During the winter months I do favour maggots as both hook bait and as loose feed. Obviously you can try just about anything as a hook bait, but maggots certainly are a supreme choice as loose feed as is hemp.
On arrival at the river, I’ll select a swim and start to feed in small handfuls of maggots whilst setting up my fishing tackle. A small handful every few minutes initially, to get the chub active and increase confidence. Once I start fishing I throw in a small amount every cast. If I’m not getting any action after half an hour or only small chublets, I’ll throw in a few bigger handfuls to see if this brings the bigger chub on. If after an hour I haven’t connected with a decent fish, I’ll move to a new swim. I enjoy a mobile approach and love fishing a load of different swims. Some people prefer to keep the feed going in all day and this may well eventually draw in the bigger chub. If this way suits your fishing then give it a go, otherwise keep moving.
You can of course adopt the exact same baiting tactics with any bait. Perhaps in the Summer you may wish to use say pellets or boilies as a hook bait and feed with maybe micro pellets or casters as loose feed. Whatever bait combinations you decide to use the principles are much the same as outlined above.
This is always a difficult one to try and advise on. However in my own personal experience on the rivers that I fish, I find myself trying just about anywhere. Even if you don’t catch, at least you’ll gain some knowledge of what the contours and depths are like in a swim. One of the rivers I fish in the South East is fairly narrow. This of course makes both casting and presentation very easy. However the types of swims are still very much the same on any size river.
I like to try long glides (fairly long straight sections with consistent depth), deeper holes (these can be several yards long), shallow stretches deepening towards the end of a run, deep areas which shallow up at the end of the run, tree or rush lined margins (either bank), any overhanging bushes and trees creating an overhead canopy, areas where the river narrows up after about 10-20 yards or then enters a set of rapids or small boulder weir, any section of slacker water running parallel with the faster main current (a crease) and of course gravel runs between streamer weed. In fact just about anywhere is worth a try and by trial and error you’ll soon discover areas that are consistently productive.
Casting of all floats attached by float rubbers tends to be a side cast. This is where you sweep the rod round from the side and flick the float out. You must though, at all times, control the passage of the tackle with a finger on the line. Prior to your fishing tackle hitting the water you need to stop the line. This will ensure that the tackle straightens out before landing. Otherwise you will be forever getting tangled. Overhead casting can be very tricky although not impossible.
This pretty much sums up the basic principles of trotting. I quite often find on my first trot through the float disappears and there’s that tell tale heavy weight on the end. Sometimes it may take 10-15 minutes, or after catching small fish for 30-45 minutes you’ll suddenly connect with something a little more solid, other times it doesn’t happen at all and it’s time to move on. When you do connect you’ll be wondering: is it snagged….nothing’s happening….a bit more pressure…it’s moving I think…..then…thump, thump, thump as a good chub decides to make its move. It is always a thrilling moment for me, because at this stage you just don’t know how big a chub is on the other end. Playing a decent fish on a nice trotting rod and pin is second to none. You will be in direct contact with the fish using a pin and the control is exact. When you finally draw those white lips over the net and hoist your reward out of the water you can stare in wonder at those beautiful silver grey flanks of a 3,4 or 5lb plus chub. One thing’s for certain; you will feel very satisfied with yourself and the world will seem a better place.