Britford Coarse fishing

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

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

Britford Dawn

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

Britford Cathedral

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

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

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

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

Britford Grayling

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

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

Trotting – Fishing Tackle

Trotting for Chub

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

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

5lb 1oz Winter Chub

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

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

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


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


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

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

Closed Faced Reels

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

Fixed spool

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