Iain Barr Winter Tactics

I paid my last visit of 2011 to Grafham Water for some fighting fit rainbows and I wasnt disappointed! There was a strong SW wind pushing in to the dam where I was fishing towards the bowl of the dam. I opted for one of my 40+ fly lines in an 8weight floater, to push out into the wind and my trusted Enigma #8, the perfect combo!

I fished a shortish leader for me of 14 foot with a single leaded grey and pearl minkie. Taking no prisoners and with such powerful fish about in Grafham I opted for the strong 10lb G3 fluorocarbon for my leader. The leaded fly and shorter leader ensured I got good turnover into the wind. An unleaded fly may just drop back against the wind causing poor presentation.


At this time of year, fishing can be very patchy and today was no exception. It was a slow start that exploded in to life! From just 1 offer in the opening 2 hours I landed 3 cracking rainbows in the next hour and missed 2 solid lock-ups! I was using the strong cross wind that was hitting the bank at 45 degrees to allow the minkie to almost drift back to the shore as I cast out. it often pays to use the wind when fishing, whether it is almost dead drifting a minkie or the common method of dead drifting buzzers around.


Either way allow the wind to do the work and just keep a tight line to your flies with out actually moving the flies. The takes hooked themselves as some extremely lively and very poweful rainbows were landed. As quick as it exploded into life it died again. In the remaining 3 hours I managed 1 more, dropped 3 and missed 1. After cleaning the fish there was the sign of plenty of shrimp in the fish which bodes well for a healthy 2012 season on Grafham with some over wintered specimens about in abundance!

Iain Barr larger Water Fly pack recommendations:-

Iain Barr Leaded Minkies

Grayling on the River Taff

The recent high water we’ve been experiencing here in South Wales has meant fly fishing on the rivers has been a little hit and miss. But the recent high pressure system has allowed the river to drop a considerable amount of height, revealing the pools, creases and hole which the grayling seem to like.

Larger grayling here have been few and far between the last few months, with many yearling grayling feasting on anything that crosses their path. One of my most succesful flies the last few weeks has been a small, simple thread nymph with a small thorax of pine squirrel to give it that buggy, leggy look.

Using anything over a 4 weight for these fish doesn’t give them much of a chance, other than joining the free flying competition when struck into. I’ve been using a Airflo Streamtec Nantec  10ft 3/4 weight fly rod which has a pretty soft tip, perfect for casting long, soft french leaders and playing these small grayling. A soft rod such as the above is the perfect way to get maximum enjoyment out of fish around 7-8 inches in length. A good grayling or trout really pulls when hooked!

Fishing for a few hours can be very rewarding when out after grayling. When a shoal is incepted, I normally try a few different methods and some new fly patterns, you’ll be surprised how many fish will reject some offerings and scoff up others. Maybe it’s just something to do with that particular days feeding habits, but I like to think I’ve found something they like.

Written by Kieron Jenkins

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary Feb 11

I failed miserably in my latest competition, the Fountain Open fished at Seabrook and Hythe despite looking for a good performance in light of my recent good form. But the draw bag gods did not smile on me and I drew a low number at Battery Point, Seabrook with a gale blowing. All my attempts to catch much were thwarted by the draw, but a bad snag in front of me and a novice angler downtide added to my problems. After the fourth reel leader and rig I gave in and took an early shower.

