extremely well.  It didn’t quite eliminate hook pulls, but greatly reduced them.  I was delighted.

It was then put through its paces trotting for roach, dace chub and a few bonus barbel.  Again performance was better than I had hoped for.  Very few hookpulls using 20 hooks.  The light lines coupled with the supreme balance of the rod enabled me to land numerous good barbel to 10lb 5oz.  I never got snapped up once.  That to me is the sign of a quality rod.  I was using lines down to 2lb 6oz, but since then I have gone down to 1.8lb and still the rod performed well.  But then of course, that’s what it is designed for.

I then used the rod for crucian carp in the spring. This time taking numerous crucian’s to 3lb 11oz and tench to 6lbs.  The rod is a pleasure to use and I find it a very rewarding experience hooking and playing fish on this rod.

Coarse Fishing for Autumn Grayling

Geoff, Kevin and I decided to take a break from blanking, er I mean barbel fishing and spent some quality time with my coarse fishing tackle for whatever came along.  We were hoping for some decent grayling but would be happy with a few decent dace or chub.  So it was that we headed to Barton Courton the upper Kennet near Hungerford.

This is a day ticket venue and was once renowned for the quality of its fishing.  It regularly produced very big dace, roach and grayling.  Today it’s a mere shadow of its former self.  The big roach seem to have vanished and the big dace are less in numbers.  Grayling still show and its rumoured there are still a few big fish in there.  Quite where, is another matter.

Barton Court

It a stunning venue though.  A mixture of the old river and numerous off-shoots and carriers.  There is a lot of water to fish.  Some areas are fast runs, others deeper and slower.  Numerous small weirs and pools offer enticing opportunities for a stick float fished with maggots.  There was little weed to speak of, which is handy when trotting.  Sadly though, the river is desperately low.  In fact one of the locals said they had lived in the area for nearly 20 years and this was the lowest she had ever seen it. Quite worrying. It did at least have a touch of colour, although that doesn’t suit grayling generally.

Still we set about trying to catch a few fish.  I set-up one of my favourite fishing rods a Drennan Matchpro  3.2lb mainline, 2.6lb hooklink and 16 hook.  The float was a small 5bb stick float.  It was just right for the conditions: windy and with a pacey flow.  I could easily swap hook sizes depending on bait choice.  To start with I opted for the old favourite, a couple of red maggots.  I had wandered down to a particularly well-known spot by the arched bridge.  There was a nice deep run on the right hand side, which then swept towards and under the beautiful stone bridge.  Almost immediately I hooked into a decent fish.  Sadly it came adrift.  A few more trots through and the float buried.  A nice dace of about 7oz.  This was followed by several small dace and a grayling of around 7-8oz.  Then the minnows appeared.  After about half an hour of catching them, I decided it was time to move.

Upper Kennet

I wandered along the bank admiring the sights and sounds of the countryside.  I watched a couple of Red Kites for a few minutes and then a buzzard, before finding a nice deep run on a bend.  First trot through gave me a decent grayling of about a pound.  Then several nice perch and a few dace, shortly followed by another grayling.  Then, yet again, the minnows moved in.  By now it was almost lunchtime.  At this point I heard a wonderful choo, choo sound coming from the direction of the rail line.  I then heard the chuff-chuff of a steam engine.  Suddenly, a magnificent steam engine burst into sight, with white puffs of smoke billowing out of the funnel.  It was the Orient Express, with numerous luxurious Pullman Coaches behind.  What a grand sight, so terribly nostalgic (said of course, with my best Noel Coward voice!)

By now it was lunchtime.  Some hot soup and sandwiches filled a hole and a coffee to finish.  By God, this fishing lark ain’t too bad really.  Geoff and Kev had done reasonably well and it wasn’t long before we were off again.  This time I decided to head off below the stone bridge.  The river widens a little here.  It’s a bit weedier and generally fairly shallow.  We managed to find a couple of nice spots and I managed a few roach.  Kevin found a lovely pool right at the end of the fishery boundary.  Each cast produced a bite.  Pretty much all dace, with one or two half decent ones. Kevin also had the fish of the day.  A big dace going 12oz+, but we all caught a few decent dace throughout the day.

