Finding the fish is generally harder than actually catching them, particularly on rivers and drains. Nevertheless, once you know what to look for, river piking is easy.
Rivers have features that are attractive to prey fish and wherever they are, pike won’t be far behind. Here are some of the more obvious areas to try:
These are wonderful gathering spots for all types of fish due the high oxygen content of the water and the abundance of food items swirling in the current. Pike will tend to sit in the slacker water. This enables them to easily pick off prey as the strong swirling currents can confuse smaller fish.
Snaggy areas offer the fish a feeling of safety; a place to rest out of the current. Food particles will also become lodged in the trailing branches. This food will attract prey that will, in turn, attract pike.
The current from side streams will add colour to the surrounding water and add oxygen, making it highly attractive to prey fish.
Tight bends can be deceptive. The speed of the current tends to scour a deep hole along the outer edge of the bend. Pike lie up in these areas, tucking themselves under overhanging cover.
Due to the sheltered nature of marinas – they’re out of the current and so the water tends to be warmer – prey fish are drawn to these areas like a magnet. As marinas have no current and high populations of prey fish, there is great potential for some very large pike. The problem with marinas is getting permission to fish. A lot of marinas are private and apart from owning a boat, you may have to do some smooth talking to get permission from the landowner.
Boats are always worth fishing to. Not only do they provide shade and shelter for both prey and predator, but boat owners throw scraps of food over the side, again attracting shoal fish.
Warm water outlets
Temperature plays a big part in dictating the movements of coarse fish, especially in extreme conditions. On very cold days, a warm water outlet will attract all manner of fish.
Similar to fallen trees and snags, the trailing branches of overhanging trees will provide food traps and will also serve the river’s residents with shade and shelter.
Islands make perfect ambush points for pike. The slow eddies around island margins create havens of slack water for shoal fish, and pike can pin these fish against the island for easy pickings.
One of the more common features on any river, canal or drain. The camouflage that reedbeds provide for pike makes them perfect ambushing points.
Rather like islands, bridge supports provide slow eddies, attracting shoal fish. Bridges also offer fish shade and cover from aerial predation. The bridge supports make good food traps, another reason why they attract the prey fish.
One minute you’re trotting your float to the right, five minutes later it’s travelling to your left!
Scenarios like this are why Jim Evans loves the challenge offered by coarse fishing on the tidal sections of the nation’s rivers. From the mighty Thames and Trent to small, intimate venues, lower reaches of rivers affected by the tides at sea can offer great sport.
But as Jim has discovered on his local stretches of the River Don, few anglers bother to battle the changing flows and levels. You could be forgiven for wondering how a river around Doncaster, 40 miles from the coast, could be subject to such effects from Mother Nature, but you’d be surprised!
“When I started fishing this morning I had 6ft of water in front of me. Now it’s more like 9ft!” he smiled, stood up to his knees in the Don at Barnby Dun.
“If you walked 15 miles downstream or five miles upstream towards ‘Donny’ you’d be very lucky to see another angler – the locals here don’t know what they’re missing but the best bit is, the tidal is all free fishing!
“I’ve fished here for 25 years and I’m still learning things about the tidal all the time. Today, for example, is the first day in a long while that I have fished as the tide is coming up the river. Normally I like to fish the run off just after high tide,” he said.
Jim’s results on the Don are not to be sniffed at. When fishing the float, big catches of dace and roach are the mainstay and in the last two months alone he has had redfins to a stonking 2lb 5oz plus bream to 6lb 3oz, a carp, chub, ide, perch and some decent flounders on the feeder.
The ‘flatties’, he says, fight better than most coarse species. In winter he he has caught several pike between 10lb and 21lb in a single session.
So how does he tackle this unique venue? First and foremost is safety.
“You have to be prepared for a river to rise 2ft-3ft in a couple of hours! I don’t bring loads of tackle with me and I prefer to stand in the margins with my keepnet and my old bait apron, or sit on my old plastic Shakespeare box, so I don’t need to move much. It’s a good idea not to go too far out in the first place – I was fishing on a raft of weed I’d flattened down this morning and now the water is up to my knees!
The banks of tidal rivers can be steep and treacherous, so take care. There are few pegs cut out so I tend to try and create my own before taking my gear down the bank,” he said.
Next is the issue of understanding the tides and how to work around them. According to Jim, you need to find out the time and height of high tide, via tide tables from the coast.
The Don flows into the Ouse which runs into the Humber, so Jim carries out a quick internet search for the high tide at Hull Docks. Noting when high tide occurs here near the mouth of the river, and when that tide hits the area he is fishing some 35-40 miles inland has taught Jim when to expect it.
He knows that the high tide takes three-and-a-half hours to reach Barnby Dun from Hull. Further downstream it is 15-30 minutes less, further upstream it’s more. This allows him to plan his session.
“High tide today is about 12.30pm. It’s rare for me to fish on both sides of the tide, known as a split tide, although I have done today as a matter of interest and to show the cameras the change in the flow.
“You normally find that when the tide turns around fully and starts flowing back down to the sea it takes between half-an-hour and an hour for the fish to settle properly and start feeding. Then it can be hectic! It’s not a big river here and you can catch straight off the rod end,” he said.
