In 1956 a 15-year-old Dave Bosher, fishing on the Child Beale stretch of the River Thames, hooked his fi rst decent bream.
This fish started a love affair with river bream fishing that has continued for over 50 years.
Now, he’s back in the swim where it all began, an area that he has grown up near and fished in for the past half century.
Similar to all those years ago, the River Thames’ bream shoals are still here and they are here in abundance.
“I remember seeing shoals over 100-yards long and from bank to bank; literally hundreds of thousands of them,” said Dave.
“It’s a sight that I have never forgotten and it keeps drawing me back - year in, year out.” With a commendation this good, we just had to send the IYCF cameras along to the Child Beale stretch, located in Theale Park, near Pangbourne, Berkshire, for a masterclass in river bream fishing.
With five decades of know how and experience under his belt Dave had to be the perfect choice to take us through the finer points of catching big, slabsided River Thames bream…
THE FIGHT OF A RIVER BREAM
Punching his groundbait swimfeeder 60 yards across the river, it landed with pinpoint accuracy over the area he’d been baiting.
Moments later, a large splash on the surface revealed Dave had got the bream going - the fish were rolling over his bait.
“They’ve been having it all morning,” Dave revealed. “It took an hour to get the first bite, but since then it has been fish-after-fish.”
Placing the rod on his raised rod rest, Dave carefully tightened up to the feeder, placing a slight bend in the quivertip of his feeder rod.
A few minutes later he had a sharp line bite, no doubt caused by a big slad-sided bream turning in the water,. Within seconds the tip sprang back as a fish picked up his hookbait and dislodged the feeder.
A broad sweeping strike over his right shoulder saw Dave pick up the line and connect with a hefty fish. Standing up, to get a better angle to hold the bream out of the weedbeds littering the bottom, he deliberately played the fish towards the bank.
Unlike their flabby, lake-bound cousins that can fight a wet paper bag, river bream fight like tigers.
Once they turn their broad bodies into the flow, they use the current to test your tackle to the very edge of breaking point.
It took Dave over five minutes to bring the fish from where he was fishing, 60 yards out, to a position where he could successfully land the creature.
Once it was in the net we were able to appreciate why it had taken so long to land. Weighing just over 8lb, it was a magnificent specimen and testified how good river breaming can be.
Being nomadic, pre-baiting an area the day before you fish can tip the scales in your favour. If you put a bed of bait down you should stop a shoal of bream in its tracks.
These fish are eating machines, spending their days searching for food. If you can give them a load of freebies, you should be able to hold them, as it gives the shoal the confidence to stay in the area.
“I pre-baited an area last night” explained Dave, “not only does this concentrate the shoal, but it helps to get their heads down feeding.”
Dave pre-baits with what he is planning to fish with. In this instance, it comprised four kilos of two-parts brown crumb, onepart Dynamite Baits Black Swim Stim groundbait and a kilo of 3mm pellets.
Although four-kilos isn’t a lot of pre-bait for a big shoal, Child Beale is a match fishing stretch, so it sees a lot of bait.
“I only want to put out enough bait to give the bream a taster of my groundbait mix. They will then be more receptive when it comes to the actual session.”
LOCATING THE SHOALS
One of the hardest things, with regard to river bream fishing, is trying to locate the shoal.
A nomadic species, they can roam for miles along a river, looking for food and stopping off in areas that offer consistent feeding opportunities.
This means the best place to start your bream quest isn’t even by the water. To short-cut the shoal search chat to local experts, such as a tackle dealer or bailiff, to see if you can pinpoint the rivers’ noted bream swims.
“The thing about this stretch is that bream are always here,” Dave said.
“Maybe there is a bloodworm bed out there that attracts them, but for whatever reason they’re always in the same area, year-after-year.
“My advice would be to ask around and once you have found a good area, remember it. Once you have found an area that they like, you have won half the battle.”
CASTING AND KEEPING THE SHOAL
As with stillwater feeder fishing, it is always best to line up the cast with a permanent far bank marker and cast to the line clip. This ensures you are accurately casting every feeder where you want it. Once you have the bream feeding in the area, cast slightly short of your prebaited area. Therefore, if you hook a fish you are not dragging it through the rest of the shoal, which will avoid spooking them. Dave’s final casting tip on rivers is DO NOT twitch the feeder back to empty it, as you would on a stillwater.
