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 carp rigs

simple carp rig

Image source: shutterstock
A simple carp rig – you can make this!

Every carper will have his own opinion on rigs, and the topic can get quite complicated. It’s important, though, to avoid getting caught up in the potential minefield that rigs can be.

It’s much better to keep things simple at the early stage of your carping career, and in this article we’ll outline a couple of very basic carp rigs which will get you started and catching carp in very little time.

What is a hair rig?

The hair rig is the simplest form of rig used today. It was designed by the late Lenny Middleton, who was trying to gain better hook holds from the straight onto the hook. In the carp fishing boom of the 1980s anglers became aware that carp can very easily single out hookbaits. It was clear that there was a need for a rig which helped overcome the poor hookholds which the traditional methods offered.

How to make a hair rig

It’s very easy to make a simple hair rig. The material used to make the hair can be made from a number of different products. Some anglers prefer to use line, whilst others use braided material. Each will have their own advantages, and with a bit of experience and experimentation you’ll doubtless make your own mind up as to which you prefer. For now though, we’ll run you through what is known as the knotless knot hair rig, which combines the hooklink material into the hair.

The knotless knot hair rig is one of the most widely used methods of attaching your hooklink to the hook. All you need to make it is your favourite hooklink material, a hook and some scissors. Here’s how you tie it up, in pictures:

cut hooklink

1: Cut a 15-inch length of hooklink

thread hooklink onto hook

2: Take one end of the hooklink and thread three inches of it through the rear side of the hook eye.

rest hooklink beside hook

3: Rest the three inches of hooklink (known as the hair) along one side of the hook. This is the part which will form the hair.

start to wrap around the hook

4: Holding the hair in place, wrap the longer length of hooklink around the shank just below the hook eye ensuring that it is kept tight.

continue to wrap around the hook

5: Continue to wrap the hooklink around the hook in the same way as in step 4, working your way down the shank.

give at least ten wraps round the hook

6: It needs to be wrapped around the hook at least ten times for it to hold firm. Ten wraps normally ends up finishing opposite the point of the hook. This is a good position for the hinge of the hair.

loop through the back of the hook eye

7: Keeping the wraps in position, loop the long hooklink end through the back of the hook eye and pull through.

tighten gently to bed the knot down

8: Bed the knot down by tightening gently. The knotless knot has now been tied.

now put a loop in the end of the hair

9: All that is needed to complete the rig is to tie a loop in the end of the hair, to which you can now attach your hookbait. Many anglers make the hair long enough so the top of the bait just touches the bottom of the hook bend.

slide bait onto a needle, then onto the hair

10: Slide a bait onto a needle and then onto the hair. Secure the bait in position with a hair stop.

When the hair rig was designed it produced some amazing captures. Indeed, it still works today. If you take this simple example to your local day ticket pond, I guarantee if you fish well, it will catch you plenty of carp.

Next steps – the line aligner

Thinking anglers are always looking at ways to improve success, and one of the most widely used advancements of the hair rig is the line aligner. This incorporates a piece of silicon tubing onto the rig, which is pushed over the eye of the hook to protect the knot. It also helps the hook twist when inside the mouth of the fish, increasing your chances of hooking.

The line aligner can be used with almost all carp rigs. To avoid confusion, in this example we’ll simply add it to the knotless knot hair rig which we made earlier. Scientific tests have shown it to be 15% more successful at hooking when compared to the standard knotless knot hair rig.

How to make a line aligner

To make an effective line aligner, you need a pair of scissors, a fine baiting needle, some 0.5 silicon tubing and a finished knotless knot hair rig. Here’s how you set one up.

Cut a small length of 0.5mm tubing

1: Cut a small length of 0.5mm tubing (this will be pushed over the eye of the hook so must be of the soft or shrink type). A good length is one which just fits over the eye of the hook (approximately 0.8cm).

push the baiting needle through the side and into the central cavity

2: Approximately ¼ of the way down the tubing push the baiting needle through the side and into the central cavity until it exits the end.

attach the hooklink to the needle latch

3: Attach the hooklink to the baiting needle latch and pull it through the tubing cavity so that it exits through the side wall.

