Bagger Bowman takes on the Steak & Kidney

1 permanent peg 175 on the Harvester length of the Stainforth & Keadby Canal at Stainforth

One of Dorian’s favourite stretches is the Harvester length at Stainforth, and this is where we meet up with him on a chilly morning in August. A few weeks earlier he won a 180-peg Open here with some 25lb (11kg) of chub. That day he was on permanent peg 162, but today he reckons peg 175 offers more chance of perch, roach and skimmers should the chub not oblige. ‘There are a lot of chub here, a lot of chub,’ he says, ‘but they haven’t been showing so well in the past few weeks. And we’ve had a few days of quite heavy rain just recently, which will probably have made the water colder and might therefore put a bit of a damper on sport today.’

The Stainforth & Keadby is a deep, wide canal dug for big coal barges in the days before rail. Peg 175 is about 35m (38yd) wide, and 2.5m (8ft) deep in the middle. The water is dark and clear, with a slight left to right draw. Some overhanging willows opposite look inviting. Is that where the chub live? ‘They patrol all along the far ledge,’ says Dorian, ‘and you can catch them fishing a blockend feeder right across, but it isn’t necessary. If they’re feeding you can usually draw them out and catch them in the open water on the float — especially pleasure fishing. You also catch a lot more roach, skimmers and perch on the float.’

Dorian’s ploy is to swap between the waggler, at the bottom of the far shelf three-quarters of the way over, and the long pole/short-line at the bottom of the near shelf. Plumbing up he finds 2m (6½ ft) at the bottom of the near shelf, at 9m, and about the same depth on the waggler line.

There’s an awkward facing wind so a heavyish waggler is called for. He picks a home-made insert peacock taking 3AAA+ and shots it. The droppers dot it right down, almost flush with the surface. ‘That’s very important here,’ he says. ‘The fish are educated and the bites can be very shy.’ He sets the rig 15cm (6in) overdepth. ‘You catch mostly on the bottom here, and near the bottom at the end of the drop, rather than up in the water,’ he says.

His hook is a 24, but if he starts catching chub he’ll change up to a 22. ‘There’s no need to use big hooks for the chub,’ he says. ‘You can get them out on a small hook just as easily. Most of the pegs are fairly snag-free. Also, I think a lot of people play fish too gingerly on tiny hooks when they should give them as much stick as if they were using an 18 or a 20.’

Before baiting with a single bronze maggot he squashes the barb flat with a pair of Styl pincers. ‘If you burst the maggot with the hook, even slightly, the fish won’t look at it, especially the roach,’ he explains.

Each cast he feeds his waggler line with about a dozen grains of hemp and half a dozen bronze maggots. The facing wind is getting up and he has to stretch the catapult elastic almost to its limit to get the distance. He also feeds his pole line regularly with half a dozen grains of hemp and half a dozen casters.

Dorian punches the waggler out and quickly sinks the line by plunging the rod tip under the surface then flicking it smartly upwards. The float settles, hesitates then slips out of sight. ‘We’re in,’ he says, as his strike connects. The float surfaces with a judder, followed by a shimmer of silver. ‘It’s a small skimmer,’ he says, scooping it out with his landing net.

Next cast he swings a small roach. Out again, and the float doesn’t budge. He winds in and changes the maggot. ‘It’s best to change the maggot every cast,’ he says. ‘You want a really lively, wriggly maggot, particularly when there are roach about.’

No sign of any chub, and Dorian is missing and bumping bites. ‘They’re very fiddly,’ he says. ‘I think they’re small roach or skimmers.’ He gets a small perch, then two clonking 6oz (170g) roach in successive casts. ‘I won my section here once last year with five kilo of stamp roach on the waggler and maggot, just like I’m doing now -there’s nothing I enjoy more.’

