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


03/08/2017 - Some Thoughts and Experiences

All I need for a days float fishing on rivers

Perhaps it’s my age, but I do find these days that watching a float going down my chosen swim searching for chub, roach, dace or other fish immensely enjoyable, even if the fish are not as big as those I catch when legering. Yes, when the rod tip moves it still gives me a thrill, but not so much as in the past, don’t get me wrong I find legering a bit of crust or rolling some cheese paste down the swim demands as much skill as working a float through the swim. Having said that, I find watching a float going down the swim, or laying at a drunken angle in a crease, as very tranquil, peaceful and relaxing, probably best described as therapeutic, it certainly preserves my sanity. Last February while fishing a swim on the River Soar that Mark had told me about for chub I legered crust catching some nice fish, but as I watched the rod tip, I kept thinking how the swim was well suited to float fishing, feeling sure if I worked a float down the swim feeding mashed bread, I could possibly catch more fish rather than anchoring the bait in one or two spots. Eventually I changed over to float fishing which proved successful, not only did I catch chub but also some nice bream, these river Soar bream can certainly pull the string when the river is carrying extra water, unlike the still water variety that come in like a plastic bag. This season I’ve used both legering and float fishing techniques with success, depending on the swim I’ve chosen to fish, but given the choice these days it’s a float I enjoy, it probably takes me back to my youth.


Tackle Choice is often Simple


For general float fishing when in search of chub, roach, dace, bream or perch, you don’t need a lot of gear as pic 1973 shows when river fishing. I usually tackle up with a Millwards 12 foot swim master, having had several carp between 11lbs and 15lbs when tench fishing, I feel this rod will handle most river fish I might connect with. If I’m fishing a stretch of river where I only expect roach, perch, dace and chub, the latter fish not likely to go more than 3lbs I would feel happy using my Perfection Roach or the 12 foot Aspinindale ‘The Avon’ see pic 1978 for selection of rods I use. For float fishing on rivers and streams I always use a centre pin as I have done for 70 odd years, in fact I will often use a centre pin when legering or freelining a bait on rivers and streams. I couldn’t find a better reel for float fishing, though it depends on what I plan to do on the day as to what reel I would choose to use, for trotting where I would often be Wallis casting much of the time, I would use either a Richard Carter, or one of the JW Youngs reels, for laying-on or stret-pegging, I would probably use my newly acquired Eureka. See pic of some centre pin reels I use. My line depends on the water being fished, using lines with breaking strains from 3lb through to 6lbs, should I choose 6lb line, it’s Gamma from the USA, the line has excellent abrasion quality which has proved excellent when fishing waters like the Ribble and Wye. for other breaking strains I use Cralusso line made in Japan,


Catching on the Float


Recently I made a 400 mile trip to fish the River Wye, just getting in for about 3 hours fishing, though it was most enjoyable catching chub, dace and bleak, I used Millwards Swim master with an old Strike right Featherflo with 3lb bs line to which I attached a size 14 hook to nylon of 2.5lbs bs, I used a cork on quill float my grandfather made back in the 1930’s which he then presented to me when I was ten or eleven years old with the words “Use it with care”, recently I found the old float rather battered, missing lots of its paint, in fact the tip was back to its normal quill colour, I stripped off the paint from the cork body and the bottom half of the quill, it was given a new coat of paint and varnish, as I watched the float go down the swim I thought back too many days in the past. I can clearly remember some of the days, when I fished a weir pool in Canterbury, I was lucky to get permission which had come about through an uncle who used to shoot with the mill owner, who gave me permission to fish the mill waters at weekends, not only did I have the fishing, he also gave me a key so I could sleep in the mill along with my friends also use the workers canteen. I felt very privileged to have the trust of the owner also being allowed to share with my friends. The roach and dace fishing was something I can only dream about these days 12 ounce dace and pound roach were common, in fact we all caught 2lb roach, I can still remember with clarity the day I caught a dace of 1 lb 1 ounce and a roach of 2 lb 4 ounces in a session just after breakfast. In those day I would buy 2 gallons of annatto gentles from Dons of Mexborough which always arrive at my local railway station on a Thursday without fail in two biscuit tins. We often punched a few holes in the bottom of one tin then hang it over the outflow stream so during the night a slow trickle of gentles would keep the fish interested, we could also adjust the water flow if required. Back to the Wye after 3 hours of fishing my shingles erupted my right eye was slowly closing, I was also getting unsteady on my feet, I said to Kate “I will have to pack up otherwise I might end up in the river and that would be the end”. We got back to the B&B some 4 hours later after the shingles and my right eye had improved enough to drive, next morning after breakfast we made the long drive home stopping at every service station so I could take pain killers and rest my eyes.


