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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


01/01/2015 - Stret-pegging Itís a Great Searching Method

Quill floats made by Mark Sarul of Leicestershire who does sterling service running the Traditional Fishermanís Forum site

The first reference I can find to Stret-pegging is in the book Angling Francis Francis published 1877on page 10 he writes of Tight corking often used for barbel fishing in the 1800’s Elements of Angling HT Sheringham 1908 he writes a delightful piece Tight corking for roach, without doubt Tight corking is the name that preceded the description for Stret-pegging as used today. In Angling Ways E Marshall-Hardy 1934 on page 105 on Stret-pegging he writes, in high wind there is no more suitable method of searching a swim. The tackle is cast two or three yards downstream, and the float is held. This has the effect of causing the bait to wave gently on and off the bottom in a most attractive manner. If there is no response from the fish, allow the gear to roll down a yard or two farther. Roach Fishing by Faddist in 1936 also describes Stret-pegging. In This Fishing or Angling Arts & Artifices LA Parker 1948 writing about Stret-pegging on page 91 as Deep-Dragging, known in Nottingham as Stret-pegging. The best description of Stret-Pegging is by the master himself the late Dick Walker who in his book Dick Walker’s Angling Theories and Practise Past, Present and to Come published 1979 he writes on page24 Stret-pegging demands skill born of practise. You cast downstream and hold up the tackle until it has straightened out. Then you lower the rod, which lets the shot rest on the bottom. Pause a while, then raise the rod again, draw a bit of line off the reel, then lower the rod. The shot, having been lifted, now comes to rest a little lower downstream. The float is lying tilted on the surface. By repeating this process, the tackle can be worked a long way down a swim, the bait being on or close to the bottom all the time except when you lift it. There is of course much more in his chapter on Stret-pegging.

Suggested Tackle

I’ve used this method of float fishing since the late 1940’s having been shown by my grandfather, it’s a great searching method where you can quite comfortably fish fifteen twenty yards down the swim, it’s not just a method for roach fishing, it works well for all bottom feeding fish, on the Kennet and Teme it’s accounted for lots of barbel and chub, on the River Ure it was a good way of searching a swim for the perch. On the Rivers Thames, Beult, Stour, Medway, Upper Ouse and other similar rivers it’s proved a winning method time and time again especially when searching for roach which having always been one of my favourite fish followed by chub and perch, but as mentioned it a good way for catching most fish, they are all welcome if they bend my stick and pull the string.

When it comes to tackle, I reckon the best reel is a centre pin, I feel I have far more control, than when fishing with a fixed spool reel, when choosing a centre pin purchase one with a solid drum rather than a reel with spokes as the line doesn’t get kinked, in the days of Black and White Spider braided terylene line from Henry Milward and Sons Ltd Washford Mills Redditch there wasn’t a problem with kinking. I rated these lines very highly but they had to be looked after, then all our tackle did in those days. We would never arrive home from a trip and leave our gear in the corner of the shed, rods were taken from the bag given a wipe over then left to dry before being put back in the bag then hung up in the cupboard by the small loop on the bag, reels were cleaned and wiped down as were our baskets even bait boxes were cleaned and stored away. Some of my cane rods today look as good as new except the cork handles which show some sign of wear, even my 17 foot roach pole is as good as new with its whale bone tip, still in use today with great effect. I have several rods I use for Stret-pegging an 11 foot Avon action for close in work, a couple of 13 foot rods, my latest acquisition is another 13 foot rod from Lone Angler, I also have a 15 foot rod, I would like a 17 foot rod but not yet found one that is suitable. Though in the 1950’s the days of bamboo I did have a 17 foot rod whole cane butt and middle joint with spliced in split bamboo top made by Clarkson’s which accounted for many good fish when fishing deep water swims in the winter for roach and bream. Lines strength would depend on the fish you are trying to catch, generally for roach and perch it’s 3lb bs, chub and bream its 4-6lb bs depending on the swim being fished, for barbel I would choose lines between 6 and 8lbs bs. Several far more experienced anglers than myself who are no longer with us, would use a float with a cork body, I prefer a straight quill unless I’m fishing in swirling turbulent water then I will use a cork or balsa body on a good size quill. When attaching float to line I use double rubbers, sadly today it’s often hard to find decent float rubbers, I would give my back teeth for a few feet of the old fashion valve rubber, though I did buy some decent rubbers from Woodies of Hereford what a great and helpful guy he is. I was recently given some lovely quill floats which look great in appearance, but as H T Sheringham said “Even better in its disappearance” Pic IMG 0726 made by Mark Sarul of Leicestershire who does sterling service running the Traditional Fisherman’s Forum site. Hooks come in various shapes, the Pallatrax barbless hooks have been very good, having used them for some years I have no complaints. When fishing worms I make sure I have some small squares of rubber band, having baited the hook, I will slide a small square of rubber band on the hook to keep the worms in place, I also use this idea when using barbless hooks with live baits for perch and pike.

