5 Grayling Fishing Tips

Crisp, cold winter air with frost on the ground can mean only one thing – grayling time! Fishtec’s Ceri Thomas shares 5 top grayling fishing tips for success on the river this winter.

The grayling

The grayling – a winter loving fish.

1. Find the shoal for action. Grayling are a naturally gregarious fish – find one, you will find more. Grayling shoals often live and grow to maturity their whole life in the same pool or run in a river – so if you want a quick start to the action, head to where you found them last winter, they could now be even bigger.

2. Want a specimen? Cover ground and explore. BIG grayling are much more solitary than standard size schoolies and are found in smaller pods of 2 or 3. You won’t often find them mixing with their smaller brethren, so if you are catching lots of hand sized ‘shots’ then don’t linger.

A decent grayling, part of a small pod of big fish.

A decent grayling, part of a small pod of big fish.

3. Be strike happy – Whether you are drifting a strike indicator, watching a french leader, or a dry fly with a nymph suspended under it, if you see ANY stop, twitch or subtle movement then strike! Yes, this could be the bottom or a leaf, but often it is a fish and striking finds out for sure.

If you see the leader stop then STRIKE

If you see the leader stop then STRIKE

4. Keep things sharp – Hook points suffer when grayling nymphing, which usually requires fishing your flies hard on the deck. Checking and then maintaining a sharp hook point can be the difference between success and failure – so invest in a hook sharpener and use it, regularly!

5. Red, purple or pink – catch like stink. Use of flies with bright colours as trigger points can often result in a red letter day, IF the fish are keyed on them, they will often actively and aggressively seek them out. It pays to always have a ‘trigger’ nymph as part of your team of flies, alongside some more naturalistic patterns.

Grayling flies with trigger points can work wonders

Grayling flies with trigger points can work wonders!

For more grayling fishing tips, be sure to check out our comprehensive Grayling fishing guide here.

A Beginners Guide to Bream Fishing

Familiar right across the UK, the common bream is a net-filling catch for match, pleasure and specimen anglers alike. Here, Dom Garnett provides handy tips and advice on how to catch them.

Abramis brama, or the common bream
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Of all the coarse species you might find in your local waters, bream are perhaps the most common “net-sized” fish of all. They bite well and grow to a good average size; and while they have a reputation as weak fighters, they are a different prospect on light tackle.

There are, of course, different sorts of bream, but for our purposes we are dealing with Abramis brama, the common or bronze bream of freshwater. This is occasionally confused with the silver bream, which rarely grows much more than a pound and looks rather like a young common bream or “skimmer”. However, the silver bream is less widespread, has darker fins, and a proportionally larger eye.

A really ancient-looking canal bream, just an ounce under seven pounds
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

I guess you could say the bream is a bit of a love or hate fish. They’re lazy, lolloping things. They seem to live half their lives in slow motion, and enjoy stealing baits intended for carp. But I have always appreciated them. As a kid, they swallowed up whole summer evenings, and a good one was a fish to be prized. Catching a really big one is a great challenge – and those over ten pounds take on a whole new majesty.

The habits of bream

Common bream are fish with very specific habits – useful to help us find and target them. Firstly, they are bottom dwelling fish- as you can see from their body shape and downturned mouths. They are also a fish that form shoals of anything up to a hundred or more strong, meaning that they can be caught in great numbers. Where you find one you may well find many, and as even modest adult bream weigh three to five pounds, there could be a large catch on the cards.

Most of the time the bream is a fish of deep, slow water. On rivers, you can expect them in slacks and gentle currents with good depth. On stillwaters such as lakes and reservoirs you will often find them further out from the bank, in the deepest water. They’ll feed over both silt and gravel, where they’ll grub for bloodworms, snails and other natural food.

Dour, overcast conditions tend to provide good bream fishing
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Bream are fish that patrol regular feeding routes in order to graze. Not that they eat all the time; dour, overcast days tend to be most productive. You may even see them rolling at the surface late in the day, and night fishing is also a good plan for the really big ones. The trick is finding where and when they feed, because once you do they can be easy to catch in numbers.

On more open waters, another good tip is follow the wind. Breezy conditions are ideal for bringing them onto the feed. On large lakes you will often get a good catch by fishing with the wind in your face – a deep bay with the wind blowing into it is the ideal spot to catch bream.

Tactics and tackle

Since they don’t fight especially hard, the angler who targets bream will want to use sensibly light tackle to get a decent bend in the rod. Various tactics work.

You could use pole or waggler tackle where distances aren’t too great, but the most common method for bream is probably the swimfeeder. A large open-end groundbait feeder or method feeder is ideal. A quivertip makes ideal bite detection, although specimen tactics with two or three rods can also be employed if the fish are large and there’s a long wait between bites.

Open-end groundbait feeders are ideal when targeting bream
Image: Shutterstock

Just occasionally, other tactics work too. Clear summer rivers can make for exciting stalking tactics. It’s lovely watching them feed, and simple baits like corn and bread are easily spotted on the bottom as you watch the fish home in.

Slightly stranger tactics have also been known to work. I’ve had accidental bream on lures, as well as some (by design) using sinking flies! Again, rivers are the best place to try this, where the bream tend to be more keen-sighted and active.

Bream can be finicky on occasion, but you’ll get plenty of bites on sensibly light tackle. Typically, hook sizes from 10-14 are used, although you could go a bit larger for the biggest specimens, or finer for skimmers. Main lines are typically 5-10 pounds, with hook lengths from 4-8lbs as a rough guide. As I’ve said, bream are not incredibly strong or line shy and your main reason for fishing heavier could be the risk of hooking a big tench or carp.

Baiting for bream

Bream don’t tend to be super fussy about what they eat and lots of baits will work. But you do need to feed plenty if you are to catch a good net of fish. Bream can eat a lot; and if you imagine that even a modest shoal of bream could be a dozen strong and average four or five pounds, you need plenty of food to keep their interest for any length of time.