We kept moving and trying different spots.  The pools provided us with a few decent brownies up to about 3.8lbs.  The grayling were a little scarce.  I think we ended up with about a dozen between us.  Overall we caught a lot of fish.  I think Kevin said all in all he had about 70.  Not a bad days fishing.  As the sun started to sink down below the horizon, we heard that evocative choo, choo again.  A few seconds later the steam engine puffed into view and flew past at an incredible speed. Pretty much made the day for me.

We finished the day with loads of nice fish.  A really mixed bag of dace, roach, grayling, perch and gudgeon.  A wonderful day in beautiful surroundings where the wildlife is abundant and very distracting and that’s how it should be.

Trotting – Fishing Tackle

Trotting for Chub

Chub – one of the most aesthetically pleasing fish found in our rivers. The colours: some a beautiful golden bronze and some a silvery grey, with a dark back and black edging to the fins. The most easily identifiable part of the chub is of course those great big white lips, attached to that cavernous mouth.

Chub seem to be distributed throughout most of the UK and are even rumoured to be in Ireland, despite the official line. They are the most accommodating of fish with a catholic taste and make bait selection almost endless. Most chub anglers have their personal favourites. Whether it is cheesepaste, casters, maggots, lob worms, slugs, fruit, bread, fish baits, boilies or pellets. Really the list of possibilities is endless. Try anything and everything and you’ll be surprised and probably delighted by the results.

5lb 1oz Winter Chub

Winter, for many, is the real chubbing season. The keen coarse fisherman is ready for any weather nature can throw at him. Ideal conditions though, are without doubt, spells of prolonged dry conditions. Whether it’s freezing cold or relatively mild, it doesn’t really matter. Even the harshest of winter frosts won’t deter the chub from biting, providing they have had a few days to acclimatise to the below freezing conditions. High water during flood conditions is another matter altogether. Best get the barbel rods out and forget the chub for a while.

So we move swiftly on to the technique of trotting. A method overlooked by many big fish anglers in favour of a more static approach. However, do not underestimate the power of a trotted maggot or piece of bread flake to entice chub of mammoth, nay, mythical proportions!

The basic principles of trotting are fairly simple. So I’ll start with the fishing tackle.

Rod

Any decent fishing rods, match or trotting of around 13 to 14 feet. This may well be governed by the stretch of river you are fishing. If there are a lot of trees, you may wish to use a shorter rod to avoid overhead branches, otherwise a 13 foot rod is about perfect. Look for something with a nice tip that will be able to pick line up off of the surface at a distance. Don’t go for anything too pokey either, or you’ll suffer hook pulls galore. Ideally a nice tippy, soft, through action match style rod is perfect.

Reels

Your reel is one of the most important pieces of your fishing gear, nearly as important as your hook! Centrepins are perhaps the purists choice and that of the more experienced river angler. However I can assure you that with very little practice, if any, you will be able to fish quite effectively with a pin despite being a novice. They are simple to use, offer a smooth presentation of the float and unparalleled control of a hooked fish. One of my favourites is the TF Gear Classic Centrepin.

Centrepins are essentially a rotating drum. Most, these days, have ball bearings and so are incredibly free running. The mere weight of a float being carried along by the slightest current will be sufficient to turn the drum of the pin, thus allowing line to be taken from the reel. The float goes with the natural flow of the river. You can control the spinning of the pin further by using your thumb as a brake.

Closed Faced Reels

A number of closed face reels are still available. Essentially the line is controlled via a release button on the front of the reel. The spool of line is enclosed within the outer housing. Line spools off the reel once the button has been pressed. The flow of line is then controlled via your finger. This system allows line to leave the reel in a very free running fashion and suits trotting perfectly.