Thread the tubing down the hooklink

4: Thread the tubing down the hooklink towards the eye of the hook.

push the tubing over the eye

5: Now push the tubing over the eye. Be careful not to split the side when doing this or you may have to start again. A good tip is to work the tubing through your fingers for a minute or two to make it warm and more manageable.

align the tubing properly with the hook

6: Make sure the face of the tubing where the hooklink comes through is in line with the point of the hook. The line aligner is now complete.

Is it worth the effort?

Scientific tests have shown that the line aligner will hook 18 times out of twenty, when compared to 16 out of twenty with the knotless knot only set-up (as documented in Strategic Carp Fishing). It is without a doubt the most advanced hooking arrangement of the modern day carp scene. If you still have reservations, here’s some proof of the effectiveness right here!

simon crow and carp

The author, Simon Crow with a recently caught 30lb common on a simple line aligner hair rig

Happy carping!

Simon Crow

All images courtesy of Simon Crow unless otherwise stated

Beginner’s Guide to Canal Fishing

canal fisherman on boat with child

Image source: Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB / Shutterstock.com
Canal fishing is for everyone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canals are accessible, cheap as chips and found all over the UK. Better still, our canals are full of fish and great venues for anglers of all tastes, tells Dominic Garnett, towpath fanatic and author of the book Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide.

For many anglers, canals are their first childhood fishing venues. However, these classic locales are so commonplace they’re sometimes overlooked.

For many anglers, canals form a continual part of their angling life, from childhood onwards.They’re classic venues to explore, and yet so commonplace we sometimes overlook them. In fact, over half of us in the UK live within five miles of a canal.

They’re highly accessible for anglers too. Some canals offer free fishing, but most require a local angling club (or Waterway Wanderers) pass.These are as cheap as chips, though, with some at around £30 for a whole calendar year. Want a day ticket? You probably won’t have to spend much more than a fiver.

Don’t be fooled by their modest appearances and cheap prices however. These are amongst the most consistent and productive fisheries out there, whether you enjoy pole fishing or drop shotting. And while they can be challenging, Britain’s canals are endlessly fascinating and always capable of surprising us.

Canal Basics and Watercraft

colourful canal

Canals offer value and variety to anglers of all kinds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, you live or travel near to a canal and are thinking of fishing it.But where should you start? There might be miles of water to go at.If it is a rustic canal, it could be pretty and feature filled; but if it is a busy, urban canal it could just as easily all look the same.

Your first job on any canal therefore doesn’t involve a rod and reel, but your feet, eyes and ears. Look at a map, and ask questions at the local tackle shop, fishing club and forums:

  • Where are the popular areas to fish?
  • Where are the match stretches – and which pegs produce winning nets of fish? (regularly fished areas can concentrate fish because of the bait going in over time)
  • Where is fishing going well at the moment (or tends to fish well in this season)?

Better still, get out there and walk the towpath for yourself with a pair of polarizing glasses. Do this early or late in the day and you may well see fish such as roach and rudd rising, or larger fish rolling or bubbling.

Even the most uniform looking canal will have features to discover. Wide bays will hold fish like bream and tench.The areas close to locks, walls, bridges and other structures will shelter small fish and the predators that hunt them.

Bends, overhanging bushes, barges and other features will all draw fish seeking safety and food. It’s important to get out and explore – the peg next to the car park will rarely be the best to catch from.

