Low, clear and full of weed – summer rivers can be tricky places at the best of times.
The fish are spooky, and will often sit out of sight. However, do it right and the results can be breathtaking, as Garbolino UK boss Darren Cox proved recently on the Warwickshire Avon, where he landed two barbel for 22lb in a match.
We caught up with Darren for his tips on how best to approach these challenging waterways, right now.
“When the temperatures are high the fish will be looking for oxygenated water, so weirs, rapids and shallow areas are the places to target.
“I always like to fish over gravel if I can, as fish seem to prefer lying over it, and anything that gives the fish cover is great to target.
“Features such as trees, weed or reeds are always good to look out for. On the day of the match I drew a peg that was very weedy and snaggy, which was why the fish were there.
“The first barbel I had, a fish of 11lb 14oz, snagged me up four times during the fight, but by using the correct tackle I managed to land it.”
“Most barbel anglers opt for quite a pokey rod up to a test curve of around 2.25lb and 15lb line. However, I much prefer something softer. During the match I used 6lb Maxima mainline and an 0.23mm hooklength.
“While 6lb Maxima will break at much more than 6lb, the soft rod I use in conjunction with this tackle is one of the most important parts of my set-up.
“I actually think this is better for playing barbel on, as it absorbs the lunges of the fish much better than something stiffer does.
“It may seem under-gunned, but the fact that I landed two double-figure barbel and didn’t lose a fish in such a snaggy swim shows that the gear is up to the job.”
“On the day of the match I set up both a float and a tip rod, but the river was pushing through too quickly and was a bit too weedy to run a float through nicely.
“I caught the larger barbel on a feeder, and after getting a few line bites I knew there was something substantial in the swim. It’s always worth setting the float up, though, as it’s a great way to present your bait when the pace is right.
“Even if you don’t catch on the float it’s still a great way to search the swim, as you can find out where the fish are lying.
“A dome-topped balsa float is my preferred option when fishing for big fish with large baits, and I’ll often lay two feet of line on the deck so that I can really drag my hookbait through the swim.
“If you have a large snag in your swim it’s always best to try and draw the fish away from it with feed – however, sometimes this just isn’t possible.
“On such occasions, you have to be prepared to go right into the lion’s den!”
Choice of Bait
One of the biggest problems on summer rivers can be the large shoals of tiny fish such as bleak.
These can destroy your hookbaits, so you want to be using something that excludes these species.
Hemp and casters are a great all-round option, but if you’re going specifically for roach and chub then tares are a favourite of mine. During the match I fed four pints of hemp and casters, as well as a cubed tin of Mainline Match Spicy Brown meat.
The benefit of feeding the meat is that I know that this bait will reach the bottom through all the small fish, which will leave something for the bigger fish to eat when they move into the swim.