True anglers are always drawn to the sound, sight and smell of weirpools. The temptation to peer into the white, rumbling water and wonder which species might live in such torrents is too hard to resist. Unless you cast a baited hook into the fierce water you’ll never know what lurks beneath, but it takes courage and confidence to do so. Jan Porter is your guide as he tackles Church Wilne weir on the Derbyshire Derwent.
Weirpools are tremendous places to fish. They look almost too violent and fierce to even consider tackling them, but the rewards can be phenomenal and catching fish from white water is an experience that you will never, ever forget.
Granted, your first 100lb-plus carp haul is a memorable event, but imagine the thrill of successfully setting out your stall, feeding and catching a large, powerful chub or barbel from the true, wild water of a weirpool. It’s your weirpool exploits that will be the most fondly remembered.
They aren’t easy places to fish – you’ll always get a swim, if not the whole weirpool to yourself – so to help you along we accompanied Jan Porter to the Church Wilne weirpool on the River Derwent, just east of Derby.
Jan’s intention was to leger for the many barbel and chub that live in this beautiful stretch of wild water, fishing as close to the weir as the overhanging vegetation allowed.
WHY FISH A WEIR?
OF all the places on a river to fish, why would anyone want to push themselves and their tackle to the limit and tackle the turbulent water of a weirpool?
The answer is quite simple when it’s explained, and it boils down to three things: weirpools provide oxygen, food and safety.
Oxygen: Although plants give off oxygen when they photosynthesise during daylight, rivers that have sparse weed growth will suffer during a prolonged drought. The oxygen levels drop and the fish have to seek highlyoxygenated water, not in order to survive, but to be comfortable. And one of the most oxygenated areas of a river is directly downstream of a turbulent weirpool.
Food: The water that pours over the weir carries food that is washed down, swept around with the undercurrent to eventually settle on the bottom of the surrounding eddies. The constant pounding of the water over the sill also helps stir up any crustaceans and other water life trying to mind their own business under rocks or snags. Fish won’t be too far away.
Safety: No cormorant can work a weir as they are too powerful so there’s little chance of being picked off, plus light cannot filter through the turbulent water so therefore there’s ample shade for the fish.
JAN’S FAVOURITE BAITS
AS Jan was fishing for a large chub or a barbel he opted to bring big baits normally associated with those species. He took two sizes of trout pellets, paste, Trigga boilies, cooked hemp, sweetcorn and Dynamite Baits’ Mini Meaty Fish Bites. The sweetcorn and hemp made great feed inducers as they sink fast and emit strong scents.
Either of these could be hair-rigged if Jan wanted, but a big bait approach was at the top of his agenda today.
The Special G Marine Pellets Jan set aside as hookbaits were huge – 21mm to be precise – and as these are extraordinarily hard Jan had already drilled through them beforehand so they could easily be hooked hair-rig-style.
Although the fish living in the weirpool may not have seen these monstrous pellets before – or any other pellet for that matter – Jan was adamant that these pellets are great short session baits that meat-loving fish readily take.
It was highly likely that the chub or barbel had never seen Jan’s paste, Trigga boilies or Mini Meaty Fish Bites either so the pressure was really on for him to prove his worth.
KICK-STARTING A SWIM
FEEDING a weirpool is incredibly simple when you apply a little common sense before throwing out the bait. Jan walked to the head of the pool, armed with corn, small pellets and hemp, and watched the water surging down the sill, working its way downstream. By doing this he could determine the path his loosefeed would take as it was pushed along with the flow.
Jan pointed out that the main flow fell off the weir and headed directly downstream. He also noticed that the flow started going slowly backwards either side of the main current creating a pair of slow moving eddies immediately downstream of the weir and at either side of the river.
Bait thrown into the centre of the main flow would be swept downstream quickly.
It would be some time before it settled on the bottom – perhaps even 30 yards downstream of the main weir. This distance would be determined not only by the power of the flow, but also by the buoyancy of the bait. A heavy bait like hemp or corn sinks faster than maggots or casters.
Any bait thrown into the very edge of the weir would be drawn downstream but there is a high chance that it will be sucked in and swept around within the swirling eddy, where it would come to rest.
Jan used a throwing stick to introduce hemp, pellets and corn across the weir.
The bait scattered between the main flow and the far bank eddy to provide plenty of options.