A Southerly gale made conditions as bad for my next event, the aptly named Anyfish Anywhere Open. I fished at Dengemarsh in front of the two Dungeness Power Stations. A pounding surf keeping almost all but rockling off the shoreline, although I did personally manage a small spring codling (undersize) which is the good news. The 50 competitors were left to scratch in the edge for rockling using the oldest, stickiest lugworm they could find and a bag of 20 slugs and a single dab for 2.020kg claimed the top prize for match organiser Lea Heaver of Folkestone who was pegged in the low numbers at the Point end of the Power Station road. Slug fishing is just about as winter as it gets and it was amusing watching some of the best Kent anglers and some mega casters stooping to such lowly, gutter fishing tactics. Mind you having said that, some sea angling impressive titles and lots of cash have gone to those catching slugs in the past, although for most its not sea angling as we know it! Second on the day was South Benfleet matchman, Ian Reynolds with 1.500kg and third, Sheerness angler, Colin Dobner who was pegged next to Lea Heaver and returned 1.10kg. The biggest fish was a 350gram flounder for Ashford angler, Bob Amiss. A word on the shingle bank that stretches behind the power stations – scaling it is akin to mountaineering so if you fish the region take care, especially during the bigger spring tides.

Match and Tackle News

Breakaway tackle have introduced a new style impact lead with improved grip. It has a plastic nose cone and instead of beads to hold the wire in groves in the lead the wires now fit snugly in the plastic nose cone. All good news for those that fish clear ground, BUT the new style is now like the Gemini breakout lead in that the wires trap line and cannot escape line snags. The old style bead and wire did offer a chance of escape from a line snag. However, there is a solution and that’s to use a Breakaway fixed soft wire Impact lead and bend the wires in a slow sweeping curve, they slip off line snags.

Around the Scene

A near record busting day for Dave Lawrence, the skipper of Deal, Kent boat, Gary Anne on Saturday, when Justin McGregor of Challock near Ashford in Kent broke the British Record for spurdog with a fish of 24lb 5oz. The heavyweight fish which was full of young was weighed, photographed and returned immediately and therefore cannot be considered for the British boat record which stands to a fish of 21lb 3oz caught off Porthleven in Cornwall in 1977. The monster spurdog came during a hectic session fishing in Trinity Bay when a dozen thornback ray fell to fresh herring baits and adds weight to calls by boat anglers for a catch and release record list. Currently fish will only be considered for British Records after having been killed and weighed onshore.   Big spurdog have turned up on the Goodwin Sands during February and March for many years, less so in recent times because they are said to be the tastiest of the dogfish and this has led to a decline in numbers, but this proves that they are still around. The species is so named because although it looks just like a small shark it has sharp spur bones at the leading edges of its dorsal fins and these make the species one of the most dangerous UK species to handle. Spurdog can also bite through mono line and are usually fished for with a wire trace.

Record busting spurdog from Deal

I am just about to leave for a boat trip out of Brighton aboard Paul Dyer’s, Brighton Diver and also I have been selected for my local club Dover SAA for the World Club Team champs being fished in Belgium in May. More about both next week.

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary Dec 10

I have been making a few terminal rigs for my forthcoming Irish match trip to fish the Winter Beach Festival at Wexford. Wire booms are always my favourite at this time of year. I like to fit a tiny swivel to the end of the boom by opening up the wire eye of the boom and fitting a swivel. A small length of silicone tubing keeps it in place. This allows me to use the lighter, thinner flouro carbon hook lengths and small hooks for flatties etc. I wrap the wire boom rigs around a rig winder, but you need a larger size (10cm diameter).

I enjoyed a hastily thrown together competition between Folkestone SAA and a group of anglers from Hampshire. They included my old mate Clive Richards with whom I helped to form SAMF back in 1980 and his local tackle shop dealer Chris Fox of Grayshott Tackle. It was a dab fest with the Folkestone ten man squad landing 25kg of dabs from Folkestone pier, Hampshire managed 17.270kg with Clive Richards their top man on 3.30kg. Folkestone’s best was Mick Tapsell on 5.710kg.

Competitors fishing the Hants versus Folkestone competition on Folkestone pier. Folk captain John Wells with the team cup.

I fished a series of events over the holiday and included a couple of top three finishes including a third in an open at Hythe Ranges. The winner, my mate Mick Tapsell from Folkestone, hooked 17 dabs for 2.030kg and with dabs all that are about inshore from the Kent shore at present he has made a killing winning three open matches on the trot. His secret, slightly stale black lugworm tipped with a little known dab bait – piddock clam.
Over the Christmas holiday I got my hands on a famous tackle companies new catalogue – Are they having a laugh – Beach casters over £400 reels nearly as much don’t they know there is a recession on?