Groundbait is a must. You can bulk this out with plain brown crumb to stop things getting expensive, but several kilos may be required for a serious session, and prebaiting is also an excellent idea.

You should try to include a variety particle baits in your mix, too. Frozen sweetcorn, or bulk items like buckwheat and rice are nice and cheap, should you want to bait up for a really big catch. If you’re settling in for a day session, you can use less feed. A couple of kilos of groundbait would still be a good idea, along with three to four pints of free offerings to get them used to your hookbait.

Hook baits for bream are varied, but don’t feel you need expensive or special kinds. Sweetcorn is excellent and avoids tiny fish. Maggots are good too – and for bream, dead maggots are often better than live. Four or five on a size 10 hook is a cracking bait. Worms are also excellent, especially redworms and you can use two or even three, broken and tipped with a caster. I almost always add chopped worms to my groundbait too, because they attract bream like nothing else.

Worm and caster is a great bream bait
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Aside from these, several alternatives are also worth having. Bread works brilliantly in clear water or anywhere you might be lucky enough to stalk the fish. Pellets and boilies are also now part of the bream fishing scene – and anywhere that sees lots of these baits introduced for carp is likely to produce good bream on them too. Double 10mm boilies have worked very well for me, as have cocktails such as a boilie tipped with a worm.

Patience and preparation

Bream fishing is often a waiting game. If the fish are around and hungry, sport can be hectic. But until they move in, you must wait. It is usually best to bait up accurately first and then fish over the top, rather than feed on top of the fish.

They can take a while to arrive, but it’s rare to catch just one bream when they do
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Prebaiting is often a good idea too, and accounts for some of the really huge bream nets of a hundred pounds and over. Go for cheap feeds, be positive and accurate, and you could have a truly memorable session on your hands.

Once bream are in your swim, you will often get line bites. These can be a funny sideways movement on the float, or a sudden bulge and then drop back on the feeder. With practice, you can spot most of these and wait for a true bite. Usually deliberate and unmistakable, you will see the float plod under decisively, or the quiver tip wrap right round. With specimen gear, the bobbins will lift and hold – although you may also get repetitive little lifts or ‘funny business’ if a fish tries to rid itself of the hook rather than charging off. If in doubt, lift and feel for the fish.

The joys of bream

It’s fair to say that not everyone loves bream. On heavy tackle, they don’t do a lot. But on a light rod, or in a river current, they put a nice bend in your gear and are lovely to catch.

Other things about bream are less appealing. They are one of the slimiest fish going and will really skank up your nets! This slime can also clog up your hook length, so do clear it off after each catch.

Bream are quite docile on the bank, but deserve respect like any other fish. Do treat them to a well dampened unhooking mat if you don’t want to find out about their legendary sliminess, and if you are retaining them in a keepnet, pick a large model and stake it out fully. They can suffer in hot weather too, so do be mindful of how long you retain them.

A fine double figure bream. These can be old, precious fish so treat with care
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

The size of a true “specimen” bream really varies. For those fishing large pits and reservoirs a double figure fish is the challenge, and these are amazing looking creatures. Across many of our rivers and smaller waters though, a six-pounder is a good fish, and one of seven or eight could be a really ancient specimen, so don’t be blinkered into thinking that only a “double” is a big bream – it depends on the venue.

Wherever you find bream though, enjoy them because they are one of our classic coarse fish. And while they’re not as fashionable as carp, they will give you some great sport on lighter tackle. Happy bream fishing!

More from our blogger…

Regular Fishtec blogger Dominic Garnett is also an Angling Times weekly columnist and author of several books including Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide and his most recent book of angling tales Crooked Lines. You can find more of his words and photography, along with signed editions and fishing gifts at www.dgfishing.co.uk.

10 Summer Holiday Fishing Tips

Off on your travels this summer? Whether it’s a dedicated fishing break, or just a rod snuck away on a family holiday, a lot of us will be on the road this summer. But if you want to get the best from your trip, you’ll need to be prepared. We’ve asked Dom Garnett for some timely advice. Here are his top 10 tips for the travelling angler.

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Successful fishing abroad just takes a little careful planning.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

1. Make a list

Once you’re on the road, you can’t nip home, so be prepared. Make a list of all your basics, from rods and reels to lures and cameras. It’s worth doing just for peace of mind, and you’ll be able to use your list again next time.

2. Protect your neck

There are things that save your neck time and again on long haul fishing trips. I always store a few essentials in the boot and they come with me on any holiday: Bottled water; a hat (wide brim is best); sun block; spare socks and a towel. Get a simple first aid kit too.

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Local tackle shops might not be what you expected, so be prepared!
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

3. Map it out

Mapping out where you’re going will save you time and hassle when you get there. The internet is a great resource for maps, postcodes and so on. I tend to go low tech on holiday and have them written down too – if you’re in the middle of nowhere with a poor signal, a hard copy beats Google every time. Maps and directions can also be screen-shotted on your mobile phone, as can fishing licenses and addresses.

4. Be social

We live in a brilliant age for networking with other anglers. I’ve been on a lot of fishing trips simply through making friends on Facebook, messaging a blogger, or following up a conversation. So be friendly. Ask questions. You may get some great advice, or better still make a new friend.

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An American smallmouth bass, from a summer road trip.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

5. Bait’s motel

Don’t court disaster by travelling with too much bait, or filthy live stuff. It can smell worse than election expenses in a hot car. If you want to take maggots, worms or other fresh bait, it needs to be put in a cooler bag or box, and well packed! Boilies, pellets and groundbaits are much easier to manage. If you’re flying, get your bait when you arrive.

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Featured product: Savage Gear Tele Finesse Lure Rod from Fishtec

6. Travel light with lures and flies

If time is limited, or you’re juggling fishing with family time, lure fishing is probably my favourite method. A travel rod and a couple of boxes of lures take up little space and you can sneak in short sessions whenever the chance arises.