Jim’s prediction was more or less spot on, as just a few minutes before 12.30pm the river ground to a virtual standstill. Five minutes later and the flow picked up again but this time in the opposite direction, from right to left, as it headed back to the sea.
- Normal low water level of 6ft deep
- Tide starts to come in, flow from left to right
- Strong flow, so shot bulked down the line
- At high water the tide has just turned back
- Flow at a standstill but is slowly picking up
- Shotting is tapered in pairs of No8 Stotz
He’d been anticipating this and had been throwing a few maggots to his left too, ready to start trotting in this downstream direction. His bait bill is hardly expensive, and a pint of old maggots is usually all that he takes for a session of a couple of hours.
In strong flows and coloured water he sometimes fishes a swimfeeder with worms and takes perch, bream and those trademark tidal flatfish.
Today he fished a bit longer than usual and found most of his fish on the incoming tide. His impressive 16lb catch was boosted by chunky roach and some clonking dace to around 10oz, backed by chublets and bleak.
“That’s what tidal rivers like the Don are quite easily capable of. If people around here are fishing a venue better than this then I want to know about it!” he smiled.
TIDAL RIVER TIPS
Jim uses Preston Stotz to shot his stick float rig – they are very easy to attach due to the wide, deep groove. He uses No8s, and being softer than shot they don’t damage the light 0.14mm (3lb) mainline so readily.
A size 20 hook is used with a 2lb (0.10mm) hooklength of Silstar Match Team to fool big dace and roach. The reel line is a thin hi-tech 3lb version. A 15ft float rod allows him to achieve good presentation just off the rod end.
His favourite stick float is this 7 x No4 Pete Warren wire stemmed version. In strong flows he uses a bulk shot 18ins from the hook. As the tide backs up and the river stands, he opens the bulk up and spreads the Stotz in pairs with big gaps between.
Jim still wears his old bait apron to keep maggots and bits of tackle in the pockets. This lets him stand and fish comfortably without having to bend down to pick up bait.
Britain has dozens of big reservoirs brimming with angling surprises. Lee Kerry tests the water at one such venue using simple feeder and pole tactics.
We meet up with Lee Kerry at South Yorkshire’s Damflask Reservoir, where the England international puts together a big bag of prime silvers from the stunning day-ticket venue.
The UK is home to dozens of huge, untapped reservoirs where the fish – and the weather – run wild. Hundreds of acres in size, many of these places boast huge mixed stocks of coarse fish, housed in surroundings to die for. Unfortunately, too few anglers know of these venues, and even fewer dare to tread their banks with a rod in hand. That’s something England international angler Lee Kerry hopes to change.
A supremely versatile angler, Lee is perfectly at home knocking out 100lb of carp from commercials, but for him the challenge presented by expanses of water such as Yorkshire’s Damflask Reservoir far outweighs that of a venue full of stocked fish fed on a diet of pellets.
Up for the challenge
Flanked by mature woods and steep peaks, with a towering dam wall at one end and depths to a staggering 88ft, it’s hard to believe that Damflask sits just a few miles above the suburbs of vibrant Sheffield, home to over half a million people.
It was partially created during a major flood in 1864 which washed away the village of Damflask itself, before construction was officially completed in 1896. Interestingly, the reservoir was also used as a practice ground for one of the ‘Dambuster’ raids during the Second World War. And being so deep, naturally it’s home to many a fishing tale, with legend telling of pike to over 40lb, plus monstrous stillwater chub and vast shoals of skimmers and big bream.
“Sometimes you don’t have to go far to find a little piece of fishing heaven!” said Lee as he carted his tackle down the bank.
“Lots of towns have reservoirs like this one on their outskirts that are well worth investigating. It’s a journey into the unknown for me today as I’ve never been to Damflask before. I’ve heard tales of what has been caught down the years, and I find the mystery of it all very exciting. That said, it’s a feral water in many respects, and you have to work for your bites – you can’t just pot in some pellets and expect to get a fish instantly!” he joked.
Adapting to the conditions
The main body of Damflask is where the deeper water can be found, with depths of around 15ft-20ft just a few rodlengths out. Although this is okay for skimmers and bream, Lee decided to head for the slightly shallow water around two thirds of the way up the reservoir, where it started to narrow. Here he found a more manageable 6ft-8ft, ideal for one of his main targets today, roach. But what methods would he employ?
“How close the fish will come to the bank depends on the water temperature. From June to October you’ll catch on the pole, but in the colder months you might only catch on the feeder in the deeper water.
“The weather can also play a big part on venues like this. On flat calm days you might be able to fish the waggler, but it’s out of the question today because of the wind, so I’ve set up a few pole rigs for roach and a feeder rod for skimmer bream,” he added.
Prospecting for silver
His plan of attack was simple, and one which is well-suited to any large reservoir. He planned to feed his pole line to begin with, and fish the feeder while it settled.
“Groundbait is a real must on a venue of this size. The noise the balls make on entering the water and the cloud it creates definitely attracts fish from a wide area and holds them there. I’ll cup or throw in around five large balls to start,” he said.
