How to tackle early-season rivers

Dave Harrell shows you how to match reality to dreams


by Angling Times |

The first few weeks of the river fishing season never quite match our expectations. Fish can still be spawning, and a lack of rain means clear water, weed and sluggish flows.

With a bit of thought, though, there’s no need to return home with the hump. Careful swim selection, fishing the right tactics and targeting the most viable species, means there’s no reason why your first few sessions on the river shouldn’t be productive.

Here's how I approach it...

Fish a buoyant float

On big rivers, sensitivity of the rig isn’t important – buoyancy of the float is. You could be dragging bottom, so you want something that won’t get pulled under. A No2 or No3 DH Speci Waggler is perfect.

When to fish a feeder

If we’re lucky enough to get some rain that puts colour into the river, this is when the feeder will work. The feeder relies more on scent, so I’d fish a pungent groundbait with pellets for barbel and bream.

Land what you hook

There’s every chance of a barbel or big chub, so your tackle needs to be strong. In the pacey water, I’d go big with lines, fishing 7lb Pro Match direct to a size 14 or 12 Animal Spade hook.

Don’t stop feeding

This is critical – even if you’re not catching, you have to keep loosefeeding, and can easily go through six pints of bait. Cheaper feeds like hemp are best, although I’d also have some maggots with me.

Go for pellets

Chub and barbel are tuned into pellets, and firing in 4mm pellets while fishing a 6mm on the hook has given me great days. They’re also small fish-proof, whereas maggots would only get smashed by them.

Earn your stripes

On really hard days, perch may be the only fish feeding – they’re very obliging and they run big too. Look for deeper, steadier water close to any cover, fishing the pole with worms and red maggots.

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