Fly tackle is similarly light, with a fly box or two weighing next to nothing. Chris Ogborne’s recent blog for Turrall has some great recommendations for hitting wild rivers and the coast this summer.

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Invest in some travel kit that won’t take up much space.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

7. Rods, bags and customs

Airport staff can be an utter pain when it comes to taking fishing tackle on holiday. They like slapping on extra charges, or going right through your things. Be polite though, and above all be prepared. Lures, scissors and bait can raise their hackles if included in hand luggage. Have everything well organised, smile and they shouldn’t give you too many problems.

Rods need to be well packed, padded and in tubes if you are on a long haul flight. Many airlines will insist that they go in the hold luggage, so do pack well. I swear they play football with some of the cases.

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Featured product: Airflo Multi Fly Rod Tube from Fishtec

8. Get a Guide

There is no substitute for local knowledge and guides are worth their weight in gold. OK, so you might not fancy paying extra. But a guide can save days of guesswork and put you right on the fish. Furthermore, the new skills and knowledge you pick up will last for more than just a day.

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Local guides offer know-how and experiences you’ll never forget.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

9. Water-tight packing

Wet gear or water-damaged kit are bad news on any journey. Bring a large zip or plastic bag to store pongy nets and always take a waterproof hike bag for your phone and camera. I always wrap things like cameras in bubble wrap for the long haul.

10. Go boldly forth…

Finally, my last tip is to be brave, try something new and challenge yourself. There are so many amazing countries out there and not all cost the earth to travel to. Look for cheap flights and anything is possible. The same is true in your own country. If you haven’t already, why not try your hand at the Wye Valley and the Norfolk Broads. Or the Scottish Highlands and rugged coast of Cornwall (see last year’s blog on our top UK fishing destinations for five great options closer to home).

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Jason Coggins fishes the Isle of Skye. You needn’t travel far to find good fishing.

More from our blogger

Read two-dozen great angling tales from Dom Garnett in his most recent book Crooked Lines. With original illustrations and travels from Arctic Norway and the streets of Manhattan, it makes great summer reading. Find it at www.dgfishing.co.uk or as a £4.99 E-book for your tablet or Kindle at www.amazon.co.uk

A Beginners Guide to Roach Fishing

A common yet challenging catch for most of us, roach are a viable target for any angler. Dominic Garnett offers a host of tips and advice on how to catch this attractive species.

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Beautiful, obliging and found all over the UK: what’s not to like about the roach?
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Is the roach Britain’s most undervalued fish? In the midst of current mania for carp and other heavyweights, many anglers appear to have forgotten this humble species. And yet once upon a time it was very different. In the early 80s, when I first began fishing, everyone fished for roach. They were common as muck, but fickle and fast biting enough to test the angler. In my case, the species has a lot to answer for, because a Thames roach was my first ever catch.

Alas, how times change. These days I see fewer and fewer anglers trotting or tip fishing for roach, dace or bream. Carp and predator anglers now dominate. But what cracking sport (and vital skills!) they are missing out on in their hunt for bigger, more fashionable fish. Not that I’m complaining – because this neglect means that we live in an excellent period for roach fishing. Indeed, much of the time you will find yourself fishing for roach with little or no competition from other anglers.

Where to find roach?

A pole angler plays a nice sized fish; roach are often common on manmade lakes.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Although roach have diminished in some areas because of habitat loss or predation, they are still incredibly widespread across Britain and indeed much of Europe. Their great adaptability explains this; they are equally adept at living in still or flowing water. They also have an incredibly wide diet and feeding habits, from grubbing through bottom weed to rising for insects.

On a majority of stillwaters, roach are not only present but widespread. On smaller commercials and canals, try fishing just down the “shelf” where the shallow water of the margins drops away deeper. On larger lakes, you may find them anywhere – from near the bottom to topping at the surface. Look for signs of them swirling and rising early and late in the day.

For many traditional anglers though, the spiritual home of roach fishing is on a river. You are likely to find them in good numbers too; but while they inhabit a variety of swims they do seem to like a healthy flow. Whether it is a steady run of water with reasonable depth or the lively, oxygen-rich waters of a weirpool, you will tend find them in or near the current.

Another classic place to find them is any “crease” on the river (a term we use to indicate where faster and slower water meet). Roach love these areas because the current provides them with food and oxygen without them having to battle against the quickest currents.

Roach fishing methods

So, once you have an idea where to find them, how do you catch roach? The methods are almost as varied as the venues themselves. For most anglers, float fishing is the most enjoyable method of all. Pole fishing is very popular on canals, ponds and other stillwaters and allows the use of sensitive floats and delicate tackle. That said, the waggler is also a good all round method with rod and reel.

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A sensitive float fishing set up is fun and effective for roach.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

On rivers, perhaps the most enjoyable technique of all is stick float fishing for roach with a match rod and classic centrepin reel (although a fixed spool is also fine). Using the current to gently trundle a bait to the fish is fun and effective, while you throw in regular helpings of bait to encourage the shoal.

On larger waters, or indeed tricky river swims, legering is also a key roach fishing method. A simple open end or maggot feeder is a good ploy for larger specimens, especially. It’s fair to say that the larger roach tend to sit closer to the bottom than their younger mates, hence legering can be quite “selective”.

Whichever method you choose, roach are no suckers for crude gear. On numerous occasions, while coaching or just watching from the bank, I’ve seen youngsters or beginners struggling because they were armed with thick line and large hooks. Switching to fine line and smaller hooks is usually enough to lose the frowns and see their fortunes change quickly!

As roach are quite sensitive fish and not the hardest fighters, you can get away with pretty light tackle. Reel lines are typically three to four pounds, with fine hooklengths of two to three pounds strength. Keep hooks smallish too; for winter fishing and finicky fish, a size 20 or 22 wouldn’t be too tiny. For a big roach though, a fine wire 10 or 12 hook would not be too big. It’s all a matter of bait and context.

