Top 10 river fishing tips with Dave Harrell

This season I think we’ll be in for some very good fishing, now that most of our rivers have received a welcome flush through of water. If you’ve not been on a river for a while, why not do yourself a favour and get out there? I think you might well be pleasantly surprised at what’s on offer. Here are a few ideas to point you in the right direction…


1) Target barbel 

Over the next few months I’ll be setting some days aside to go on the Trent, Severn and Wye, and I’m hoping to beat my personal best fish of 13lb 12oz which fell to feeder-fished halibut pellets. I’ve had float-caught specimens to 12lb-plus, so fingers crossed I’ll have a new personal best soon!


2) Target bream

Bream shoal up at this time of the year and if you drop on them you could be in for a bonanza of a day! 

The very best way is with an open-end groundbait feeder and worms.

Keep the feeder going in regularly every few minutes for the first hour then leave it in a bit longer as each hour goes by. I normally start with a 3ft tail, then shorten if I’m getting a lot of bites, or lengthen it by a foot or two if not many bites are forthcoming. 


3) Target perch

We’re entering a period of the season now that is possibly the best time for big perch. All rivers seem to now hold good stocks of these fish, and there are some specimen-sized lumps there for the taking. 

My favourite way to catch them is with pole gear and a lobworm on the hook. Feed the swim with a bait dropper filled with chopped worm
and caster. 


4) Try a pole 

A long pole gives you perfect presentation and puts you back in the same place every time. Used in conjunction with hollow elastics, it’s possible to land very big fish on one too. 

This season I’ve had barbel to nearly 10lb on pole gear, and while I’m not advocating that everyone switches to a pole for that species, it does go to show what is achievable. 

5) Target chub

At this time of year, try floatfishing for chub off the bottom with waggler gear.

I’ve had loads of big weights in autumn by fishing 4ft to 6ft deep with just a couple of No8 shot down the line and using single or double maggot on the hook. 

Remember, though, you have to keep the feed going in regularly and make sure that your hookbait is dropping through the feed.   


6) Use bigger floats 

To conquer the flow you might need to fish quite heavy sticks, Bolos and wagglers. A 6g or 8g float should be used with at least a 4lb mainline, possibly even heavier if there are a lot of big fish in the swim.

7) Target roach 

Good nets of roach are being caught all over the country at present. You can target them in so many ways, but the best way to my mind is with float gear. 

Seed baits have been working well lately, but with lowering air and water temperatures I’d recommend you put your faith in maggots and casters over the next couple of months. 

8) Check river levels 

There’s nothing worse than turning up at a river only to find it high and coloured. 

You can aviod this by visiting the Environment Agency website. Enter the river and area you intend to fish and the latest levels will be revealed. Here’s the link:

9) Try a whip 

With a long whip you know you are fishing in the same spot every run down. Keep the feed going in and you can end up with a lot of fish in front of you that are fairly easy to catch. I elasticate my tips with hollow elastic, providing a buffer against snap-offs if you hook a big fish.  


10) Try different baits

We can all get set in our ways when it comes to baits, but one thing I have noticed over the past few years is that maggots and casters in the feeder seem to catch a lot more barbel and chub than pellets. 

You’ll need to fish a river that is fairly clear to achieve the best results with these baits, but they’re well worth trying if you’re struggling to catch on pellets.