Fixed spool

The standard coarse fishing reel. With the bail arm open line can spool off quite freely and as with the closed face reel, can be controlled with a finger. This is perhaps the least favoured reel for trotting as it is harder to control the line as effectively. However in experienced hands it can be every bit as effective as the centrepin and closed face varieties.

Preparing Mashed Bread

Mashed bread is without doubt one of the best weapons within your fishing tackle armoury for chub.  It is tremendously effective at drawing chub into your swim and putting them in a feeding mood.  It can be used in small balls as loose feed or in a cage feeder.  Often it’s a good idea to pop a couple of small balls of mashed bread into a swim 15 or 20 minutes prior to fishing, just to get them mooching about for more.

When mashed bread is prepared correctly you end up with a nice moist, stodgy mixture that once it enters the water starts to break up almost immediately.  As the mash starts to descend down to the bottom, pieces of bread will be breaking away and the ball of mash soon breaks up completely.  It leaves an enticing trail of small bits of mash throughout the water columns.  It’s a method that rarely over feeds the fish due to the size of the bits that break away.

The right consistency is important.  You don’t want it too stiff and neither do you want it too sloppy.  I like to make mine with the crusts still on, the only time that might be different is if I was using it for roach.  Then I might make it much smoother.  However for chub, everything goes in.  So here’s how I make it, but that’s not to say it’s the only way!

  • Get a couple of cheap cut loaves of white bread, preferably thin or medium cut.  This helps the drying out process.
  • Leave the slices of bread exposed i.e out of the cellophane wrapping, until it dries out.  It needs to be completely stale. It must be totally dry and crunchy.
  • Now scrunch up the slices into a bucket.
  • Cover with water and leave for 10 minutes.
  • Tip the contents into a large conical sieve/colander and remove the water from the mixture.
  • Pop a lid on the bucket,
  • On arrival at the water add a little water, until the consistency is right.
  • It’s now ready to use.

I’m lucky enough to have access to a couple of very hot, dry rooms at my workplace.  So it only takes 24 hours to get my bread slices bone dry.  At home, this may take quite a few days.  You could always pop them onto a tray and keep them in the airing cupboard.

I also have access to colanders and sieves.  Again if you don’t, then add the water a little at a time, mixing carefully, until you achieve the right consistency.  This can be done at the waterside quite easily.

What is the right consistency?  Well that’s down to trial and error.  But I would say that on entering the water, you want the mash to start breaking up immediately.  If you are fishing in faster water or it’s bitterly cold, then you can make it just a little stiffer, so that it starts to break down nearer the bottom, which is where the chub are likely to want to feed in serious sub-zero conditions.

My personal preference is to then fish a piece of bread crust between 1-4 inches off the bottom using one of my favourite feeder rods, the TF gear Compact Commercial feeder rod in conjunction with a feeder or just some shot on the line. Crust is a deadly chub bait.  With a few modifications to bait and hook size, it can then be used for roach and even barbel.  Give it a go this winter.

Autumnal Barbel

Autumnal hints are clearly showing themselves. Leaves are turning brown already, as we approach late September. This week it was only Geoff and I that headed towards Aldermaston to do spot of coarse fishing in search of those Autumnal giants that frequent the gravel runs here. We have always found this time of the year very rewarding for big barbel. We hoped that this would be the week they showed themselves at last to 2 very determined Kenneteers.

 We set up camp as ever and wandered off for a look. I fancied a swim at the lower end of the stretch (aka near to the car!!). There was lots of cover, a nice flow and a deep hole in this swim. I baited up with hemp and caster and left the swim alone for an hour. Geoff had decided to fish much further upstream. This week we had decided we should give it until much later before calling it a night. We talked about packing up around 2am, if we could stay awake and the temperature wasn’t too chilly. Brave talk for a couple of wimps.