Last but not least, you should never be blinkered into using just one tactic for roach. There is no single “perfect” method, just the best for the conditions and location you are fishing on the day. Some of the most enjoyable roach fishing I’ve ever had has been using fly tackle and small nymphs or dry flies; brilliant fun and often effective when other methods aren’t working. Equally though, if you have your heart set on a big roach and fish large waters such as gravel pits and reservoirs, you could try scaled down specimen tactics.

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Don’t be blinkered; this cracking roach of 1lb 9oz was fooled with a wet fly.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

What is the best bait for roach?

Because roach have such a wide diet, the range of bait you can use is pretty big. On many rivers and canals where there is public access, my number one bait would be bread. It’s a brilliant, highly visible bait that fish will readily accept just about anywhere, whether you liquidise a fine feed and use punch on a tiny hook, or mash up a few slices for feed and use a good pinch on a bigger hook.

A close second would probably be maggots or casters. Maggots are a great all round roach bait and by feeding them in regular, small quantities, you can get roach really queuing up for your hook bait.

Casters come in handy for picking out the bigger roach. Indeed, where maggots attract every tiddler going, casters are subtler and deadlier for their bigger relatives.

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Casters can help pick out the better roach where little ones demolish maggots.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Other classic roach baits include several less fashionable offerings. Hempseed is one of them. Feed this steadily until the fish become confident – there are days when it is unbeatable for good-sized roach. Elderberries are even more old school, not to mention free to gather and brilliant in late summer!

As for other baits, the list goes on and on. Worms are highly underrated and a whole redworm or half a lob can pick out fine roach. Last but not least, if you go roach fishing where carp angling is popular, small boilies, pellets or hair-rigged corn are all worth a shot.

Tips for catching roach

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They’re not always massive, but roach are delightful fish to test your angling skills
Image: Fishing with the General

What is the secret to catching quality roach in significant numbers? The crucial factors are fishing in the right spot with good presentation, and feeding regularly to get their confidence up. The feeding is especially important, because it is this that draws fish into your swim and, done correctly and consistently, will steadily encourage bigger fish to drop their guard.

It can be a challenge hitting roach bites, admittedly, so it always pays to be alert and to experiment. Bites can be fast or downright sneaky, so don’t always assume the float needs to go right under before you strike! Generally, although you can leave the tiniest shivers, if the float or quiver tip pulls and holds, you should strike. Don’t be afraid to experiment though- because you might need to hit bites early one day, let them develop a little more the next.

While little roach can be suicidally bold, the bigger ones definitely take more skill and patience. They tend to hold deeper than their shoal mates, and are more cautious, often keeping more distance from threats than their smaller pals. Try casting to the edge of your “feed area” every so often to bag a bigger one. If you are trotting, you are likely to hit the better fish right at the end of each “trot”, since they are likely to hold back a little more cautiously, rather than charging up for the feed like the little ones.

Timing and conditions are also crucial with roach. The good-sized fish dislike high light levels, for example, especially in clear and natural waters. Overcast days will tend to be better than bright, clear conditions. Many anglers could also catch better roach by changing their clocks. The best time of day to fish for roach is very often the last hour of light, when the shyer fish get a bit bolder and are less spooky.

Small roach can be easy, but catching the better ones or amassing a large catch takes skill and practise. A little context should also be applied here too. Big roach are never evenly spread and some regions are better than others. It took me many years to catch my first two-pounder.

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Fish of dreams: This two-pounder took legered bread flake.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

To this day, I would consider any roach of a pound or over an excellent fish, wherever you find it. A two-pounder is the fish of a lifetime for most of us, while a three-pounder is an absolute wonder that most of us will never see.

Let’s not get carried away with specimens and figures though, because roach fishing proves that fishing isn’t just about pounds and bragging rights. Indeed, I may have targeted much bigger species since my early years on the Thames, but would still consider a good day’s roach fishing among the greatest pleasures in angling. Size really isn’t everything, and these are wonderful fish to sharpen your reflexes and angling skills.

Further reading:

If you’re interested in finding out more about roach fishing, there are some excellent sources to try. For those who want a more thorough understanding of the species, Dr Mark Everard’s The Complete Book of the Roach is a good read with further advice. Should you want to try and catch roach from your local towpath, or indeed try fly fishing for the species, our blogger’s books Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide and the Amazon Bestseller Flyfishing for Coarse Fish are also well worth a read.

You might also find some of the author’s other Fishtec articles useful, including Dom’s Beginner’s Guide to Canal Fishing and 10 Ways to Feed More Effectively.

10 Ways To Feed Your Swim More Effectively

The way you introduce bait when fishing can be absolutely key to success. Dom Garnett has 10 top tips and suggestions to boost your catches.

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Smart, accurate feeding can make the difference between the odd fish and a full net.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

1. Keep it coming…

All too often, anglers dump a load of bait in, wait, and that’s it. Try feeding less but more often. The sight and smell of bait falling in regularly is attractive to fish. A steady supply gets them competing and entices new fish to come and explore.

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If in doubt, feed little and often to draw fish and get them competing.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

2. Catapult happy

Catapults are very useful for pinging feed out, but do get the right one for the job. Try squeezing the pouch to concentrate your free offerings. Accuracy counts!

3. Pick a marker

Talking of accuracy, it’s no use throwing in bait everywhere. Pick a marker on the far bank, such as a tree or platform, to improve your aim.

4. Mix it right

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Make groundbait into balls.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Groundbait is a superb way to get bait in a concentrated area. Don’t do it slapdash though. Consistent feeding calls for consistent groundbait. Make it evenly and thoroughly so it can be formed into balls. Wetting your hands at the end to make a “skin” on each ball helps keep balls of bait together.

5. Feeders for accuracy

Rather than throw your bait willy nilly, a feeder offers great accuracy at distance and does the regular feeding for you. If you’re fishing a bomb or carp rig, you could always unclip the lead and attach a feeder to give them a few payloads. If the water is deep, you can also try taping up the holes of your feeders to release the bait right on the bottom (as shown below).

