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and Ian showed me photos of an 18-pounder that he had caught last winter at Beccles, on a mackerel tail.
I figured that a ‘sleeper’ pike rod, set on an alarm just upstream of my roach swim, was worth trying. ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained,’ as the old saying goes.
Ian's rig featured a 5AAA waggler on 2.6 lb main line and a 0.10 mm hook length bearing a size 18 Drennan Carbon Match hook.
Even with the river low and running out, there’s 7 ft of water down the middle, so he added eight No.8 shot down the line, six in a slightly spread bulk, at mid to two-thirds depth, and two droppers further down.
Unusually in the modern era, Ian not only makes his own wagglers, but also prefers sarkanda reed to peacock quill for their construction, because it is a straighter and slimmer.
After every cast, he fed a pouchful of hemp and casters. Amounts would vary according to how the fish responded as the session progressed, with more hemp fed on a good day.
Making regular depth and shotting adjustments, to match the falling depth, Ian alternated caster and maggot on the hook, catching roach in the 2-8 oz range in fits and starts over the first two hours.
The tares and sweetcorn on his bait tray, both radical winter roach hook baits, remained unused. Ian was keeping his
‘big guns’ back until the tide turned, when he’d also consider stepping up hook size to a 16 if the response was good.
Meanwhile, my own progress had been slower. I’d gone for a slightly heavier 3SSG peacock waggler with just four No.8s equally spread from float to hook. Feed, hook size and hook baits were identical to Ian’s.
My first fish was a 4 oz roach, followed by a few smaller redfins, a dace and a 4 oz perch. But all too soon my bites dried up, and after hooking a swan mussel, I sussed I was fishing too deep.
After shallowing up, bites returned, and a purple patch brought me four roach in six trots, including a 12 oz beauty.
Mindful of the need to take some photographs, I reluctantly hung up the waggler and wound in my motionless pike rod. The rain had stopped, the light was far better, and Ian’s prediction of better sport on the flood tide was a tasty prospect.
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1Ian leaves a 1 cm gap between his waggler’s locking shot. “The rig hangs straighter in the water, and you hit more bites,” he declares.