Try to get into a routine where you feed before you cast and then feed again at the end of the run. You can also fit another feed in between, as a steady trickle of bait going through the swim all the time will work much better than just one handful every now and again.
When you’re floatfishing on a river, always cast downstream to ensure that your line is in the correct position to start off with. Cast in front or upstream and you’ll end up with a big bow in the line. Another thing to keep in mind is rod position while you’re fishing. Keep the rod pointing downstream and you’ll hit more bites, as you’ll be able to pick up a lot of line.
Use the venue information in Angling Times to search out new venues. There are loads of good river stretches and maybe now is the time to try new ones.
Another useful source of information is tackle shops. There is usually a wealth of local fishery knowledge inside, so talk to the people who work there and ask their advice on where best to go.
They want you to succeed, because you’ll go back for more bait and kit if you do!
LINE SPRAY AND FLOATING LINE GREASE
Before you start floatfishing on a moving river, treat your lines with silicone spray. It helps to keep the line floating, which in turn improves control and bait presentation. I also use silicone line grease in pacy water where I might be ‘mending’ the line several times during a run. I take a smear from the tub and coat the line liberally for about two metres above the float.
No fish is worth risking your life for, so keep safe when you’re on a riverbank, especially if you’re alone. We’re approaching the time of year when river fishing can be fantastic, so get out there when you can and enjoy it!
While you can buy cheap showerproof clothing from a variety of sources these days, if you want to stay totally dry in the worst of conditions my advice would be to invest in Gore-Tex. Base layers are covered with a Gore-Tex bib and brace, a Windstopper fleece and a Gore-Tex jacket, and I never get wet underneath.
It never ceases to amaze me just how many anglers spend thousands of pounds on kit and then skimp on waders. As far as I’m concerned, any angler who regularly fishes rivers like I do should invest in a pair of neoprene waders. I use the Le Chameau ones which have neoprene lining right down to the toe. Cold feet are now a thing of the past!
GETTING GEAR TO THE SWIM
I now use the largest Riggers platform barrow, the best in terms of design and reliability. Most of the time I use it with a single front wheel but I’ve also now got a pair of rear wheels that I can use if I’m pushing the barrow on hard ground.
Whichever barrow you buy, get one that converts into a platform to allow you to position yourself out in the river. You can then either just use it as a table top or put your seatbox on it.
RODS AND REELS
Think about what you actually want the rods to do and then buy accordingly. Your local tackle shop should be able to advise you on this, or ask the opinions of other anglers if you’re not sure.
The same applies to reels. Think about what you actually need them to do and buy an appropriate size to suit the fishing style. It’s also a good idea to match your rods and reels up so that you’ve got identical kit to use.
One area where I’ve seen a lot of anglers sadly lacking is floats. There are many different situations that you can find yourself in on rivers, yet some anglers seem to want to use their ‘favourite’ float all the time. Take some time out to learn about what you actually need for a given situation and you’ll end up catching loads more fish.
USE THE ENVIRONMENT AGENCY WEBSITE
One of the most useful websites ever for river anglers is the one that is provided by the Environment Agency, which gives regularly updated river levels for rivers all over the country. It’s at www.environment-agency.co.uk
Get into the habit of using it in the winter months, especially as it will save wasted journeys if the rivers are high. You can actually time your trips to perfection when you get to know levels at your favourite venues.
Good quality line is vitally important for river fishing. It needs to float, as I can then use it for float or feeder work. I’m currently testing some new reel line, as well as a new clear hooklength and rig line, which I’ve been very impressed with so far. The only way to test lines though is by using them over a lengthy period, as most lines are okay for a few outings.
Use a micrometer if you can and check the lines you are using. The stated diameter can be way off!
Like floats, many anglers just don’t carry enough. Most anglers also don’t have enough additional weight with them to add to the feeder to make it hold bottom. A rolling feeder can work very occasionally but most of the time it will just end up in a snag and be lost. Invest in some add-on weights to make the feeders stay where you want them to.
It’s no use having great kit and then chucking a feeder to a different place every time, so work on your accuracy if you fall into this category.
You can use a line clip, of course, to assist you with this but don’t rely on it all the time, as you’ll often catch more by working an area rather than having everything on exactly the same spot.
When you’re floatfishing in windy conditions, always cast off the side that the wind is blowing to. You’ll get far fewer tangles than you will doing it from the other side in this situation.
Things in my seatbox that I’d hate to be without include small nail clippers for cutting line, hook-tyers, disgorgers, plummets, Tipp-Ex for marking depths on my pole and flat-nosed pliers for fixing shot and crimping hook barbs. Double up on all items in case of loss.
I don’t have a problem with people using keepnets as long as they are used properly and fish have plenty of room and depth of water. I also don’t have a problem with catch shots as long as they are done quickly and efficiently.
For a catch shot, get everything set up before you take the picture. Put a weighing mat or an upside-down wet keepnet underneath the net in which the fish are held. Never photograph a catch shot on hard ground.
GROUNDBAIT OR LOOSEFEED?
Generally, the deeper or faster flowing swims often lend themselves to groundbait approaches, while shallow swims tend to be more about loose feeding.
ASK QUESTIONS, MAKE FRIENDSHIPS
Most anglers love talking fishing to other anglers. If you’re visiting a venue for the first time, talk to other anglers there and ask their advice on the place. Not only will you learn a lot quickly, but you can often forge new friendships along the way.
Now that the days are shorter, you will often find that the best catching time on rivers is during the last two hours of daylight. Don’t give up if you can’t catch up for the first couple of hours, as your day could still finish on a high!
RIGS ON WINDERS
Making rigs up at home and storing them on winders will save you loads of time on the riverbank and give you more fishing time instead.
You’ll be more inclined to change rigs to try them rather than staying on a rig you might have started with.