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Taping up your feeder will allow bait to get right to the bottom of deep water.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

6. Colours

As a rule, fish have less trouble finding bait in clear water- and can even spook if you go OTT, so try dark groundbaits and simple offerings like bread. If it’s murky and muddy, you can try brighter groundbaits, such as red or orange.

7. Don’t scare them

Occasionally, it’s better not to feed! If you suddenly see fish in your swim, avoid smashing free offerings down on their heads. It’s often better to cast just one bait or add a small handful rather than charging in.

8. Top droppers

If you regularly fish running water, especially deep rivers, a bait dropper is excellent for getting the feed to the fish without being swept all over the shop. That said, if you fish a stillwater full of “bits”, you might use one to get small baits like hemp and maggots straight to the bottom without getting picked off!

9. Spombs away

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A Spomb from Fishtec currently costs just £9.99.

Spods are great for launching loads of bait out quite accurately for carp, but are a bit big and unwieldy for other anglers. A spomb is the answer! These neat devices will cast on a regular barbel rod and are fantastic for fast, neat baiting. Also fun to use, they cost just a tenner from Fishtec.

10. Cheat!

Of course the ultimate way to feed accurately is to bend the rules a little. A pole cup is one excellent way to feed (even if you are not fishing the pole). PVA bags are another great shortcut to tight feeding (just see any carp magazine in the history of time). Heck, use a bait boat if you must!

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A large bream on the method. Big catches of this species often depend on feeding accurately and generously to hold the shoal in your swim.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Read more from our blogger…

You can catch more from Dom Garnett in the Angling Times every week, or through his various books and regular blog at www.dgfishing.co.uk.

Top 10 Angling Disasters (and how to avoid them!)

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We’ve all done it right? The hook in the hand…
Image source: Dom Garnett

It’s only fishing, what could possibly go wrong? For some of us, quite a lot! Dom Garnett talks us through his top 10 angling disasters, with a healthy dose of hindsight humour. Take the chance to learn from Dom’s mistakes and make sure you don’t get caught out in the same way…

1. Rod pulled in!

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Don’t get caught napping! If there are big fish about, you could lose that rod in a flash.
Image source: Dom Garnett

There’s a price to be paid by those that don’t stay alert. Heavy hitters like carp and barbel can easily pull your prized rod into the drink. That rule about never fishing unattended rods is there for a reason. There are three easy ways to avoid this common error: Set the drag on your reel carefully (a little loose if your mind tends to wander); double check baitrunners are on for carp; and for goodness sake, pay attention!

2. Forgotten landing net

That sickening feeling… it’s not there when you open the boot. Sure you can fish, but how are you going to land anything? The only solution is to nip back home. Or find a more accessible spot. Or buddy up with an angler who is better organised than you.

3. In for a soaking

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Falling in might be a bit of a joke, but hypothermia certainly isn’t.
Image source: Dom Garnett

Getting wet is the stuff of angling banter, but not always a laughing matter if you’re the victim. I’m constantly amazed by the fact that over a quarter of fishermen can’t swim. Assuming you get out safely, it could be more than your pride that hurts. Cold is not only uncomfortable, it can be dangerous. Unless it is baking hot, you should quickly change into dry clothes if you plan to keep fishing.

Having got my feet wet on many occasions, my answer is simple: always have a spare set of dry clothes in the car. Anything will do, even that old band t-shirt from 1995. Just don’t make yourself ill.

4. A hook in the hand

Ouch! That looks nasty. Whether it’s a point in the finger or an unwanted piercing somewhere else, getting hooked isn’t much fun. If it’s a small or barbless hook, you might be fine. The best way to remove an errant hook is to push down against the barb, then pull up (try practising on something other than your hand!). If the hook is big or lodged solid, you should go to hospital, period. It’s also a good idea to make sure your tetanus boosters are kept up to date. (There’s yet another argument for barbless hooks in there somewhere too).

5. Missing bait, lures or flies?

Oh for goodness sake, how did I forget my bait box or neglect to pack any lures? It’s easily done, but what happens next? If you’re a messy angler, you might just find a few stray flies, an old spinner, or a tin of sweetcorn in the boot. Otherwise you’ll have to improvise.

If you can’t nip to a shop, perhaps you could gather some bait on the bank? If there are old leaves, rocks or stones to turn, you might just find a worm or other snack. But the best answer is to have a sneaky bag of bait and a little handful of lures stashed away in the boot of the car for emergencies.

6. The call of nature

It’s not a pretty business, but there are times when you (ahem) have to do what you have to do, but are miles away from the nearest toilet. The prospect of going Tarzan style in the bushes is fairly horrible, um, so I’m told… but needs must. Always have a roll of loo roll and a thick resealable bag hidden in your car or supplies.

7. Lost or cut off

cut-off

Tides and conditions must always be watched.
Image source: Dom Garnett

It’s easy to lose sense of time or direction, especially if you enjoy fishing wild areas or those exposed to the elements. The weather can change very suddenly. You can easily get stuck or even stranded by the tide. For any fishing trip in a new or risky area you should always try to get advice from a local, let someone know where you’re headed and keep a mobile close.

8. Plenty of bites

Mosquitoes, midges, horseflies and other insects can be pure evil. For anyone who fishes in Scotland, Finland or Alaska, plagues of these creatures can crop up! Repellent is essential (“Skin so Soft” is a good one, for those who shrink at deet). If things are really heavy you may even need a mask (no kidding). It’s often good practice to cover up ankles, legs and exposed areas so you’ll avoid ticks and other critters too.

9. Bird trouble

Birds love eating bread (or any floating baits) and can also tangle with line. We all need to be vigilant and fish with care. As for what to do if you hook a duck or other bird when fishing, that’s another mess altogether. Try to retrieve the line and hook as quickly and delicately as possible. Usually the best way is steady pressure. If you can see and free the hook, great. If it’s more awkward, the best thing to do is to cut the line as closely as possible- and remove anything that might hinder the bird. A small barbless hook will cause little harm; but being tethered to fishing line is serious. If you are concerned for the bird’s welfare, you can call the Environment Agency, who will direct you to the best local source of help.

