Saturday 4 February 2023

Warwickshire Avon - Zig Clouds and Zingibers

One of the first sessions up at the upper reaches of the syndicate stretch I spotted a group of chub literally at my feet. They were up for a feed as well and the first drop in of the bread the tip went round and a fish was on. Two more fish later I spooked the shoal but oddly I've not really spent much time up here and I don't know why really as I know I'd have the river to myself...

So it was out with the trotting gear !!! bread mash as feed and bread on the hook.

Now float fishing for chub calls for its own particular skills and approach, for while it is basically a static form of angling it is also one in which the angler is constantly casting his float, guiding it down the swim and often striking at long range. Keen eyesight and quick reactions are essential.

It is a method to be preferred to the leger when it is necessary to fish a moving bait over a weeded bottom or when the river is full of drifting weed which would cause false bites to be registered on leger tackle. 

A properly presented float tackle also allows the angler to work his tackle and bait much further downstream than is possible with a leger and to present his bait in either a slow-sinking or quick-sinking style, close to the surface, at mid- water level or near to the bottom, as required. It is also a particularly effective method for big-river fishing.

No one method of float fishing is suited to all swims or all water conditions. The nature of the swim, the depth and pace of the water, the position of the chub, the depth at which the bait is fished and the manner in which it is presented must all be taken into consideration.

Now most rivers contain a number of deep swims and though their depth, size and the strength of the current may vary, they are basically similar in character. They often hold many chub, especially during the winter, and if it is intended to fish them with a moving bait the long-trotting method is the one to use. When the water is at or above normal level tackle needs are simply met with a 13ft rod, a large balsa wood float and a fixed-spool reel, closed face or centrepin loaded with line of at least 3lb breaking strain. 

Hook size depends very much upon the size of the bait used. For cheese, flake, lobworm, paste, or crust, all excellent baits to use for this style of fishing, a No 4 or 6 hook is not too big. For casters or maggots a No 14 or 16 is required.

The size of the float must be related to the strength of current and the depth of water. A large float is essential for fishing the deeper faster-flowing swims as small floats will not carry enough shot to get the bait down through the powerful currents. Use a swan quill or a cane and balsa wood float that will carry several swan shot. The depth at which the float is set depends upon the feeding depth of the chub. Normally, this will be at a point closer to the bottom than the surface, so it is best to set the depth at below mid-water level and then to deepen it gradually until the correct feeding depth is located.

If the chub are lying close to the bottom the bait must be made to sink quickly, which means that the bulk of the weights must be placed closer to the hook than to the float., otherwise the bait will not get down to the chub. A slower sinking effect is achieved by spacing the weights out up the cast, the smallest shot being placed closest to the hook.

The common practice of attaching split-shot directly to the line can seriously weaken the line through compression and it better to attach the shot to a separate link or to thread an olivette directly on the line cushioned between two float stops like I do. 

Ideal conditions for long-trotting are when the water is at normal level or fining down after a spate, the day windless and the sun veiled by cloud. More often, however, it is far from windless and a side wind will cause a 'bellying' of the line which must be 'mended' constantly to keep the float travelling steadily down the swim. A downstream wind causes the float to travel at a faster rate than the current and the bait to behave in a jerky unnatural manner. A slight upstream wind is the least troublesome.

Difficulties in presentation caused by wind can be overcome to a certain extent by sinking the line and by threading it through the bottom ring of the float only. It is also helpful to use a float with a thin tip, though this will be difficult to see at long range. In extremely windy conditions it is better to revert to the stret-pegging method or to ledgering.

If the swim is a weedy one it is possible to trot a float tackle down by guiding it through the clear channels between the weeds but the stret-pegging method allows a slower and more thorough search of the swim. Bites are usually very emphatic so a strong line is essential. A lobworm is the best bait when the water is coloured; cheese, paste or bread when the water is clear.  

If the weeds are such that they cover the bottom of the swim entirely the tackle must be adjusted to keep the bait above the weeds. In the slower-moving stretches of some rivers there are often beds of lilies, sometimes termed 'cabbage-patches', which can only be fished in this way or with a floating bait. They often hold chub though and should not be passed over merely because they look difficult.

I arrived 20 or minutes after dawn and started feeding some mash pepped up with some zig cloud mix I had sitting in the garage. It produces a milky cloud to add to the effect of the mash breaking up in the water and certainly looked the business. Obviously a fresh cup of tea brewed with the gas stove in the boot went down well whilst every few minutes a golf ball sized lump went in the slightly coloured river.

Odd because I thought it would be gin clear but it can vary considerably. Anyway after twenty minutes or so after running the float down it disappeared from view at the end of the run and I struck in to a solid lump. It was doing nothing for a good while and I couldn't shift it and then bizarrely it started to swim towards me, so a fish on the end after all !!!

The first proper bend of the 14ft Drennan Acolyte Plus the fish realises it is hooked and goes on surging run towards some far bank reeds. The blank resisting the lunges rather well and I thankfully managed to steer it away from the inevitable break. 

A decent battle commenced and after a battle between Chub and Mick, Mick eventually won the day and I teased it in to the landing net. A cracking fish indeed and I knew it was well over 5lb before weighing it going 5lb 10 ounces on the scales and by far the biggest chub I've caught whilst trotting. 

What a cracking fish to start with but apart from a 2lber not long after despite fishing for a couple of hours that was my lot. I tired another swim downstream but that was fruitless so I ended the session slightly early and went home a very happy man indeed. 

I don't float fish nearly enough, mainly because I usually don't have much time and usually end up arriving at dusk rather than dawn, but what a great method to search out the water and it can often pick up the most cautious of fish who turn their noses up at a static bait...


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