The “Typical” Canal

canal anatomy diagram

Anatomy of a canal

While all canals have similarities, each is unique and different. Some are very deep and clear, others shallow and muddy. All have distinct areas in common to think about when you fish them, however. Above is a cross section of a typical canal, and here’s an explanation of its features:

  1. The near margin and shelf: Don’t assume that you have to reach the far bank to catch fish on a canal.The bottom of the “shelf” on the near bank, just where the water starts to deepen, is a great place to start fishing, where you’ll find roach, skimmers and other fish. Even the shallow water very near the bank may also hold fish such as gudgeon, rudd and pike, especially if there is cover close in.
  1. The central “track” is the deepest part of the canal. Boat traffic tends to keep it clear and weed free. This can be a good place to find bream and other bottom feeders all year, but especially in colder months, when many fish retreat to the safety and warmer water of the depths. On neglected, heavily silted canals, the only water deep enough to hold many fish might be the deeper central track.
  1. The bottom of the far shelf is a key area for bigger “bonus” fish of all kinds including tench and carp. As with the slope on the nearside “shelf”, natural food as well as the bait you introduce tends to gather here. Plumb the depth carefully to find exactly where the slope ends – this is always a good place to fish.
  1. The far margin can hold surprising numbers of fish, and sometimes big ones, especially when the water is coloured or there are “features” to offer them safety and food. Species such as perch, chub and carp particularly love lurking here.

Canal fishing methods

pole fishing canal

The pole is a brilliant canal method

What is the best way to fish from your local towpath? The lovely thing about canals is that just about any method can work. However, as a starting point you cannot beat simple, old school methods such as pole and waggler fishing.

The pole is especially good for canal fishing because it lets you fish quite fine tackle accurately.Even if you have only just started angling, a short pole or “whip” fished line to hand is a cheap, fun way to get bites. A pint of maggots and a simple float rig are all you’ll often need to catch.

For the more advanced angler, the long pole is a brilliant method, allowing you to fish accurately at any distance and present your bait with complete precision, tight to the features.

If you don’t own a pole, the waggler will also work on just about any canal. Avoid starting out with thick lines and large floats however. Try light line and a hook length of 2-3lbs to start with, using small hooks (typically sizes 16-20). With this tackle you’ll be able to catch plenty of fish such as roach, perch and small bream.

Canals are versatile waters. Some canal anglers target specimen carp, and some will even cast a fly. But perhaps the biggest recent revival in canal fishing has been with lure fishing. With only short casts usually involved and predators from small perch to giant pike all catchable, you can have an absolute blast with anything from traditional plugs to dropshot gear, covering a lot of water.

Typical Canal Species: My Top 5

canal caught roach

Roach are beautiful and widespread on virtually all canals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are stacks of species you’ll find in canals; one of the joys of these waters is that each is a genuine “lucky dip” and almost anything can show up. That said, some species crop up again and again, and offer reliable sport just about everywhere. Here are five to catch all year round:

  1. Roach: Common as muck, but always easy on the eye and great to catch. The small ones are easy but the big ones are a genuine challenge. If your canal is clear, bread is a brilliant bait to try; if it’s coloured, pinkies and groundbait are a great combo.
  2. Bream: From just about any canal, bream give you the chance of catching a real net-filler, or even several! Try the deeper water in the main track with worms or casters.
  3. Perch: While you’ll find various predators on UK canals, the one that seem to do well everywhere, from clear rural canals to city stretches, is the humble perch. A whole worm over chopped pieces is a great method to catch them – or you can try small jigs or drop shot tactics.
  4. Carp:  Many UK canals now have carp to a good size. Finding them is half the battle. If you only have eyes for a big carp, larger baits such as tiger nuts and boilies are useful to dissuade the smaller fish.
  5. Tench: Canal tench are beautiful and hard-fighting fish well worth any angler’s attention.Try an early morning session with baits like casters and sweetcorn.

Top Canal Fishing Tips

canal caught bream

Canals are not just about tiddlers. Specimens such as this bream are there to be caught, once you suss them out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Use your eyes and feet to locate the fish on your canal. Time spent walking, asking other anglers or studying Google Earth are all worthwhile. Be prepared to walk and you can find spots that are rarely fished.