10. Broken rod

broken-rod

At some stage in your life it will happen… crunch!
Image source: Dom Garnett

It can be the most heartbreaking thing of all. Your favourite rod, snapped. What can you do? If you had the sense to pack a spare, at least you can keep fishing. If it’s broken near the tip, you might even get it fixed. However, if the break is a bad one you might need a spare section; which can be a pain if it’s more than a couple of years old. In any case, it’s probably time to speak to the good folks at Fishtec!

More from our blogger:

Dom Garnett is an avid all round angler, author and photographer. His books include Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide; Crooked Lines and the Amazon bestseller Flyfishing for Coarse Fish. Catch his weekly column “The Far Bank” in the Angling Times, or discover more from him at www.dgfishing.co.uk

A Beginners Guide to Fishing for Catfish

Ebro catfish

Fishing for cats is not for the faint-hearted.
Image courtesy of Simon Howells

With brute power and a bad attitude, catfish are an exciting target species. Fishing for cats is not for the faint-hearted. Wels fanatic and former Ebro guide Jim Sutherland offers some handy advice.

The Wels catfish

Wels-catfish

The Wels catfish could be the biggest fish you ever catch.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Whether it’s their sheer strength, or one for your bucket list, fishing for catfish is an exhilarating experience. They represent not only a mysterious, deadly quarry, but for many anglers, the chance to catch your biggest ever freshwater fish.

Of course there are many catfish species all over the world, but for the purposes of this article we are referring to the Wels, or European catfish (Silurus glanis). A voracious hunter and scavenger, these beasts can grow to a formidable size. On the River Ebro, Spain, where I used to guide for the species, they run to over 200lbs. But in the UK, many waters now hold fish to 40lbs and bigger.

Whatever your reasons for seeking catfish, they are a beast that demands a special, considered approach. There are not many fish that will strip line at such an alarming rate, or ask so much of your tackle. Here are a few golden rules to get you off the the right start.

Preparation, confidence and respect

catfish

Catfish are becoming more common right across the UK. Dom Garnett caught this one from Anglers Paradise, Devon. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Preparation is essential for any successful angler. Where do you begin this challenge? Finding waters that hold a reasonable supply of catfish is the best start. It’s no use heading to a venue with just one or two rumoured monsters. You could have a long old wait and no doubt the novelty will dwindle after the second night and you’ll start to wonder why you bothered.

Initially at least, stick to a water that holds a good head of catfish that vary in size. Up to about 40lb would be a good start. But always be prepared for the unexpected, because catfish are often a bit of an unknown. I’ve fished waters and managed to winkle out monsters that the owners had forgotten about or didn’t even know existed!

One excellent source of information is the Catfish Conservation Group. They have a list of catfish waters. I would always pick one nearer to home before you think of venturing further afield. You may have to persevere for a while to catch your first cat, so targeting a fishing venue closer to home will allow you to focus your efforts.

Tackle for catfish

fishing-for-catfish

Catfish fight powerfully! Your tackle must be up to the job.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Catfish are a powerful species that will punish any weakness in your tackle, so you must have complete confidence in your gear. Carp tackle will often suffice, but you need to step up your lines and other gear to handle them.

Rods: Choose a rod that can double up for the larger carp, as most waters will hold a possible PB, so again, expect the unexpected! Go for a 13ft 3.5tc. There is a nice range on the market but remember, these rods do the job and you will have a lot more pleasure when fighting the battle. You don’t need a telegraph pole to catch cats!

Reels: I prefer big pit reels for catfishing. The simple reason being that these creatures can easily tear off 100m of line on one run. You have been warned! If you are night fishing, you can set your baitrunners a little tighter than for carp, to help set the hook. Be sure to set your drag carefully.

Line: It must be a robust braid, as they will take you to places on a lake that only they know. Behind trees, islands, gravel bars and the last thing you want is to lose your quarry because you opted for the cheap seats! Go for a 20-30lb breaking strain as a minimum.

The Business End: You have a choice between an inline lead or lead clip. I usually use both options on my two rods. Inline is better for distance casting I find, although cats are not always far from the bank. In fact, they will patrol close in at night.

When fishing to snags close in, a lead clip system that will dump your weight during the fight is the best system. This should help avoid getting weeded or smashed up. I tend to use 3.5 or 4oz leads for cats, as this weight tends to hook them straight away so there’s no need for a vicious strike on the rod – you can just lift into them.

catfish-tackle

Don’t be caught out – have the right tackle.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Hook link and bait: You can use large boilies, or even small dead or live baits where permitted, but I tend to like pellets. I hair rig two 21mm halibut pellets on one rod and three on the other. Why, you may ask? As I’ve said, you should sometimes expect the unexpected, big carp! I use a catlink of about 23inches and 70lb breaking strain. The catfish have teeth like very coarse sandpaper and they will do their utmost to chew through your leader!

Should you be fortunate enough to capture a fish, do always double-check your rig for wear and tear before recasting. You’d be surprised at the number of fish lost due to blunt hooks or a frayed bit of hook link. Use about a 4inch hair, or even longer, as you can always take up the excess by wrapping it around the hook. The pellet can be hard up against the hook if need be.

I always like to have a few pellets soaking in halibut oil for hook bait. Soak these for a week, as you might have to rely on the aroma to attract your quarry. A 9-ply pva stringer with around 5-7 pellets around your hook bait usually works a treat.

In terms of other bait, I would always recommend groundbaiting for cats. Fishmeal based mixes are ideal, as are any crumb mixes that will also draw in small prey fish. Cats can eat a lot, so you can also introduce plenty of free offerings, such as large pellets and fishmeal boilies. Prebaiting can also be well worth the effort.

catfish-eyesight

Catfish have poor eyesight and are avid night feeders.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Hooks: Use either a BP Special size 1 or 2, or an Eagle Claw size 4. Always make sure you are allowed to use these hooks on a venue. If there is a size restriction, a nice wide gape carp hook will do the job nicely.