Fishing News and Competition Reports
The sea angling match season flounders as we start the New Year, rockling as well. I have a few events to fish in Kent including the popular Fountain Open at Seabrook and Hythe on the 6th February. Like most of the other large events coming up it’s a Penn League and with another year just starting in the Sea Angler magazine Penn Sponsored National Championships we are all back to square one with zero points.

Other February events around the country include the Blackdown Sea Angling Club Open on the 19th February at Minehead to Blue Anchor. It’s not a venue renowned for lots of fish and so gives everyone a chance of success. The ideal competition for the beginner, or those who want to try competitions. The fishing is from 5.30pm until 9.30pm with the sign in at The Anchor Hotel, Blue Anchor. From 1.30pm. 1st Prize is £200, details form Alan Tel. 01823664085 or 07912018910.

For the experienced or keener match angler who want lots of fish then the Skua SAC 2 day Winter Open competition at Talacre on the 26th and 27th February is the perfect choice. Fishing is from 9am until 1pm Saturday and 9.30am until 1.30pm on the Sunday. The draw is from 6am. Pegs are limited, pre- book only and peeler crab is banned. Contact Pete Corker Tel 07711622015. Gordon Thornes Tel. 01244813003 for more details.

Around the Scene
It’s fishing chaps, but not as I remember it – the latest issue of the British Record Sea Fish list is proof if you needed it that UK sea angling is going to rack and ruin – we are clutching at straws with a list of rare species like amberjacks, Blue runners and miniscule mini species. The chances of breaking a record of a UK resident species are remote – will we ever see a plaice over 5lb again?

Nah, instead of giving us a list of silly records the Angling Trust ought to be out campaigning for a sea fishing rod licence and some funds to fight the commercial lobby who continue to empty the sea daily!

The British Record Fish Committee met at the Fishmongers Hall, London on 14th December 2010 and the following record claims were ratified by the committee:

Greater Amberjack of 1lb 7oz 1 drm (Seriola dumerili) caught from the boat by Mr Neil McDonnell Off West Coast of Lundyon the 29th September 2010

Marbled Electric Ray(Torpedo marmorata) 10lbs 14oz 11drms caught from the boat by Mr Gary Crane off the east coast of Sark (CI) on 15-Oct

Connemara sucker(Lepadogaster candollei) 10 grammes caught by master Jonathan Trevett from the Stone pier at Weymouth on the 12July 2009

Blue runner (Caranx hippos) 2lbs 8oz 12drms caught from the North Cornwall coast by Mr Nick Rogers on the 13th September 2007

One plus that did come from the BRFC meeting was that they are looking into forming a record list for catch and release having at last realised that its what anglers want. May I suggest that the record list switches to length and then that would completely solve the problem of weighing fish on a boat.

All the best for the New Year

Alan Yates

Dave Lane Carp Fishing Diary

Welcome to my new blog, hopefully I’ll be keeping you updated every two or three weeks on how the fishing is progressing and anything of interest that comes out of TF Gear to make your angling either more productive or just a lot more comfortable.

As the months go by I’ll share any tips and methods that are giving me an edge at the time and post photos of special captures as I go. Obviously you might have to bear with me a bit as we start because December is not exactly the most productive month of the year and, to be honest, January is usually even worse!

As I do every year, I have moved onto a water for the winter, one that will offer me a bit more chance of a bite due to the higher stocking level than my normal sort of low density summer waters.

This year I am on Monks Pit in Cambridgeshire, a twenty acre deep, and incredibly clear, water that I have fished for the last couple of spring seasons and a little bit of last winter.

As you’ll no doubt remember, last winter was practically a write off for at least two months as most of the lakes in the country were frozen solid and, the way things are going so far, it might turn out the same again this year, but lets hope not, eh?