At about 7pm I had what looked like a persistent chub bite on one of my fishing rods. On striking I discovered one of those Popeye chub on the other end. After a really good fight the culprit was drawn into the TF gear landing net, a barbel of around 6lbs. I re-baited the swim and decided to have a wander. As I left the swim, I noticed about half a dozen Roe Deer in the field. I took a few photos, but the deer were a bit too far away. I slowly and carefully inched forward, trying to get closer. The deer were alert and soon noticed me. They stretched their necks high and their ears twitched at my approach. I stopped and then slowly moved forward again, taking a few more shots. Suddenly they were off. That lovely, high prancing movement that Roe Deer do, reminiscent of gazelle on the Masai Mara. I then popped back to the car, only to see two more hinds in the field adjacent to the small car park. Again I tried stalking them and managed to get much closer due to the cover afforded me by the trees and bushes. Sadly though, it was by now getting dark. So the pictures were of no use. Still, lovely to see.

I returned to my swim and carried on with the usual routine of bait dropping hemp and caster every 20-25 minutes. Finally at about 11.20pm the barbel rod whacked round and another feisty barbel was subdued. Again a smallish fish, especially for Aldermaston. It looked around the 6-6 ½ lb mark. I called Geoff. He hadn’t had a touch, but we both felt we should carry on and see whether the later finish would produce. At 1.15am we both decided it hadn’t! We headed back to camp for a well-earned cup of tea. With the kettle whistling away on the stove, we prepared ourselves for a nice hot cuppa.  However, this week I had forgotten something else of course. The milk, eejit that I am. Luckily Geoff had a small bottle of some soya milk muck that sufficed under the circumstances!

The following day we kicked off by going to the small village stores and purchasing a few provisions, including some milk obviously. They do some great chunky sausage rolls here. Heated up, they make a great breakfast. A decent cup of take away coffee finished off our transactions and we headed back to the river.

We packed away the tents, made a flask of fresh coffee. I then loaded up with fishing gear, like some sort of over-burdened pack-horse and headed upstream looking for a likely swim. On finding one, I baited up and read Coarse Angling Today for 45 minutes. I then wandered up to see Geoff, whom it turned out hadn’t gone where he said he was going, so I found an empty swim. Still, the walk did me good….!!

It turned out to be a reasonable day for me. I didn’t exactly empty the river, but did manage 3 more barbel to about 6 ½lbs. They were all in immaculate condition. I also missed a wraparound bite! I spotted a few more deer in the field and again managed to get reasonably close and take a few shots. Geoff managed a trout and a 4lb+ chub. He’s finding it tough at the moment and I know it hurts when other’s seem to be catching and you’re not. I’m certain he will turn it around soon though.

Perhaps one of the highlights for me was watching a Crow and a Kite doing an impersonation of a World War II dog fight. They twisted and turned almost in harmony, as the Crow badgered the much larger and more impressive Kite. They soared and rolled, dived and turned. Occasionally, when the angle was just right, the Kite would suddenly swoop at the crow and they would disappear. We were certain the Kite had engulfed the crow with its mighty talons, but they would just as suddenly reappear and the aerobatics would continue. It was wonderful to watch.

Anyway, next week we are on the Trent for 3 days. So here’s hoping for some decent fishing weather and a few wrap-arounds to go with it.

Written by Nathan Walter

Simms Freestone Breathable Waders

Having used waders for some years now, I have learned how valuable these fishing accessories are.  During the winter months I love trotting.  Whether it be for grayling in the upper Wye Valley or for chub and roach on the many southern rivers and chalk streams.

You soon learn that one of the best ways to present a bait effectively on a river, is to wade out and allow the bait to travel downstream, unhindered by the sharp angles created by fishing from the bank.  Plus it’s a very rewarding feeling to stand in the water and actually fish.

I have used numerous types of waders.  From thigh length nylon, to the full chest waders made from neoprene.  Obviously each style of wader has its own merits.  I spent last winter using some very good neoprene chesties.  Throughout the winter months they got a thoroughly good workout.  It was a cold winter and the 4mm neoprene did help to keep me warm.  However you soon realise that this benefit is outweighed by one of the major drawbacks of neoprene.  As soon as you start to walk any great distance, you begin to sweat quite profusely.  The mixture of heat and sweat cause a huge amount of condensation and wetness inside the waders.  Often once removed, it looks like you have been wading without the waders on!