“It’s important to give the fish time to settle over the bait, so in the meantime I’ll cast out the feeder and look for a few skimmers. When you mention bream, some anglers think you need to put in a load of bait immediately but this isn’t the case. I prefer to build up a feeder line gradually, casting every few minutes with a small or medium-sized feeder.
“There’s no need to fish ultra-light tackle here because a lot of the fish won’t have been caught before – in that respect it’s a bit like fishing the huge Irish stillwaters.
On my feeder set-up I’m using a 2ft trace of 0.13mm (4lb) Reflo Powerline and a size 16 hook. Thick lines are stiffer and lead to fewer tangles, and bigger hooks mean more positive bites from bigger fish, rather than unhittable taps from tiny fish, which can happen with small hooks,” he said.
Lee started his session by fishing a small groundbait feeder, with small pieces of worm, or fluoro pinkies, on the hook. The opening 30 minutes were slow but, rather than put in a load of feed to try to draw in fish, Lee decided to go looking for them. Another 10 yards were added to his next cast to put him in much deeper water, about 50 yards from the bank. It didn’t take long for his quivertip to rattle and a firm strike saw a small skimmer bream being brought to the net, followed by several more.
Contending with the wind
Fishing such expansive, wild reservoirs presents certain challenges, principal among which is often the weather. With Damflask being quite high up, a brisk wind was howling down the length of the venue, funnelled by the surrounding hills. This forced Lee to really punch out his feeder slightly upwind, keeping his line tight as it landed to reduce the chances of a large bow forming in the line which would in turn hinder bite detection.
Another minor problem soon emerged in the form of the unwanted attention of Damflask’s pike stocks. While the lures and static deadbaits of several predator anglers fishing nearby remained untouched, a small skimmer splashing around on the surface after being hooked by Lee proved too much to resist and he was forced to reel it to the bank swiftly to prevent being bitten off!
Tweaking his tactics
Although catching fairly steadily, after a couple of hours Lee decided that a change of approach was required.
“I’m going to try my pole line, which I’ve been feeding regularly with casters via my catapult following the initial groundbait bombardment. It’s always worth assessing the weather conditions when deciding how far out to fish your pole line. For example, if you introduce your groundbait at 10 or 11 metres and then the wind gets up, you might not be able to hold your pole at that distance comfortably and fish over the loosefeed. If in doubt, go a section or two shorter so you don’t struggle,” he said.
With that Lee picked up his pole, on which he had already set up a rig with a 0.75g rugby ball-shaped float, quite a heavy pattern to use considering he only had around 6ft of water in front of him at 10m.
“This wind is gusting and there’s a bit of undertow as a result, so a heavier float is needed to prevent my rig being dragged all over the place,” he explained.
Lee matched his float with a 0.11mm mainline and a 0.09mm hooklink, tied to a size 18 hook baited with maggot. He didn’t have to wait long to see if his patient baiting with groundbait and casters had worked, as his float buried on the first put in, the culprit a plump, pristine roach.
This signalled the start of a good run of fish, all falling to maggot hookbaits, as Lee began to put together a tidy net in challenging conditions.
“It’s certainly nothing like the bag of fish you might expect at a heavily-stocked commercial, but it’s been 10 times as rewarding. Fish don’t give themselves up on these wild reservoirs and the weather can make it quite challenging at times, but get your tactics right and prime roach and skimmers are there for the taking!” he smiled.
Lee’s tackle options
Rod: 11ft 8in Preston Dutch Master
Reel: Preston PXR Pro 4000
Mainline: 6lb Preston Powermax
Hooklink: 0.13mm (4lb) Preston Powerline
Hook: Size 16 PR344
Feeder: 30g small wire cage
Hookbait: Worms, pinkies
Pole: 11m Preston Absolute XS pole
Elastic: “A solid No.4 Preston Slip is ideal for roach. Step up to a No.5 if skimmers and bream start to show.”
Mainline: 0.11mm Preston Powerline
Hooklink: 0.09mm Preston Powerline
Hook: Size 18 PR333
Float: Preston PB Silver 4 0.75g
Hookbait: Single or double maggot
How you can fish the venue
Damflask Reservoir is situated near Loxley, Sheffield (sat nav co-ordinates S6 6SQ), and is open all year round. It measures around 115 acres and, as well as roach, skimmers and bream, also holds tench, dace, pike, perch and chub (with fish of 7lb 13oz having been taken in the past). Day tickets cost £4.90 (£3.60 concessions). Pay at the machine on the south side near the house by the dam. For more information, contact the bailiff on 07952 485798.
Cascading white water and swirling flows can make weir pools intimidating places for anglers.
However, one of the all-time golden rules about fishing is that features mean fish. So any fisherman willing to take on the challenge of a raging weir pool can expect success.
From barbel to pike, virtually every species has a home here, it’s just a matter of working out where.
Don’t worry about all that heaving surface water – by cutting beneath the surface commotion you’ll find the bottom is remarkably sedate and easier to fish than the surface torrent would lead you to believe.
These will normally lay back a little from the white water and to one side of the pool, especially if cover is present. Because the surface here is still turbulent, stick to legering. A big bait will easily be spotted so paternoster a piece of cheese paste or bread flake.
These will hide in ambush by using the undercut below the weir sill as cover. Try using only a small amount of shot pinched directly onto the line with a big lobworm on the hook. You can then use the backflow to bounce it into position.
