There is a close season for coarse fishing on rivers from 15-March to 15-June, so at this time of year I usually do a few trips on flowing water, before it’s too late. As a teenager I spent many hours fishing on small streams, and forty years later, these waters have lost none of their appeal.
In the early days I used worms for bait almost exclusively. They were easy to keep on the hook and also free; I used to dig them in the garden. Nowadays I still save a bit of cash by running a small wormery, the residents of which munch their way through a lot of my kitchen scraps:
Another good thing about worms is that there are no species of fish that won’t take them. Armed with a boxful, I arrived on the banks of a favourite small river the other day to find it running fairly clear:
If the water is coloured (i.e. muddy) after rain, then fish may not see a moving bait; it can be better to fish static on the bottom. In these conditions however, I could use a float to carry the worm along, searching out the fish:
In the first spot there wasn’t much doing until I tried a cast upstream of my position and caught this lovely dace – a small fish found almost exclusively on rivers:
No more action in that swim so it was time to move on downstream. This run just upstream of a sharp bend looked to be worth a go:
The main current here was on the left hand side, with slacker water on the right. Casting into the middle of the river, the float ran through quite fast, but no bites resulted. A better tactic was to swing it out to the right, close to the trees, and let it slowly drift along on the edge of the slack water. This brought a brightly coloured perch:
Shortly after that, an overambitious cast ended up in the tree branches. I got my tackle back (minus the hook), re-rigged and moved again. After that disturbance, any fish nearby would probably have bolted.
The next swim had produced some good sized chub in recent weeks to me and my brother. The key holding area was under an overhanging willow. The first few trots down with the float got no response. Not wanting to use a plummet to find the depth, for fear that the splash would alarm the fish, I was simply increasing depth on each cast. Eventually the float pulled slowly under. Not a fish, the hook was dragging the bottom. I reduced the fishing depth by three inches, and cast again. This time, as the float reached the tree, it went under purposefully. My strike hit solid resistance, almost like being stuck in the bottom, until the rod got pulled over by a heavy fish heading downstream.
After an exciting few minutes this chub of about 4lbs 8oz was on the bank (like the dace, a species that is mainly found in rivers):
Just before packing up, I caught a small roach, then another dace:
River fishing seems to be less popular these days for some reason. Often you won’t see anyone else all day. That’s a good reason to try it of course – you will have some peace and quiet as you search out wild fish in their natural habitat.