Baits and Ground Bait

There is nothing special with reference baits, boilies, pellets, pastes, bread, worms and gentles in fact you can use anything you feel a fish will eat. Having said that my choice of baits will depend a lot on the water and fish being targeted, if it’s a fast swirling turbulent water then worms would be a good choice along with cheese or sausage sizzle paste, for more placid water my choice would be bread cubes, flake, paste, sweet corn and bunches of gentles, flavoured bread cubes are my first choice bait even in coloured water. My usual ground bait is mashed bread, don’t make it by picking a loaf up in the supermarket on your way to the river, then dumping it in the landing net as I often see anglers doing. You will end up with a sloppy horrid mess, no self-respecting fish would be attracted too, its only fit for ducks. To make bread mash you need to purchase several loaves of bread not sliced, cut the bread into very thick slices then put these bread chunks into washing bags, these should then be hung in the airing cupboard for a week or more until all the moisture has dried from the bread, You can then store the dried bread for months in a plastic dustbin in the garage or shed. I often visit the supermarkets just before closing time when its often possible to buy a large loaf for 50p or 70p. when making bread mash I use an old landing net mesh which I put the very stale bread in, which is then immersed in a bucket of water, leaving it to soak for several hours. I then twist the net until most of the excess water has gone, the bread is then dumped into a bucket where it’s given a pounding with a strong metal potato masher until all the lumps have gone, don’t use those cheap plastic mashers. they are useless for the job, before I got a good strong masher, I used a 2 X 4 inch piece of timber for pounding the bread mash. Before I bagging the bread mash, I add some Cheese Mania or Sausage Sizzle flavour then store in the freezer until needed. See Pic IMG 0725 Half a bucket of mash ready to use on the river.

When fishing I set the float about 2 feet 6 inches over depth, then lightly pinch on enough BB shot as needed for the swim being fished between 15 inches and 24 inches from the hook, I will often pinch on a BB about 6 inches from the hook as a bite indicator. The float can do one of several things, it can move in towards the nearside bank, move out into the stream, sharply dip often pulling the rod tip down, depending how the fish picks up the bait the line might go slack as the float drops flat on the surface. After fishing a spot for ten to fifteen minutes I will lift the rod allowing some line to come off the reel then lower the rod allowing the float to settle further downstream. A word of warning often when lifting the rod in preparation of fishing another spot you will often get a savage take. If conditions looked good I often spend an hour working the bait down a long swim, before changing from one bait to another hook bait, often I can be fishing bread cube without success, then a change to flake will often have a series of fish coming to the net.

3 Chub and Some Trout

Having finished of this short item on Stret-pegging I went of to fish the River Ribble with my Friend Dave Hurst, after putting David in a swim opposite the wood in an area nicely sheltered from the gale force wind and heavy rain I made my way downstream to an old alder tree, a few yards down river a stream entered the river, ten feet further down the bank the trailing branches of a big Hawthorne bush have created a small raft caused by rubbish coming down on the recent big floods. A gale force upstream wind was creating small waves on the river surface so I opted to use a quill float with a balsa body taking 5 BB shot, plumbing the depth I got a reading of about 5 feet I set the float at 7 feet bunching my shot 18 inches from the size 10 hook, with a Wallis cast I sent the tackle well out into the stream against the very strong wind then held the rod high allowing the float to swing in downstream where the stream had created a small channel, certainly a place where food would collect. After a few minutes I lifted the rod giving some free line so the end tackle would move further downstream, After few more minutes I repeated the process, this time the tackle settled close to the raft ensuring the bait would be under the raft where I expected fish to be. Satisfied I had got everything correct I started feeding some mash bread down the line I would be working the tackle after some fifteen minutes of feeding pigeon egg size pieces of mash, it was time to bait with a piece of flake, casting out the tackle settled just right, ten minutes later with no action I allowed the baited hook to move further downstream, eventually it ended close to the raft but no sign of a bite. Rebaiting with another piece of flake I threw in some mashed bread then followed up with the baited tackle, the float lay at a nice angle its red tip being the only bright spot on a windy rain swept river with the dark clouds touching the roof tops. Ten minutes later the float moved out into the stream then submerged, as I tightened the reel screamed as the fish made a sudden surge well out into the river moving determinedly downstream, I was forced to give line, several minutes later I started to gain some line, then it was a bit of give and take but slowly the pressure of well-balanced tackle started to tell on the fish, a few minutes later I netted my first chub of New Year’s Day which I estimated at about 4lbs, normally I would walk well upstream before releasing the fish but today in the rough weather I released it in my swim. The next fish was a trout about 2lbs. Every cast was proceeded by a small ball of mashed bread which would help keep the fish in the area, it’s imperative to feed correctly to encourage the fish into your swim. The rain was sheeting down making it hard to see the float as I peered through rain covered glasses to see the float. Suddenly the rod tip pulled round savagely the strike connecting with a good fish, another chub estimated at around 4lbs, this fish was followed by another chub of similar size, then four more trout around the pound mark, Feeling cold and damp from the continuous heavy rain I decided a bowl of soup was on the menu, walking up to David’s sheltered swim, I thought why didn’t I choose to fish this area? When I mentioned hot soup David was quickly over the stile tackle in hand, saying “I had a nice chub on crust”. In the cabin I switched on the gas fire then emptied a big pot of soup into a saucepan, as we sat enjoying hot soup and beef sandwiches we looked back on our session agreeing it had been worth the effort, we then had a mug of tea with mince pies. Looking out of the window and seeing the rain streaming down and hearing the gale force wind blowing though the tree tops we decided we wouldn’t fish anymore and headed off home.

Half a bucket of mash ready to use on the river.

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Martin James Fishing
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