Wag­gler wis­dom

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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.

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