The other downside to these types of waders is the fact that they come with fitted Wellington boots.  These are often uncomfortable, especially if walking any great distance.  Neither do they offer a great deal of support to the foot when actually wading.  Often the water pressure squashes the boots and thus your toes whilst wading.

So I decided to treat myself to a pair of breathable waders.  After extensive Internet research, I plumped for the Simms Freestone Breathable Chest Waders.  One reason was the name.  I’m not a mindless brand driven buyer, but Simms has a tremendous reputation for quality.  If I was going to spend a fair bit of money, I wanted to be certain I was getting a reliable, well made product.

I opted to purchase the item from the Fishtec.  They were doing a terrific package deal where you received the waders and boots for a special price.  At the time of purchasing they were also offering a further 10% off!  So I ended up paying just £225 for the boots and waders.  As usual their service was impeccable and the waders soon arrived.

Having already tried a pair of these on prior to buying, I knew pretty much what to expect.  They are light with a soft feel.  Very airy and pliable, so they are very comfortable to wear all day and walk around in.  The boots fit extremely well and again walking around in these all day is a doddle. The boots are for all intense and purposes, hiking boots.  They support the feet and ankles well and are very comfortable to wear, whilst remaining very robust. These particular Freestone boots come with a felt sole, pre-drilled to take screw in studs.  This type of sole offers unparalleled grip on bedrock, vital when wading.  The studs offer further grip when walking on muddy banks.

I have been wearing these on and off all summer.  Fishing places like the Wye, Kennet and Trent they have come in useful, not just for wading but for general use.  The areas of the Kennet I fish are very overgrown.  So during the summer months, when the mornings can be quite dewy, it’s great to keep dry by using these waders.  There is nothing worse than getting totally soaked through whilst walking through thick undergrowth and using the heavy winter type salopettes to try to stay dry, is a poor solution.  The other great benefit is during the rain.  Now I know what you’re thinking. Rain? In the summer? InEngland? Surely not! Well on those odd occasions when it does rain in the summer, breathable waders offer great protection. Obviously they are going to keep you dry during the heaviest of rain storms, without weighing you down or feeling uncomfortable.

The Simms Freestone Waders are made using a 3 layer construction. They are highly breathable and lightweight.  They also come with a very useful front pocket and a nice handwarmer fleece lined pocket.  The suspender system is very comfortable and easy to do up and there is also a wading belt.  They come with built-in gravel guards which are very easy to use.
So far I am over the moon with these waders.  I have waded out to almost waist-high and spent long periods of time in the water.  Thus far they have been excellent and I have no reason to believe that they will be any different in the future. No sign of leakage or any condensation inside the waders. Having worn them on a few very hot days, they remained comfortable and I didn’t over heat.  Had I have been wearing neoprene, I’d have probably wilted away to nothing.   They remain dry and comfortable throughout and I am delighted with them.  They have proven to be one of the best purchases I have made.

Sorry for the length of this review but I wanted to offer a really comprehensive opinion on how good they are, having spent so long looking for a set of breathable waders myself.

  • QuadraLam™ Technology with Toray® waterproof fabric
  • 100% Nylon face fabric with DWR finish
  • Adjustable elastic 1.5″ suspenders
  • Front hand warmer pocket with quick-drying microfleece lining
  • External pocket with hook & loop closure
  • Patented built-in neoprene gravel guards and built-in belt loop
  • 4mm high-density neoprene stockingfoot
  • Easily converts to waist highs
  • Nylon wading belt included
  • Offered in 7 stock sizes: S, M, MK, L (9-11), LK, XL, XXL
  • Our Price: £229.99
Written by Nathan Walter

Bearded Roach and Tea

The lure of Kennet roach drew me back to the Wasing beats of this beautiful river this week.  The Kennet was once famed for its red finned inhabitants and it had a reputation for holding some very big specimens.  Well I’m pleased to say that in certain stretches, they are still there.  They crop up from time to time, mainly to barbel fishermen.  I have targeted these roach on just a few occasions recently, having taken them to 1lb 12oz in the past.   I’m certain that with some perseverance the larger specimens will eventually succumb.