  • You don’t need loads of bait to fish a canal, as you might on a heavily-stocked water. Try introducing just a little pinch on a regular basis and you won’t go far wrong.
  • Do keep tidy on the towpath. Avoid leaving items of tackle sticking out that could be walked or cycled over. Pole anglers can try shipping back sideways along the bank rather than directly behind, or breaking down into sections rather than unshipping all in one go.
  • If you are struggling to get bites on the canal, try finer tackle and smaller hooks. They’re often a good idea for fish such as roach and skimmers.
  • Don’t be alarmed by boats; most of the time they don’t spoil the fishing. That said, you should always be aware and watch your lines. If they really do your head in, try fishing early and avoiding busy times.
  • For bigger fish such as carp and tench, you could try pre-baiting on your local canal. Try cheap baits such as stewed hempseed and frozen sweetcorn, or boilies for carp.

Further Reading and information:

The Canal & Rivers Trust are currently the main body for canal fishing in the UK.They run a great value ticket called The Waterway Wanderers Scheme, offering many miles of canal fishing nationwide for just £20 (or £10 for Angling Trust members).

Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide by Dominic Garnett (Merlin Unwin Books, £18.00)
canal fishing coverPacked with useful tips and stunning photography, Dom’s book is a great read on tackling these classic waters whichever style of fishing you enjoy. Covering all the major species, with methods from old school to modern, it is also has a huge amount of handy information, with history, local hotspots and specimen fish records from virtually every canal across Britain. Available on Amazon, or try the author’s site dgfishing.co.uk for signed copies, and Dom’s regular blog.

 

 

All images courtesy of Dominic Garnett unless otherwise stated

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

Beginners Guide To Fly Tying

Image Source Rene’ Harrop
All you need to know about fly tying!

If you don’t tie your own flies, you’re in good company. Over a third of fly anglers have never tied a fly. Maybe you’ve heard tying is too difficult, expensive or time-consuming?

Well, it’s none of the above. And once you get started, you’ll see how easy, enjoyable and addictive it can be.

Master of your own supply

Image source: Tim Hughes
The best way to match the hatch

Fly tying offers so many advantages you’d be crazy not to give it a go. But one of the most compelling is the freedom and versatility it grants you. Tie your own flies and you’ll always be able to match the hatch.

“The fact that I have an open canvas to put whatever I want on a hook draws me to the vice again and again,”

agrees Cheech Pierce on Fly Fish Food blog.

Convinced? You should be. Carry on reading, and we’ll tell you everything you need to get started.

Essential equipment

steady hand for tying flies

Image source: shutterstock
Pair the right equipment with a steady hand

You’ll need some basic tools to get tying. Start with the holy trinity of vice, scissors and bobbin holder.

Vice

While it’s possible to tie a fly totally by hand, we wouldn’t recommend it to a beginner. Most fly tyers choose to use a vice, and so should you. There are many types available, so do your research before you buy. As the Fly Dressers’ Guild advises:

“Choosing your first vice and tools is a bit like buying your first car: very exciting, potentially expensive, but easy to end up with something poorly made and not up to the task.”

Pick a vice that’s easy to use, has a good grip and will hold a variety of hook sizes.

Scissors

Next on your shopping list is a pair of sharp, pointed scissors. Those rusty old scissors in your kitchen drawer literally won’t cut it. Get yourself a dedicated pair of fly-tying scissors.

If you’ve got a couple of hours to spare, Global Fly Fisher has the most comprehensive guide to fly-tying scissors you’ll ever read.

Master fly tyer Barry Ord Clarke recommends two pairs of scissors: “one with extremely fine points for the more intricate work and a pair with larger and serrated blades for deer hair and heavier work.”