Backleads: It’s always worth pinning the line down with captive back leads and these will drop off when you lean into the fish. It’s not that catfish are line shy, but more the case you want it pinned out of the way, because these are big, clumsy fish! You don’t want spaghetti junction at 3am.

Night fishing: A tidy rod pod or two bank sticks, fully alarmed, is ideal for catfishing. Bite alarms are very useful, given that I find late evening, night, and early morning the most productive time. You can’t beat the warm summer nights, when catfish will be at their most active in the year.

Respect!

catfish-glove

You’ll need a large landing net or a glove to land your fish.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

So you’ve hooked your catfish, the next question is how the heck are you going to land it? We come back to the golden rule of preparation. You have two choices here. A large landing net or a glove. I always opt for the glove method but it can feel a bit unnatural at first.

If using the glove method, make sure you have some idea of the hook hold. You don’t want to run the risk of a late night outing to A&E! The fish is likely to be tired so it will feel heavy. Don’t be fooled. Tap the cat on the head, should its mouth be shut, and it will oblige. Put your hand into the mouth and position your thumb under its chin. It will feel like a suitcase handle but stay alert. They can catch you out and it’s not unusual to get a broken wrist from 100lb+ fish.

For most beginners to catfishing, the net is the way. Pack an extra large triangular-headed net, fully anticipating a fish that could be six to eight feet long! A large, well-padded unhooking mat is also a must.

A strong, quality pair of long nosed forceps is a must for unhooking, In spite of their mean appearances, catfish can be quite docile on the bank. But you must take charge of the situation, so be positive and keep the fish under control.

Always have your mat and unhooking tools together, and a spot to take your picture worked out beforehand. It’s essential not to stress the fish in any way and get it back to where it belongs ASAP. When releasing, hold the fish and give it a couple of head rubs. You can even kiss it if you are that way inclined (just don’t tell the wife)! The fish will tell YOU when it is ready to swim off – and what a moment – to see that monster say goodbye with a sudden wrench of power. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but you simply can’t help respect a creature like that.

100lb plus river Ebro catfish!

Fishing In Droughts – Lack Of Rain Stops Play?

low water fishing

Summer low: dry conditions call for extra caution.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

With some of the lowest rainfall levels on record, 2017 could prove testing for fish and anglers alike. Dom Garnett offers some thoughts on the challenges of low water fishing and the issues facing our rivers.

For both coarse and fly anglers, low rivers present a difficult scenario. We might dream of full, healthy waters during the closed season, but often the picture is very different on the bank.

This year we have been hit by some of the strangest weather on record, and whether you blame climate change or just freak chance, more extreme weather patterns look set to stay. The driest April for decades was followed by some of the warmest temperatures we have ever seen; including the hottest June day since 1976. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out the huge effect this can have on our rivers.

New highs, new lows

dried-up-river

Down to the bones: a drought-hit river.
Image courtesy of Angling Trust.

While pretty much all UK rivers have been at low levels lately, some have witnessed dramatic extremes. In Wiltshire, for example, parts of the River Kennet ran totally dry earlier this year, and experts warned that Britain’s rivers were in danger of drying up.

Of course, it is not only extreme weather that causes problems. Human activity also exacerbates low river levels, with abstraction and water wastage two of the biggest causes of falling waters. Indeed, groups like the Angling Trust and WWF have been campaigning for years to push for better standards, as population levels grow and water management still leaves a lot to be desired.

Effects on fish and fishing

chub

A summer chub lurks in inches of water; fish like these can be painfully cautious.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Welcome rain has stemmed some of the extreme drought recently, but as river levels across the UK remain low, what can anglers do? Should we be fishing at all in extreme conditions? This is a very personal choice, but caution is advised and we must be extra careful with our catch.

For the fish themselves, low water can be a time of stress. When the body of water shrinks, temperatures rise quicker. Lower flows also result, further depleting oxygen levels. Just as we feel lethargic and short of puff on a hot day, the warmer the water becomes, the lower dissolved oxygen it holds for fish.

Some species should probably be left alone altogether when the water is really low and warm. Pike are especially fragile, but some anglers also cease fishing for barbel and other types of fish too. The choice is yours, but the fishing is likely to be challenging- and if you do succeed you must be responsible for your quarry.

Low water tactics

avoid-spooking-fish

Anglers will need to work harder to keep a low profile.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

When rivers run low, fish are often at their most vulnerable. Less water means more exposure to predators, so they tend to be cautious. They will often move from their usual haunts too, meaning you must track them down. Many fish, such as chub and even carp, will migrate to fast, shallow flows where they have cooler, more oxygenated water. Others may abandon shallow, exposed lies for deeper pools and cooler depths.

The most obvious consequence for the angler is that they must be stealthier than ever to avoid scaring fish. Keeping a low profile and cautious wading are a must. Line and tackle are also more obvious when the water is clear and shallow, so finer kit makes sense. Smaller baits and hooks are a good idea for those seeking coarse fish, while fly anglers should resort to fine lines and smaller, more natural looking flies.

On trout streams, low water can make keen-sighted fish especially spooky. Those you find in the steady glides can become painfully shy to any disturbance. Spots with broken, faster rushing water tend to fish better therefore, providing oxygen for trout and enough commotion to conceal the angler.

On coarse rivers, standard tackle never looked so obvious to the fish and you might have to scale down. Simple link-legered or even free-lined baits are one answer, and you might find smaller, more natural baits such as maggots and casters work best. Another good dodge is to try fly fishing for the likes of chub, roach and dace.

Fish care in hot weather

handle-fish-with-care

Keep fish wet and handling to a minimum in hot conditions.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Low rivers and warmer temperatures make the fish we catch more vulnerable to angling pressure. As we’ve said, it is a personal decision whether to fish or leave them alone, but in the hottest weather we must take extra care. Keepnets, for example, can be dangerous when fish are retained for any length of time.