I started my Monks sessions a couple of weeks ago now using a combination of maggots on one rod, boilies on another and also fishing zig rigged foam in mid-water; I have started to rely more and more on zigs over the last couple of winters, although quite why the fish would want to eat a little bit of old ‘flip flop’ suspended halfway up in the water I have no idea, but they do!

It seems to me that the colder the water and the higher the air temperature (often the case on a bright winters day) then the more time the carp spend lazing in the mid-layers of the lake. This is more pronounced on the deeper lakes and anything over ten feet deep is ideal for a bit of winter zigging. To put it into perspective, last year just after the ice thawed, I started back on monks and throughout March and early April I caught my first seven fish of the year, all on zigs without a single touch on the bottom baits so there is definitely something in it.

I do like to keep an open mind though, just as well really because I have yet to get my first bite on them this winter but the fish still seem well willing to feed in a more traditional manner.

The last session I had before the snow fell I managed to get two bites in forty eight hours, which isn’t that bad considering we had had some really bitter frosts and biting Northerly winds.

The first one came to a 360 rig fishing plastic maggots over a bed of about five pints of mixed red and white crawlers that I’d spodded out about ninety yards, a feat that left me suffering from frost bitten fingers and covered in groundbait dust from the plugs I use to stop ‘spod spill’. I refuse to go to all the effort of spodding only to see half the bait fall out after about ten yards so I mix a bowl of groundbait up and just poke a little in the back of the spod, I also leave a little water in the front of the spod if I’m using maggots to add enough weight for accurate casting.

There’s something about maggots in cold water that carp just seem to love, and a mid afternoon, thirty one pound common just went to reinforce the theory further.
It’s a great feeling to get off the mark when you either fish a new water or return to one you haven’t fished for ages, particularly in winter as it starts to paint a picture for you of bite times, feeding patterns and spots. Winter carp tend to be creatures of habit and the more of their habits you learn, the more fish you are likely to catch.
The other thing I never ignore in the winter is a showing fish, just the sighting of one carp can turn a session around and the next morning while I lay there in my nice toasty warm prototype sleeping bag, staring out over the swim, I saw a nice sized mirror just silently slide up through the surface and disappear again just as stealthily. Braving the nasty wind I leapt out and wound in two rods, one on a snowman and the other on a six foot zig; placing one a few yards each side of the fish.

It should have been the perfect move, it so nearly was when two hours later the snowman rig was picked up and I struck into a heavy old lump that plodded around in the deep water in front of me. For about three or four minutes he chugged up and down, nice and slow and nice and heavy and then, for no apparent reason, the hook just fell out again!

I hate losing fish at any time of the year but, in the winter it always seems worse, probably because they don’t come along half so often.

So it was a mixed session really, success followed by failure but, all in all a lot better than a straight forward blank, which is exactly what my next trip out was. To be fair though, between one visit and the next the weather took a massive turn for the worse and everything was like a Christmas card scene when I next turned up. I almost turned back on the way there because the snow was so savage but I am desperate to catch a thirty in the snow, maybe next week?

Hopefully, in the next few months I should also have some new fishing tackle to show you, I am currently working on a whole range of fishing rods that I am confident will be the best yet, I have used the early prototypes on the big pit I’ve fishing this Autumn and hitting distances of over one hundred and thirty yards with fifteen pound line, which is great, but the beauty is the playing action. It’s not often you find a blank that can marry distance casting with a good fish playing experience but these kiddies really hit the spot. I should be getting the first set of finished samples any week now and I can’t wait. There are loads of other goodies in the pipeline as well, but more about those in the weeks to come, for now I’m going out there to de-ice the truck as I can feel that snowy backed thirty coming on!

Effects of Weather on the Winter River

As an all round specimen hunter, our normal wildly variable winter river conditions rarely see me stuck for which species to target. Other anglers, specialising in one species, can often go for weeks where the conditions give them very poor prospects indeed. There are now a large number of anglers who fish for little else but barbel, and I’m often asked what are optimum conditions for winter barbel, and, conversely, what species would be best sought when conditions are adverse for barbel.