So the set-up was fairly straight forward.  I balanced my superb light ‘river and stream’ quiver rod (a TF Gear rod that is sadly no longer available) with a Drennan reel loaded with 5lb line.  A running ledger link and a 3 foot mono hooklink coupled with a 16 Pallatrax ‘The Hook’ completed the set-up.  The bait was a small hair rigged Hinders Elips pellet, attached by incorporating a small bait band tied to the hair.  This is a nice simple rig, where little can go wrong.  I do like to use a 3 inch length of silicone tubing on the hooklink which pulls onto the swivel.  This just pushes the hooklink away from the feeder, which is then attached to the running ledger link.  It just helps to prevent tangles.

I targeted an area that I know has produced some decent roach in the past and still regularly throws up some decent specimens over a pound.  There is a lovely long glide here and a fallen tree at the end of the run.  On the opposite bank are more bushes and trees in the water, which create a lovely crease.  It screams roach, especially as it has an excellent average depth.

Ah, I can smell roach... Or is that my aftershave!

After setting up base camp (where’s Sherpa Tenzing when you need him?) I set up the feeder rods, baited my chosen swim with a little hemp to get the fish interested.  The water was a little higher than of late after recent heavy rains and the river was carrying a little more colour too.  Perfect roach conditions.  First cast out with the hemp and caster feeder, produced instant results.  The tip yanked round from a cracking bite and the strike met with that jagged resistence of what felt like a good roach.  Then, sadly it was off.  Things went a little quiet from there.  It was a lovely warm evening.  As dusk approached the tip pulled round again and this time the culprit found the folds of the landing net.  A fine Kennet roach of about a pound. It was fin perfect and in immaculate condition.  Hopefully this was to be the start of some decent action.

Hemp and Caster - Irresistible!

Hemp and Caster - Irresistible!

Well sadly by 10pm, not an awful lot had happened.  Kevin had taken a couple of nice barbel further upstream, the biggest going 8lb 10oz and Geoff had caught a small fish of about 4-5lbs. Then at last another bite came my way.  The dogged, zig-zag fight indicated a roach and so it was.  Another fish of about a pound.  Sadly tiredness was beginning to get the better of me (that’s old age for you) so I decided to have one more cast whilst packing away all of the usual paraphernalia that us anglers take but never seem to use (please tell me it’s not just me!).  Once all that was done, it was time to reel in.  Moments before doing so the rod top dragged round violently and a hard fighting fish ripped line from the reel.  The clutch screamed as the fish headed for the fallen tree.  Steady pressure won the day (a good balanced set-up, even using lightish lines, can subdue big fish) and the fish was drawn over the cord of the landing net.  Well it was obvious by now that this was a roach of the bearded variety. Yes, a barbel. Certainly not a monster, but about 6lbs.

A bearded roach

A bearded roach

I popped over to see Geoff and as I stood there his rod whacked round and a feisty barbel of around 4-5lbs was later unhooked and slipped back to fight another day.  I headed back to camp and got the kettle going.  Kevin surrendered to the Barbel Gods but Geoff was made of tougher stuff and after his cuppa, carried on fishing for a couple of hours.  Sadly nothing more came his way and even he eventually succumbed to tiredness.

Not a bad session all in all

Big, Fat Barbel

Big barbel have been some what elusive so far this season.  I think my best to date has been 10lb 1oz from the Trent.  The Kennet doubles have proven to be even harder to come by.  We normally take plenty of big fish from the Kennet. I think my best day was 3 ’12′s’ two seasons ago.  A season where I managed 14 doubles from the Kennet.  This season has been the hardest start on the Kennet I’ve had in 5 years.  It’s strange because everywhere else I go I seem to catch plenty of barbel.  I’ve had the best part of 140 fish this season and only 15 have been from the Kennet.  Still hopefully it will get better..!

