Martin Bowler’s Adventures
Big or small, our running waterways have a magic all their own
How to have your best start of season... ever!
WITH the ‘Glorious 16th’ days away, adrenaline is coursing through my veins faster than a river in spate.
After so much early-spring rain to refresh the aquifers no amount of sun can shrink our waterways before the great day. In late May I watched the barbel and chub spawn and now they’re hungry, patiently waiting for our bait.
The special day when we can once again fish our rivers is part of our angling heritage, so why abandon it?
If there were no closed season, would more anglers suddenly appear on the banks?
That won’t happen. If anything, those who choose to fish in spring will hang up their rods as winter approaches, leaving the tackle trade in an even more parlous state. However, some people with vested interests would still love to destroy our heritage for their own selfish gains!
I say this as a man who would stand to benefit from the abolition of the closed season, as supplying magazine articles when I can’t coarse fish rivers for three months is far from easy.
I think the spirit and soul of our sport should take precedence, and unlike those purporting to represent the majority I won’t get splinters sitting on the fence. “Leave well alone!” I say.
Time now to step off the soapbox and look forward to shoals of barbel and chub flashing over gravel runs between beds of lush green streamer weed.
The dream of a rod-tip smashing over following a carefully-placed cast is close at hand, and here’s how I will be fishing…
The big hitters among rivers are the Wye, Severn and Trent, while lesser waterways include the Avon, Stour and Teme. Equipment and tactics I’ll cover presently, but for both, fishmeal is the bait, in both pellet and boilie form.
For a larger venue I will start with a Drennan Big River rod and freespool reel loaded with
incredibly robust 15lb Syncro XT. Finesse in terms of tackle and feeding is not required, so I’ll make up a heavy groundbait from fishmeal and Sticky’s Active Mix to bind up pellets, boilies and a little hemp.
A dozen tangerine-sized balls will ring the dinner gong. This is a far better way to introduce bait than via a bait dropper, which isn’t suitable anywhere other than under the rod-tip.
Once a bed of feed has been laid
down I will keep topping it up with a feeder, in particular the devastating Method. The trick is to make a mix that binds to the frame and can withstand the flow for 15-20 minutes, forcing the fish on to it.
Quite often, before a bite, the rod-tip will bang as the barbel and chub try to dislodge the pellets. The moment the payload has gone I will recast, otherwise my quarry will quickly drop back downstream to await the next meal. To achieve a perfect Method every time I use the largest Drennan version and its mould.
For a hooklength I like micro braid, and I always stick the pellet or boilie hookbait into the groundbait to prevent tangles. Depending on the size of bait an E-S-P Gripper or Super Specialist Barbel hook will cover everything.
Last year, when I felt fish were wising up, I found the pellet cone useful and I will be using it again this season. Pellets are scooped in and plugged with Krill Active Mix. I use a long 12lb Supplex hooklength tied to a size 12 Super Feed crushed boilies on small rivers.
Specialist Barbel hook and a small pellet. This sits way down the swim and, as the pellets slowly exit the cone, my hookbait is the first morsel to be found.
On smaller rivers I will probably begin with six bait dropper loads of crushed boilies, pellets and hemp and allow these to stew for at least an hour to build up the fish’s confidence. The rod is from the same range, but with a lighter test curve, and the reel will hold 15lb fluorocarbon.
The rig starts with a back lead clipped on to a link bead and trapped between two float stops. The main lead, generally 6ft Wrap boilies in paste for an added edge.
further down, will be semi-fixed in exactly the same way. The fluorocarbon passes through unknotted to create the first three-quarters of the hooklength.
A size 11 E-S-P Uni Link Swivel is blood-knotted on, followed by 2ins-3ins inches of fine braid and a size 10-14 Super Specialist barbel hook attached via a knotless knot.
This will also hold the bait, generally a boilie, and often with a paste wrap for added attraction.
FIND YOUR FISH
Where will the fish be? In midJune I seek out areas of maximum flow – weir pools and their tails, or something a little more subtle. Where a river narrows or shallows the flow increases, as it does on bends. Here the current swaps sides and hits the bank, carving out overhangs and keeping silt at bay. This is where chub and barbel will be waiting for you.
June 16th is a special occasion that I hope to enjoy for years to come, and with luck you, too, will have memories to cherish when the season opens – best fishes!
June 16 is a magical time – let’s keep it so.
The Method works for big-river barbel.
I can’t wait for my first barbel of the season.
Supplex, the ideal big-river hooklength.
Boilies and pellets are big-river staples.