River Blackwater chub, dace and roach stickfloat workout

October 4, 2017 at 6:59 pm

Within ten miles of my home is a free stretch of the fast flowing river Blackwater, that meanders through wild, tree lined banks for half a mile, creating shallows and deep runs at every turn. A proper river in my book, much like the Colne of my youth, where the stickfloat was king.

It is two years since my last visit and much had changed, trees had fallen in creating new eddies, while other swims were now full of streamer weed. The river suits the roving specimen hunter, able to flick a bait beneath overhanging bushes, but I was looking for a long run with somewhere to park my tackle box and room to cast a 14 foot rod.

With an average depth of only 30 inches and the bottom visible across the river, it appears fishless, but looks can be deceiving. Today I was armed with half a pint of maggots, this being enough for the four hours I intended fishing, where little and often is the rule.  I set up a 6 No 4 ali stemmed stick float, with most of the weight bulked beneath the float, a single No 4 and a No 8 on the 2 lb hook link down the line, a size 18 barbless for a single maggot completing the rig.

I plumbed the depth across the width, finding a channel midway at 30 inches deep, shallowing up to two feet along sunken branches on the opposite bank, setting my float to run through along the far side. A dozen maggots broadcast upstream across the swim could be seen drifting back down in the bright sunlight and cast the float among them for my first trot through. Third cast, at the end of the trot, the float held under, but I missed the strike, the red maggot sucked hollow. A few more maggots in and the float held under again, this time the rod bent round on contact as the fish rushed off downstream, before zig-zagging toward the snags along the far side. Pressure brought a chub’s white mouth to the surface and I steered the fish over to my landing net, aware of the strong pull from the current close to my bank.

This was a good start. The following cast, the float sank immediately, a solid fight and a small perch was swinging to hand.

Straight in and the float sank again to be met by a different fight, the bounce, bounce of a roach giving the game away.

Three fish in three casts, the fourth unbelievably resulting in a different fight again, as a dace tumbled and flashed in the sunshine along the far side.

The Blackwater is full of hard fighting dace of good size, this one taking a white maggot. I always add Termeric powder to my maggots, it gives them a touch of spice, that I am sure is attractive to the fish.


Alternating between far bank and middle with white and red maggots, while feeding 3 to 4 maggots a cast upstream of me kept the fish coming every cast, a decent perch taking right under my feet.

Although I could not see them against the gravel bottom, these fish were snapping up the maggots when they hit the water. A cast to the far side, upstream to where I had thrown the next batch of maggots, saw the float slide sideways and the rod bend over into another chub.

After two hours the bites began to slow, with fish coming further down the swim, deepening up and holding the float back in stages giving some rod thumping bites, never knowing what would take the bait, even some big gudgeon getting in on the act.

Stopping for a sandwich and some tea, I continued to feed the swim, finding better roach had moved into the middle of the trot.

If the float got through there was usually a perch, chub, or a good dace waiting further downstream. Some dace like the one below being around 8 oz, would explode on the surface when hooked, the tail of the swim shallower and faster than in front of me.

Constantly ringing the changes, over depth holding back, shallow running through, inside, middle and far bank, heavy and light feed, kept putting fish in my keepnet. It was repetitive work, the landing net seeming to get heavier with each fish. I was aiming to continue for a full four hours, but as the bites trailed away again, I thought of the long walk back to the carpark and hoped for a fish to end the day on. It came in the shape of a 10 oz roach, that ran to the far bank snags like a chub, then fought up and down the swim, before finally getting its head clear of the surface, praying that the size 18 barbless hook would keep hold long enough to slide it into the landing net.

What a session, one of my best on the Blackwater, certainly my best on the maggot, only bettered by a  preblog winter day, when I found a shoal of big roach and dace holed up in a deep eddy, taking well into double figures on the bread punch, the weight boosted by a couple of 2 lb chub.

Eight and a half pounds of pristine, quality fish taken in four hours, when for once the pike stayed away.