With the torrent of white water so obviously visible it’s logical to suppose that the bottom is equally as turbulent. But, in truth, it’s almost calm. Barbel will sit at the point where the flow begins to pick up again. So try a piece of luncheon meat or pellet and use stout gear.
Big roach sit in the middle of the pool. The water is deep and calm – the ‘eye of the storm’. A maggot feeder is my main attack and I look for drop back bites. The rig (below) is a fine line set up – step it up if you’re connecting with chub or barbel.
Pike aren’t slow on the uptake when a meal is available. By sitting towards the end of the deeper water, especially near a snag, they are able to zoom in and out on surprise attacks. Try a large smelly herring on a simple bottom rig and weaker ‘rotten’ lead link.
While bream aren’t normally associated with flowing water, they seem attracted to weir pools. Target areas where the frothy water smoothes out with an open-ended feeder and a pellet hookbait. You may be surprised by the result.
UNDERWATER VIEW - Locating different species
Weir feeder rig
If you’re up for the challenge of tackling the wild River Swale the good news is it won’t cost you a fortune.
Lots of stretches are available on cheap annual club permits or day tickets controlled by farmers or locally-based fishing clubs. You can often fish for around £5 a day or £40 a year – bargain!
Like many wild rivers the Swale isn’t evenly stocked with barbel throughout its 72 miles – in the upper reaches near its moorland headwaters the river is narrow and very fast.
According to Jeff and fishing partner Tom Brodrick from Bedale, a man who has walked 100 miles of river during a six-month project to map all of Leeds DASA club waters, the area around Easby Abbey near Richmond marks the point where the barbel population gets a foothold.
In these upper areas of the river you’ll not find huge stocks of barbel but they are there in pockets and local knowledge on where to find them is a vital short-cut to success.
Moving downstream, various clubs control stretches at Catterick, Northallerton, Gatenby, Maunby, Holme and Skipton-on-Swale where you can find groups of barbel.
Don’t forget the Swale is not just a barbel river though – it holds a good stock of chub and 5lb and even 6lb-plus specimens have become a realistic target in the last few years. These upper stretches of river are also good for pike and grayling.
But the start of ‘barbel country’ on the Swale – where large numbers of fish are in residence – can really be said to be the water below Topcliffe weir.
The fast oxygenated water below the weir is home to a small population of fish but as you move to the bottom of the stretch the numbers of barbel increases.
Below Topcliffe is the main area both Jeff and Tom concentrate on. Stretches at Asenby, Cundall Lodge Farm, Cundall Hall, Fawdington, Thornton, Helperby and Myton are some of the best areas for barbel sport.
The good news is these stretches are also home to plenty of chub and you don’t need to feeder fish or leger for them – there are numerous spots offering excellent float trotting water.
As Jeff was keen to point out during our session, it is best to put tales of giant barbel out of your mind when visiting the Swale or any of the other North Yorkshire barbel rivers (see our guide to the rest of the The Big 6, below).
An average sized fish for these rivers is 4lb-5lb with a specimen being anything above 7lb. Double-figure fish are rare but they do exist in numbers that are worth fishing for and while the ‘official’ river record is 14lb 4oz we understand that a 16-pounder has been banked several times from the Swale, a truly massive fish that hints at the potential of the river.
The list of clubs we’ve provided is not exhaustive. Lots of small clubs control short stretches along the river and some of them offer very cheap membership or day tickets. There are also a few private syndicates or ‘closed shop’ clubs that only give membership to anglers living locally.
Nevertheless, our list details some of the biggest water owners on the Swale and all these clubs don’t cost much to join. Their websites carry details of the waters they control.
In addition to stretches on the Swale these organisations also control water on other major North Yorkshire rivers.
NORTH YORKSHIRE’S BIG 6
The Swale is not the only river in North Yorkshire worth fishing. The Wharfe, Ouse, Ure, Nidd and Derwent all hold barbel so here’s our snap-shot guide to these rivers:
The Wharfe: One of the most prolific Yorkshire rivers with plenty of fish residing in Easedike, Linton, Boston Spa, Newton Kyme and Ulleskelf. The barbel tend to be smaller in the Wharfe than the Swale but there are plenty of them.
The Nidd: One of the smaller Yorkshire rivers, the barbel potential of the Nidd is still being explored and according to Tom some of the best stretches in the lower reaches are almost unfished during the summer.
“Take a machete to hack your way to the water!” was his invaluable advice. The lower reaches near to its confluence with the Ouse at Nun Monkton are the best areas. Jeff’s best Nidd barbel is an 8lb 5oz fish taken at Tockwith, near York.
The Ouse: This is something of a melting pot as most of North Yorkshire’s rivers eventually end up in the Ouse one way or another. Linton Lock, Linton On Ouse, Newton, Nun Monkton and Moor Monkton are all stretches worth targeting although there are not huge numbers of barbel to go for. Jeff’s best off the Ouse is 10lb 2oz, which shows what can be caught there.
The Ure: Not as prolific for barbel as the Swale, the Ure is also not as wild and is a slower flowing waterway.
The areas around Ripon, Boroughbridge, Aldwark, Dunsforth and Newby Hall are worth a visit for barbel.