5lb 8oz chub taken in perfect winter conditions

Let’s look at the winter barbel angler’s dream conditions first of all. What I want to see is a rising water temperature, and the sharper the rise the better I like it, coupled with dropping air pressure. These conditions are at their most dramatic when a high pressure dry spell, coupled with clear skies, night frosts and low river levels, is ended abruptly by an intense low pressure belt that brings gales and heavy rain, leading to rising water levels carrying deepening colour. After days of low temperatures, barbel do go on the feed with a vengeance when the temperature starts to climb and the river starts to colour up. I’ve had some of my biggest barbel in such conditions, barbel being one of the few fish, along with roach, that feed avidly in a rising river. As long as I can find a swim where I am not too frustrated by the floating crap that usually accompanies such conditions, I can virtually guarantee sport. There is an important point to be made at this juncture though. A winter flood can also result from melting of heavy snowfall, which has a serious deoxygenation effect. If this is also accompanied by ingress of rock salt where road de-icing has been taking place, don’t even bother going fishing. Of all water conditions, these have to be the worst.

Hardly ideal barbel conditions

Knowing your river is important for fishing in floods, for safety obviously, but also because you need to know the bottom composition of all the newly created marginal swims, which will normally be on dry land. A gently sloping dry gravel bank will become a classic floodwater swim. High natural banks are also important because the bottom of such a bank in flood conditions, tight in to the edge, can have a remarkably steady flow, even if the surface current seems impossibly savage. Similarly, where undercut banks occur, the undercuts are usually packed with fish of all species in a high flood, where they can escape the full force of the current. Although I have caught most river species from undercuts, I particularly associate them with perch. Legered lobs, fished light enough on long tails, so that the bait washes right under the cover, has yielded me some memorable bags of good perch.

16lb 6oz barbel taken in a high warm flood

Once a flood has peaked and starts to ebb, losing some colour and current speed, most species respond to anglers’ baits avidly. I’ve had some great catches of chub and roach as a flood just comes off its peak, and when the river has dropped to almost its normal level, while retaining some colour, the conditions are absolutely perfect for perch. Bream and carp also respond well to a slightly coloured river. Both of these are neglected river species by specimen hunters but I can assure you that they are both well worth targeting.

11lb plus Ouse bream taken on a mild February morning

On those all too rare mild and dry winter days, with light winds, and rivers running at normal winter level with only a hint of tea stain colour, most species will feed well enough, although barbel and roach not as avidly as when conditions are murkier. Barbel that may be very aggressively feeding on large baits in well coloured water, actively foraging all over the river, are usually much more static in clearer water, suggesting that feeder fished maggots would be the most effective approach in daylight. With temperatures holding up after dark, however, barbel will respond normally to large baits in the conditions of low visibility. This is my favourite approach as I absolutely love winter night fishing for barbel. On stretches with big barbel a possibility, I hedge my bets in these conditions by targeting chub in the daylight hours, getting serious about barbel as dusk approaches. There is a definite parallel here with roach. In clear conditions, I find the species more effectively targeted with maggots, either on the feeder or on light float tackle. However, in coloured water, or at night, those same roach respond eagerly to large chunks of flake or full sized lobs.

My first 7 pounder on an icy winter evening

Chubbing in such mild, settled conditions is an absolute delight and after forty years of using the technique, I still never tire of wandering the banks with a light quivertip rod, baiting several swims with mashed bread, presenting legered bread crust. It’s fair to say that, these days, I fish more often with special pastes and boilies, looking for mega specimens. But when conditions are right, legered crust in conjunction with bread mash is as effective as it ever was.

