Martin Bowler’s Ad­ven­tures

Big or small, our run­ning wa­ter­ways have a magic all their own

Angling Times (UK) - - CONTENTS -

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.


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.

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