I knew that only being able to pole fish for this feature on the Thames might prove a bit restricting in all honesty, because matches here are often won with a mix of tactics. However, I was determined to make the pole-only approach work for me on a pleasure session. So I was up with the sparrows and when I arrived it was still semi-dark, with dawn just breaking and a swirling, nicely atmospheric mist rising from the water and a few fish topping, so prospects of a productive time ahead were looking good!
I began to set up on Peg 23 because I knew it had a nice gravel bottom and some recent good form in matches held on the river.
As the light began to arrive I could see how clear the water was due to the lack of rain, and with the varying pace of the flow due to locks on the river, I decided to fish the flat float simply because it is so versatile. I'll be perfectly honest here and say that I do not use this method much these days due to fishing commercials much more, but I have had some really good sessions and matches using the flat float on the Thames and the River Cam.
I set my platform out in the margins to access deeper water for the keepnet and allow me to fish comfortably with the long pole. It's always worth spending a fair bit of time getting a platform set right... a disaster is only a turn of a locking screw away!
Once settled and set up, the first task was to plumb the depth. This is critical because it allows me to set the shotting correctly to make the whole rig work efficiently, so I spend time getting it bang on. Plumbing up revealed a large drop-off to around 10 feet deep at 11 metres out, so I set up two floats from the Cralusso range: a 2g Torpedo and a 3g Shark.
Ring that dinner bell! “Doosh!”
I know the pace of the Thames varies a lot here, changing maybe due to locks opening and closing nearby, but I knew that the flat floats would help me adjust to that with ease. The Shark would be for holding back really hard, for example, or even still if the flow was too much for the Torpedo.
These floats are very versatile and surprisingly sensitive for their size, and can be used for running through at the river's pace, inching the bait through or holding still, all by adjusting the amount of shot you add. I always use a running olivette with Stotz either side of it with a small gap to act as a sort of bolt-rig effect on bites. An olivette of three-quarters of the full-capacity float is used, and I add dropper shot to trim the antenna as necessary. I used a 12in hooklength resting on the clear bottom, and started with the olivette set around two feet from the hook. The position of the olivette does vary from venue to venue. For example, on the Cam I have it six inches from the hook to 'bomb' it through the weed.
Anyway, my aim was to catch roach and dace, with the possibility of a bonus bream or large perch, so I decided to throw in eight big balls of groundbait at the start, laced with hemp and casters. It may seem a substantial opening gambit, but consider the scale of this huge river and it's a drop in the ocean really!
My choice of groundbait was Marukyu EFG 170. I find this a really good silver fish groundbait; it always seems to spark off a feeding frenzy. I also added soil to darken it down and add extra 'doosh'. Doosh is the noise you must get when the groundbait goes in, so you know it's getting to the bottom in a solid ball, which is important on rivers. I wanted a large base on the deck forming a dark cloud as it breaks up to hopefully bring the fish from downstream onto my feed area without feeding them too much. I mix groundbait and soil until I am happy that it will stay in a firm ball, then add hemp and casters when making the balls by putting a large amount in one hand, placing a quantity of particles on top of it. Then I put a lot more groundbait on top and form the ball. Effectively, this gets the loose offerings inside the ball to get them down to the bottom rather than possibly coming out on the way down and drifting downstream. I did not want to loose feed if possible, certainly at first, because I was trying to avoid bringing the smaller fish up in the water and having them intercept my hook bait on the way down.
On the 2g rig, I selected Middy Hi-Viz Solid 4 to 6 elastic with 0.14 main line to 0.10 and a size 20 Silverfish microbarbed hook, and Middy Hi-Viz Solid 6 to 8 on the 3g rig with the same lines.
After the initial feed, on the first run through on the Torpedo at the pace of the river with single red maggot on the hook, the float buried, resulting in a 3oz roach, followed by further roach and dace for around 20 minutes every run through. Then things began to slow!
What quality redfin can resist a well-presented double red maggot?
I started changing things around, moving the olivette up and down in small degrees, as well as varying the dropper distances and size of droppers. These changes affect the fall rate of the hook bait, but also the way the bait wafts in the current when you are holding back.
I tried many things with the rig, from overshotting slightly to inching it through very slowly, as well as overshotting quite a lot to hold back very hard. Even lighter lines and smaller hooks did not help. Nothing seemed to get the fish coming well again. I even switched to the Shark float. It is really great for holding back hard because it has two positions to put the float bristle, so you can get it sitting straight up.
A good tip when holding back hard in flowing water is to lift your rig slowly after you have been holding back and look at the line angle going down. Sometimes you are holding back but the line is being brought well off the bottom by the flow but you don't realise, So if you lift it gently and the line is not coming up straight, this could be happening and you need to add more weight.
With a lull in sport, I had to gamble again! The time had come to 're doosh'. Four big balls this time, with the pole in the rest as a guide, and I aimed to put them into a square metre.
A tip for making these firm balls is, after you have made them, dip your hands in water and re-squeeze them with wet hands. It seems to seal them and give you 'the doosh'!
Well, much to my delight, the re-balling worked and a good run of perfectly conditioned roach and dace fed again, with the odd slightly better one coming by holding back hard then letting it run again to entice the bite with the falling hook bait.
Frustratingly, I then had a spell of missing bites! No matter what I adjusted in the rig or line length from pole to float, I just kept missing bites.
I only sorted this out by changing my elastic from the 4 to 6 Middy Hi-Viz Solid to the 6 to 8. Elastic choice is very important because you need light enough to not bump off the small fish on the strike, but you need enough strength in it to set the hook and pull the larger floats through the water quickly enough.
It had been quite a cold night prior to arriving and with the gin-clear water I was pleased with what I had caught, around 8lb. The rain had briefly stopped and it was time for the cameras to take a shot. I had really enjoyed fishing somewhere different on a natural venue trying to work out how to catch, along with the vast array of wild birds in and around the bank.
After the cameraman had left, I decided to stay on and fish for a while because my gear was already soaked; there is something magical about the rivers as the light fades. It turned out I was right too, because the clouds gathered again darkening the skies. It was like a switch being flicked. Every run through I got a bite and the fish were also getting bigger. Double red maggot or half a worm was now bringing me roach to 8oz every run, and this continued until it was too dark to see the float.
I was eventually forced to pack up because I could not see the float any longer, but what a fabulously enjoyable day it had proven to be. I had enjoyed it so much that I immediately scheduled as return visit! Why not get yourself out on the riverbank and definitely give the versatile Flattie a try!
A cracking net of roach, but the quality fish came once the light started to fade.
[INSET] Hook double baits back to back to prevent line spin-up.
Like what you see?
Or buy a single issue