Dave Harrell heads to the River Trent
Try going heavier to help with your float presentation under difficult conditions…
IN AN ideal world, float anglers on rivers would always go fishing when there was little or no wind.
Even better would be a gentle upstreamer, but in truth we rarely get such conditions. In fact, on rivers like the Trent it’s rare to get anything other than a downstream wind, which brings me nicely on to my latest midweek session a couple of days ago.
I’d been trying to sort a trip out with my old pal Bob Roberts for a while, so when he rang to say he’d got a few days spare, we fixed up a day on the Trent at East Stoke.
Bob had told me about the place a while back, and I’d been looking forward to fishing there so we arranged to meet up a few days ago and give it a whirl. Before loading the car, I had a quick look at the weather app on my phone and, while we were assured of a dry and sunny day, the forecast was for strong wind, getting stronger as the afternoon went on.
I hadn’t been to the place before so I wasn’t sure in which direction the wind would be blowing. On arrival at the venue, I wasn’t surprised to see that it was gusting downstream, in the exact opposite direction to what I had hoped for!
MAPPING THE SWIM
Bob suggested we walk downriver to where there was plenty of flow down the near side. This would help our floatfishing – it was good advice. With a downstream wind on a slow-moving river it can be impossible to get any control.
We settled into a nice-looking float swim and started to learn a little about the depth contours before tackling up. Too many anglers don’t spend long enough plumbing the depth, in my opinion. For me it’s one of the most important parts of the session, as your findings will determine everything you do from then on.
We found 8ft of water three rodlengths out. This gently sloped back towards us into steadier water, but we both felt we’d need to fish into the flow in order to make float gear work properly.
“These are normally stick float swims,” Bob told me. “In perfect conditions, I’d use a 6No4 or 8No4 float, but we might be up against it today in these conditions.”
The wind was getting stronger all the time and we both thought that a waggler approach might be the way to go, should stick float tactics prove inadequate. We also thought that a Bolo rig might do the trick, so three 13ft Daiwa Tournament Pro float rods were set up, all with 0.18mm mainlines.
THE STARTING RIGS
The first rod featured a 6No4 Heavy Base stick float with strungout No8 shot spread across the bottom two-thirds of the line. The bottom No8 was positioned 10ins above the hook.
The second rod was a 4g No2 Bolo with an olivette 2ft from the hook and a No6 dropper 10ins from the hook.
The third set-up was our experimental waggler rod, because we weren’t sure what species we’d end up fishing for and what sort of presentation we’d need. For starters, I set up a 5AAA No1 Thin Speci Waggler. These floats are a bit thicker than peacock wagglers and work well in pacey water with a bit of depth. To give us options, I included eight No6 shot as well as the main locking shots. For a starting rig, I equally positioned four of these No6s plus a No8 on top of the 35cm hooklength.
All three rods featured size 16 or 18 Drennan Wide Gape hooks tied to 0.10mm or 0.12mm hooklengths. For bait we’d got four pints of casters, four of hemp and four of maggots – plus half-apint of tares for roach.
We started off by trying to make the Bolo rig work, but the gusting downstream wind soon put paid to that, and we both agreed that it wasn’t going to play a part unless the wind dropped significantly.
The Heavy Base stick float rig,
fished up to two rodlengths out, worked much better, and feeding steadily with casters and hemp, it didn’t take long to start catching small roach. A few chub up to the pound mark also took a liking to our maggot or caster hookbaits but after two hours, the only decent fish hooked and landed was a pike that grabbed a small chub!
The wind by now was blowing quite strongly into us, as well as downstream, so we decided a change of tactics was in order. The Thin Speci Waggler was swapped for a 6AAA No1 Truncheon waggler - a thicker, top-tapered float that works really well in conditions like we were faced with. The shotting was kept the same as the original waggler rig.
The change proved successful as two barbel, one of 3lb and one a pound bigger, were tricked into taking our double maggot hookbaits. A much bigger fish was then lost as the hooklength broke after a lengthy battle.
I changed to a bigger 4SSG No2 Truncheon Waggler with a size 12 Wide Gape hook tied to a 0.16mm hooklength. In the next three hours we shared a haul of 16 barbel, the biggest going over 9lb!
The day had proved to be a big success, but it was only achieved by systematically changing rigs around until we arrived at a presentation and a feeding pattern that suited the fish. If we’d stayed on the stick rig I very much doubt we would have caught the barbel. I’m also pretty sure we wouldn’t have caught anywhere near as many barbel with feeder tactics.
Over the five hours we fed a total of around six pints of bait, mostly casters and hemp. The best hookbait proved to be three big maggots – two bronzes and a red.
Next time you are faced with a downstream wind, don’t just give up and throw a feeder out. Try a big waggler and you might just be pleasantly surprised at the results!
“We thought a waggler might be the way to go if the stick wasn’t working”
Bob with the day’s best, a 9lb barbel.