Ceramic bobbin holder

fly tying bobbin holder

Image source: shutterstock
Spend a little more on a ceramic bobbin holder

Last in the trinity is the bobbin holder – a device that carefully holds your fly-tying thread so you don’t have to. In The Riffle recommends ceramic bobbins – they’re more expensive but worth it:

“The ceramic inserts on the tip of the bobbin will protect the fine fly-tying thread. Without the ceramic, the bobbin will develop burrs and grooves in the metal. This will cause the thread to constantly break during tying, very frustrating!”

Extra equimpent

fly tying gadgets

Image source: shutterstock
More shiny fly-tying gadgets

Next we move on to less essential, albeit still useful, secondary tools.

Hackle pliers

Hackle pliers are useful for big fingers that can’t get a good grip on small feathers. But the Fly Dressers’ Guild warns:

“Check that the edges of the jaws are not sharp or they will cut through your materials. A quick rub with emery paper or the addition of a small piece of silicone tubing will cure this problem.”

Dubbing needle

A dubbing needle performs a variety of roles. It will pick out dubbing (fur), apply varnish, undo knots and separate feather fibres. You don’t necessarily need to buy a dubbing needle if you can find something else that’s long and pointy to use instead – the Fly Dressers’ Guild recommends “Grandma’s hat pins”.

Whip finish tool

Some tyers love ‘em and some tyers hate ‘em. Whip finish tools come in various shapes and sizes and are used to finish off the fly. But they can be a real faff to handle. The alternative is to whip finish by hand.

Tying lamp v natural light

hillend dabbler fly

Image source: Hillend Dabbler
One of Hillend Dabbler’s al fresco creations

Depending on where your tying table is located you might need to shine some light on your handiwork. There are a number of fly tying lamps that give the magnification and shadow-free light you’ll need for the fiddly stuff.

But in warmer weather, natural light can work just as well, as Hillend Dabbler comments:

“Today I managed to get outdoors into the garden and tie a few patterns on the garden table with a nice cold beer close to hand. It has to be said the light was absolutely tremendous which I believe is a very important factor whilst tying. The natural light really assisted me outdoors today so maybe tying al fresco is something I should consider doing more often.”

Materials

good quality hackle

Image source: shutterstock
When choosing hackle, quality really does matter

Now it’s time to choose the materials you’ll use to create your first flies. Don’t go bonkers and buy every possible variation of anything you could ever need. Take it slowly at first.

1) Hackle
Before you choose your hackle – or feathers – consider the type of fly you’re going to make. When it comes to poultry, smaller, softer hen capes work best for wet flies as the fibres move better in the water. While for dry flies, cock capes are better, as the fibres are stiffer and so float better.

Fly Fishing Connection (which provides a good, quick overview of what you need to know about hackle) warns against scrimping on price:

“When choosing hackle, quality counts. You will end up being frustrated if you do not spend the extra money.”

wet and dry fly hackle

Image source: shutterstock
Wet and dry flies require different types of hackle

If you have friends who shoot, ask them for game bird feathers. These can come in handy for soft-hackle fly patterns. And start keeping an eye out for anything interesting on your travels. But be warned; David Cammiss says:

“Once you start collecting fly tying materials no walk along the river, or lakeside will ever be the same again. You will find yourself gathering feathers and anything else which ‘just might be useful’. On a recent trip my colleague could not believe I was collecting sheep’s wool off the barbed wire. Now that it has been washed in detergent in boiling water it will be dyed.”

2) Hooks

Choice of hook is very important!!

Choice of hook is very important!!

Your choice of hook is also very important, says Al Campbell of Fly Anglers Online:

“If you choose the right hook, your fly will be better proportioned and thus perform better in use. If you choose the wrong hook, you’ll have a flawed fly and your success with that fly will likely be less than the success you would enjoy with a properly tied fly.”

But with so many sizes and types of hook, how do you know where to start? Campbell suggests you first decide which flies you want to make and then buy the hooks you need to make them. Not the other way round.

