Fish­ing the tiny River Gade – Si­mon Wilsmore

Top match an­gler Si­mon Willsmore re-vis­its a child­hood an­gling haunt, Hert­ford­shire’s River Gade, with stun­ning re­sults to show for it

Improve Your Coarse Fishing (UK) - - Contents - Words Ben Fisk Pho­tog­ra­phy Lloyd Rogers

WIGGLING its way through Wat­ford, the tiny River Gade was one of the first places for­mer Eng­land in­ter­na­tional Si­mon Willsmore started fish­ing. At Crox­ley it runs a cou­ple of me­tres wide and mere inches deep in places. When the river is low you can see the bot­tom vir­tu­ally the en­tire way across. It’s a pop­u­lar spot for dog walk­ers, but you’ll be hard pressed to find an an­gler try­ing their luck on this venue in minia­ture. But of­ten the small­est of rivers hold the big­gest sur­prises, as Rive and Spot­ted Fin ace Si­mon re­cently dis­cov­ered af­ter a long lay­off from his child­hood fish­ing grounds. “My friends and I used to get the tube here from Har­row – we’d pile on all our bags and Efgeeco seat­boxes! It used to be packed out with an­glers and we’d think noth­ing of com­ing ev­ery day in the school hol­i­days. It was ab­so­lutely full of gud­geon. We’d catch them all day long, and the odd roach or chub if we were lucky,” he said. “Some of the best match an­glers in the South used to come and fish matches on the canal next to it, and I’d stand on the tow­path and watch them – it’s what got me into com­pe­ti­tion fish­ing. I ac­tu­ally came down here for the first time in about 30 years in the first few weeks of 2018 to fish with a float rod for a few hours. “I wasn’t re­ally ex­pect­ing to catch much but I had some lovely dace and a cou­ple of perch up to a pound. There’s plenty of po­ten­tial in the Gade and I’ve heard there are some de­cent chub to be caught too,” he re­vealed. Catch­ing a small river like this ‘right’ is para­mount to a good day’s fish­ing. As Lady Luck would have it, the Gade was in per­fect con­di­tion for Si­mon’s visit in front of the IYCF cam­eras. It car­ried a tinge of colour, not so much that it was run­ning choco­late, but enough to give fish the con­fi­dence to feed. And with a clear, bright day fore­cast, any­thing which would help to ob­scure the pres­ence of Si­mon was al­ways go­ing to help mat­ters on such a small, in­ti­mate venue.

This isn’t the sort of place you need to cart a full set of match gear to, he pointed out. In fact, it pays to travel light so you can move swims eas­ily. And although Si­mon had set up his seat­box, he’d brought pre­cious lit­tle else with it, just a ready rod bag and a bait waiter. “I wouldn’t ex­pect to catch from a sin­gle swim all day be­cause the river just isn’t big enough! If there’s a shoal of fish in front of you you’ll get bites quickly. I’d ex­pect to catch them for two hours or so be­fore it goes quiet, then it’s time to move on. You could even wan­der around with a feeder rod and fish a bit of bread on a link leger as there are quite a few chub in here,” he said. Tac­tics-wise, it was a sim­ple ap­proach for Si­mon. A 6m whip to hand and a match rod hous­ing a stick float had been as­sem­bled to tackle the swim. It was a 2ft 6in deep run di­rectly be­low a dis­used foot­bridge, be­fore the river nar­rowed to a bot­tle­neck of reed beds ei­ther side. His bait menu sim­ply com­prised a three-pint tub full of red and white mag­gots. Try­ing to keep dis­tur­bance to a min­i­mum, he be­gan on his whip to hand. A hand­ful of mag­gots went in slightly down­stream, and with a deft un­der­arm flick his 0.5g pole float went sail­ing out about three-quar­ters of the way across. Si­mon kept the line in check be­hind the pim­ple of his float top, to con­trol it down the swim, and on his third run down it shot out of view. A swift strike was met with a sig­nif­i­cant ‘clonk’ as the flick tip end of the car­bon con­nected with a half-de­cent sil­ver fish. A spritely 3oz dace was per­suaded up­river be­fore com­ing to hand. And it wasn’t alone. Keep­ing the mag­gots go­ing in, he en­joyed a string of bites as a se­ries of dace pro­vided great sport, while the oc­ca­sional roach or chublet added va­ri­ety. “Some of the dace are 6oz apiece. There aren’t many rivers where you can go and catch fish like this any more. The Gade here is di­rectly linked to the Grand Union Canal, so there could be

