Small river stick float fishing, gets surprise results.

August 13, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Too good to waste, maggots in the fridge and hemp in the freezer, bait left over from my previous session on the wide open spaces of the river Thames, were brought out for a visit to a tiny river, a couple of miles from home, a few days later. A change in the weather matched the difference in the venue, the long, hot days, had given way to thundery showers and sunny periods, bringing with them a drop in temperature. This was to be my first taste of summer fishing on this shallow, meandering water, which is formed, when two streams come together, one gaining in size as it makes it’s way across the fields, while the other acts as a drain to a large part of the town, only coming out into the daylight at the confluence of the two.

Never more than twenty feet wide and rarely over three feet deep, I’d only fished here in the winter with bread punch for the roach and chub, so this was like a new water to me, the bare banks were now transformed by six foot high himalayan balsam plants, this invasive species crowding out the slower growing natives. I’d made a beeline straight to my old winter roach swim, only to find the balsam barring my way, a thick jungle from the river to the raised pathway.

I continued down the path searching for a fishable swim, until I reached a spot where a bend passes close to the wooded banks and a narrow band of balsam occupied a thin strip of level bank. Opposite, a fallen tree had restricted the width, quickening the pace of the river. Perfect. Balsam is easily pulled up and I’d soon cleared a path through and placed my box just upstream of the fallen tree.

I’ve been fishing all my life, but there was something about this swim, that got me excited, the main flow pushing past the obstruction and directing it towards my bank and under overhanging trees, where a back eddy formed to run against the opposite side, lower down. Many opportunities to catch the wide range of fish known to populate this water, which include carp, bream and chub. I was not being too ambitious today, just looking forward to a few hours watching the float going under, until I ran out of bait. With my soft actioned, 12 foot Hardy rod, balanced by a closed face ABU 501, I was ready for anything.

I plumbed the depth and set the 3 No 4 Middy ali stick a few inches deeper, with the main shot bulked under the float, plus 2 x No 6 shot down the line. While tackling up, I’d prebaited a few handfuls of hemp, followed by some red maggots and my first cast saw the float dip and slide away as it tracked down the middle of the swim. The rod bent into good fish on the strike, the dull flash of a roach showing through the coloured water, as it reacted to the hook, fighting hard in the fast water and swimming upstream along the opposite bank. A lift of the rod and it swam across to my waiting net.

A fin perfect roach, that demonstrates the quality of fish available from this urban environment in a public park, with a busy road buzzing with traffic, only yards away on the other side of the river. With the hook rebaited and a few grains of hemp fed in, the float sped away again and a hard fighting gudgeon put an initial bend in the rod.

This was bad news, these clonking little fighters can take over a swim, when after bigger quarry, so only fed hemp for the next few cast, although it didn’t stop the gudgeon queueing up. Then a different fish again, as a succession of rudd moved onto the feed.

This was the first of many rudd that grabbed the maggots as they fell through, some needing the net to lift them out, the occasional roach and very small chub, also joining the party. It was now a fish a chuck. Swing the float in, check it’s progress and strike as the float sank away. A different solid rushing fight put a bend in the rod, and a small perch was now being swung to hand, the first of several.

These were the first perch I’ve taken here, having only fished bread, but they were all welcome, fighting well above their weight. The shallow, but coloured flash flood water gave no clues, but there must have been hundreds of fish down there, only visible, when the rod bent into another one. The roach started to come on strong, some now spewing mud and hemp, when I unhooked them.

For a bit of river that had obviously not been fished this year, the roach had soon cottoned onto the hemp and I kicked myself for not keeping my leftover tares, which would have selected the bigger roach, although I wasn’t doing bad on the maggot.

An elder tree overhung where I sat and a trot through with a berry gave a plunging bite that produced another perfect roach. They really took the berries, but the bites were missable, so I returned to the maggot, which gave a steadier bite, although the fish in the end could not be determined, until struck. One sideways take got me confused, as the fish bored deep and rushed off down stream, needing rapid backwinding to avoid a likely break. It turned and ran right in to my feet, then popped up on the surface.

It was a case of shock horror, when I slipped the net under this barrel shaped gold fish. I’m used to seeing them cruising around my pond at home, not charging about the river like a little bully boy. Maybe washed out during the winter floods, or released when it got too large for a tank, it certainly was the surprise of the day.


With roach of this quality on tap, it was difficult to call a halt and I fished over my intended 3 hours by another 30 minutes, that “just one more fish” feeling, taking me back to my childhood days fishing with my dad.

A quick weigh-in saw the scales bounce round to 11lb, a fanastic haul of previously uncaught fish and I still had some bait left to feed in, when  I packed up. The float never got the chance to test out the river beneath the trees, or in the bay. Maybe a visit with some bigger baits next time?