Dave Harrell How bait presentation will get you more bites on the rivers
It’s all about presenting the hookbait exactly how the fish want it on the day…
ILOVE the fact that in river fishing every day is different.
What was a poor swim a couple of months ago might be a flyer now, so never totally disregard a swim that you might have failed from in the past.
My latest midweek coaching session with James Brewer illustrated this point perfectly. We fished together on the downstream Eign section of the Wye below Hereford and James had told me on the phone that while he’d caught a few barbel on the feeder, he’d never caught one on float gear.
I arranged to meet him on this stretch, from which I’ve had some very big catches of chub and barbel here. As it’s fairly shallow, it lends itself perfectly to float tactics.
We started off just below the railway bridge on a swim that ran down to a ford and I set up two rigs for starters. Both rods were 13ft Daiwa Tournament Pros with prototype 0.20mm main lines. On the first I set up a 5AAA DH No1 Truncheon Waggler with most of the shot around the float and just two No6 shots down the line. On the other went a 4g DH No3 Bolo with an olivette on top of the 35cm hooklength and no drop shot.
Hooks in both cases were size 14 Drennan Wide Gape models, tied to 0.15mm line.
Bait-wise, we’d got plenty of choices – two 2kg bags of Bait-Tech fishmeal carp pellets in 4mm and 6mm, two pints of casters, four of hemp and two of maggots.
A gentle upstream breeze helped a lot with presentation and during the first couple of hours James landed three barbel to 7lb and two decent chub on a banded 6mm pellet – but the sun blazing down on a very clear river I suspected things were likely to get harder. over the next few hours.
A few small chub followed on a maggot hookbait, but it was clear that despite having achieved James’ wish of catching a barbel on float gear, we were heading towards a difficult afternoon.
I decided a change of swim was in order and we moved downstream into some much faster water. I explained to James that I had last fished here a year ago and failed, but had always thought that it would be a good swim on certain days, so it might be worth a try.
The flow on this swim was really fast and the deepest water was close in at 3ft to 4ft. For starters I set up a 6g DH Balsa Missile with an olivette and no drop shot.
A size 12 Wide Gape hook was all that was needed as a dropper in the shallow water and it wasn’t long before James was into his first fish, a 4lb barbel, from this new swim.
We experimented with an even bigger 8g float, overshotting by as much as an extra 2g and backwinding the rig down the swim. This brought some more barbel, with one fish going around 6lb, together with a couple of 3lb chub.
Backwinding an overshotted rig with the bail-arm closed is a great way to catch barbel, as everything is so direct to the hookbait. Sometimes, the fish take the
bait so viciously that they hook themselves before you even get time to strike!
Feeding with the 4mm and 6mm fishmeal pellets, we continued to catch the odd fish for the next couple of hours on both pellet and maggot hookbaits, but I felt we needed a change of rig again as bites were slowing down.
Instead of using a big heavily bulked rig I decided on a much lighter approach in the form of an 8No4 DH Shallow Water Stick with strung-out, closely spaced No4 shot.
By casting this rig over the main flow and into slightly steadier water I thought there might be a chance to pick up more chub.
I had a feeling the rig might work better than the bulk rig, and how right the hunch proved to be. The next two hours saw James land more than 80lb of chub to 4lb 8oz and barbel to 7lb!
It had eventually turned into a red letter day but it would have been so easy to stay on the bulk rig, which seemed right for the swim, and not realise how much better a much more lightly shotted float could be.
It was a lesson in the importance of having an open mind and experimenting until the correct presentation is arrived at.
Feeding was also crucial. As the fish started to really have a go, we increased the amount of pellets and by the end of the session we’d fed around 3kg in total, which is a lot for a river.
James had achieved his ambition and taken his best-ever river catch at the same time. What a day!
James lands his first river barbel on float tackle.
As we approach autumn, chub are starting to feed well.