The Derwent: By their own admission Jeff and Tom don’t possess great knowledge of this river but it does have a reputation for holding small groups of barbel that take some finding. If you are feeling brave (or daft!) this is the place to go pioneering for barbel
Fishing clubs to investigate:
Here’s a list of major fishing clubs that control water on the Swale and the other main North Yorkshire rivers.
Membership is cheap, open to all and gives you access to an awful lot of river. Several of these clubs also control good stillwaters. Many clubs in the region sell their annual permits through local tackle shops so you can pick them up when you visit.
Leeds and District Amalgated Society of Anglers (Leeds DASA): www.leedsdasa.co.uk
Bradford No.1 Angling Association: www.bradfordno1.com
Bradford City Angling Association: www.bradfordcityaa.co.uk
York & District Amalgamation of Anglers: www.ydaa.org.uk
Here Paul Garner shows exactly how to effectively fish a feeder and cast your bait as close as possible to islands that can be found on both commercial fisheries and natural lakes.
Fish scientist, specimen angler and Dr Paul Garner explains why fish are drawn to islands, and how to maximise your catch by feeder fishing them correctly.
Paul said: “Islands are both natural patrol routes, and holding areas for fish as they offer food and cover. Cast anywhere towards an island and, sooner or later, you’re likely to catch a fish. The trick is to keep those fish coming throughout the session. To fill your net you must be able to interpret island features, and learn to cast accurately to them.”
Overhead cover cuts out light and makes fish feel more confident out of sight of possible threats – including anglers!
Islands offer all kinds of cover from the smallest tuft of overhanging grass, to mighty willow trees pushing well out over the water. The closer you can get a bait to these fishy sanctuaries, the better the chance of getting confident bites.
Other fish-holding features to watch for are shallows often found at the end of islands where fish will bask in warm weather, small bays or ‘cut-outs’ in the island bank, ‘rat holes’ and protruding reed beds.
Paul has brought the cameras to the scenic and fish-filled Brockamin Pools day-ticket fishery near Worcester.
He’s opted to fish the Lower Pool in a swim that offers him half a dozen different fish-holding features on the island within comfortable casting range.
Each of the Island features will definitely hold fish but Paul is especially interested in any ‘canopies’ formed by dense vegetation like pampas grass that grows out from the bank and leans over the water creating a protective, shady overhead canopy where fish feel safe.
This canopy can protrude over the water for several metres and form a sanctuary for a surprising volume of fish, especially on heavily pressurised waters.
It’s impossible to get bait under these island overhangs, but the closer you can get your feeder to them, the more fish you will tempt.
You can use either a cage feeder, or a flat-style Method feeder, to fish to islands. Both types have their advantages.
Flat Method feeders cast further, and more accurately, especially in a crosswind. A short hooklength can be buried in the groundbait so they are less prone to tangling if you accidentally overcast and catch overhanging vegetation. In clear water, burying the hook also helps get more bites.
Flat feeders are better at letting fish, especially carp, hook themselves with the ‘bolt’ effect and produce ‘unmissable’ rip-round bites on the quivertip. Also, flat feeders don’t roll as much when they land on steep underwater island slopes.
Cage feeder rigs are much more sensitive to bites than flat feeders because there’s far more movement in the long hooklength that’s connected above the weight of the feeder. Shy-biting fish can pick up the bait and move freely without feeling resistance. This rig should be used when delicate biting species like roach, bream, skimmers and F1 carp are expected. Cage feeders are arguably easier to load than Method feeders and Paul’s using one here.
You can use the same groundbait ingredients for the cage and Method feeders but each must have a different texture for best results.
The cage feeder mix should be light, fluffy and barely damp so that it expands and explodes out of the cage once it hits the lake bottom.
The Method mix is more ‘claggy’to stick to the Method frame and stay intact until it hits bottom where carp will attack it.
The difference between these textures depends entirely on how much water you use to mix them with. The more water you add, the stiffer/stickier the groundbait becomes.
You need Hemp & Hali Crush, S-Pellet, Crushed Halibut Pellet and Tuna Dip
Fill a two-pint bait tub with Sonubaits Hemp & Hali Crush
Now add two pints of S-Pellet groundbait to the Hemp & Hali crush
Thoroughly mix the groundbaits together in a groundbait bowl
The mixed light and dark coloured groundbaits should look like this
Add a dollop of Tuna Dip to the water used to mix the groundbait
Use your fingers to mix the Tuna Dip and water before adding to the mix
Add Tuna Dip water a little at a time. Don’t overwet it!
After mixing, add a good handful of Crushed Halibut Pellet feed
The finished mix should be light and fluffy and just damp, not wet
Paul never begins a session casting tight to an island. He always starts three or four metres short in deeper water, where it is far easier to cast to.
He reckons you can always try and tempt a few fish away from the island to your bait, but if you go straight in tight to the island in shallow water and spook the fish, you risk ruining the session before you’ve even started.
Also, once you’ve put bait close to the island, it will be a lot more difficult to cast shorter and pull the fish away from the island.
Fish hooked a few metres away from the island bank can also be played with minimal commotion so they don’t spook fish laying tight to the island.