He misses the next few bites, however, and they’re a long time coming. He decides to bulk two of the no.8 shot at half depth. ‘I’m not getting bites on the drop, probably because the water’s cold. And I’m not sure they want this hemp – I think it might be putting them off. Either that or they’re getting preoccupied with it and won’t look at the maggots. I’ve had that happen before.’ He stops feeding hemp on both his waggler and pole lines.

He also starts twitching his float occasionally, trying to induce bites by making the hookbait lift a few inches off the bottom then sink again. A small perch succumbs, then a good fish is on. A chub? ‘No, it’s a roach.’ It fights doggedly under the rod tip then swirls into the net. ‘About ten ounces,’ says Dorian. ‘We’re gonna catch some fish now, I’ve got a feeling.’

Dorian’s living up to his nickname now – he’s bagging with roach and perch. ‘Stopping putting the hemp in has done the trick. It’s a bite a put-in. They’re taking the bait as soon as it hits the bottom.’ Were it not for the facing wind he would really be flying, but he can only feed in between gusts, and it’s upsetting his rhythm. At least it’s warmer now, with the cloud cover starting to break up.

Dorian still hasn’t tried the pole, though he has been feeding the pole line religiously since the start. ‘It’s best to leave the pole line as long as possible before giving it a go,’ he explains. ‘Besides, I’m catching so well on the waggler.’

He is too, especially now the wind has eased, but what about those chub? ‘I must admit, I’m surprised I haven’t had one yet. It’s when it goes a bit quiet that you think, ‘ay-up, the chub have moved in. They tend to push everything else out the way.’

Talking of pushing and shoving, a big barge comes chugging along and goes through bang on Dorian’s waggler line. The wash slaps back and forth, rocking his keepnet. ‘That’ll muck things up for a while,’ he says, reaching for his pole. ‘I’ll keep feeding the waggler line, though.’

His pole has No. 2 elastic through one section, set quite slack. ‘I don’t like it too tight. I like it so that it just creeps back into the pole.’ His float is a 0.65g model with a plastic bristle, teardrop body and wire stem. There is a string of small Styls down to the hook . ‘I prefer to spread them for roach, though when it’s very choppy or towing hard you need all the weights in the bottom half of the rig, with a bulk at half depth.’ Like the waggler, the rig is set 15cm (6in) overdepth.

Dorian buries the fine-wire 20 in a dark and crispy caster and pushes the rig out. The float slowly rights itself as the Styls register until only the upright, orange needle of the bristle remains visible. Suddenly it slides away, and a thin tongue of elastic sticks out as he strikes firmly upwards into a small roach.

Half an hour later the pole has produced only one more fish, another little roach. ‘We’re not exactly bagging on this, are we? I even cleaned my pole today for the camera -it was caked in groundbait.’

He tries single red then single bronze maggot, but neither produces so he goes back to single caster. Ten minutes later, he’s still waiting for another bite. ‘It doesn’t want to go under, that float, does it?’

Back on the waggler and bronze maggot, Dorian gets into his stride again with the small perch and roach, plus the occasional small skimmer – and a specimen bleak! A chub tops under the far bank willows. Why doesn’t he try the blockend feeder over there? ‘If they were feeding I’m sure I would have had at least one by now on the waggler, so I don’t think there’s any point.’

He’s enjoying himself far too much on the float, anyway. The sun is out now and it’s pleasantly warm. The wind has died completely, too, so he needn’t sink his line. This makes it much easier to hit the bites. ‘I’ve gone back to my original shotting,’ he says, ‘as I’m getting bites on the drop now. The water must have warmed up a fraction.’ He’s getting mostly roach now, too, of all sizes up to 8oz (230g).

Dorian tries the pole line again, and straight away snares a plump 12oz (340g) roach. A slightly smaller sample follows next put in. They’re there! ‘Well, they’ve had all day to get there,’ he says, lifting into another elastic-stretching half-pounder. ‘I’m disappointed about the chub not turning up, and I would have expected more skimmers, but at least we’ve had the roach. It’s jam-packed with them out there now.’

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