“By twitching the feeder back on this stretch you will only pull the hook into weed, ruining the presentation,” said Dave.
For his session on the Thames, Dave was using a Daiwa Connoisseur feeder rod combined with 6lb Berkley Trilene monofilament line.
Unlike many bream anglers, Dave never uses braid, preferring the stretch that mono gives.
“I find mono is more forgiving than braid,” he said.
“Once in the flow these fit river bream put up a tremendous scrap and as braid has no stretch, the fish can easily come off. On a river these fish aren’t shy and when you have to play a big fish through the flow, braid is a recipe for disaster,” he continued.
Six pound line may sound heavy for bream fishing, but when you are making around 100 casts in the day and playing 7lb-plus fish across the flow, it would be suicidal to go lower.
Correct quivertip choice is also vital when river breaming. On a stillwater, it is best to use a very light tip, such as a 1oz model, to register any shy bites. While you still need to fish as light a possible on a river, you must ‘beef’ things up a bit and match the strength of the tip to the strength of flow.
This involves a little trial and error, with Dave suggesting you carry a selection of different weighted tips.
“The best way to select a tip is to start light, around 2oz,” he explained.
“Then cast the empty feeder to where you will be fishing and put the rod on the rest to see how the tip reacts. If the strength of the river bends the tip right round, you are using too light a tip and it will offer too much resistance to a taking fish.
“If the tip remains arrow straight, then the tip is too heavy and will not show delicate bites. If the tip just bends slightly, it is spot on.
“This may sound time consuming, having to tackle down and re-tackle to change tips, but it is better to spend a few minutes getting things right now than spending the next few hours blanking.”
Dave’s choice of swimfeeder for the day was a Drennan Gripmesh. These cage style feeders are ideal for shallow water, but for fishing in deeper water Dave wraps PVC tape around them. This stops the groundbait exiting the feeder too quickly when it hits the water.
“The weight of these feeders is ideal for casting. The groundbait will add another ounce and this balances my set-up perfectly for casting to the area I want to fish,” Dave added.
Dave’s hooklink is 18 inches of 0.16mm (5lb 5oz) WB Clarke Match Team high-tech line.
Again, this might sound heavy, but the weed in the Thames can be very thick and a lighter hooklink will not give you the strength to land the fish. The hook is a strong size 14 Drennan Carbon Chub.
DAVE’S FAVOURITE HOOKBAITS
Four red maggots: This is Dave’s first hookbait choice and the bait he generally kicks off with. Four maggots are a little more selective, but if you start to get plagued with roach and perch swap to another bait.
Worms: Two small dendrobaena worms threaded up the line to leave the hook exposed is Dave’s unique way of presenting worms (below).
“It’s like a reverse hair-rig, where the bait is presented above the hook rather than below it as with a normal hair-rig set-up.”
Double caster: One of the all time classical bream hookbaits, casters are a bait that are loved by bream all over the country (above right).
HOW TO PUT THE GROUNDBAIT TO WORK
Plugging one end of his swimfeeder with groundbait, Dave filled it with casters and then plugging the other end,
He then cast five feeder loads of casters followed by five feederfuls of worms to lay a small bed of feed.
Retrieving the rig, Dave used some groundbait to sandwich casters inside his swimfeeder, threaded two worms onto the hook and cast towards the spot he’d prebaited the day before.
After an hour of recasting every 10 minutes, the bream moved into his swim and Dave started to get among the fish.
It was exciting fishing too, as every bream used the flow to test Dave’s tackle to the limit.
After spending a few hours watching Dave do battle with over 70lb of hardfighting bronzed bream, it became apparent that river ‘slabs’ are a very different beast to their lake-bound counterparts.
If you are the type of person that has always written off bream fishing as boring, lacklustre and dull, then you are definately missing a trick.
Maybe you should head down to your local river and have a few hours fun with these bronze-flanked beasts.
Let’s face it, these fabulous fish have kept Dave Bosher going back to the same swim for 50 years and you don’t get a much better commendation than that!