A good general rule for the summer is to handle your catch as little as possible. Waders are useful here, allowing the angler to unhook and release most fish without them leaving the water. Should you want a quick picture though, your quarry can always be retained in a submerged net- much better than them flapping around on a dry bank. Should you need to land a fish, make sure your unhooking mat is well-doused with water.

Fish often need more recovery time on a hot day too. Just as you find exertion leaves you exhausted on a balmy day, fish also suffer in the heat. Where possible support the fish you are releasing and give it time to recover. Point it nose first into the flow and be patient; fish like grayling and bream may need a few seconds to fully come to their senses.

Above all, use your common sense and be as kind as you can to fish in low water and hot conditions. You might also find my selection of catch and release tips handy, on the Turrall Flies blog.

Longer term lows?

cracked-river-bed

Is this what the future has in store?
Image source: Shutterstock.

Are current low water levels an exception, or part of a troubled future for our rivers and waterways? Even Donald Trump would have a hard time writing off present day extremes as “normal” as records continue to be broken and the vast majority of scientists point towards a future of more freakish changes in our weather.

The bigger picture for rivers is that they will face more floods and droughts in coming years and require our protection more than ever. It falls to all of us to be more cautious about water usage and to lean on authorities to manage natural resources more wisely.

Finally, there are two further things we can all do to play our part. The first is to report any worrying signs such as painfully low water levels or fish in distress to the Environment Agency (the number is on the back of your EA license). The second is to support the Angling Trust, who relentlessly campaign to combat abstraction and other critical issues. If we anglers aren’t conscientiously taking care of our fish and the fragile habitats they depend on, who else will?

More about our blogger…

Dom Garnett is a weekly Angling Times columnist and author of several books including Amazon bestseller Flyfishing for Coarse Fish and his recent collection of angling tales Crooked Lines. You can read more from him at www.dgfishing.co.uk.

Five Tips For Early Season Salmon Fishing

With over 20 salmon under his belt last season, Welsh all-rounder Tim Hughes certainly knows a thing or two about salmon fishing. In this blog post Tim shares his top 5 early season fly fishing tips for catching these elusive silver tourists. Read on to discover how best to bag yourself a springer!

An early season bar of silver

An early season bar of silver.

Tip 1: Get deep

Spring salmon like to rest up rather than travel rapidly, due to cold spring water temperatures, so it pays concentrate your efforts in deeper resting areas such as pool bodies and tail-outs. Deep and slow is often the key, salmon being cold blooded need the water to get up above 50 degrees before they start chasing flies higher in the water, but as temperatures increase be aware extra movement can help induce a take so it is worth carrying a streamside thermometer and checking the water throughout the day.

Tip 2: Use a modern Shooting head set up

Years ago spring salmon fishing was a real chore – heavy duty 15 foot 12 weight rods, full double taper sinking lines and a lot of shoulder aching effort was required to fish. Today shorter 14 foot rods teamed up with the modern shooting head lines such as Airflo Skagit compact G2 with one of the T series sinking tips or polyleaders to match the flow regime allow you to cast further, with less effort.

A modern set-up makes salmon fishing so much easier

A modern set-up makes salmon fishing so much easier.

Tip 3: Fly density and colour

Pay special attention to fly weight. Consider how your fly will sink and behave. Heavy tubes made of brass with coneheads are often the ones to reach for in your early season fly box. Large colourful patterns in orange, yellow and black are ones that will show up well in dirtier spring water. If you get your fly to the correct level the takes will come!

My recommended early season salmon fly list:

Cascade Brass Tube
Willie Gunn Feelers Brass Tube
RS Super Snaelda Cascade Conehead
Francis Brass Tube

Early season salmon flies

Early season salmon flies.

Tip 4: Do your research

Choosing the right beat is half the battle. Regularly check the online fishing reports, social media, forums and sites such as FishPal. Look at long term beat records and work out which beats historically do better in the spring. Don’t be afraid to ring the fishery booking office or contact the gillie/river keeper for updates and advice on fish location. Keep a close eye on the weather forecast and as the river starts to drop after a spring down pour the fish will be running – so make sure you get out there and make the most of it; a week later might be too late!

Tip 5: Check your tippet materials

There is nothing worse than losing a salmon due to a dodgy leader. Check and renew your tippet selection at the start of your season. Strong fluorocarbon is my choice spring fish aren’t leader shy – Airflo G3 in 15lb or Airflo Platinum in 20lb is a dead cert for spring fishing.

Spring on the river Wye

Spring on the river Wye.

 

How to fit a new rod tip eye

We are sure most carp and specialist anglers have broken either a rod tip or damaged a tip eye during their fishing career!

In this blog we look at how to fix a broken rod tip ring quickly and effectively.

What do you need?

1. Hot melt glue (available from any DIY shop)
2. A lighter.
3. Pair of forceps or pliers.
4. New rod tip ring.
5. Sandpaper or Stanley knife.

Step 1.
Separate the damaged tip eye from the rod blank by heating it with a lighter for about 4-5 seconds. This will allow the old glue to release. Once heated up, use the pliers or forceps to pull off the old eye.

Heating a rod tip eye to soften the glue

Heating a rod tip eye to soften the glue.

Once heated pull the old eye off with forceps

Once heated pull the old eye off with forceps.

Step 2.
Get the rod blank prepared for the new eye by sanding the tip section to smooth off any excess glue or graphite shards. This can also be done carefully with a stanley blade.

Step 3.
Use your lighter to melt the end of the glue stick for a few seconds.

Heating up hot melt glue

Heating up hot melt glue.

Step 4.
Apply a small amount of hot melt glue to the prepared tip section.

Step 5.
Slide the new eye into position. Ensure to line it up with the other eyes quickly before the glue hardens. Peel off any excess glue and you are good to hit the bank again!

Once coated in glue slide the new tip eye back on.

Once coated in glue slide the new tip eye on.