The Dog Days of Summer

I love these conditions. Low, clear water, the fish are hiding in the most out of the way places and are reluctant to move far to feed. Conditions like this can be really challenging whilst coarse fishing but, with a little thought and flexibility in your approach, you can still find consistent sport.

Take a session I had last week. I arrived at the river to find it quite busy with people in the usual swims but all catching very little. I took some time to wander and soon found a spot where a few elips pellets tossed into the margins from a high bank, were taken on the drop by a group of chub. I kept the feeding going in little and often and soon those chub were preoccupied and joined by others from downstream. Inevitably they were then joined by a couple of barbel, looking pale compared to the chub and blending in with the gravel as they drifted across it. Now was the time to plot their downfall.

My fishing rod was already rigged with 10lb line, a 2′ long coated braid hooklink with the last couple of inches peeled back and a size 10 hook at the business end. I’ve gone over to coated braid for the time being as there is some evidence that barbel will spook to fluorocarbon if they touch it whereas they tolerate brushing against the more visible braid. Whether its a fact or not I don’t really know for sure but I’m catching on braid so it’ll do for now.

The lead is coated to blend in with gravel and a lump of plasticine is wrapped 3′ or so above it to act as a back weight. Pinning the line down is essential in fooling wary fish in shallow, clear water. To this end I also put a couple of rig putty blobs on the leader, I don’t want it wafting up in the current. The bait is a single elips pellet, broken in two then glued together over the hair.

I waited, the fish left the area having eaten every item of loose feed. I lowered the rig exactly where I wanted it, close to a nearside ledge. Here the line up to my rod would be less visible against the stone than it would in open water, another bonus in this stealth war. Having got everything where I wanted it, I recommenced loose feeding and immediately the fish returned. I kept the free pellets falling through the swim as the chub were taking mostly on the drop, this increases the chances of it being a barbel that takes the bait – and it worked. The barbel headed straight for open water and I was quickly on top of it, guiding it to the waiting net.

Having spent my time building this swim up I thought I’d get a bait straight back in and await the fish’s return in the hope of a second success. I figured it would take half an hour or so to settle and sat back playing with my new camera but was surprised when, after just a couple of minutes, the rod jolted down and a chub headed for a sunken bush. I was too slow, the fish went into the snag and the hookhold failed. Damn! My fault, sometimes the fish don’t respond in the usual manner and I had spooked the swim.

Not to worry, there’s plenty more water to explore. I found a couple more ‘flashing’ barbel but could not induce a take so ended the day at an old favourite swim of mine. Its been largely ignored for most of the summer mainly due to the distance from a car park but that suits me just fine. Here I put my lead into a pva bag of pellets and broken boilies and cast it into a deep run. Having the lead inside the pva bag ensures that it hits the bottom before breaking up rather than wafting in the current and spreading your bait far and wide as often happens when you simply put it on your hook.

I was joined by my old mate Tommo who declined the offer to share my swim and headed off to a spot that has given him some good results in the past. It was another deep run of well oxygenated water and close to an overhanging tree. As we chatted my rod sprang into life and I landed a barbel. I followed this with another fish of a similar size, about seven pounds or so, and a couple of chub. But it was Tommo’s excited whistle and shout that signalled the high point of the day. As I got to him he was just netting a beautiful barbel that turned the scales to 10.4 and was in mint condition.

Not bad for a difficult day.

Written by Dave Burr