Rivers teeming with fish often look superb in summer but catching can be a little tricky. Mark Pollard reveals his cool tricks for hot water success
Mark Pollard demonstrates how to bag up from clear, shallow rivers using simple waggler tactics.
WALK along the banks of your favourite small waterway and it’s hard to miss the activity beneath the surface, with fish of all sizes dancing between the streamer weed as they struggle to disguise themselves in the crystal clear water. The sight of such large numbers of fish will undoubtedly give you an irresistible urge to wet a line but catching these easily spooked barbel, chub and silvers can provide a tricky challenge. Get your approach wrong and hours of frustration lie ahead, but get it right and you’ll soon be the envy of all your angling mates. Dynamite Baits and Matrix-backed angler Mark Pollard is a true all-rounder but having spent most of the closed season plundering his local commercials, he has been enjoying pitting his wits against the shoals in his local stretch of the Great Ouse in recent weeks. “The Kempston stretch is really shallow and standing there for a few minutes you’ll be amazed at the number of fish,” explained Mark. “Over the years I have found that certain tactics will get you a bite every single chuck while others will scare off every fish in the river for miles around!”
Spot an overhanging tree that a huge shoal of dace are basking under or a clump of reeds that a big chub keeps investigating, and it would be so tempting to plonk your seatbox down right in front of the fish-holding feature. But minutes after unloading your tackle the fish will have mysteriously vanished. “I will always place my box well upstream of where I eventually want to catch the fish. If you sit right on top of them they will definitely move off elsewhere so it is better to try and catch them from further away. “It is important to make sure that the area between where you are sitting and where you intend to get the bites is free of large snags and obstructions because you will need a clear area.”
Leave the pole alone
Floatfishing rules supreme on this type of water in the heat of summer although the pole is rarely effective. Waving a long length of carbon over the top of the shoal will instantly spook them, so a waggler is the better option. “I like to run the float through the swim, allowing the current to push it through to make the hookbait move at a natural pace. “A swim that is fairly slow moving will enable you to have full control of how the float trots. I always leave the bail arm open and this enables me to let the float run as far as I want, while also giving me the option of placing my finger on the spool every now and then to stop the rig. “It pays to experiment with how much you stop the rig moving but, in my experience, the biggest fish often turn up when the rig has come to a standstill for a moment. A 3g or 4g loaded waggler that is locked in place by two float stops provides the best control on small rivers, with 4lb mainline through to an 0.10mm Matrix Power Micron hooklength and a size 18 hook.
Maggots and casters are the best bet when silverfish and bonus chub are on the agenda but randomly chucking them into the river is a surefire way of dispersing the shoals. “You have to keep feeding if you want the fish to feed confidently but it is important that you do it right. “I let my rig start running through the swim and aim to have my loosefeed land a couple of metres behind the float. It will catch up with your hookbait at the point of where you are trying to get a bite, making your rig look a lot less suspicious to the fish.” Although Mark likes to feed every time he runs the rig through the swim, he only introduces around 10 freebies each time. “I want to feed the fish just enough so that they will start to compete but, at the same time, I need them to find my hookbait quickly so that I get a bite each time the rig runs through. “If I fed directly on top of my float it would quickly take the fish further downstream and they’d soon be out of range and in someone else’s peg. When it comes to hookbait choice the size and species you are targeting plays a big part although triple maggot or caster is a winner when you are trying to fend off small fish, while a single maggot works best when you are happy catching fish of all sizes.
With the sun sitting high in the sky and sweat dripping off our brows at 11am, it was never going to be ideal for any type of fishing. The clear water helped Mark spot the fish easily and he soon knew they would be willing to feed, with each and every maggot being hoovered up before they reached the bottom. “I’ve got to make sure I don’t disturb them early on or that could spell disaster.” Setting up around 15m from where the fish were gathered, he was soon in action with Mark choosing to catch everything that swims instead of waiting for the bigger specimens. The action never let up in four hours, with double figures, of dace, chublets and the odd roach and perch going into the net on a day when most wouldn’t have fancied their chances. “Our rivers are in the best condition they have been for years and you can put together a huge net of fish in summer,” concluded Mark.
It’s important to set-up some distance away from where you hope to connect with fish
A hook buried in a caster (left) or two maggots mounted top-and-tail (right) are great summer baits
Leave the bale arm open to enable your rig and hookbait to trot through at a natural pace A double figure net of silvers made for an enjoyable day Feeding the right amount of loosefeed accurately is key