Try for grayling in extreme cold conditions

Another species for which settled conditions are ideal is the pike. Every pike in the river is feeding when the conditions are like this, and it is a mistake to linger too long in a swim if there is no response. Just as with feeding perch, if there’s a pike present, a bite will not be long in coming. For river piking, I’m probably more mobile than with any other species apart from grayling, and at the end of the day may have covered over a mile in fishing for them. My favourite swims for river piking are those slow, near bank crease swims, which are obviously attractive to prey species. I rarely fish livebaits these days for any pike fishing, and generally trot with natural deadbaits fished horizontally on the trace or freeline sea deadbaits in the slacks or inside of crease swims.

Barbel love warm winter floods

The best perch conditions are found on heavily overcast days, as perch appear to detest high light intensity. They don’t like heavily coloured water though. Whereas great pike conditions include a clear blue sky and pleasant winter sunshine, perfect perch conditions are found on those muggy days when it never seems to get properly light. If there’s drizzle in the air so much the better. The absolutely prime time for a big river perch in winter is the hour just before dark, and my favourite method is to be laying on a large lobworm under a night float if the current is sluggish enough. I use a Drennan insert crystal with a snap in night light. To see that glowing float tilt and slide away in near darkness is a magical experience.

Dusk is the prime time for winter perch

So far I’ve talked about various combinations of water conditions featuring favourable water temperatures in the mid forties Fahrenheit or above. Where temperatures are struggling far below these ideal levels, however, fishing becomes much more challenging. The first extreme is that of high pressure with clear skies, leading to cold, frosty nights and days of weak winter sun when the thermometer struggles to creep above zero. At the time of writing, late November, those conditions are here with a vengeance! With low, clear water at a temperature down in the thirties Fahrenheit, the only species we are going to find feeding with gay abandon is the grayling, which revel in the cold water. They respond readily to both trotted maggots and feeder tactics. For the better quality fish you cannot beat feeder fishing with corn on the hook and crushed corn grains in the feeder. Grayling absolutely adore sweetcorn. Other species that are still very worthwhile quarries, despite the low temperatures, are chub, dace and pike. It is important to stress that all the preceding comments assume that the cold conditions have been prevalent for several days. Sudden frosts after mild weather kill all sport stone dead initially until the fish have acclimatised.

A nice winter double on a freezing cold day

I’ve fished for chub in arctic conditions with breadcrust for the best part of fifty years, and have learned and applied important variations to my approach from that in more favourable feeding conditions. First, the fish are certainly more sluggish and prone to stay in one comfortable swim. I always want steadier water than that which they normally inhabit. A crease swim is a perfect example of what I mean. In normal temperatures, the chub will be found adjacent to the fastest flow, feeding with gusto. In cold water, they may have migrated inshore to be tucked into the very gentlest flow under the banks, even skulking right under marginal ice. They are still happy enough to take a bait, and still accept a good mouthful. But they are not prepared to chase all over the river for it. I therefore cut right back on free feed and cast regularly. Over the years, most of my chub in these conditions have come within a minute or so of a recast, obviously suggesting that a bait needs to fall close to a fish before it will consider taking it.

When we have weather severe enough to freeze rivers, I’ve found piking can be excellent. My solitary thirty pound pike, the 32lb 1oz Thurne fish of the mid eighties, was taken in water that had only been ice-free a matter of minutes. When I’d arrived that morning the river had been frozen bank to bank, apart from a few hundred yards upstream of the dyke where I kept my boat moored. I had commenced fishing at the edge of the ice and as the ice gradually receded during the morning in the strengthening wind, I continually worked my livebait into the newly available areas.

Where we have very low temperature, but the river is fast, high and coloured, we really are up against it, especially if the temperature is still falling. I must admit I rarely bother fishing a river in these conditions. It is totally hopeless when a rapidly falling thermometer is coincident with a rising dirty river caused by melting snow, coupled with deoxygenation caused by ingress of road salt. I definitely admit defeat on rivers in these circumstances.

In every other combination of weather and water condition, though, you need never be stuck for a species to go for that will give a good chance of sport. Play the percentage game and choose the species where the likelihood of success is greatest.