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
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.
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