So it was that Geoff, Kevin and I packed up the tents and moved to Aldermaston.  We know this stretch well and in past seasons have fared well here during daylight hours.  Rather than fish during the day on the other beats, this week we had swapped around a bit.  Fishing the evening and night at Dalston and today here at Aldermaston.  We hoped that this change in tactics might just produce some fish.

Base Camp

The water was still quite coloured and the river an inch or two up, maybe.  The river looked good.  We each headed off up river in search of some likely spots.  I ventured in to a very boggy swim.  Luckily I was armed (or legged) with my Simms waders.  So if I did have to wade into a few boggy spots, I could.  There is a lovely deep gully in this swim.  It’s flanked on one side by beautiful, flowing ranunculus and on the other by lots of overhanging trees and bushes.  It looks perfect.

I started off by putting out about 3 pints of hemp and caster.  Leaving the swim to rest for half an hour whilst I got organized.  The swim was certainly boggy, but I managed to find a firm spot for the chair.  Once that was all sorted a cup of coffee was in order and then I tied up a new rig.  The previous week I had fished casters on the hair, but due the the colour this week I opted for pellets for bait.  Hoping that the additional smell might make it easier for the fish to locate them.  A 3 foot braided hooklink was tied up with a 12 hook and 2 large elips pellets superglued to the hair.  The feeder was a 3 ounce Andrew Witham cage feeder.  This was packed with a mixture of pellets and Hinders ‘barbel bomb’ groundbait.

The bait was swung out into the gully and I sat back to await events.  I took this opportunity to nose through the weekly fishing papers.  A 4lb 10oz crucian carp had been caught from a Verulam AC water.  The picture looked good.  The fish, at a casual glance, looked like a true crucian.  They are not easy fish to identify.  The colour looked pretty good: dark bronze and orange tints to the fins.  The mouth didn’t look quite right, but it was open and extended, so nothing conclusive there.  I didn’t do a scale count, I think I’ll leave that to the experts.   I hope it is genuine and well done to the angler that caught this beautiful fish.

Anyway back to the barbel.  At last I had what looked like a persistent chub bite, so decided to hit it.  It was a chub, about 3 1/2lbs.  Then  a little later, another persistent chub bite, so I hit this one as well.  This time though it was a chub on steroids, 3 shredded wheat and a tin of Popeye’s spinach.  What is technically known in fishing circles as a barbel.  Not a big fish, but a really good fight.  A fish of about 6-7lbs.  Later on I had the full on 3 foot twitch.  It felt like a good fish on the other end.  It stayed deep and thumped around for a few seconds before snagging me on some unseen obstruction.  Steady pressure from numerous angles and plenty of swear words usually does the trick.  Sadly though everything went slack and the hook had pulled out.  At least I got all of the tackle back and the fish had escaped safely.

The rare Wasing lesser spotted Kookaburra

The warm weather was having a soporific effect on me and I kept drifting off into a world of naked women and British record barbel.  What a combination! Luckily, this was interrupted by the phone going and an excited Kevin on the other end informing me of a very good barbel in his landing net.  Assuming it hadn’t swam in there of its own accord, I hurried down ready to do the David Bailey impression, although I was sober!

Kevin lifted the fish out of the water and we were confronted by a very big, fat barbel.  It looked about 12lbs and this was confirmed on the scales, as she went 12lb 2oz.  A new PB for Kevin and the smile said everything.  Well done buddy, great result.  It was nice to see a big fish on the bank at long last.

Kev's PB Barbel 12lb 2oz

Despite a move, on Geoff and my parts, we couldn’t muster any further action.  So we ended the day with 2 barbel, plus the 5 from the previous day. 7 barbel and a new PB isn’t a bad couple of days fishing.  Oh and we also stopped by the road side to watch 2 Red Kites and 2 Buzzards sharing the same air space.  Lovely to watch such impressive birds glide and swoop just overhead.  Ah well, until next time. As Arnie would say “I’ll be back”