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.