fly fishing sport fishing freshwater fishing
Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


22/10/2015 - Don't Be Put Off Fishing in Cold Weather

Kennet chub caught in sub zero conditions

At this time of the year I often get asked, is it worth fishing in cold weather conditions? The answer is yes, you can still catch in subzero temperatures. This winter we will no doubt get many cold frosty nights, water temperatures down as low as 36 degrees F on the rivers both in the north and south there will be odd day’s with cat ice along the margins.

When the water temperature reaches 39.5 degrees F the viscosity of the water changes. It’s like the oil in your car, on a cold day it’s thicker than on a warm day. The fish become sluggish in their movements; their digestive rate slows down, one reason why we shouldn't dump free offerings into our chosen swim when we arrive at the water’s edge. If the cold snap has just started then the fish will be harder to catch,

After a few days of low water temperatures you will find chub, roach, dace and even barbel will pick up a bait, it’s often a good time to catch of chub, when other fish don’t seem to feed. Cold frosty nights with clear skies usually coincide with a high pressure zone over the country, then I don’t fish long sessions, if it’s a bright and sunny, it’s usually a waste of time until the angle of the sun has dropped below ten degree. Then I usually fish late afternoon and into the darkness for a couple of hours.

When the water temperature has been below 40 degrees F for several days’ fish will certainly feed for longer periods often during the middle ours of the day. Even barbel and bream will feed. I and many other anglers have had some great catches when the water temperature has been very low for a few days.  I well remember Martin Salisbury of Leyland and myself were taking part in filming project on the River Kennet. I was asked to catch a fish; the water temperature was 43 degrees F ideal conditions. Within thirty seconds of dropping a bit of crust into a likely looking spot I had a barbel, in the next swim I had a chub, during the session I caught barbel to 9-14-0 and chub to just over 4lbs.

Next day it was a different story, we fished the River Loddon, where the water temperature had dropped overnight to 39-40 degrees F, the wind was blowing from the north east, and we didn't have a bite. The following day after a night when the thermometer had plunged to minus 8 F we again fished the River Kennet. The water temperature was down to 36 degrees F. Within an hour I had a good chub on legered crust, moving to a weir pool on a carrier stream I had a perch of two and a half pounds on lobworm, then another good chub on crust. I called Martin and suggested he come and fish the weir pool. I vacated my swim and left it to Martin. Half an hour later he had a personal best bream of 5-4-0. These fish were caught on a day when we really did think we might struggle for a single bite.

When chub fishing on rivers such as the Kennet, Aire, Nidd and Calder and rivers of a similar size, I would advise you to fish every likely looking spot. Spending five or ten minutes in each swim. My baits would be lobs, L A sausage sizzle or cheese paste and cheese flavoured bread fished on a leger rig using the lightest weight possible. An Avon action rod, centre pin or fixed spool reel and 6lb Gamma line hook sizes 4’s and 6’s. Keep it simple. Don’t worry about using fancy rigs. Just pinch one, two or more LG shot lightly on the line. The distance between weight and hook will depend on the bait, with crust it’s no more than five or six inches often just two inches Bread flake, lobs or paste it’s usually twelve inches, often six. In cold water fish want chase a bait they want it on the bottom under their nose.

Remember how ever tough the conditions are, you can't catch if you’re sitting at home, and I well remember some years ago fishing the River Ribble upstream of Mitton Bridge the river had some five or six feet of ice down the margins. The water temperature had been 34 degrees F for ten days; the thick ice had a covering of snow. I fished legered crust catching 26 chub averaging some three pounds. On another occasion back in the 1960's I fished the River Thames near Goring catching some super roach, including three two pound plus fish best at 2-6-0 all on legered lobworms. Again there was thick ice down the margins, a water temperature of 34 degrees F.

There is plenty of documented evidence of big fish and big catches being taken when the water temperature is below 40 degrees F. Dave Pickering of Blackburn chub fishing on the River Ribble caught a double figure barbell in temperatures well below zero. One cold day in sub zero temperatures I had a good catch of chub including three five’s 5-2-0 5-7-0 5-8-0 fishing double lobworm as bait. I could see by the firm stomach that all my fish had been feeding.

In cold water conditions, Many writers suggest using small baits, they write about little taps on the rod tip. My bites are usually a whack round of the rod tip. Sometimes the tip will pull round slowly; all I have to do then is tighten into another fish. I certainly don't use small baits, its chunks of crust, or flake the size of a fifty pence piece. Cheese, sausage sizzle or luncheon meat paste the size of a bantam's egg, on size 2 or 4 hooks. I reckon you have a far better chance of catching fish on big baits, than small baits. Remember small baits, equal small hooks, which equal fine lines. Not the best of tackle when hunting big fish.








Author with winter caught chub from Kennet on Crust

Back to the News List

Martin James Fishing
Email: [email protected]