“It made a bee­line for the reeds, forc­ing Si­mon to take eva­sive ac­tion”

any­thing swim­ming around in here, prob­a­bly even bar­bel and carp. There was ac­tu­ally a 20lb stur­geon caught in the canal not far from here. “It’s nice to be able to fish a whip for a change too. The fish are in­ter­cept­ing the mag­gots in a 6ft area slightly down­stream of where the bait is land­ing. Be­cause the shoal is in reach of a whip it’s the most ef­fi­cient way of catch­ing them. If they back off fur­ther down­stream then I’ve got the stick­float set up ready,” added Si­mon. Af­ter an hour or so bites be­came fewer and far­ther be­tween, just as Si­mon pre­dicted. Strug­gling to re­tain his blis­ter­ing early pace, he picked up his match rod. Faced with a shal­low swim and a min­i­mal cast re­quired, there was no need for a big float. A tiny 4 x 4 orig­i­nal John Aller­ton al­loy float had been se­lected and his shot­ting pat­tern was al­most iden­ti­cal to his pole rig. A bulk shot of No.8s were se­cured a third of the way down the line, to­gether with three equally-spaced drop­per shot of the same size be­neath, lead­ing to the hook­length con­nec­tion. A few more fish fol­lowed, be­fore a lull in ac­tiv­ity. Si­mon kept the mag­gots go­ing in, how­ever, as a lot of the dace he had been catch­ing had mouths crammed full of his grubs. Sud­denly a bite close to the far- bank reeds saw some­thing much big­ger hooked. A few shakes of the head and it made a bee­line for the reeds, forc­ing Si­mon to take eva­sive ac­tion with some se­ri­ous side strain. “Chub,” he an­nounced. It was at times like this that he was glad that he’d tack­led up with a 4lb (0.14mm) hook­length, his rea­son­ing be­ing that these un­pres­surised fish would not be hook- or line-shy. Ev­ery­thing held and a 2lb chub came up for a gulp of air be­fore be­ing grate­fully re­ceived by his land­ing net. Si­mon ended the three-hour ses­sion on the whip, mind­ful that there wasn’t much more for the nar­row peg to give. Un­for­tu­nately he also lost a big roach which threw the hook, but the qual­ity of fish al­ready in the keep­net more than made up for this late blip. “When you haven’t time to spend a whole day on the bank, a short ses­sion on your lo­cal mini river is a great way to get a quick fish­ing fix. You can have a bag of fish in the net by lunchtime for the price of a few pints of mag­gots. There are plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties like this all around the coun­try, so never dis­count a venue, no mat­ter how small it is!” said a happy Si­mon. With a near-dou­ble-fig­ure catch of qual­ity sil­ver glis­ten­ing in the early af­ter­noon sun­shine, small river fish­ing rarely gets any bet­ter than this!

Si­mon used rel­a­tively strong tackle as the un­pres­sured fish wouldn’t be hook or line shy

Si­mon’s tackle

Rod: Rive Whip: Milo 6m Main­line:

0.16mm Rive Power Rig Hook­length:

0.14mm Rive Hook­length Hook: Size 16 and 18 P132 Floats: 4x4 John Aller­ton Stick and Bal­labini 0.5g

Fish­ing a whip to hand is ideal for catch­ing sil­vers on small rivers

Reg­u­lar feed­ing of mag­gots pro­duced a string of dace

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