Ven­tur­ing off the beaten track – Sam Merry

Shake­speare’s does his home­work and reaps the re­ward by bag­ging up on wild river fish in splen­did iso­la­tion

Improve Your Coarse Fishing (UK) - - Contents - Words Tony Grig­or­jevs Pho­tog­ra­phy Lloyd Rogers

EV­ERY river has its hotspots that are her­alded by the me­dia. For the Sev­ern it’s Bewd­ley, Colling­ham on the Trent and an­glers flock to Here­ford town cen­tre on the Wye. All of these stretches are full of fish but at this time of year they can have just as many peo­ple on the bank as your lo­cal com­mer­cial. Crowded banks are of­ten a neg­a­tive as­pect for many running wa­ter en­thu­si­asts who cite the peace and quiet in a ru­ral lo­ca­tion as one of the ma­jor rea­sons they de­vel­oped a pas­sion for rivers in the first place. If you are of that mind-set then fear not – there are hun­dreds of se­ri­ously ne­glected river stretches dot­ted across the coun­try. De­spite hav­ing healthy stocks of roach, bream, bar­bel, dace and chub, an­glers of­ten give them the cold shoul­der, un­will­ing to put in the ground­work to find a stretch that they could lit­er­ally have to them­selves for the day. Shake­speare’s Sam Merry loves the seren­ity pro­vided by nat­u­ral wa­ters and give him half a chance to visit a fish­ery where he’s the only angler for miles on end and he will be there in a flash. “I spend the vast ma­jor­ity of my time on rivers and when I am not com­pet­ing in matches I get a real buzz out of head­ing some­where off the beaten path that has the po­ten­tial to be even bet­ter than the noted stretches,” en­thused Sam. “These are truly wild fish that have, usu­ally, never been caught be­fore and the re­wards for do­ing some re­search and find­ing these zones can be bril­liant.”

Work­ing the swim

Given the choice, Sam would al­ways pre­fer to get bites from a range of sizes and species through­out the day rather than sit it out for just one big fish on the feeder. The War­wick­shire Avon has sev­eral stretches

that fit the bill and in swel­ter­ing con­di­tions that have caused many rivers to shut down, the IYCF cam­eras were brought to a stretch just out­side Bar­ford. “When it gets this hot, many venues only pro­duce first thing in the morn­ing and dur­ing the evening. There’s no doubt that the amount of pres­sure the fa­mous ar­eas get con­trib­utes to that slow­down,” he said. “But on places where the fish barely ever see a hook they seem to keep feed­ing and I’m con­fi­dent of catch­ing plenty of roach and dace with a bonus big­ger fish thrown in.” In or­der to cover plenty of wa­ter to help lo­cate the shoal, Sam went down the stick float route, set­ting up two rods for the job. The first was a light 5x4 lignum stick float with a strung out shot­ting pat­tern which was aimed at catch­ing on the drop. If tiny sil­vers be­came prob­lem­atic he would then switch to the same style of float but in a 7x4 size and have all of his shot in a strung out, yet fairly tight, bulk close to the hook­length. “This rig gets it down to the bot­tom foot of wa­ter where the big­ger fish are of­ten sat but once it gets there the gap in be­tween the shot slows the fall of the hook­bait to make it look more nat­u­ral.” Both rigs are cast with a 14ft rod to help con­trol the rig and his reel is spooled with 4lb 6oz main­line to an 0.10mm hook­length ter­mi­nat­ing in a size 18 hook.

Ver­sa­tile baits

Keep­ing a con­stant rain of bait go­ing in when fish­ing the stick is very im­por­tant. The idea is to trot your hook­bait through mo­ments be­fore you pick up the cat­a­pult, en­abling the hook­bait to then blend in with the loose­feed. “This makes it dif­fi­cult for the fish to pick out which has a hook in it and this is espe­cially im­por­tant when try­ing to catch bonus fish,” ex­plained Sam. “Even though the bar­bel and chub have prob­a­bly never been caught, they will still have some­how de­vel­oped a sixth sense for dan­ger.” Three baits come into the equa­tion – mag­gots, cast­ers and hemp.

“These are truly wild fish that have never been caught be­fore”

Mag­gots and cast­ers sink slowly and cover plenty of ground while do­ing it. Un­for­tu­nately, they even­tu­ally drift out of the peg if they aren’t in­ter­cepted by fish. Hemp, on the other hand, sinks quickly and gives any shoals of fish that ar­rive a bed of bait to graze over. “Mag­gots are best when you want to catch ev­ery­thing that swims but switch to cast­ers when you are try­ing to se­lect a big­ger stamp. “Hemp should al­ways be fed in or­der to cre­ate a car­pet on the deck,” ex­plained Sam. With the rig set at dead-depth, Sam trot­ted the float through the steadily-paced swim. Half a pouch of mag­gots fell just be­hind and the first run be­gun. The re­sults were in­stant, with small hand-sized dace im­me­di­ately show­ing an in­ter­est. “I haven’t picked this peg for any other rea­son than com­fort and it is clearly teem­ing with fish. I think I could drop in any­where on this stretch and the re­sults would be the same.” The hemp kept go­ing in but by ro­tat­ing be­tween mag­gots and cast­ers to sup­ple­ment it he re­tained a good stamp of fish, with a 3lb-plus chub the pick of the bunch in a 20lb net. “Rivers cover thou­sands of miles in the UK yet only a fairly small per­cent­age are given se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion by an­glers. “Be bold and try some­where off the beaten track and there is ev­ery chance you’ll un­cover a hid­den gem that your mates crave hav­ing a go on.”

Stick float tac­tics en­able Sam to cover a lot of wa­ter and lo­cate the fish

Mag­gots, cast­ers and hemp are all you need for trot­ting

A fairly tight strung out bulk of shot close to the hook­length gets the hook­bait down quicker

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