As the day progresses, the fish will naturally become more cautious and retreat to the island where they feel safer. This is where the angler with the knowledge and casting ability to follow them tight in will continue catching while other anglers sit without a bite.
If he’s not catching fish, or getting line bites (where fish are accidentally swimming into the line), it’s time for him to cast closer to the island bank.
Paul told us: “There are days when you have to be really close to the island bank to catch – you almost have to put the feeder up a rat hole before they’ll have it. If you learn to cast this accurately, you could be the only bloke on the lake catching consistently!”
Doing the ‘creep’
The best way to cast close to an island is to do the ‘creep’. Simply cast an empty feeder towards the island but deliberately undercast, allowing the feeder to fall five or six yards short. (The feeder has to be empty so that you don’t spread feed all over the lake!)
Now open the bail arm and pull off an extra yard of line. Trap the mono under the reel’s line clip at the point where it comes off the spool and recast. Use your finger to ‘feather’ (slow down) the reel line just before it splashes down. This will prevent the line hitting the line clip with a sudden, jarring impact that could weaken the line, or even cause a crack-off.
Keep repeating the process until you’ve ‘crept’ right up to the feature. Your last couple of casts should advance by a foot at a time, not a yard.
Now when you cast, your feeder cannot travel further than the line clip, so you can’t tangle in the overhanging vegetation.
Now you’ve ‘crept’ up tight you’ll be okay catching small fish. But, if a big carp runs you have a problem. Because the reel line is trapped behind the line clip, you can’t give line and will get snapped. So, you need to master the ‘lifesaver’.
This is a way of casting tight to the island, yet getting three or four turns of mono back on the reel. This extra line is often enough to save your life.
Once you’ve done the creep and clipped up, pull off an extra 2m of line and re-clip. Use the picture sequence above to learn the technique.
It takes some practice, but it’s a top skill to master.
The ‘lifesaver’ method to avoid crack-offs
1. Bring the rod squarely behind your head at this angle and aim at your chosen far-bank marker
2. Follow the cast through with the rod to this angle and begin to ‘feather’ the reel line with your fingers to slow it down
3. Now, bring the rod back up, all the time still feathering the reel line as the feeder hits the water
4. Continue bringing the rod back to this angle where you will feel it hit the line clip. Now quickly drop the rod tip and reel surplus line back on to reel
Flooded rivers frequently provide an excellent chance of catching coarse fish, especially big barbel, roach and chub, yet relatively few anglers fish them successfully. It’s probably because they do not make any real attempt to maximize their chances during a flood.
A halfhearted stab at floodwater fishing is rewarded with few bites or fish and they simply give up.
You need to think carefully about where and when to go in such conditions, or you too will end up believing that the fish don’t feed, or at best feed only occasionally and haphazardly. This is where we can help out with our floodwater guide...
The 'right kind' of flood...
Though every flood is different, there are two main types – a winter/spring spate and a summer `flash’ which occurs after exceptionally heavy rainfall. In winter the fishing will be poor when the river is rising.
This is because the extra water is normallly cold and it carries sediment which may clog the gills of the fish. It certainly puts them off feeding!
Fishing is usually best in winter when water levels begin to fall. Fish must use more energy simply staying still against the flow. To replace this energy they must eat more, both during and after the flood. And hungry fish are easier to catch.
Summer floods always bring positive tidings too for the angler, as the extra water is not cold and it brings more food to the fish, so always be prepared for that August downpour.
Look for colour in the water...
Coloured water makes fish less wary of anglers because visibility is reduced. This lack of visibility also allows you to use larger hooks and heavier line than normal and it also means that big, smelly baits are key, as fish will be relying less on sight to feed.
New swims that are well worth trying...
A falling river may be more productive, but it is still possible to catch fish on a river where the level remains high. Fish are not where you would normally expect to find them. Boily water in the centre is too fast for most species, so look for them in areas which offer protection from strong currents.
The slower water close into the bank is a good place to start, but if you want to fish the near bank, keep quiet or you’ll spook the fish. The inside of a bend is usually slower than the main current and is also worth a try. Where the bank sticks out into the current there is often an eddy on the downstream side which acts as a holding ground for big fish.
Slack water behind trees, bushes growing on what is usually the bank and areas just downstream of bridge supports, are also well worth investigating during floods.
Sidestreams can offer excellent sport...
Small feeder streams joining the main river can also be excellent. These small waterways – perhaps only a foot or so deep in normal conditions and usually holding few fish – can become real hotspots when floodwater raises the level to a few feet. When this happens, they offer a refuge from which they emerge to hunt for food.
Look out for ditches and rafts...
The best swims need not be completely slack. Those with a gentle flow of water compared to the main current are also good potential holding areas for fish. A
bankside ditch that is usually dry can become a little stillwater haven for fish exhausted by the flood current. Another area of shelter, especially for chub, are rafts of debris caught by any overhanging branches.
Dropping a juicy slug or big bunch of lobworms under one of these can tempt a greedy lump.
Be safe at all times...
You need to take extra care when at the side of a flooded river. Banks are treacherous and can crumble after being undercut by a powerful current.
It always makes sense to go fishing with a friend and we also urge you to take great care if you are wading across waterlogged fields and ditches. Rivers are dangerous places!