DON’T SKIMP ON TACKLE
JAN came armed with powerful gear capable of stopping a barge. The rod was a prototype that Jan built himself – a 12ft, 13⁄4lb test-curve rod based on a Shimano Diaflash blank. The reel was a Shimano Baitrunner loaded with 8lb Catana mono. This is a durable, economical line that is not only strong, but is also very abrasion resistant.
A powerful feeder rod with a 4oz carbon tip might suffice when fishing in such extreme conditions, but Jan prefers to use a through action 13⁄4lb test-curve Avon-style rod. The fish will still pull the tapered tip round on a savage bite, but by the same token the tip won’t be pulled round too much when the lead settles and the flowing water exerts force upon the main line.
JAN’S rig resembled a semi-fixed carp set-up. He threaded a strong snap link onto the main line, then a Korda Tail Rubber, and tied a large swivel on to the end. A 12-inch hooklength was tied to the swivel and a 2oz flat lead was clipped to the snap link.
The hooklength was made up of 15lb Kryston Super Mantis coated braid which is a very abrasion-resistant material perfect for these conditions. A hair rig was tied in the end with a knotless knot and a size eight Fox Series Two hook.
Jan utilised a snap link in the set-up as this enabled him to quickly switch between a heavier or lighter weight, or a different shaped lead or even to remove the lead completely for free-lining if he wished.
Finally Jan pushed the Korda Tail Rubber over the swivel and worked the snap link swivel over the Rubber until it locked. The rig would come apart if the line broke to make it safe.
AND WHERE ARE THE FISH?
HAVING tackled River Trent weirpools many times before, Jan had a good inkling of the fish’s whereabouts.
They were very likely to be holed up where the current was least ferocious as here they could rest and zip in and out of the current to take food as it passed by.
Barbel prefer clean, gravel bottoms and running water over their backs so they were likely to be resting behind rocks or downstream of snags either downstream of the weir or even right under the surging white water.
Chub, bream and pike prefer slower water so they could be found in or very close to the eddies at either side of the main flow. They may also lay downstream of the main flow where the water is calmer.
Overhanging bushes are a prime target area for chub too as they love the cover they offer.
Amazingly fish can also be found right underneath the weir and white water. Here the water is deeper and therefore the flow is reduced, plus this area is the first point of call for food being swept over the weir.
SEARCH THE BOTTOM
WEIRPOOLS are often extremely snaggy places to fish. During floods branches, debris and all manner of things are sent down river, washed over the weirpool with the force of the water then pushing the rubbish down where it will remain on the bottom.
To ensure that his rig didn’t become snagged on the same object every cast, Jan flicked the rig out and allowed it to bounce along the bottom. He held the rod at all times as this allowed him to feel the contours and make-up of the bottom through the rod.
The lead bounced along the bottom from the white water downstream and once it passed Jan’s seated position he wound it in and cast again to a different area, repeating the run through.
Only a couple of large snags were found and from this Jan knew exactly where to cast in order to gain a clean run through the long swim.
JAN began fishing in the late morning and cast a baited rig only when he was confident that he had located the snags and after picking the right weight for his rig. He switched between 2oz, 21⁄2oz and 3oz flat leads and cast them into the swim. Ideally he needed a weight that remained stationary in the strong flow, but one which would move easily if a fish picked up the bait or if Jan tugged gently on the mainline. A 2oz lead was selected.
He started the session using a Trigga boilie but after no response in an hour he decided to switch to a string of Mini Meaty Fish Bites.
He has a special way of attaching these baits, working four or five baits up the hook shank and on to the hooklength, then attaching a single boilie to the hair.
Doing this not gives a visually more appealing bait and one that smells stronger too, but the main reason is to help hook more chub. Older, larger and wiser chub tend to pick up baits in their lips and feel for hooks, as opposed to taking the whole bait down. But by making a longer bait the chub has to take the hook down before it can close its lips around the end of the bait to check for hooks. When it does that it’s too late and Jan will have felt or have seen the bite.
Jan saw a couple of taps on the rod tip but nothing materialised until he tried a Marine Pellet.
He cast to the same spot, right in the white water, and let the bait trundle downstream After a couple of attempts the rod tip jagged and lurched over. He struck and hooked a good fish.
The culprit was a 4lb chub that used the strong flow to its advantage, giving Jan the runaround before he finally netted it.
He replaced the pellet hookbait and tried for another fish. It took some time in coming, but again the rod arched over and a slightly smaller chub took the massive pellet hook bait.
Although Jan didn’t catch a netful from this wonderful weirpool, he had a great day’s fishing that was challenging yet productive.