3) Thread

There are almost as many types of thread as there are types of hook. But Fly on a hook blogger, Bernard Sunderland, advises beginners to start with a ‘standard’ thread – polyester, 70 denier – and not to buy any specialist thread in the early stages.

Once you’ve made your first few flies you’ll soon have a favourite combination of materials that you can draw from.

Rob Waddington’s top six are: “A B175 #10 hook with some white marabou, hare’s ear, peacock feathers, natural cock cape, pheasant tail and a few brass beads. You could tie anything with them.”

For Bob Mayers: “Hook would be Fulling Mill comp heavyweight, materials would be Booby Eyes, Straggle Fritz, Bronze Mallard, Pheasant Tails, cock hackles, Jungle cock Eyes.”

Technique

fly fishing gear

Image source: shutterstock
All the gear but no idea?

Teaching technique is way beyond the scope of this short guide. But we will point you in the direction of some very useful resources:

1) Reference books
A quick search on Amazon or a question posted on your favourite fishing forum will quickly lead you to the most helpful beginner’s guides to fly tying.
Here are three of the most popular:
Fly Tying for Beginners: How to Tie 50 Failsafe Flies, by Peter Gathercole
The Fly Tier’s Benchside Reference to Techniques and Dressing Styles, by Ted Leeson
Beginners Guide To Fly Tying, by Chris Mann & Terry Griffiths

2) Online tutorials

davie mcphail youtube

Follow Davie McPhail’s tutorials for beginner fly tyers

There are literally thousands of how-to videos on sites like YouTube and Vimeo. Some of the best beginners tutorials include:

Learn Fly Tying, by David Cammiss
What Makes a Good Fly by Mikael Frodin
Flies for Beginners by Davie McPhail

3) Lessons
If you know a fly tyer, ask them for help. If you don’t, try contacting your local Fly Dressers Guild for details of any fly-tying classes near you.

Expert advice

1) Simply does it
Without doubt, the main piece of advice for the beginner fly tyer is to keep it simple:

“Don’t over complicate, watch YouTube videos, start with easy patterns,” advises Bob Mayers of the Llandegfedd Fly Fishing Association.

“Don’t try to replicate complex patterns when you start, start with easy-to-tie patterns and build up your skills slowly,” agrees McFluffchucker blogger, Dave Lindsay.

2) Less is more
Resist the temptation to overdo your first flies, says Lindsay:

“Don’t use tons of materials when you tie a fly; always remember less is more when it comes to big pike flies, flies become more mobile in the water if you use less material.”

Waddington agrees: “Less is more, don’t ‘over-tie’. Sparse materials look better in the water and have a luminous effect.”

3) Don’t worry about perfection
And last, but not least, don’t worry if your first fly (or even your 101st) isn’t perfect. The fish don’t care. Dave Lindsay tells us:

“Even if you think your first tyes dosnt look professional they will still catch fish”

And take this advice from trout fly fishing maestro Geoffrey Bucknall:

Recently, fly tying has become very sophisticated. And master fly dressers, at the demos have raised the craft to a pinnacle of perfection. It is great to watch… and yet, I wonder, are we not discouraging a handful of would-be beginners who believe their sausage fingers could not manipulate what is needed for a woven body?

True, the fly must be basically right in colour and size, but the trout locks onto the natural fly by the way it behaves in or on the water. In other words, a simple fly presented in the natural way, that does the business. Fly dressing can be raised to a high level of craftsmanship but that has nothing to do with catching fish!

So, my advice to fly dressers is this; write in big letters above your bench: TROUT RECOGNISE THEIR FOOD BY ITS BEHAVIOUR. That will govern the way you make your flies.

And on that encouraging note, here endeth the lesson.

Fishtec stock everything you need to start fly tying – including amazing value tool sets, materials and hooks from all the major suppliers, plus the best selling all-in-one Airflo fly tying kits! Click here for further details.

Beginners guide to fly fishing

New to fly fishing? Not sure what equipment you need to buy? Or how to get started? This guide is for you.