Top tips for tackling a flooded river...
Use a bait dropper for feeding
Bait droppers can be used in a slowly fining-down river for getting a good carpet of feed down to the bottom. Be careful when using them in a slack as you may possibly spook fish already in the swim.
Take away tasters
Tikka and Tandoori pastes are a super additive to meat baits. They’re strong flavoured pastes that seep into your meat staining it a fantastic blood red colour. It’s best to fry the meat to seal in the flavour.
Hook strength and power
Powerful, muscular hooks are a necessity to get those fish out of the flood. Hooks to try are ESP’s established Big-T Raptor, and Drennan’s Continentals and Super Specialists. Don’t be afraid to choose a size 2 hook if you are selecting a bigger bait.
Try hot and spicey flavours
Chilli or Tikka powder is another super flavour for floodwater adventures. Barbel find it irresistible. Just like kids following a Bisto trail, scent from this will drift downstream, enticing fish to your bait. The flavour can be added to the meat by frying, or simply freezing it.
Use the right lead for the job
Pear-shaped leads have a tendency to roll along the bottom, so why not choose a flattened lead or a knobbled lead, such as the popular Grippa leads. This will ensure your bait has a better chance of gripping the bottom in the flow. Hardened Floodmasters will use leads up to 6oz in weight to hold position.
The right rod for flooded rivers
Fishing in a flood calls for a meaty rod. Canal winklepickers are just not up to the job! Whatever you choose, make sure it’s capable of coping with playing and landing a big fish. Opt for an Avon style rodf having a test curve of either 1.75lb or even 2lb as this extra strength will help control both the rig and the fish against the powerful current.
Check the river temperature
The temperature of the water is important. Many specialist anglers will happily fish right down to 42 degrees Farenheit (5.5 degrees C) provided the river temperature is rising. Anglers such as Bob Roberts have had loads of barbel at water temps below 50 degrees farenheit. Most rivers fall below this in November and stay there until February. With anything under that you should go home and surf through more pages of Gofishing.co.uk!
Which mainline to use...
Sufix Synergy and Daiwa’s Sensor are two highly abrasion resistant lines that are good in high water conditions. You can fish in confi dence knowing you are not going to lose that once-in-a-lifetime fish. And don’t go below 10lb; weaker lines are not suited to this style of fi shing.
Garlic attracts them for miles
Garlic sausage is an ace floodwater bait, because of its heavy scent. It can be further boosted with the addition of garlic oil. Don’t be afraid to use a big chunk on a size 2.
Paste will gain extra fish
Hi-tech pastes have been immensely successful in recent years as it can be coloured and specifically flavoured to your exact requirements. Good base mixes
to try include John Baker’s Frost and Flood and Dynamite Bait’s The Source. Check out the Mistral Anchovy and Halibut pastes, too.
Always take some lobworms
Lobworms have been catching fish since the days when Izaak Walton fished the rising river Sow. During a heavy flood, thousands upon thousands of them will be washed in to the river, providing a super free meal for fish. They’re ideally presented with three or four individuals together. Chop off the tails (not with a carving knife!) to release the juices. Don’t be in a hurry to hit bites on lobworms. You’ll get lots of sharp tugs and pulls that you’ll never hit. Sit on your hands and wait for that un-missable pull.
Watch the weather for success
There is no better time to fish for barbel in winter than when a river is in flood. Winter rain frequently arrives on Westerly or South Westerly winds that blow away the frosts, lift the water temperature and send the barbel on a feeding spree. However, melting snow water is the kiss of death, so be warned and watch the weather.
Look for smooth water
Don’t be fooled into thinking that barbel will be sheltering from the flow in that tasty looking slack or eddy. On the contrary, you will find barbel in the heaviest water. The problem is presernting your bait there. Seek out water that is smooth, with no boils on the surface, that flows over gravel and moves through at something like walking pace.
Avoid drifting debris
Floodwater means lots of debris is washed along with the flow and this can easily build up and smother your hookbait. The secret is to cast upstream and fish for drop-back bites. I don’t hesitate to cast 10 or even 20 yards upstream. Any rubbish hitting your line will then slide away from the hook rather than towards it.
Don't strike at every indication
Ignore taps and plucks – bites are generally very positive when they occur.
Springing from the mighty Welsh mountains at Plynlimon, the River Wye courses its way through mid Wales before crossing the border into England near Hay-on-Wye.
From here the river is in its middle reaches, changing into the lower reaches south of Ross-on-Wye . It becomes tidal south of Biggs Weir where it eventually spills into the Severn Estuary just below Chepstow.
The fifth longest river in the UK, there are great opportunities for both game and coarse anglers.
The Wye has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and one of the most important rivers in the UK for nature conservation. Much of the lower valley is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The Wye is largely unpolluted and is therefore considered one of the best UK rivers outside Scotland for salmon fishing.
Wherever you decide to fish along its length we’d always recommend a visit to a local tackle shop and contacting some of the many controlling clubs before choosing an area to fish.
The amount of water available to the coarse angler has been substantially increased, but to preserve the quality of the wild fishing many stretches limit rod numbers on a daily basis.
One of the UK’s top barbel destinations, the River Wye also has good stocks of large chub, silverfish as well as huge pike.
