Bait Fishing in Rivers – Tips and Advice
In an ideal world, you'd want to start fishing where you can actually see decent fish of the sort you want to catch. However, let's presume this isn't the case, so where on earth do you begin?
The major factors to consider when reading a river are the strength and direction of the current, the depth, the amount of cover and the make-up of the riverbed. Most species of fish like to hang where the current is neither too strong nor too slow, where there's a fair amount of water to cover their backs, where they can find shelter from predators, and where there is clean gravel or sand over which they can find food easily.
Once again, though, let's look at some typical river hotspots and discuss some of the best approaches to fish them. Above all, anglers -and fish, fortunately — are attracted to mill pools or weir pools where foaming, well-oxygenated, water tumbles over the sill. There's no doubt that fish welcome this freshening of their environment, especially in summer. And when you have low, hot conditions, you will find big populations amassing.
But how do you fish a mill pool? There are various areas to concentrate on: try right in the quick, foaming, white water for roach, chub or barbel. Where the current steadies up a bit, but there is still a lot of depth, is an ideal haunt for bream. As the mill pool shallows and glides into its traditional riverbed, it produces streamy, gravely water, often with abundant weed — perfect once again for barbel and chub.
Fishing The Crease
Bends nearly always attract fish, especially on typical lowland rivers that have been dredged in the past and offer few features. They're also very attractive in the winter, especially when the river is in Hood. Look for what anglers call the crease — that's where the current is separated from the slack water that all bends produce. You'll actually see where the fast and slow water meet — there is a real dividing line. This is the crease where chub and roach especially love to hang. Here, they can move in and out of the current, sometimes intercepting food, sometimes deciding to rest. One of the best methods of fishing is a very light ledger. Alternatively, and much more enjoyable, is to float fish using a decent-sized stick float that trundles a bait around the bottom, just a little bit slower than the river is moving. Once again, bread is a good bait, this time pinched on a smaller hook, say a size 10. A bunch of two or three maggots also works well. Dribble in loose feed — a few pieces of bread, say, every five minutes or so, or a dozen or so maggots every cast. Bites are very distinct.
Fishing with Bread
It's often worth taking a large unsliced loaf to one of the long, featureless straights on your river. At first, this stretch of water may not look very promising. Start, however, pulling small pieces of crust from the loaf and throwing them out into mid river. Watch carefully as they float off down stream. If there's a chub population about, there is a good chance that the fish will be attracted up in a few minutes after 10 or so crusts have drifted over their heads. You will soon see action - bow waves, big splashes, loud sucks. It's exciting stuff, and all you need to do is put a matchbox-sized piece of crust on a size 4 hook, wet it just a little, and then flick it underarm out into the current. Let it float down naturally until you see it engulfed. Don't strike immediately or you'll pull the bait out of the chub's lips - wait for the line to draw tight.
Chub at Long Range
I'd seen a group of chub at long range, under a line of alder trees. The dense branches meant that I couldn't get close to the fish and swing a bait through to them. So I was forced a long way upstream -about 60 yards — and had to devise a way of getting a bait down there. A very big float was needed. It had to be big to support a large bait that would be easily visible. I used a long-rod of around 13 feet (4m) and line of about 5 pounds breaking strain. Strong line is vital when you're trying to bring a big fish back against the flow of a river.
It's a good idea to throw in a few samples of the bait first, to bring the chub out from under the tree branches or other snags. So, the plan was set...
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