Here we cover the very basics of fly fishing. We don’t pretend this is all you need to know to capture a record fish – but it is just enough to get you fly fishing. The rest takes a lifetime of practice – enjoy!

Get a rod licence

First things first. Next time you nip out for a paper, pick up a rod licence too. You need one to legally fish any inland waterway in England and Wales – anywhere but the sea. You can get one from your local Post Office or online. No fishing licence is necessary in Scotland. In addition, wherever you are in the UK, you will need to obtain the owners permission to fish the river or lake, or pay for a day ticket, which is the most common way of being able to fish a water body.

To check when you need a licence, or to buy a 1-day, 8-day or 12-month licence online, visit the government website and complete the simple form.

 

How to choose a fly fishing rod

Next up you need a fly fishing rod. Here your choice depends to a large extent on where you’re hoping to fish, what species you’re most interested in catching, and whether or not you’re likely to be travelling with your fishing rod.

Fly rod selection is a tough subject, so check out our guide to choosing the right fly fishing rod for more tips and advice.

Prices for a new fly rod range from around the £50 mark to £300 and upwards, but to get you started, you won’t go too far wrong with one of these little beauties – an Airflo elite fly fishing kit – a four piece rod, reel and quality fly line in a cordura tube, starting from just £129.99.

Here’s what the guys here at Fishtec thought of it when it was launched:

Which fly reel?

Die cast or machine cut? Large arbor? Click drag or disc drag? When it comes to choosing the right fly reel for you, the most important question is, what type of fish are you trying to catch?

For smaller fish like trout, a good and inexpensive choice is this Airflo Sniper Fly Reel – incredible value for money and even better – it comes with a free fly line.

If it’s larger freshwater species or saltwater varieties you intend to target, you’ll be looking for something heavier duty and with a great drag system, like the Airflo Xceed, as recommended by Trout and Salmon Magazine as one of their top reels of 2014.

For more information on reel selection, read our fly reel buying guide.

Fly line and leader

Now for your first fly line. For beginners we recommend a floating line because you’ll be able to use it for fishing both dry flies on the surface, and wet flies just under the water. The weight of your line or AFTM rating should match the rod you fish with, so make sure you look for the information written just above the handle of your rod.

Taper is an important factor to consider as it affects the distance you can cast, and the presentation of the fly. Then there’s the backing – usually braided, it’s the line you tie your specialist fly line to.

With so many factors to consider, what you really need is a guide to fly lines and backing. Luckily we prepared one earlier…and just in case you need a quick recap, check out this brief guide from Fishtec’s Tim Rajeff:

Which fly to choose?

Will it be a Greenwell’s Glory, a Woodcock and Yellow, or a Red Palmer? The choice of fly patterns is endless.

Some fly fishermen fish just one pattern in different sizes, others have an armoury of tufted hooks at their disposal. The best advice here is to ask around to find out what works in your local water – and be prepared to experiment.

A top tip is to take more than you think you’ll need. You can expect to lose a few – especially to begin with.

Fly fishing clothing

A set of neoprene chest waders, a Harris tweed jacket and hat with a feather in it – that’s all you need to keep you warm and dry isn’t it? Well, sort of.

Fly fishing clothing needs to do three things: wick moisture away from your skin; hold warm, dry air close to your body; and keep the elements out. Layers are the answer, the more you have, the more clothes you can take off as it gets warmer, or put on as the temperature drops.

Here’s a guide to carp fishing clothing – don’t worry – it works just as well for fly fishermen. Layer up and get out there!

Keep Practising!

We could try to show you how to cast – but diagrams, video tutorials and written instructions won’t get you very far. To learn to cast, you need lessons from an expert, and you’re in luck because here at Fishtec, we have our very own directory of fly fishing instructors.

The good news is, you can pick up the basics in a day. But then you’ll need to perfect your technique which will take you…a lifetime! What are you waiting for?