From source to Hay-on Wye is the river’s upper reaches. This area offers some of the most beautiful, rugged and wild fishing in the UK.
Running mostly over rocks and gravel it is primarily a game fishing area with healthy stocks of trout and grayling, but the crystal clear waters can make these fish hard to catch.
Llangoed has a stretch that is a renowned salmon beat, but there is some great chub and pike fishing for the coarse angler.
Chris Ponsford says: “Good barbel fishing can be had as high as Hay-on-Wye but becomes much more of a game river above that for trout, grayling and salmon. However, even Builth Wells has coarse fish including some whopping chub and dace.”
The Upper Reaches of the Wye are noted for game fish but there's still plenty of chub to go at
From Hay through to Ross is the river’s middle reaches. Here, it slows and deepens, taking on the more classic river look.
Witney Court, just downstream of Hay is predominately gravel with areas of bedrock interspaced.
This is one of the highest areas to hold good stocks of barbel, chub, silverfish and pike.
Below Hereford, Luggsmouth and Holme Lacy are worth a look in addition to some excellent fishing to be had in and around Hereford itself.
Local tackle shops will help get you sorted.
Below Hereford, the Wye and Usk Foundation has three great stretches – Caradoc, White House and Backney. All about one mile long, they offer prolific coarse fishing for barbel, chub, pike and silverfish as well as plenty of salmon.
Chris says: “Between Ross and Hereford there is not much day-ticket fishing as salmon beats rule, but Wye and Usk Foundation controls some beats, and great catches of barbel are possible.
“Hereford and District and Ross on Wye AA are the club books to have on this middle section and day tickets are available. Above Hereford there are plenty of barbel, and private sections like The Red Lion beats at Moccass.”
Backney, below Ross, is one of the most picturesque places to fish for barbel
This is anywhere below Ross-on-Wye, where the river widens into a more stately meandering watercourse. Fishing here is a pure joy for the coarse angler with barbel, chub and pike as well as roach, dace, perch and even the odd carp.
Chris says: “Redbrook, Lydbrook, Monmouth and Symonds Yat, are prolific sections for coarse fish with barbel thriving in the fast, powerful currents.
Glamorgan Anglers, Newport AA, Forest of Dean AA, Wye and Usk Foundation all have beats. Above this, we are running up to the lovely old market town of Ross on Wye where the view from Wilton bridge downstream is not to be missed.
Ross on Wye AA has some great waters and the barbel fishing is very good on its day, with double figure fish a regular feature, plus big chub and river carp.”
Biggs Weir is a salmon water, but Newport AA has a section which can be coarse fished and barbel are present in numbers and to double figures.
Chris says: ”The barbel fishing starts on the lower tidal river at Brockweir near Chepstow. These lower reaches are good for salmon and coarse access may prove difficult, so a move up river to Biggs Weir will be needed.
Estate lakes can be brilliant places to fish and can hold an array of surprises.
As you’d expect, there are several key areas where you should fish. Margins and lily beds are the first features that spring to mind and will always hold a variety of fish, including carp, tench and roach.
Pike tend to follow the silverfish, as this is their food source. Roach move to the deeper end of the lake in winter so bear this in mind for pike location.
Bream always look for the biggest expanse of water containing the least amount of weed.
If you are after rudd wait for that warm south westerly wind, as they’re real sun worshippers.
With crucians you must target the margins. They always seem to hold up here.
Tench feed at the bottom of the shelf and quite often you only need to fish a rod length out to have a successful session.
As for eels, look for where the bait fish are. The best eel waters are those that haven’t been eel fished before.
If you took a cross section of a canal you will find that most are the same in that they have very similar profiles and therefore you’ll find the fish residing in almost the same places.
There will be a deep central track, two ledges at either side, two shelves and two marginal ledges.
They aren’t deep venues – most canals are between 3ft and 6ft deep in the middle.
To fish them correctly, careful plumbing up is essential to locate the depth of the central track and where the bases of the ledges are and where the flat sections of the shelves are as it’s those places that you’ll find the most fish.
A The shallow far bank shelf will hold carp, tench, big perch and big roach. This is the quietest section of any canal and is therefore the place where the fish feel the safest. Try setting up a shallow dibber rig and loosefeeding casters over into the shallow water for at least a couple of hours, then trying this swim later in the session – you may well be surprised by the size and quality of the fish that you catch.
B The base of the far bank ledge is where you will find good sized bream, tench, perch and carp. Here chopped worm, casters and sweetcorn work wonders and it’s possible to keep this swim going all day long.
C The central track will provide bites from roach, eels, tench, bream and skimmers. This is a prime spot to kick start a session using breadpunch. This will provide an almost instant response. Another great bait to try here is hemp for the many roach.
D The base of the nearside ledge is best targeted with a whip as it will only be 2-4m from the bank. You’ll have to remain quiet if you intend on catching from this swim throughout the day, but it can prove quite rewarding as you’ll find perch, roach and plenty of gudgeon here.
E Believe it or not it is possible to catch perch and gudgeon from right at the side of your keepnet. Again a whip will come in useful for this small fish, but it’s definitely worth introducing a few pinkies here and setting up a short and lightweight rig for catching these little species.