Catching Chub from the Ribble


This week despite the river having 3 feet of extra water and being told it’s not worth fishing, I had other ideas, also with two pints of gentles I wasn’t going to let them go to waste, on the first morning I was greeted with heavy rain sheeting down of tropical proportions, dressed in chest high waders Gortex camouflage coat I would be dry enough, I would be wading waist deep, but keeping a watch on the water level as the river being a spate one can rise very quickly. On the first of the three morning sessions I fished from around 0700 hrs until about 1100 hrs. Tackle was Millwards Swim master, Richard Carter centre pin with 3lb line to which I attached a size 14 hook to nylon of 2.5 lbs bs, I used a cork on cane stem float to take the equivalent of 2 SSG shot pinched lightly on the line 2.5 feet from the hook with a BB shot 6 inches from the shot. I then spent about 15 minutes putting in a dozen or so gentles every couple of minutes, having set the float at four feet, I baited with two gentles, then cast towards the far bank so I could ease the float down the outside of a crease which looked very inviting, the float had gone about five yards then dipped the answering strike connected with a fish, a chub about 10 ounces, four casts later with no more action I eased the float up the line so I was fishing about 5 feet, two casts later I had another chub of similar size to the first fish, in the next hour I had a dozen or more similar size chub, ending the session with about 30 odd chub and a single trout. It had been most attentive session, I was completely lost in my surroundings despite the awful weather.


Surprise Catch


The next morning I was on the river and fishing with the same gear I’d used on the first day, though it rained it wasn’t so bad, I chose a different swim further down river where I’d often caught chub and dace, some of the dace going 12 ounces, Having run the float through the swim a few times and adjusting the float until I felt the bait was close to the bottom, I fed the swim every two minutes with a dozen or more gentles along with some finely mashed bread for about twenty minutes. It turned out to be another interesting day catching some nice dace estimated at 12 ounces, with chub of about 2lbs with three surprise perch around the pounds mark, the first I’ve caught on this stretch of the Ribble. The mornings fishing was intense, I was in a match angler mode as I controlled the float through the swim with eye and hand coordination, feeding every cast, it was intense fishing was but most enjoyable, I was lost in the world of water, fish and wildlife, I must admit when I come off the river through shingles causing me problems I felt exhausted from the with the concentration.

Day 3 Stret-Pegging

Today I chose another beat where I had the near perfect stret-pegging swim, a rod length out with fifteen yards of medium paced water around six feet deep over pea size gravel. The only difference in the tackle today was I chose to use my Eureka reel with 4lb bs line also a cork bodied float taking 3 SSG shot which were bunched together about two feet from a size 12 hook to 3lb bs nylon, apart from gentles I also had some sliced bread for fishing punched bread, not the usual small size of bread punch, but punched bread that would be used on a size 12 hook. Today I wasn’t wading but sitting on a piece of sponge, Having plumbed the length of the swim when I first arrived, I set the float around eight feet, after spending some time trickling in gentles along with the occasional chicken egg size balls of ground bait, I then rested the swim for about half an hour giving the fish the chance to settle down, while I had a brew. I pinched 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 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. After a break I made a cast out and downstream then allowed the float to swing inwards so it was in line with the rod tip, ten minutes later I lifted the rod so the float and bait moved a bit further downstream, a minute or so later the float moved out towards the faster water, lifting the rod I set the hook into a chub about a pound, which regurgitated several gentles, rebaiting I cast out towards the faster water then set the rod in the rest allowing the float to swing in slightly then settle at an angle, suddenly it disappeared, I missed the bait to find the gentles just a few skins, in the next four casts the same thing happened. I then sat and held the rod, as the float moved, I set the hook into another chub of similar size. I missed a few and caught a few more with chub the best around 2lbs.With the rain sheeting down with a strong cold wind I called it a day.


River Was a Muddy Brown Colour


On the river this morning at 0630 hrs to be greeted by a strong wind with rain, the intensity of a tropical storm, I sat in the cabin until 0930 hrs then ventured across the meadow to the river to be greeted as best described a raging dirty brown torrent, a bit similar to some of the Columbian rivers, with a bit of slack water to my right I thought I might have a chance of catching a chub on a lump of smelly cheese paste, it didn’t happen I had one trout around 3lbs that grab the cheese paste as I lifted it off the bottom to allow it to go further down the swim. Probably thirty minutes later as I lifted the cheese paste a second time, I felt a light pluck then set the hook, immediately the reel screamed as line was ripped off the spool, I knew immediately I’d hooked a salmon as the fish rocketed down river, all I could do was point the rod at the fish and wait for the break. With the rain once again beating down, the wind increasing I decided I’d had enough for the day as water trickled down the back of my neck, I picked up my gear then headed off to the cabin for some tea and toast at least I’d tried.




A selection of cane rods

Centre pin reels with two Mitchell 300's

A bank high muddy looking river

Back to the News List

Martin James Fishing
Email: [email protected]