How to float fish fast rivers for chub and barbel

Wye ace Hadrian Whittle shares his advice for fishing shallow river stretches on the float

How to float fish fast rivers for chub and barbel

by Angling Times |

A KEY feature of early season river fishing is rain, or rather the lack of it. Venues run low, clear and sluggish – far from ideal conditions.

But one thing about rivers remains true – if you can find the flow, you’ll find the fish.

Whatever type of peg you fish, there’ll be some flow and you should go straight for goal in this situation, basing your attack around where the current is the swiftest.

Flow means oxygenated water, something fish will be in desperate need of in warm weather, and it makes the fishing a whole lot easier too!

Even powerful rivers such as my local River Wye can suffer from lack of current, and some swims offer you just a narrow run to go at, but the fish will be there, packed into that pacey water. This makes where to fish an easy decision.

Where that flow will be can vary depending on the swim – it could be under your feet or right across near the far bank – but what’s more important is the depth.

A minimum of 2ft is enough to work with and, in an ideal world, I’d want the peg to be shallow at the head of the swim, dropping off into deeper water with an even depth to run the float down. This is where the water will pick up speed and oxygen levels will be high – the perfect place to fish.

Even better is far-bank cover close to the faster water. Barbel, and especially chub, will pack in here when the water is clear, hiding away beneath overhanging trees or close to reed beds. These are obvious spots to target. Regular feeding will coax them out and make them catchable.

Catching barbel on a float is exciting stuff!!
Catching barbel on a float is exciting stuff!!

It’s a busy way of fishing that’s more suited to the float than the feeder, trundling the bait at full speed down the deeper run. A waggler is better than a top-and-bottom float for the job. It’s also very exciting, seeing the float bury and connecting with a big hard-fighting fish battling in the main flow!

However, even though the main flow may be where the bulk of the fish are, that doesn’t mean you’ll catch all day from here. A rest will be needed, as chub and barbel eventually wise up after a few of their mates have been caught.

Coming off this line for half-an-hour, but keeping the feed going in, can make an amazing difference and a bite is almost guaranteed on that first cast back into the main flow.

This means a second line is needed elsewhere in the swim, not necessarily one that’s going to give you a lot of fish, but just the odd one here and there. I’d still look for an area with flow, albeit of a reduced pace, that’s far enough away from the main line, and feed it the same way.

Big catches of both chub and barbel can be taken on the float!
Big catches of both chub and barbel can be taken on the float!

Hadrian’s top tips for fast water

Waggler is best

A waggler gives top presentation. A 2SSG float casts well and accurately.

Waggler is best
Waggler is best

Use serious gear!

Mainline is 6lb to a 0.18mm hooklength and a size 12-14 Drennan Carbon Feeder hook.

Use serious gear!
Use serious gear!

Rely on maggots

Three maggots are my favourite, followed by corn, meat and 8mm hard pellets.

Rely on maggots
Rely on maggots

Take lots of bait

Take eight pints of hemp and caster or hemp and maggot, plus corn and 4mm halibuts.

Take lots of bait
Take lots of bait

Playing fish

Keep the rod low until fish are away from cover then raise it to get them on the surface. I play them off the reel’s backwind.

Playing fish
Playing fish
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